A federal judge has ruled that copyright holders seeking to file suit against online pirates may not join multiple defendants into one suit, likely ending a method that entertainment studios have long relied upon to intimidate users into settlements.
Copyright enforcers, led by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), have filed suit against hundreds of thousands of accused infringers since online piracy was popularized more than a decade ago.
When the MPAA, RIAA, or another party goes to court they often take dozens, hundreds, or thousands of defendants with them at once. However when the copyright holders go to court they are often armed only with an individual’s IP address or other details. When attempting to convince a court to provide further details about those people, it is cheaper for the copyright holder to pay one large filing fee rather paying for details on each individual person.