Over 600 Oregon residents will not be forced to defend themselves in court over accusations of online copyright infringement after a federal judge threw out a lawsuit filed on behalf of Voltage Pictures, the company that owns the rights to the Steven Seagal film the defendants' were alleged to have illegally downloaded.
The 615 defendants all received legal threats from Voltage, asserting that they would face civil litigation if they did not pay $7,500 to settle the case. The company reportedly identified as many potential copyright violators as possible, targeting people associated with IP addresses linked to copies of a Steven Seagal movie illegally downloaded via BitTorrent. However, the sheer number of defendants named in the suit appears to have prompted its dismissal.
A judge with the U.S. District Court of Oregon threw out Voltage's claim, citing concerns that the defendants named therein were too disparate in their locations. He also had concerns about the dates on which the alleged violations occurred and the fact that the plaintiff had wrongfully lumped them together for the purposes of the lawsuit.
Many of the defendants claimed to have never heard of BitTorrent or said they had no way of downloading the film, including elderly individuals without email addresses and a homeless man who does not own a computer. Others claimed that neighbors had been accessing their wireless Internet connections and they shared their computers with friends or relatives. A portion of the defendants admitted to downloading the film, but argued that $7,500 was an excessive amount for Voltage to demand.
In dismissing the case, the judge accused Voltage of attempting to manipulate the court's authority to obtain thousands of dollars for a product that can typically be purchased for under $10. The judge added that Voltage can pursue litigation against the first defendant listed on its filing, but would have to file separate lawsuits against every other individual accused of infringement.
Source: Oregon Live, "Steven Seagal movie lawsuit booted by Oregon federal judge" Laura Gunderson, May. 07, 2013