Copyright “negligence” in Minnesota

The phenomenon of filing copyright lawsuits against anonymous “John Doe” internet users has been going on for several years now. While very few of these type of cases have been filed in Minnesota, there seem to have been about a dozen or so cases filed in the past couple of months. There are several different cases titled AF Holdings v. Doe and several more titled Quad Int’l v. Doe. All presumably with different unidentified defendants.

These cases all seem to allege that someone infringed the Plaintiff’s copyright in a movie by sharing it on BitTorrent. Whether or not they can identify the true infringer will be a problem as all that is known is an IP address and a time of alleged infringement. At best, this might lead back to a particular connection point, but not always to a specific user.

Perhaps because of this problem in identification, these cases also allege a claim of negligence. The “negligence” here is that by leaving a connection to the Internet available to others, the owner of the ISP account should be responsible for any infringement that occurred. This is absolute nonsense. And to the best of my knowledge, it is a claim that has never been recognized in court. The supposed “negligence” claim because it is essentially a reworked copyright claim, is preempted by the Copyright Act.

The courts that have addressed this issue of “negligence” have shot down the claim as well.
Here are two stories about claim being dismissed by a court in New York and another in California.

It may be that if they find the right person, these plaintiffs would have themselves a copyright case. However, by filing these negligence claims, they are merely hoping to extract a settlement from whoever they find, whether or not that person did anything wrong.