Electronic Frontier Foundation gets day in court

Digital do-gooders the Electronic Frontier Foundation will appear in court today to defend the rights of thousands of people accused of illegal file sharing.

The US civil liberties group will give evidence in a Washington court in order to stop the mass trial of 14,000 broadband users accused of illegally downloading movies, most notably Katherine Bigalow's The Hurt Locker, which was seen by the world and its wife long before its cinema release.

A law firm calling itself the The US Copyright group is attempting to lump thousands of cases together, no doubt to reduce its costs, and the EFF will argue that this is unfair and will prevent fair trials for all involved.

In court on Wednesday, EFF Senior Staff Attorney Corynne McSherry will argue that USCG has not offered enough evidence of a relationship between the defendants to justify suing them together.

"We contend that these suits improperly lump thousands of defendants together, a shortcut that deprives the defendants of fair access to individual justice," the EFF said in a statement.

The law firm has sent scattergun letters to the owners of Internet connections which were allegedly used to download illegal files, demanding that they cough up anything upward of £1,000 immediately or face a suit which could cost them £100,000.

"The stakes are high for anyone identified in USCG's slipshod cases," remarked the EFF. "USCG's strategy appears to be to threaten a judgement of up to $150,000 per downloaded movie - the maximum penalty allowable by law in copyright suits and a very unlikely judgement in cases arising from a single, non-commercial infringment."

It's not the first time that a law company has taken this kind of threatening and speculative stance against alleged copyright infringers. General consensus has it that the only way these companies ever make a penny is by bullying people into parting with money in order to avoid a costly, time-consuming and embarrassing trial.

We have yet to see a single case where a file sharer was convicted based on evidence gathered from internet service providers, as is the case with these mass trials.

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