RIAA Handed Another Setback to Bundle Cases

Rhett Pardon
ORLANDO – Another federal judge has ruled that suspected file sharers brought into court can’t be bundled into one suit.

It’s the second such ruling that is making it more difficult for the Recording Industry Association of America to sue swappers. The RIAA has attempted to sue nearly 2,000 sharers in various jurisdictions in the United States.

Judge David Baker of the U.S. District Court in Orlando on Thursday decided the case of a group of 25 suspected swappers who share the same Internet service provider, Bright House Networks, which operates in central and south Florida.

“Beyond the circumstances that the defendants used the peer-to-peer network and that the defendants access the Internet through Bright House, no other facts connect the defendants,” Baker wrote in the decision.

With the ruling, the trade group must file individual claims rather than consolidating them together in a single suit, which isn’t as cost-effective.

“The rulings are requiring the record companies to follow rules that everyone else has to follow when filing lawsuits,” Cindy Cohn, legal director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told XBiz.

Last month, the RIAA sued 203 so-called “John Doe” defendants who used Comcast as their Internet service provider into one lawsuit when it sued them in federal court in Philadelphia, but Judge Clarence Newcomer ruled against consolidating the cases.

In December, the trade group was barred by a federal court from using the Digital Millenium Copyright Act to subpoena names of suspected copyright infringers, so the recording industry has resorted to the “John Doe” method. But the RIAA can identify alleged swappers by their Internet protocol addresses, even though they not know the individuals’ names.