BENTON, Ill.—John Steele, the Chicago-based family attorney turned “pirate slayer,” is trying a new gambit in his campaign to make suing lots of anonymous people at the same time for copyright infringement an affordable and achievable proposition for adult content producers.
Steele filed a class action lawsuit Wednesday on behalf of OpenMind Solutions, a website development company based in Lake Forest, Calif., and parent entity for the BlazingBucks affiliate program. Ars Technica has dubbed the new strategy a “reverse class action" lawsuit, which sounds more like an Olympic routine than a legal contortion intended to address the "personal jurisdiction" issue that has seen recent mass-defenndant John Does lawsuits thrown out by federal judges.
"Imagine yourself as a lawyer who would like nothing better than to sue a few thousand people for some of the raunchiest pornography ever inflicted upon the world," wrote Ars Technica's Nate Anderson. "You face a problem: when you sue individuals in federal court, where copyright suits are brought, you have to file suit in whichever District Court the defendant resides in. Who has the time and money to bring cases all over the country?
"Then a brilliant thought strikes," he continued. "There's one kind of case in which people from all over the U.S. can be charged in a single District Court. It's called a 'class action,' and it's generally used when a large group of people sue a company. But flip it around—one company sues a large group of people—and you may have solved the 'personal jurisdiction' issue at a single stroke!"
The 10-page complaint defines the class as "All persons, except those with whom settlement has been reached, engaged in copyright infringement activity via BitTorrent file sharing protocol during relevant time period (October 2010, until the date the Court enters an order certifying a defendant class) against Plaintiff’s copyrighted works associated with the torrent files enumerated in Exhibit A." An alternative sub-class, defined similarly but limited to “all persons residing in Illinois,” also is included.
The complaint also names 1-2,925 Does, but reads, “Plaintiff does not know the exact number of members of the Class because Defendants are operating under the cover of anonymous IP addresses and infringement activity is ongoing. Due to the nature of the underlying technology, however, Plaintiff believes that the Class members number at least in the thousands and are sufficiently numerous and geographically dispersed throughout the United States so that joinder of Class members is impractical.”
Steele is seeking an order from the court certifying the action as a class action pursuant to the federal laws of procedure, actual and statutory damages to be ascertained at trial, attorneys’ fees and other relief.
The complaint can be read here.