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Can you prevent your ISP from disclosing your identity in a BitTorrent copyright case?

by | Aug 6, 2021 | Bittorrent, Copyright Infringement |

You have received the initial letter from your Internet Service Provider (ISP) that you have been named a defendant in a BitTorrent copyright infringement lawsuit. You are certainly not alone. BitTorrent copyright litigation has become a lucrative business. In addition to actual copyright holders bringing legitimate claims, there are numerous “copyright trolls” who are buying up copyrights and filing claims without due diligence to make sure their claims are valid.

If you have received a letter from your ISP, you probably have several questions. Some people don’t even know what BitTorrent is, and they are genuinely confused as to how they have become defendants in a copyright violation lawsuit. Others wonder about how you can defend yourself against these copyright violation charges. One key area for many defendants in these claims is protection of their identities. The initial letter should indicate that your ISP will be compelled to reveal your identity to the plaintiff so the plaintiff can seize your computer, laptop, smartphone and other digital devises to determine whether you have possession of the copyrighted material in question.

For numerous reasons, many people in this situation want to avoid having their identities revealed in these lawsuits.

Is there anything you can do to protect your identity?

If you respond quickly enough, yes. You can file a motion to quash the ISP’s revealing of your identity to the plaintiff.

Here’s how these lawsuits work, generally: A copyright holder obtains evidence of someone illegally downloading their copyrighted material. They have the IP address where the DL took place, but they do not know the identity of the person attached to that IP address. The plaintiff then implicated the owner of the IP address in a lawsuit and compels the ISP to disclose the identity of the person attached to the IP address.

At this stage, you have some options.

The best play might be filing a motion (called a motion to quash) that will prevent the ISP from revealing your information to the plaintiff.

Motion to quash

The letter you received from your ISP should have a response date. If you reply within that time with a motion to quash, you can file this motion that could stop the plaintiff from getting your information. You can also file a motion to dismiss the case outright if it is patently without merit. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) gives a good high-level overview in their FAQ.

This option is not the best choice for everyone. It can be expensive and it does not always work. But if the facts of your case suggest that a motion to quash is the right play, it can be a critical aspect of a successful defense against these charges.

The best thing you can do is talk with an experienced copyright lawyer who has handled BitTorrent claims like this.