Earlier this year, there was a mini-shitstorm after a company from Panama called World Digital filed suit against 80 fans that had downloaded All Shall Perish’s This is Where it Ends. After the band and management (and label, initially) denied reports that they knew anything about the suit, it was eventually called off by the label per the band’s request. Yet that looks like nothing compared to the nearly 7,500 suits filed by a New Jersey attorney on behalf of Century Media. According to Northjersey.com, Hackensack attorney Jay R. McDaniel filed copyright infringement lawsuits on behalf of three clients, including Century Media. The two titles cited were Lacuna Cuil’s Dark Adrenaline (3,136 defendants) and Iced Earth’s Dystopia (4,327 defendants), and McDaniel is seeking up to $150,000 for each case.
While it’s perfectly within Century Media’s rights to hire legal to sue listeners that illegally downloaded their music, that doesn’t make it a popular decision. Or one that makes financial sense. McDaniel’s first step in moving forward with the suits involves seeking court permission to subpoena Internet service providers to opbtain the names and home addresses of the infringers, who are currently all named as “John Doe.” McDaniel is hoping that if he gets the ISP’s to release the names, that they’ll be happy to settle for a few thousand bucks However, in two separate suits, U.S. District Judges Faith S. Hochberg and Dennis M. Cavanaugh rejected Century Media’s bid for a preliminary injunction as premature, claiming that wireless routers make it much harder to pinpoint the copyright infringers. Another judge, Gary R. Brown, wrote in May that “the plaintiffs seemingly have no interest in actually litigating the cases, but rather simply have used the court and its subpoena powers to obtain sufficient information to shake down the John Does.” Brown cited evidence of harassing calls to defendants asking for $2,900 to end the litigation.
It should also be noted that it may well cost Century Media a lot more in legal fees than they bring in. Using the RIAA as an example, from 2006-2008, they spent $64 million on lawyers to net $1.3 million. Yet you can’t totally blame Century Media for wanting to take some legal action. While All Shall Perish called the lawsuits off, it’s unclear whether Iced Earth or Lacuna Coil were aware that lawsuits would be filed on their behalves. But it’s still illegal to pirate music. Whether or not you think that music is worth the money charged is a different debate for another time, but as long as people are going to continue to illegally download music, there’s going to be some fallback.
UPDATE: While there’s been no official comment from Century Media, we spoke to someone at the label who says that no one at the label in America knows anything about the suit and they’re checking with their European office to see if they might know more.