The Wall Street Journal has reported today that the Federal Trade Commission is preparing to serve Google with subpoenas, kicking off a formal antitrust investigation. They will be attempting to determine if Google has abused it market position to suppress competition. While this is not the first FTC investigation of Google, it’s likely setting off serious alarm bells at Mountain View due to its scope.
This week, a Federal Judge in South Dakota sided with ISP Midcontinent and quashed one of the many Hurt Locker subpoenas seeking subscriber information. The ISP had, on August 9, received the subpoena via fax instructing them to hand over the details on people connected to several IP addresses. Midcontinent Decided thatrather than comply, they would take the case to the local Federal Court.
The legal action stems from claims made by the US Copyright Group on behalf of a number of indie movie companies, including Hurt Locker makers Voltage Pictures. This legal group is issuing huge numbers of "Doe" subpoenas to force ISPs to divulge the real identities of those believed to have shared the film online.
While the ISP in question made a number of arguments as to why they should not have to comply, Judge John Simko decided to stop the subpoena right there because of "Federal Rule 45", which addresses how subpoenas must be handled with regard to geographic location. Simko believed that the Subpoena did not fulfill any of the four requirements, so it was quashed. The Judge also more or less called the US Copyright Group lazy for sending the document by fax instead of courier, or registered mail. Do you think this will affect other pending subpoenas in the case?
A few months back, Voltage Studios (the indie studio that made "The Hurt Locker") began legal proceedings against those seen illegally sharing the movie online. 5,000 "John Doe" lawsuits were filed by the film's producers. Voltage Pictures has now started moving ahead with the next phase of the legal process. Several ISP customers have received notices that their provider has been subpoenaed, and must turn over their names to Voltage's lawyers.
A number of small movie studios have been working with the law firm of Dunlap, Grubb & Weaver. This firm is managing the cases in exchange for a portion of any settlements of judgments that result. The ACLU and EFF have both strongly opposed this action. Some ISPs have even objected due to the huge number of subpoenas they are likely to get.
Some alleged infringers have already been offered settlement offers of several thousand dollars. When faced with the possibility of huge legal fees, many individuals may choose to settle. This strategy didn't work out so well for the RIAA, do you think the producers of The Hurt Locker have a better chance of success?