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An Obscene Twist on Class Action Lawsuits
Class action lawsuits are often nothing more than shakedown schemes intended to enrich the plaintiffs' attorneys. Although some NGOs are leaders in supporting class action lawsuits, one NGO, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), is playing a crucial role in opposing a disturbing new twist on an old tactic.

Traditional class action lawsuits are based on the premise of multiple plaintiffs -- the class -- suing a single defendant. In the new version, a single plaintiff is suing a class of defendants. In this "reverse class action" lawsuit, a producer of copyrighted pornography is seeking judicial permission to issue subpoenas aimed at identifying thousands of people who are accused of illegally downloading movies.

What makes this case significant is the attempt to revise and expand the nature of class action lawsuits. As EFF explained, "a single plaintiff targeting thousand of defendants with no attorney in place to defend the rights of the accused." Moreover, although pornography itself is not the issue, when "adult film companies file predatory lawsuits, there is the added embarrassment associated with pornography, which can convince people to quickly pay what's demanded of them even if they have legitimate defenses."

There is no question that protection of intellectual property is essential to the economy, vital to the national interest and a basic matter of fairness to the property's creators. Such interests, however, cannot overrule the need for any lawsuits to comply with establishment legal requirements. As EFF's amicus brief explains, the proposed class fails to meet the requirements for class certification contained in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

Although most people have little sympathy for either pornographers or copyright violators, the case's fate is of importance to everyone has an interest in not seeing a further expansion of class action lawsuits. If the plaintiff prevails, the "reverse class action" strategy will be used again. Sooner or later, mainstream business interests will be targeted.

Click to see EFF Press Release

Click to see EFF Brief of Amicus Curiae

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