Four makers of pornographic films claimed that more than 80 ‘John Doe’ defendants had infringed their copyright through illegal downloading from pee-rto- peer sites. The plaintiffs wanted to compel the defendants’ internet service providers to disclose the identities of their unnamed customers: In re BitTorrent Adult Film Copyright Infringement Cases (EDNY, 1 May 2012).
Brown J of the Eastern District of New York took a realistic view of things, noting that all an IP address does is identify the location of the person who pays for an internet connection, not necessarily who uses it, and that the proliferation of wireless routers makes it much less likely that a specific user could be identified. One of the defendants represented, in fact, that she used an unsecured wireless router and lived next to a public parking lot, making access to her IP address a simple matter for third parties who did not share her moral and religious objections to pornography. Likewise for the octogenarian defendant who stated that he had ‘neither the wherewithal nor the desire’ to download this stuff. As a judge observed in a similar case, the downloader is less likely to be the lady of the house than her teenaged son, her boyfriend or the creepy guy in the next apartment. The plaintiffs’ motions to compel disclosure were denied except in relation to one defendant. The fact that the plaintiffs had engaged in abusive litigation tactics in order to extract settlements from certain defendants certainly didn’t help their case.