TorrentFreak reports that Comcast is now refusing court-ordered subpoenas regarding BitTorrent lawsuits, claiming that they're intended to "shake down" its subscribers by coercing them to pay settlements.
It's a similar move made by Verizon Wireless as reported last month. The Big Red said it was refusing to hand over subscriber information to book publisher John Wiley and Sons, saying that Wiley intended to "harass, cause unnecessary delay, or needlessly increase the cost of litigation" regarding alleged BitTorrent pirates downloading the publisher's books.
Verizon also made known its doubts that a subpoena would lead to the discovery of "relevant information." Essentially the company said that BitTorrent downloads linked to an IP address doesn't necessarily mean that the subscriber is guilty of piracy -- someone else could have accessed the Internet through that IP using a different device.
As for Comcast, it initially complied with court-ordered subpoenas, but an ongoing battle in the Illinois District Court indicates that the company has changed its tune. Rather than hand over user information, the company asked to terminate the subpoenas based on the fact that the court doesn't have jurisdiction over all defendants because they don't live within the district in which they are being sued.
Does that sound familiar? It should, as this train of thought has terminated numerous John Doe lawsuits over the past year. Judges are beginning to throw BitTorrent-related lawsuits out of court for that very reason: that many IP addresses linking to John Doe individuals and grouped together in one bulk lawsuit don't reside within their district.
Comcast also now argues that copyright holders have no grounds to join numerous defendants in one lawsuit. Even more, Comcast is accusing copyright holders of exploiting the court in order to coerce defendants into coughing up money.
"Plaintiffs should not be allowed to profit from unfair litigation tactics whereby they use the offices of the Court as an inexpensive means to gain Doe defendants’ personal information and coerce ‘settlements’ from them," Comcast’s lawyers write.
"It is evident in these cases – and the multitude of cases filed by plaintiffs and other pornographers represented by their counsel – that plaintiffs have no interest in actually litigating their claims against the Doe defendants, but simply seek to use the Court and its subpoena powers to obtain sufficient information to shake down the Doe defendants," Comcast adds.
The attorney for adult publisher AF HOLDINGS retaliated, saying that "Comcast’s delay in objecting to the Plaintiffs’ subpoenas is part of a wider campaign to deny and delay the Plaintiffs’, and other similar copyright holders’, ability to protect their copyrighted works."
"Even after courts regularly order Comcast to comply with the subpoenas, Comcast fights tooth and nail to resist complying," the attorney added.