WASHINGTON (CN) – A federal judge refused to allow the company that owns the rights to “The Expendables” to pursue discovery against all 23,322 unknown Internet users who illegally downloaded the 2010 action blockbuster. The court is limited by jurisdiction to defendants living in and around D.C., the judge ruled.
Nu Image sought expedited discovery to subpoena third-party Internet service providers to give up 23,322 Internet Protocol addresses for a federal copyright-infringement lawsuit. The California company claimed that the unknown parties used BitTorrent protocol or torrent software to download and upload pirated copies of its movie, which was directed and co-written by Sylvester Stallone, who also starred in the picture.
U.S. District Judge Robert Wilkins issued an order to show cause, but Nu Image failed to fully respond and show that D.C.’s U.S. District Court was the proper venue to track down all 23,322 alleged movie thieves.
As such, Wilkins said Nu Image can file a motion to serve subpoenas only on those ISPs that it expects will correspond to internet accounts located in the District of Columbia.
“The court understands why, for the sake of convenience and expense, the plaintiff would desire to use this single lawsuit as a vehicle to identify all of the 23,322 alleged infringers,” Wilkins wrote. “Furthermore, the court understands and is sympathetic to the need to combat copyright infringement. However, it is not appropriate, and there is not good cause, to take third-party discovery in this case solely to obtain information that will be used in another lawsuit in a different venue.”
A discovery process of such magnitude would take years and countless court resources when it has to govern over motions to quash third-party subpoenas and motions to dismiss “relating to hundreds or thousands of putative defendants who cannot be tried in this court,” according to the 17-page ruling. Ultimately, the vast majority of cases will be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction, the judge said.
“Furthermore, it defies common sense for the court to assume that all of the nonresident John Does will waive viable lack of venue and lack of personal jurisdiction defenses – indeed, those defenses have been routinely raised in other similar file sharing lawsuits,” Wilkins wrote.
The judge noted that it will only “entertain” the motion for the scaled-down subpoena.
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