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Judge dismisses movie piracy suit targeting Oregon residents

 Posted: 4:25 PM May 13, 2013

A federal judge last week took aim at "reverse class action lawsuits" while dismissing a Los Angeles-based movie company's lawsuit that claimed dozens of Jackson County "John Doe" defendants had pirated one of its movies off the Internet.

Salem attorney Carl Crowell in February filed a lawsuit on behalf of Voltage Pictures LLC, in U.S. District Court in Medford, seeking up to $180,000 in damages from each of 34 defendants accused of pirating the 2012 movie "Maximum Conviction" off the Internet. Statewide, Voltage alleged, nearly 600 people had participated in copyright infringement.

The company sought $30,000 for the alleged infringement, and an additional $150,000 from each defendant in statutory damages should there be a finding of willful conduct.

U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken last week dismissed the case, ruling the movie company had unfairly lumped the plaintiffs together in a "reverse class action suit" in order to save more than $200,000 in court costs, and possibly to intimidate the plaintiffs into paying $7,500 for allegedly illegally viewing a $10 video.

Voltage sought a jury trial, alleging the unnamed defendants used their computers to illegally copy and distribute the 2012 movie "Maximum Conviction," which was directed by Keoni Waxman and stars Steven Seagal and Steve Austin. Voltage said the unnamed local defendants resided in Medford, Talent, Central Point, Shady Cove, Klamath Falls and Brookings.

The defendants were not identified by name at the time of the initial filing because Voltage had only their IP — Internet protocol — addresses. Voltage later subpoenaed the defendants' Internet service providers, which include Charter Communications, Clearwire Corp., CenturyLink, Embarq Corp. and Frontier Corp., to obtain the defendants' names.

"...the manner in which plaintiff is pursuing the Doe defendants has resulted in $123,850 savings in filing fees alone," Aiken wrote, adding that defendants were being subjected to a "lack of fundamental fairness."

— Sanne Specht

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