“Every time someone settles the industry wins, and God kills a kitten. “

201006030952.jpg by crsan

Handwritten legal filings can’t stop P2P lawsuit juggernaut
[Via Ars Technica]

As we reported this week, the Virginia-based law firm of Dunlap, Grubb, & Weaver has filed suit against 14,583 anonymous “John Doe” P2P defendants in the first six months of 2010. The charge: sharing various indie films online without permission. Once a Doe’s identity is revealed by his or her Internet service providers, the lawyers then demand a settlement of between $1,500 and $2,500, or they threaten to seek $150,000 in federal court.

Some users have been fighting back, trying to keep their identities a secret. “Motions to quash” have dribbled into the Washington, DC District Court from around the country, several of them scrawled by hand. Each contains a plea—one goes so far as to say that she is “now throwing myself on the mercy of the courts to have this [subpoena] quash or vactated. [sic]”

Lawyers are rarely involved, and the motions are badly formed, sometimes unsigned, often missing key sections or failing to address basic arguments. They are the response of citizens who find themselves one day suddenly caught up in a federal lawsuit happening in Washington. They are alternately weird, sad, or outraged. What they are not is “effective.”

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The title is from the first comment in this post. This case, which I mentioned the other day, helps explain why people are not too fond of lawyers. The ability to sue thousands of people, expecting them to settle since that is so much cheaper than going to court –even when innocent – and making millions, seems to be of a form with what makes people upset with Wall Street. Money seems more important than what is right.

Court costs make it very likely that, even if innocent, people will simply pay.

And these attempts to quash the subpoena demonstrate just what happens when average people get caught up in this. Even $1500 is going to be a hardship for many of these people.

I think it really should not be possible to sue thousands of people from just a few court filings. Making their expenses a little higher than that might stop this sort of abuse. Is the court really going to be able to handle the load if all these people chose to fight?

Perhaps some lawyers will band some of these people together and put up a fight. Say he got 1000 who paid him $100. With $100,000 he could make it too expensive for these guys to continue. Their game is to get money from people without having to go to court. Increasing their expenses would make them much more likely to find a way to settle or drop the difficult cases.

Fight fire with fire. Maybe set up a Facebook page and use some social media approaches to gather together enough people to put up a fight.

This does not look like an attempt to stop piracy. The way to do that is to find someone who is a suitable target and make a real Federal case out of it. Something that might cause the average person to think twice. This simply looks like they want to go after some people and make a ton of money without having to work too hard proving the people are really guilty.