A judge in Washington D.C. this week derailed a lawsuit by copyright troll the U.S. Copyright Group against 23,232 people who allegedly downloaded the Sylvester Stallone film The Expendables. And, according to Time Magazine, he did it by asking one practical question. “How many of the defendants live within my jurisdiction?”
D.C. District Judge Robert Wilkins cited the court’s duty to “prevent undue burden, harassment, and expense of third parties” when it comes to jurisdictional discovery. If his ruling stands on appeal, it means that copyright trolls may have to bring suit in the court of competent jurisdiction where the alleged copyright infringement occurred.
This is a huge win for average consumers, especially with the “six strikes” deal with ISP’s looming. Why? Because it makes it more expensive for copyright trolls to file huge lawsuits in bulk in their hometown, forcing individuals who want to defend themselves to foot the bill for travel and regional counsel.
As I’ve said before, I’m in favor of copyright owners defending their rights — you’ll never hear me complain about a writer, filmmaker, photographer, artist or other creator fighting for just payment for their talent. But the copyright trolls — law firms that license only the right to sue from copyright holders — don’t create anything except legal bills and headaches. The burden of defending yourself against them is overwhelming, which is why so many people simply settle the cases for $2-5,000 rather than fight the claim for up to $150,000 (the limit set by the law).
In fact, one of my neighbors has already paid the U.S. Copyright Group in this case. I wonder how many others paid up before Judge Wilkins became my new hero?