MANHATTAN (CN) - California-based smut purveyor Digital Sin can push Internet service providers for information about the "hundreds or thousands" of people suspected of illegally downloading "My Little Panties #2" on BitTorrent, a federal judge ruled.
Digital Sin tapped Copyright Enforcement Group to lead the web hunt, which the company said turned up 176 IP addresses in New York City.
"Immediately after initiating its complaint against the 176 John Doe defendants, identifying them by their IP addresses, Digital Sin filed an ex parte motion for expedited discovery seeking access to the names and addresses of the individuals affiliated with the IP addresses as found in the ISPs' account records," U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan summarized. "Plaintiff alleges that this account information may be routinely erased by ISPs and therefore lost forever if plaintiff's motion is not granted on an expedited basis."
In her 12-page order, Judge Nathan expressed "serious reservations" that the search for illegal downloaders might turn up many "false positives."
"The Court is concerned about the possibility that many of the names and addresses produced in response to plaintiff's discovery request will not in fact be those of the individuals who downloaded 'My Little Panties #2,'" the judge wrote. "The risk is not purely speculative; plaintiff's counsel estimated that 30 percent of the names turned over by ISPs are not those of individuals who actually downloaded or shared copyrighted material. Counsel stated that the true offender is often the 'teen-aged son ... or the boyfriend if it's a lady.' Alternatively, the perpetrator might turn out to be a neighbor in an apartment building that uses shared IP addresses or a dormitory that uses shared wireless networks." (Citation omitted.)
This sometimes leads to "unjust settlements from innocent defendants," Nathan added.
To guard against that, Nathan ordered on Monday that the ISPs turn over the information to the court under seal, and the defendants be given 60 days to fight resulting subpoenas anonymously.
The judge added, in boldface text: "The ISPs may not turn over the Doe defendants' identifying information to Digital Sin before the expiration of this 60-day period. Additionally, if a defendant or ISP files a motion to quash the subpoena, the ISPs may not turn over any information to Digital Sin until the issues have been addressed and the Court issues an Order instructing the ISPs to resume in turning over the requested discovery."