Looks like Hollywood hits a new low.Thousands of people who have been sued for downloading movies can breathe sigh of relief, for now at least. A Florida judge has stopped 27 mass-BitTorrent lawsuits because the attorney for the copyright holders appears to be unlicensed. The cases are likely to be dismissed and the plaintiffs will not be allowed to demand settlements from the accused file-sharers.
The ongoing mass-BitTorrent lawsuits in the U.S. continue to keep the United States judicial system busy. More than 250,000 people have been sued over the last two years and new lawsuits are being filed every week.
Through these mass lawsuits the copyright holders are trying to obtain the personal details of BitTorrent users who allegedly shared their material online. Once this information is handed over, they then offer the defendant the opportunity to settle the case for a few hundred up to a couple of thousand dollars.
The scheme is used by well known copyright holders such as the makers of the Oscar winning movie The Hurt Locker and book publishers John Wiley and Sons. However, the majority of the cases are filed by adult entertainment companies. Many of these companies can make more money from lawsuits than selling content and are often described as copyright trolls.
Tarik Hashmi of the Transnational Law Group is one of the attorneys who filed dozens of cases on behalf of adult companies in Florida. However, these have now been halted by District Court Judge Hinkle and may be soon dismissed entirely. It appears that Hashmi is practicing law in the Florida federal court without the proper license, an issue that was brought up by a notice three defendants filed at the court.
“All proceedings and all deadlines that have not passed are stayed pending a determination of whether these cases should be dismissed—or other appropriate action taken—based on the notice suggesting that the plaintiffs’ attorney Terik Hashmi resides but is not licensed to practice law in Florida,” Judge Hinkle writes.
While the attorney is given a chance to respond to the allegations, for now he is no longer allowed to demand settlements from the thousands of defendants who are accused in 27 separate mass-BitTorrent lawsuits.
“Until this issue is resolved by a further order of this court, Mr. Hashmi must not attempt to settle any of these cases, must not accept any payment in settlement of any of these cases, and must not take any other action in any of these cases,” the judge writes.
If the investigation into Hashmi concludes that the attorney is indeed not qualified, all cases are likely to be dismissed. Although this would be great news for the thousands of people accused in these specific cases, it will do little to stop new mass-BitTorrent lawsuits from being filed.
As long as the scheme is greatly profitable for both attorneys and the copyright holders, the lawsuits will continue.