A recent sentence handed down by District Court Judge Harold Baker could help curb the wave of pay-up-or-else lawsuits routinely served against alleged file-sharers.
Indeed, Baker rejected a subpoena filed by a Canadian adult film company which demanded access to personal information connected to the IP-addresses of one of their subscribers.
According to Baker, an IP address does not necessarily equal a person.
"The [alleged] infringer might be the subscriber, someone in the subscriber’s household, a visitor with her laptop, a neighbor, or someone parked on the street at any given moment. Orin Kerr, a professor at George Washington University Law School, noted that whether you’re guilty or not, you look like a suspect," Baker explained.
"Could expedited discovery be used to wrest quick settlements, even from people who have done nothing wrong? [Clearly], the embarrassment of public exposure might be too great, the legal system too daunting and expensive, for some to ask whether the plaintiff VPR has competent evidence to prove its case."
He added that the court would not support such "fishing expeditions" for a subscriber’s personal information.
Meanwhile, Texas lawyer Robert Cashman said the ruling could be considered a potential game changer for the United States, as over 100,000 alleged file-sharers were sued during 2010 in a dubious process which some believe is extortionist in nature.
"We may have just seen the order that may end all future John Doe lawsuits."