Illinois has recently been hit with 33 BitTorrent lawsuits from Strike 3 Holdings (15 cases), Malibu Media (14 cases), and Bodyguard Productions (4 cases). Although each company is separate and owns the rights to different films, all the lawsuits are similar. They allege that investigators monitor BitTorrent traffic and have recorded IP addresses as infringing on their copyright by downloading and sharing their films. Strike 3 Holdings owns the rights to Vixen, Tushy, Blacked; Malibu Media owns the rights to X-Art films; and Bodyguard Productions owns the rights to the 2017 film “The Hitman’s Bodyguard”. Bodyguard Productions differs from Strike 3 Holdings and Malibu Media in that they sue multiple IP addresses per lawsuit. So, although they filed 4 lawsuits in Illinois, they actually name 51 IP addresses.
These are known as John Doe lawsuits because they do not directly name the defendant, instead referring to an IP address and then using the court to subpoena the identities from the various internet service providers (e.g., Verizon, Comcast, Time Warner, Optimum Online, etc.). Most people discover the lawsuit when they receive a notice from their ISP stating the subscriber’s identity has been subpoenaed and the subscriber must file a Motion to Quash in order to prevent the release of their information. Motions to Quash in these cases are complex because the subpoena is between the Plaintiff and the ISP, meaning the subscriber is a third party.
Once the Plaintiff has the identity of the subscriber, they amend their complaint to name the subscriber (or, perhaps an adult male in the household). Federal lawsuits are easily searched by the public and may come up in public search engine results. Many people prefer to remain anonymous and not be publicly named (whether they are liable for the infringements or not). In order to help ensure your anonymity, it’s important to retain counsel without delay.