Court orders anonymous accused Bittorrent defendants to be identified

West Bay One v. Does 1 – 1,653, — F.Supp.2d. —, 2010 WL 3522265 (D.D.C. September 10, 2010)

Achte/Neunte Boll Kino Beteiligungs v. Does 1 – 4,577, — F.Supp.2d —, 2010 WL 3522256 (D.D.C. September 10, 2010)

In mass copyright infringement cases against alleged traders of copyrighted movies via Bittorrent, unknown defendants had no reasonable expectation of privacy in their subscriber information held by internet service provider.

Several unknown “Doe” defendants who were sued for copyright infringement for trading movies via Bittorrent moved to quash the subpoenas that the plaintiff copyright owners served on the defendants’ internet service providers.

The subpoenas sought subscriber information such as the defendants’ names, addresses and MAC addresses, so that they could be named as defendants in the copyright litigation.

Defendants moved to quash the subpoenas, arguing that their subscriber information was private information that should not be disclosed pursuant to a Rule 45 subpoena. The court denied the motions and ordered the subscriber information produced.

The court held that the defendants did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their subscriber information held by the internet service providers. It cited to a number of cases that supported this holding, each of which had found that a person loses his or her expectation of privacy in information when that information is disclosed to a third party. See Guest v. Leis (6th Cir.), U.S. v. Hambrick (4th Cir.), and U.S. v. Kennedy (D. Kan.).

In footnotes, the court also addressed the potential First Amendment rights that the defendants would have to engage in anonymous file sharing. It quickly dispensed with any notion that such activities were protected in this case, as the pleadings on file set forth a prima facie case of infringement. “[C]ourts have routinely held that a defendant’s First Amendment privacy interests are exceedingly small where the ‘speech’ is the alleged infringement of copyrights.”

2 thoughts on “Court orders anonymous accused Bittorrent defendants to be identified

  1. Bill Wilson

    An interesting decision, but not surprising.

    On the one hand, unmasking anonymous Does in copyright infringement cases really doesn't implicate First Amendment protected speech. Unmasking Does in various suits complaining about online comments definitely implicates free speech rights.

    What I wonder is whether the plaintiffs are going to find themselves in an RIAA-like situation, suing grandmothers and other non-tech-savvy people whose computers might have been used by a visitor in the home.

    It will be fun to watch this area of the law develop. Hopefully the courts will continue to balance the interests of people who may not be represented at the early stage of litigation.

  2. R*** P***

    I received one of these notices. I live in Annapolis, MD and the plantiff is located in DC and is asking us to go to DC (1hr away). Not sure if that matters or not, but does anyone have an opinion on how to proceed here? Do I try to get my name quashed from the record or deal with any next steps if and when they come – basically when Comcast supplies the information that is being asked.
    I fully understand that any reply is NOT to be used as legal advice and it is SOLELY an opinion of a peer.
    Thanks for any opinion.
    R*** P***

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