The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit — considered America’s second-most important court after the Supreme Court — has issued an opinion railing against a copyright holder that another judge has called a “porno-trolling collective.”
Writing for the DC Circuit this week, Judge David S. Tatel ruled that AF Holdings can’t subpoena five internet service providers for the identities of roughly 1,000 people who allegedly downloaded and shared the porn movie “Popular Demand.”
AF — which supposedly owns the copyright for several porn movies — is represented by a lawyer named Paul Duffy, who was part of Prenda Law Firm, which is notorious for filing copyright lawsuits against “John Does” whose identities are only known through their ISP addresses.
AF and Prenda have been accused of using the discovery process to obtain these Does’ real identities and get them to pay to settle the cases out of court rather than be exposed through litigation.
Tatel accused AF and its lawyers of abusing the discovery process to obtain these identities and never really intending to pursue litigation in the District of Columbia. From his opinion:
Generally speaking, our federal judicial system and the procedural rules that govern it work well, allowing parties to resolve their disputes with one another fairly and efficiently. But sometimes individuals seek to manipulate judicial procedures to serve their own improper ends. This case calls upon us to evaluate and put a stop to one litigant’s attempt to do just that.
Tatel reversed a lower court’s ruling that had granted AF’s discovery request, in a win for the internet service providers that did not want to expose the owners of the ISP addresses.
While Tatel may be the most important judge to slam AF and its lawyers, he is far from the first to do so. AF’s firm, Prenda Law, even officially disbanded after another judge accused its lawyers of “moral turpitude.” However, as Tatel noted, that firm appears to have “reconstituted itself in a similar form.”
We reached out to AF’s lawyer, Paul Duffy, to give him a chance to comment and will update this post if we hear back.
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