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NOV
16
3 YEARS

Judge In Porn Piracy Case Is Keeping a Big Secret

Earlier this month, adult entertainment studio West Coast Prods sued 9,729 anonymous individuals for allegedly pirating the porn film Teen Anal Nightmare 2—setting an unofficial record for lumping numerous copyright defendants into a single case.

In the past year, targeting John Does en masse has become a popular technique in the war against piracy, and we'll have more insight on the porn industry's adoption of these mass lawsuits in an upcoming print issue of THR. But the West Coast Prods case is noteworthy for a reason other than its sheer size -- those who want to see the legal documents are out of luck.

The case was filed in West Virginia District Court, and since then, Judge John Preston Bailey has restricted access to the legal documents -- including the publicly-filed complaint -- to only the attorneys involved.

Judge Bailey hasn't given an official reason for why he's done so, but we've heard that he's decided to lock up the documents because of decency concerns. He can't stomach the thought of having a lot of dirty language floating around. (We were unable to reach him on the phone.)

Here's the problem: Since the defendants in the lawsuit have yet to be identified, the only real attorney of record so far is the plaintiff's lawyer -- Kenneth Forth of the Adult Copyright Company.

Up until now, the chief criticism of the copyright suits launched by adult entertainment companies has been over privacy issues. By filing these John Doe lawsuits, the plaintiffs will have the opportunity to subpoena ISPs for customer information, and may have some leverage to get defendants to settle lest they be publicly identified as watching something like Teen Anal Nightmare 2

Corynne McSherry at the EFF says she's troubled by the potential obstruction of due process.

"It will be difficult for the targets and their potential counsel to understand and assess the allegations against them without access to the complaint," says McSherry. "I assume that retained counsel will be able to obtain access and hope that such counsel would will be able to represent a Doe without revealing the Doe's identity, but a person should not have to hire a lawyer simply to be able to read the allegations against him or her."