Legal companies using scatter-gun practices to scare often innocent Internet users into coughing up cash have been delivered another blow by a West Virginia court.
The judge presiding over seven cases, which involve alleged piracy by more than 5,400 unidentified individuals, refused to allow them all to be dealt with at the same time.
In layman's terms, the judge ruled that the fact that the accused had all used the same ISP and the same P2P file-sharing network wasn't sufficient reason to lump them all together for the purposes of a trial.
Online rights group the Electronic Frontier Foundation said in an ebullient statement: "In these cases - as in many others across the country - the owners of the adult movies filed mass lawsuits based on single counts of copyright infringement stemming from the downloading of a pornographic film, and improperly lumped hundreds of defendants together regardless of where the IP addresses indicate the defendants live. The motivation behind these cases appears to be to leverage the risk of embarrassment associated with pornography to coerce settlement payments despite serious problems with the underlying claims."
EFF legal director Cindy Cohn remarked: "This is the next nail in the coffin of the copyright trolls. Now that judges are starting to reject the shoddy and unfair tactics being used by the attorneys filing these cases and force plaintiffs to play by the rules, this type of mass litigation will no longer be a good business model."
The ISP used by the alleged copyright infringers in the seven West Virginia cases, Time Warner Cable, moved to quash subpoenas seeking the identities of the accused filed sharers.
The judge ruled that the copyright trolls were free to pursue each case individually - but that would lead to the legal companies involved having to do some actual work, spend some actual time in court and produce some actual evidence in order to menace large sums of cash out of their randomly-selected victims.