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Judge Banning ''John Doe'' File-Sharing Lawsuits

On May 4, Illinois lawyer John Steele filed a case against numerous anonymous "John Doe" file-sharers on behalf of New York company Boy Racer, a "premier name within the alt-porn niche." As with many other bulk lawsuits filed by movie studios and record companies, the suit began with a long list of IP addresses recorded by said companies. And had it been approved for the next step, the court would have ordered ISPs to pull up the personal records of each address whether they actually downloaded the illegal files or not.

But two days after Steele submitted the lawsuit, it was dismissed by Judge Milton Shadur who said he didn't want to see any more "John Doe" cases in his court. "It would seem feasible for Steele and his client to pursue the normal path of suing an identifiable (and identified) defendant or defendants rather than a passel of 'Does,'" wrote Shadur. "Moreover, that practice would also facilitate the determination as to which defendant or defendants is or are amenable to suit here in Illinois."

The movie in question was called "L.A. Pink," but the lawsuit in its present state didn't provide any identified defendants. A previous ruling in an Illinois court already stated that an IP address is not equal to a person, that an infringer "might be the subscriber, someone in the subscriber’s household, a visitor with her laptop, a neighbor, or someone parked on the street at any given moment." As with that case, Steele and Boy Racer couldn't move forward to retrieve personal info from ISPs without actually providing evidence that certain individuals committed the crime within the state of Illinois.

"Boy Racer is free to advance its copyright infringement claims against one or more identified defendants on an individual basis or, if appropriate, a plausible conspiracy theory," Judge Shadur stated. Like Illinois district Judge Harold Baker in VPR Internationale v. Does 1-1017, he wasn't going to support a fishing expedition for subscriber details if there is no evidence that the court has jurisdiction over the defendants.

The Boy Racer case was the second lawsuit Steele filed that was shot down by Judge Shadur. The file-sharing lawyer previously submitted a suit on behalf of Arizona porn producer CP Productions against 300 anonymous individuals who illegally shared the adult film "Cowgirl Creampie."

The case was dismissed twice -- the first time because Steele didn't serve all the alleged defendants within the mandatory 120 days. Steele blamed the ISPs for dragging their feet in providing the personal information based on the obtained IP addresses.

The case was then dismissed again when the judge started receiving "notions to quash" from anonymous defendants from Tennessee, Texas and even New Jersey. He ruled that CP Productions needed to head back to Arizona and file its lawsuit there "at the place of the party that's injured."

The change in heart for cases filed against anonymous file sharers seemingly began back in April when a Buffalo, New York man was wrongfully apprehended and accused of downloading child pornography. Rather than follow the trail of "Doldrem's" online activities, the feds instead used one specific IP address to supposedly track down 25-year-old college student John Luchetti. But the man they captured and interrogated wasn't Luchetti-- this was merely a neighbor who didn't secure his Wi-Fi home network with a password.