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“Down on the Farm”: Liberty Media Holdings sues unnamed BitTorrent users in Colorado

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Colorado – from www.courthousenews.com – A federal judge agreed to expedite discovery in a Colorado copyright case so a media company can identify members of an online “swarm” that illegally downloaded gay erotica called “Down on the Farm” this winter.

San Diego-based Liberty Media Holdings sued the unnamed members of two “swarms” – BitTorrent users whose computers are connected to share a particular file – that downloaded the movie from Nov. 19, 2010, to Dec. 11, 2011, and from Nov. 16, 2010, to Jan. 31, 2011.

On Thursday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Kathleen Tafoya granted Liberty’s request to commence discovery before the parties have formally conferred, finding that the company had shown “good cause” to be allowed to skip a step.

“Defendants here have engaged in anonymous online behavior, which will likely remain anonymous unless plaintiff is able to ascertain their identities,” Tafoya wrote.

“And thus far, plaintiff has been unsuccessful in its attempts to ascertain the defendants’ identities through informal, prelawsuit investigation. Because it appears likely that plaintiff will continue to be thwarted in its attempts to identify the John Doe defendants without the benefit of formal discovery mechanisms, the court finds that plaintiff should be permitted to conduct expedited discovery … for the limited purpose of discovering the identities of the John Doe defendants.”

To do so, Liberty Holdings will subpoena the defendants’ Internet Service Providers “in order to determine the identity of the Internet subscriber who was assigned the corresponding IP address on the date and time of the alleged infringement,” according to the ruling.

Federal law prohibits Internet providers from giving out such information without a court order.

Liberty, which has filed similar actions related to the same movie in California’s Southern District, claims that BitTorrent downloads prompt a virtually limitless “cascade of infringement.”

“Each time a Defendant unlawfully distributes a copy of plaintiff’s copyrighted motion picture to others over the Internet, particularly via BitTorrent, each recipient can then distribute that unlawful copy of the Motion Picture to others without degradation in sound or picture quality,” the company’s complaint states. “Thus, a defendant’s distribution of even a single unlawful copy of the motion picture can result in the nearly instantaneous worldwide distribution of that single copy to a limitless number of people. In this case, each defendant’s copyright infringement built upon the prior infringements, in a cascade of infringement.”

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