updated 10:04 pm EDT, Sat June 23, 2012
Overbroad subpoenas quashed, civil case closed
As previously reported, Internet service provider Comcast attempted to quash "John Doe" subpoenas in an adult video pirating case. The company had argued that the case was about "shaking down" its customers and pushing for settlements out of the 264 potential infringers rather than any interest in actually stopping the piracy. The company has now been handed a victory in court, as Judge Gary Feinerman ruled that Comcast was not in contempt of court for ignoring subpoenas from four adult video companies. The civil case was also dismissed.
The publicly filed court document, seen below, is light on details about the completion of the case. Comcast argued that not only were the subpoenas overbroad in reach, but it imposed an undue burden on any of the accused "John Does" that might try to defend themselves. Federal court rules require discovery be denied "to protect a party or person from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense" which a subpoena from Illinois to a defendant in Florida would entail.
Besides the procedural issues set forth, Comcast lawyers saw the motivation behind the claims as not being about rights protection, but about blackmail and threats. From the court filing: "The plaintiffs have no interest in actually litigating their claims against the Doe defendants, but simply seek to use the Court and its subpoena powers to obtain sufficient information to shake down the Doe defendants."
No appeal has been filed at this time. The parent company of the adult film companies have filed 118 cases over 15,000 "John Does" in the past, with 34 in the Illinois courtroom alone.