Comcast sticks two fingers up at Big Content

US ISP Comcast has finally said “enough is enough” and that it will not waste time helping Big Content chase file sharers.

According to Ars Technica, Comcast is miffed that it has been given shedloads of BitTorrent lawsuits in the United States and is refusing to comply with court-ordered subpoenas.

Its argument is that they are “shaking down” subscribers by scaring them into paying settlements.

Needless to say, Big Content is furious that anyone is standing up to its tactics and claims that the ISP is denying copyright holders the opportunity to protect their works.

In the Land of the Free, Big Content monitors those who download and share copyrighted files and then demands large sums of money from whoever has the IP address. It thinks this is a much better method of dealing with piracy than having to provide legal services in a way customers want.

More than a quarter of a million alleged BitTorrent users have been sued in federal courts and most of the cases are from porn companies who hope that the people they accuse will be too embarrassed to fight the case. But mainstream movie studios and book publisher John Wiley and Sons have also joined in lately.

Initially, Comcast complied with these subpoenas, but it recently told the Illinois District Court that it wanted the subpoenas quashed.

Firstly, the ISP claimed the court doesn’t have jurisdiction over all defendants, because many don’t live in the district in which they are being sued. The company also argues that the copyright holders have no grounds to join this many defendants in one lawsuit. It said that copyright holders were exploiting the court to coerce defendants into paying settlements.

Comcast’s laywers said that plaintiffs should not be allowed to profit from unfair litigation tactics whereby they use the offices of the court as an inexpensive means to gain defendants’ personal information and coerce ‘settlements’ from them.

It is fairly clear that plaintiffs have no interest in actually litigating their claims against defendants, but simply seek to use the Court and its subpoena powers to obtain sufficient information to shake them down, Comcast said.

Federal rules require courts to deny discovery “to protect a party or person from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense.”

Porn outfit AF HOLDINGS has asked the court to disregard the ISP’s arguments entirely, and accuses Comcast of denying copyright holders the opportunity to protect their works.

Judge Gary Feinerman has to decide whether Comcast has to hand over the subscriber data after all, or whether the subpoenas should be destroyed.

Comcast is part of a trend amongst ISPs to fight mass-BitTorrent cases. Verizon did the same, successfully arguing that it has an obligation to protect the privacy of its customers.