Judge To RIAA: Students Must Be Allowed To Respond To John Doe Lawsuits

The RIAA’s tactic of filing John Doe lawsuits against alleged copyright infringers was dealt a blow by a New Mexican judge, according to Ars Technica:

The RIAA has argued that it would suffer irreparable harm unless immediate discovery was allowed, but Judge Garcia didn’t find that argument convincing. “While the Court does not dispute that infringement of a copyright results in harm, it requires a Coleridgian ‘suspension of disbelief’ to accept that the harm is irreparable, especially when monetary damages can cure any alleged violation,” wrote the judge. “On the other hand, the harm related to disclosure of confidential information in a student or faculty member’s Internet files can be equally harmful.”

Judge Garcia also notes that there is “no reasonable way” to ensure that prospective defendants are made aware of the lawsuits and requests for disclosure–which is exactly how the RIAA wants it. He wants to ensure that the John Does are notified and “are given a reasonable opportunity to intervene in order to stop the disclosure of sensitive information.”

This is bad news for the RIAA, because as Ars Technica puts it “the problem with the approach is that it allows the RIAA to do an end-run around the legal process, as the would-be defendant never gets an opportunity to answer during the John Doe lawsuits and fight the RIAA’s subpoenas.” This ruling should make the litigation process more expensive for the RIAA, as the targets would be able to participate in the legal process from the beginning, instead of having to wait until it was over and they were mailed a settlement letter. —MEGHANN MARCO

Judge deals blow to RIAA, says students can respond to John Doe lawsuit [Ars Technica]