Liberty Media Holdings (“Liberty Media”) is the registered owner of the copyright to numerous adult films. It alleged that thirty-eight entities (collectively “Does 1- 38” ), identified only by their IP addresses, infringed upon its copyrighted motion picture, “Corbin Fisher Amateur College Men Down on the Farm” (the “Motion Picture”), by reproducing and widely distributing the Motion Picture over the Internet.
Without Liberty Media’s authorization, Does 1-38 acted collectively to reproduce and distribute the Motion Picture over the Internet using the BitTorrent file transfer protocol (“BitTorrent”). BitTorrent is different from traditional peer-to-peer networks in that it organizes all users who wish to download a particular file into a collective distribution network, known as a “swarm.” Being part of a swarm allows users to simultaneously download and upload pieces of the media file from each other, rather than download the entire file from a single source.
File sharing through the BitTorrent network begins with a single individual, often referred to as a “seed” user or “seeder,” who intentionally chooses to share a particular file with a BitTorrent swarm. The original file in this case contains the entire Motion Picture. Once the file has been shared by the seed user, other members of the swarm can download the original file, which creates an exact digital copy on the computers of the downloading users. Each user requesting to download the file becomes a member of the swarm and consequently receives pieces of the original file. Eventually, the entire file is broken into pieces and distributed to various members of the swarm who may then “reassemble” the file by exchanging pieces with one another. Once a piece of the file is downloaded, it is immediately made available for distribution to other users seeking to download the file, subsequently turning each downloader into an uploader. This sequence leads to the “rapid viral sharing” of the file.
Does 1-38 collectively participated in a peer-to-peer swarm to download, copy, and distribute the Motion Picture file, whose hash code is known as “the AE3 Hash.” After searching for and obtaining a torrent file containing information sufficient to locate and download the Motion Picture, each defendant opened the torrent file using a BitTorrent client application that was specifically developed to read such files. Does 1-38 then traded pieces of the file containing a digital copy of the Motion Picture with each other until each user had a partial or complete copy of the Motion Picture on his or her computer. Each defendant owns or has control of a computer that contained a torrent file identifying the Motion Picture, as well as a partial or complete copy of the Motion Picture itself.
Liberty Media has shown that it holds a valid copyright to the Motion Picture, and the copyright is not disputed. Moreover, Liberty Media’s investigator, Malte Dinkela, has demonstrated that Does 1-38 violated Liberty Media’s exclusive right as the copyright owner to reproduce and distribute the copyrighted material.
Dinkela determined that Liberty Media’s copyrighted work was available for download and distribution on the BitTorrent network at the time of the alleged infringements. Dinkela stated that, as of January 31, 2011, he had identified at least thirty-eight unique IP addresses traceable to Massachusetts (those of Does 1-38) that had engaged in the unauthorized downloading and distribution of the AE3 Hash associated with the Motion Picture file. Dinkela was able to identify when the file (or part of the file) was distributed by the BitTorrent network user, the IP address associated with each user, and the ISP to which each IP address was linked. As BitTorrent users, Does 1-38 allegedly took all necessary steps for a public distribution: by participating in the unauthorized download and distribution of the Motion Picture file as members of the swarm, they infringed on Liberty Media’s copyrighted material.
Liberty Media has provided sufficient evidence that its copyrighted material was available for download and distribution on the BitTorrent network, and that the material was subsequently downloaded and distributed by a swarm of at least thirty-eight users. As such, Liberty Media has established a prima facie claim for copyright infringement. Also the Court ordered that Does 1-38 are prohibited from proceeding any further in this action using pseudonyms, subject to individual motions to proceed anonymously on the basis of privacy interests.