Media group claims Verizon is acting in bad faith by protecting its customers against mass lawsuits

TorrentFreak brings word that Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) has been targeted in a lawsuit by three adult film companies: Malibu Media, Patrick Collins, and Third Degree Films.

The adult filmmakers want the court to hold the cable firm -- among the largest in the nation -- in contempt for objecting to dozens of mass-filed subpoenas from piracy attack dogs like the aforementioned trio's legal representatives.

Traditionally, piracy attack dogs have filed subpoenas to get ISPs to cough up the name and address of the customer associated with a particular IP address.  The piracy watchdogs then turned around and sent extortion letters to the marks, telling them to pay a settlement or prepare to be sued.

Verizon is relatively cooperative with some copyright enforcement efforts.  It's among the pioneering members of the so-called "six-strikes" plan, which could lead to customers who pirate having their connections throttled to disabled until they take remedial classes on anti-piracy "education".

However, that plan only deals with those who pirate content from the major movie studios and major music labels; porn piracy is not part of the deal (which is good news for certain Congressional offices with a taste for porn torrents).  Thus the lawsuit, filed in plaintiff-friendly Texas federal court is likely in part a testament to this media market's frustration at being left out of Verizon, et al.'s anti-piracy pact.

Verizon executives
Porn studios are upset at Verizon for fighting their subpoenas of bittorrenters.
[Image Source: Julie Jacobson/AP]

When it comes to porn-piracy (not part of the aforementioned pact), Verizon suddenly goes from cooperating with the content holders in targeting customers with punishments to defending its customers.  In these cases, it has argued that the infringer is often a teenager or neighbor and not the customer themself, and begun to file mass objections to the subpoenas.  That has thrown a wrench in the plans of mass litigation contractors for these media players, as it would be prohibitively expensive to try to overturn each of the objections in court.

Verizon's counsel writes in one such objection, "[The subpoena] seeks information that is protected from disclosure by third parties’ rights of privacy and protections guaranteed by the first amendment."

When it comes to the certain mass lawsuits, Verizon's counsel also takes issue with the premise of mass lawsuits itself, pointing to cases that copyright groups lost, on the grounds that the defendants did not act in a concerted manner (and hence the mass suit was inappropriate).

Elephant vs. croc
The porn studios have launched a bold legal attack on the far bigger ISP Verizon.
[Image Source: National Geographic]

The internet service provider's (ISP) unexpected defense of its customers has the pornography studios mad enough to sue.  Their lawyers lash out at Verizon in their filing, commenting:

Verizon objects to the subpoenas on various grounds, all of which lack merit. Accordingly, Plaintiffs respectfully request that the Court overrule each of Verizon’s objections, compel immediate compliance with Plaintiffs’ subpoenas and hold Verizon in contempt for failing to obey the subpoenas.
Verizon’s current Objections can only be seen as being asserted in bad faith, and with the expectation to continue to profit from BitTorrent infringement at the expense of other, lower-tier ISPs and the consuming public at large. There is seemingly no incentive for ISPs such as Verizon to aggressively identify infringers on their network.

The trio cite an Aug. 2011 Northwestern University and Telefónica Research study [PDF], which claims that larger internet service providers (ISPs) like Verizon profit off allowing BitTorrent traffic, while smaller ISPs are left footing the bill.  The study did not disclose its source of funding.

Sources: Scribd, Torrent Freak

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