New Twist in 'Avatar XXX' BitTorrent Suit

Feb 16, 2011 12:30 PM PST
DALLAS — A federal judge in Texas has asked another adult company to show cause why the court shouldn't appoint an attorney for a John Doe defendant accused of poaching porn on a peer-to-peer network.

U.S. Judge Royal Furgeson has ordered LFP Internet Group's attorney, Evan Stone, to respond to the order in the case by Feb. 28. Furgeson said he wants Doe represented by counsel before discovery motions.

Stone, of Dallas, waged a suit in October on behalf of LFP, which sued 1,106 BitTorrent users who shared "This Ain’t Avatar XXX 3D,” the blockbuster spoof released in September that had a working budget that was three times that of a normal adult feature.

But the case went awry last week when Furgeson severed 1,105 users in the suit and quashed all of the subpoenas, leaving just one Doe defendant.

"Upon inspection of plaintiffs complaint, the court finds that Doe defendants 2-1,106 have been improperly joined," Furgeson ruled last week. "There are no allegations in plaintiff's complaint that the defendants are in any way related to each other, or that they acted in concert or as a group in their allegedly offending actions.

"The complaint only alleges that each defendant, without the permission or consent of the plaintiff, has used and continues to use BitTorrent software to reproduce and/or distribute plaintiffs motion picture to hundreds of other BitTorrent users."

In the most recent ruling, made yesterday, Furgeson said the Doe in the case is unlikely to have any idea a lawsuit has been filed or that the plaintiff is seeking their identity.

Appointing an attorney for limited purposes is one way to ensure that the Doe receives the same constitutional protections that apply to all litigation defendants.

Furgeson similarly ruled last week in three suits involving adult companies, asking their attorneys to show cause why the court shouldn't appoint counsel for Doe defendants.

Those adult companies include Serious Bidness, which sued 109 for "Kayla Kleevage"; Adult Source Media, which sued 247 for "Hot for Teachers"; and BrokeAmateurs.com, which sued 168 for several scenes.

Stone told XBIZ he sees the recent rulings as a "minor setback" and will ask the court to reconsider them.

"I guess it was my failure for not initially distilling the technological aspects of this unique form of piracy to a more palatable format," Stone said. "Those who understand BitTorrent technology are well aware that it's almost useless without a large group of users working in concert to help each other acquire the same content at the same time. Joinder is absolutely inherent to any BitTorrent case."

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