California Federal Courts Affirm The Standard: Subscribers Must Cooperate In Identifying Infringers

In dealing with internet piracy, at least initially rights holders are rarely able to identify more than the internet protocol (IP) address used to download or infringe their work. The next step is to then subpoena an internet service provider to see who was assigned the IP address, or who pays the bill. Despite reports that the majority of the time (+60%) the eventual infringer is also the subscriber that pays the bill, courts generally find that merely paying the bill is not enough and a rights holder must also find some additional evidence that points to a specific person at a residence.

An issue can arise if the subscriber, the person who pays the bill and likely has all the relevant information, simply refuses to cooperate or provide any information, thus effectively protecting or hiding the infringer (assuming they are not the liable party).   Last week the California Federal Courts reaffirmed and made all but standard the growing rule: A subscriber MUST cooperate in any rightsholder investigation with the issuance of orders in five cases, all with basically the same language:

  1. Subscribers must appear and answer questions about their internet service and who may have had access.
  2. Subscribers are advised to hire an attorney.
  3. Subscribers are warned that ignoring the Court’s Order may result in sanctions, including an award of attorney fees and possibly the entry of a default judgment for money damages.

The relevant cases are:

3:16-cv-00980, Ecf. 13
3:16-cv-00317, Ecf. 15
3:16-cv-00466, Ecf. 15
3:16-cv-00467, Ecf. 15
3:16-cv-00977, Ecf. 15

An exemplar opinion: Dallas Buyers Club v. Doe, 3:16-cv-00466-BAS-DHB


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