Judge Threatens to Bar Future Suits Made by X-art.com's Parent

Judge Threatens to Bar Future Suits Made by X-art.com's Parent
Rhett Pardon

SAN FRANCISCO — A federal judge has threatened to ban the owner of adult content studio X-art.com from filing any more copyright infringement cases until the accuracy of its geolocation technology to identify defendants is “fully vetted.”

U.S. District Judge William Alsup on Wednesday ordered the studio to show him evidence that the Maxmind database it employs can be accurate at fingering defendants in specific judicial districts where the studio files suits.

To date, X-art.com’s parent company, Malibu Media LLC, has filed more than 6,500 infringement lawsuits in various jurisdictions across the U.S., according to stats obtained by federal database Pacer.

X-art.com and parent company Malibu Media are operated by Collette Field, who started up offering erotic and artistically shot adult content in 2009 but also found a new way to find new revenue — through copyright infringement litigation.

Alsup, in the order to show cause made Wednesday, said that he and other judges around the country have offered their words of skepticism about the accuracy of Maxmind.

He noted that Malibu Media counsel simply bragged in filings that it was “100 percent accurate” based on their legal experience and that the studio’s declarations made to the court parroted hearsay statements about the accuracy from its website.

“The court is familiar with lawsuits like this one,” Alsup wrote.

Alsup quoted from a previous order made by another jurist, U.S. District Judge Otis Wright, who called Malibu Media’s mass litigation practices “essentially an extortion scheme.”

Alsup, in his order, included passages from Wright’s earlier Malibu Media ruling.  

“These lawsuits run a common theme: plaintiff owns a copyright to a pornographic movie; plaintiff sues numerous John Does in a single action for using BitTorrent to pirate the movie; plaintiff subpoenas the ISPs to obtain the identities of these Does; if successful, plaintiff will send out demand letters to the Does; because of embarrassment, many Does will send back a nuisance-value check to the plaintiff,” Wright stated in a previous John Doe suit filed by Malibu Media.

“The cost to the plaintiff: a single filing fee, a bit of discovery, and stamps,” Wright wrote. “The rewards: potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars. Rarely do these cases reach the merits. The federal courts are not cogs in a plaintiff’s copyright enforcement business model.

“The court will not idly watch what is essentially an extortion scheme, for a case that plaintiff has no intention of bringing to trial. By requiring Malibu to file separate lawsuits for each of the Doe defendants, Malibu will have to expend additional resources to obtain a nuisance-value settlement — making this type of litigation less profitable.

“If Malibu desires to vindicate its copyright rights, it must do it the old-fashioned way and earn it.”

Alsup’s order on Wednesday focused on copyright infringement litigation against 57 John Does who allegedly downloaded X-art.com content through BitTorrent.

Malibu Media moved to continue the case management conference in the action, but Alsup denied the motion.

Instead, Malibu Media was ordered to file a written statement, with all factual assertions supported by sworn declarations about MaxMind.

“To be clear, this order applies even if Malibu Media voluntarily dismisses this action,” Alsup wrote.

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