Will AT&T rat out customers accused of downloading pirated gay porn?

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Will AT&T rat out customers accused of downloading pirated gay porn?

Wed Aug 25, 2010 @ 08:53AM PST

By Eriq Gardner

6a00d83451d69069e20133f18cd013970bEXCLUSIVE: The idea that a copyright owner can sue hundreds of anonymous pirates all at once in a single lawsuit is spreading.

No doubt influenced by recent similar lawsuits, Io Group is alleging copyright infringement and a civil conspiracy against 244 anonymous pirates who used the P2P network eDonkey2000 to download and spread its adult entertainment videos. The company has filed a lawsuit in federal court in California.

Io Group is most famous in entertainment law circles for losing to online video sharing service Veoh in the first major 512(c) case that foreshadowed Viacom's summary judgment loss to YouTube. Hoping for better luck this time, Io Group has served up a lawsuit that's surely going to make some executives at AT&T antsy.

After all, it's one thing for ISPs to blab about customers who traffic in pirated fare like Academy Award winning movies or obscure indie films. It's quite another thing to face the burden of having to identify customers accused of stealing gay porn — the kind of sensitive content produced by Io.

In the complaint, Io Group says each of the 244 John Doe defendants "used an Internet connection provided by AT&T to access the Internet for the purpose of engaging in the infringing activity complained of herein."

The lawsuit then goes on to describe the torrent seeding process in a characterization that's almost ripped straight from the recent lawsuit against "Hurt Locker" pirates: "Technological advances have made it increasingly possible to transfer large amounts of data, including digital video files, by and through the Internet."

Io Group lists each of the anonymous John Does, their IP addresses, the works accessed and the date of the alleged reproduction.

Presumably, the next step will be getting a judge to order AT&T to identify their customers using these IP addresses. ISPs, not surprising, are growing wary of the burden of cooperating. 

Notably, Time Warner Cable raised a stink about the compliance in one of the U.S. Copyright Group's original lawsuits against hundreds of pirates. 

And on Monday, Midcontinent Communications, a telecom company based in South Dakota, filed a motion to quash subpoenas in the "Hurt Locker" case. Midcontinent argued in South Dakota district court that the subpoena wasn't served correctly, but rather "simply faxed to Midcontinent," and that the subpoena is from the D.C. Circuit Court, "which does not have jurisdiction over Midcontinent."

Will AT&T hand over a list of customers accused of seeding gay porn on the Internet or will they raise challenges? The company hasn't yet responded to our queries.

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The Hollywood Reporter
The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to Matthew.Belloni@thr.com

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