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Judge Orders Names Revealed in Mass Copyright Lawsuit

Finally, some names may be revealed in a path-breaking copyright infringement case against thousands of accused movie pirates.

Earlier this year, the US Copyright Group filed a complaint on behalf of Achte/Neunte against 4,677 anonymous file-sharers accused of pirating Uwe Boll's Far Cry. The federal judge overseeing the case now wants to see the lawsuit move forward, ordering the plaintiff to identify the names and addresses of defendants it wants to sue by December 6.

Tens of thousands of alleged pirates have been targeted in the Far Cry case and others. For the most part, these cases have been stuck at the initial discovery stage. The plaintiffs have subpoenaed ISPs to identify the customers associated with IP addresses that have been flagged for copyright abuse. In some instances, ISPs have put up a fight, telling the plaintiffs that their requests are too extreme or onerous. 

Earlier in the year, in the Far Cry case, Judge Rosemary Collyer let one ISP, Time Warner Cable, release just 28 IP addresses per month. As a result, the US Copyright Group estimated that it would take 58 months to gain all of the identifying information and asked Judge Collyer for a five year extension to serve the defendants.

In a decision on Friday, Judge Collyer wants to speed up at least part of the process. She writes:

"The request is patently unfair and prejudicial to all John Does who have been identified by an ISP, and good cause is not shown as to these identified Does. Plaintiff will file a Second Amended Complaint and will serve it, no later than December 6, 2010, identifying by name and address Defendants over whom it reasonably believes the Court has personal jurisdiction and whom it wants to sue. It will also file a notice with the Court naming those Interested Parties, John Does, and their Internet Protocol addresses, over whom Plaintiff concedes the Court lacks personal jurisdiction or otherwise should be dismissed; and setting forth the Internet Protocol address of those John Does for whom Plaintiff has no identifying information, but over whom Plaintiff reasonably believes the Court has personal jurisdiction and whom it wants to sue."

Judge Collyer is also giving the US Copyright Group until February 18 for those John Does not yet identified.

The US Copyright Group has long signaled that it will begin filing lawsuits across the country against individuals who have refused to settle. The plaintiffs have hired local counsel throughout the nation. It remains to be seen what happens in the other cases, including those that target accused pirates of Oscar-winner The Hurt Locker, but at the very least, the US Copyright Group will have to make good on some its threats within the next month to name names and signal which individuals it intends to sue in open court.

"Just what we planned to do anyway," says Thomas Dunlap at the US Copyright Group. " We will dismiss the defendants outside DC and sue in their home jurisdictions.  We will pursue the others in DC and file a list of IP [addresses] for those not yet identified. Entirely in line with what we planned."