Pr0n surfers saved by West Virginia judge

Imagine having your pr0n surfing habits publicly outed by a federal judge. Well, to the shock and horror of nearly 5,400 people, that nightmare almost became a reality.

One group of adult film producers and “copyright trolls” filed copyright suit asking a judge to reveal the names of 5,400 people that allegedly downloaded copyrighted pornography. The group also asked Time Warner Cable for the names, to which they refused.

The idea was to out the pornofiles names in an attempt to deter them and others from viewing copyrighted material.

Upon hearing the news, the The Electronic Frontier Foundation, an organization aimed to  defend digital rights, immediately stepped in hoping to sway a judge in favor of protected the downloaders identity.

To the downloaders relief, a West Virginian judge ruled that the adult film producer could not force Time Warner to reveal the downloader’s identity as part of the effort to sue them for copyright infringement.

The EFF notes that many copyright trolls use this mass filing technique where they lump multiple illegal downloader into one large suit.

The organization describes the mass filing in this case as a lawsuit “based on single counts of copyright infringement stemming from the downloading of a pornographic film, and improperly lumped hundreds of defendants together regardless of where the IP addresses indicate the defendants live.”

As to why the producer might use this tactic, the EFF believes it “appears to be to leverage the risk of embarrassment associated with pornography to coerce settlement payments despite serious problems with the underlying claims.”

EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn explained, “This is the next nail in the coffin of the copyright trolls. Now that judges are starting to reject the shoddy and unfair tactics being used by the attorneys filing these cases and force plaintiffs to play by the rules, this type of mass litigation will no longer be a good business model.”

Although a short-term victory for the defendants and the EFF, the West Virginia ruling left the producer free to sue individual state residents if their residency can be established based on their IP address.

(Via Network World)