Judge Howard Lloyd has handed down an order on March 30th, which denies permission for the company Hard Drive Productions to subpoena ISPs for user names and addresses associated with certain IP addresses. This is an indication that the judges are becoming less tolerant about “copyright troll” cases where plaintiffs have no desire to litigate. The company seemed to want to extract a wide range of defendants that the plaintiff cannot directly identify in order to make a lot of money.
“After filing suit, the plaintiff requests that the court let it conduct expedited discovery, by subpoenaing the various ISPs whose IP addresses appear in the [BitTorrent] swarm, ostensibly to identify and name the defendants in the action,” said Judge Howard Lloyd’s in an order. “Ordinarily, such discovery is prohibited by Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(d). However, plaintiff assures the court that if it will permit this ‘limited’ discovery, the plaintiff can subpoena the ISPs for subscriber information associated with each IP address, and then name and serve the defendants so that the case may go forward.”
In the order, Judge Lloyd referred to a prior Ninth Circuit court decision that allowed a discovery period “unless it is clear that discovery would not uncover the identities.” In many instances where copyright holders subpoena ISPs for the identities of IP address holders, the resulting IP address holder is not always responsible for the copyright violation. Many people can upload and download files on a single IP address.