First Time Video Gets Green Light in BitTorrent Lawsuit

Bob Johnson

CHICAGO — First Time Video was given the green light to proceed with its BitTorrent lawsuit against hundreds of people it said had pirated its content.

The Nevada-based company filed suit last year against 500 unknown defendants for infringing on its copyright.

First Time subpoenaed ISPs in an effort to smoke out the illegal poachers, but when the ISPs served its users, 21 of them moved to quash, four moved to dismiss and eight moved to sever.

The company decided however to dismiss certain defendants in June, taking some of the steam out of the suit.

U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo rejected the remaining motions last week and said that the quash motions did not request the kind of privileged information protected by the federal rules or the Constitution.

Citing a precedent, Castillo wrote, "Anonymous speech does not enjoy absolute protection. Indeed, copyright infringement is not protected by the First Amendment.”

The Judge maintained that "a BitTorrent user may be express himself or herself through the files selected and made available to others in a manner that may be entitled to First Amendment protection," according to the 23-page ruling.

The defendants' motion also relied on the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, under which "a person or entity providing an electronic communication service to the public shall not knowingly divulge the contents of a communication."

Castillo said that although “the putative defendants’ First Amendment right to anonymous speech on the internet is implicated,”  the “courts have consistently held that Internet subscribers do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their subscriber information, as they have already conveyed such information to their ISPs."

The court also rejected the defendants' plea that the subpoenas would subject them to undue burden.

Another attempt to sever by the defendants can be filed at a later date, the court ruled.