Several major ISPs embroiled in a copyright lawsuit with an adult film copyright holder are appealing a ruling in the case that could permit hundreds of innocent subscribers to be harassed by copyright trolls.

The reversal was requested in papers [PDF] filed last week in the federal appeals court for the District of Columbia by Cox Communications; Bright House Networks, which is owned by Time Warner; and Verizon.

Wants subscriber names

In the case—AF Holdings v. Does 1-1058 and Cox Communications, et. al.—the copyright holders allege that 1058 “John Does” engaged in file-sharing through BitTorrent of a sexually explicit film.

As part of the discovery process in the case, AF Holdings wants Cox and the other ISPs to turn over to them personal information on the John Does. The order came from a federal district court judge, Beryl A. Howell, a former lobbyist for the RIAA and Senate staffer who worked on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a federal law aimed to protect the rights of copyright holders in cyberspace.

beryl howell federal district court judge
Judge Beryl A. Howell

The ISPs are asking the appeals court to overturn Howell’s decision ordering the disclosure of subscribers’ names as part of evidence discovery.

According to the ISPs, AF Holdings and its attorneys aren’t interested in obtaining the names of the alleged infringers to pursue their case in court, but in order to squeeze settlement money from the subscribers.


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