I would like to personally congratulate the 6,374+ John Doe Defendants (3,120 + 635 + 2,619) who have been dismissed from the LFP Internet Group, LLC (Larry Flynt Productions) cases. This is a huge victory for our clients and internet users in general. What makes this case significant is not the daunting number of defendants, but that this case provides great case law for future cases.
In short, since the West Virginia Cases crumbled in December of 2010, judges across the country have taken notice that there are more issues in these cases other than plaintiffs merely being sued in the wrong jurisdiction. There and here — like dominoes tipping dominoes — the cases were dismissed and severed based on joinder issues. In short, the joinder issue can be summarized by stating that it is improper for a plaintiff attorney to sue many John Doe defendants who, when downloading — although they were all committing the same copyright infringement crimes at the same time — were not engaged in one concerted effort.
In the words of Hon. Royal Furgeson, Senior United States District Judge for the Northern District of Texas, the defendants may have shared files via BitTorrent, but “there are no allegations… that the Defendants are in any way related to each other, or that they acted in concert or as a group in their allegedly offending actions.” The plaintiff only claimed that “each Defendant… has used, and continues to use, BitTorrent software to reproduce and/or distribute Plaintiff’s motion picture to hundreds of other BitTorrent users.” Because the plaintiff’s infringement claims against each Defendant is based on the individual acts of each Defendant rather than “arising out of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences,” joining them together in one lawsuit is improper.
In short, the rule we get from this monster case is an affirmation of the law from the West Virginia cases, namely, “merely committing the same type of violation in the same way does not link defendants together for purposes of joinder.” West Coast Prods., Inc. v. Does 1-535, No. 3:10-CV-94 (N.D. W. Va. Dec. 16, 2010). This is good law, and I would not be surprised if the dominoes continue to fall, knocking down one case after another.
Now what does this mean for our firm’s clients? In short, all defendants were dismissed and severed. What this means is that if the plaintiff attorneys wish to continue the lawsuit, they will have to file against each of the six thousand defendants individually. They will need to draft complaints specific to each defendant alleging infringement of their client’s copyrights — each one is extremely time consuming. They will have to get admitted (pro hac vice) in the local court in which each defendant lives, or they will have to find local counsel in each state each defendant lives and they will have to hire that local counsel to file the paperwork on their behalf. They will have to learn and follow the local court rules, they will have to pay the filing fees for each defendant (~$350) they sue, and they will have to properly serve each defendant. Then us attorneys will begin defending the cases, and we will begin conducting discovery and making them attend depositions, answer interrogatories, and prove their case. I would think this would be difficult for them to do with just a few defendants. I can imagine this would be nearly impossible to do with 6,000+ defendants. But, I’m sure if asked, they will probably post some news article expressing their determination to go after each and every defendant, and I wish them well.
As a funny closing note, I found it interesting that even in this case, the many motions to quash and motions to dismiss based on lack of jurisdiction, etc., were NOT APPROVED. They were denied as moot.