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Judge orders cooperation in massive BitTorrent piracy case

PiracyPicture An important hearing was held yesterday in D.C. District Court to settle some tricky procedural questions in a litigation campaign that has thus far resulted in some 14,000 anonymous individuals being sued for allegedly pirating "The Hurt Locker," "Far Cry" and other independent films.

Judge Rosemary M. Collyer made several important decisions that will allow the cases to continue with some clarifying direction.

At the hearing, the EFF argued that joining thousands of individuals in a single lawsuit constituted improper civil procedure.

Judge Collyer rejected that argument, declining a request to sever any defendant from the lawsuit.

However, in the interest of giving the defendants a fair opportunity to raise legal objections, the judge ordered that plaintiffs work with amici groups such as the EFF and the ACLU to draft a notice that could be sent to those individuals whose information is being sought from ISPs. Until an agreement has been reached on a draft notice, ISPs won't serve its subscribers with notice they have been flagged.

The decision split the middle, and has both sides claiming to be pleased with the outcome.

"The court rejected all of the EFF's arguments," says U.S. Copyright Group's Thomas Dunlap, who is representing the plaintiffs. "We are pleased with the court's very sensible ruling."

Meanwhile, Corynne McSherry, who argued for the EFF, posted an update at the group's website that said the decision to send out "user-friendly notices" would result in those being targeted having "a better shot at defending themselves."

The judge also made another important decision in the case, relating to the U.S. Copyright Group's battles with Time Warner Cable over the burden of complying with a massive number of subpoena requests.

TWC lost its motion to quash the subpoena requests, but got the judge to agree that it had shown that it could only produce 28 IP addresses a month in the two cases before her.

The decision could limit the speed at which these cases proceed. It remains to be seen whether other judges overseeing other lawsuits brought

More lawsuits targeting more anonymous individuals on more films will also be arriving soon from the U.S. Copyright Group.