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Sanctions Against Porn Piracy Attorney Upheld

Sanctions Against Porn Piracy Attorney Upheld
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Jul 12, 2012 5:30 PM PDT    Text size: 

DALLAS —  A federal appeals panel today affirmed a lower court's order to impose sanctions on attorney Evan Stone, who improperly issued subpoenas to ISPs seeking the identities of anonymous subscribers in a mass porn piracy case.

The decision affirms a sanction of $22,000 in attorneys fees and expenses incurred in bringing the motion for sanctions, as well as another $10,000 imposed by the court.

Stone last year filed a porn BitTorrent lawsuit at U.S. District Court in Dallas targeting 670 John Does on behalf of Mick Haig Productions for allegedly trading “Der Gute Onkel,” translated in English as “The Good Uncle.”

Stone later asked the court to allow him to send out subpoenas to Internet service providers to find out the identities of the infringers. But the court never made a ruling on the request and, instead, Stone ordered the ISPs to store the information for a later date.

U.S. District Judge David Godbey, in the lower court ruling imposing sanctions against Stone, summed up the "staggering chutzpah involved in this case": "Stone asked the court to authorize sending subpoenas to the ISPs. The court said 'not yet.' Stone sent the subpoenas anyway. The court appointed [EFF and Public Citizen] to argue whether Stone could send the subpoenas. Stone argued that the court should allow him to – even though he had already done so – and eventually dismissed the case ostensibly because the court was taking too long to make a decision. All the while, Stone was receiving identifying information and communicating with some John Does, likely about settlement. The court rarely has encountered a more textbook example of conduct deserving of sanctions."

In today's ruling by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a panel held that Stone waived all of his arguments such as that he could have issued a different kind of subpoena to obtain the subscriber information, that sanctions couldn't be issued under the specific federal rules cited by the district court, and that EFF and Public Citizen lacked standing to bring a sanctions motion.

The appeals panel held that "no miscarriage of justice will result from the sanctions imposed as a result of Stone’s flagrant violation of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the district court’s orders."

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