In September 2010, Mick Haig Productions, a German film production house, sued 670 unidentified “John Doe” defendants whom it alleged illegally downloaded its pornographic film “Der Gute Onkel” (The Good Uncle) from BitTorrent, a peer-to-peer file-sharing website. Plaintiffs attorney Evan Stone filed a motion for expedited discovery, seeking to reveal the identities of Internet users whom it had identified as illegal downloaders by their IP addresses.
Under similar circumstances, many judges have granted such motions without much briefing or discussion. But Northern District of Texas Judge David Godbey was skeptical of the case. He did not immediately rule on the motion. Instead, he issued an interim order requiring the defendants’ Internet service providers (ISPs) to preserve potential evidence, and appointed attorneys from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Public Citizen’s Litigation Group to represent the interests of the John Does as counsel ad litem. The appointed lawyers objected strongly to the motion for discovery.
The Mick Haig case presents a scenario familiar to many copyright defense attorneys. They contend that plaintiffs are abusing subpoenas to identify people and then squeeze them for settlements without any real interest in litigating the merits of the case.