The Florida District Court Judge Ursula Ungaro refused to issue a subpoena to an adult entertainment company for locating a potential BitTorrent pirate through IP-address tracing. As the company failed to prove that they cannot locate the individual using IP-address evidence with a 100% certainty, Judge Ungaro refused to grant the subpoena.
The subpoena refusal turned out to be a major setback for the company. It is to be noted that such subpoenas are generally granted in many cases by other judges.
Strike 3 Holdings LLC is an American adult entertainment company that has been commonly labeled as a ‘copyright troll’ for suing several individuals on grounds of torrenting their data. Over the past several months, Strike 3 Holdings has filed hundreds of such lawsuits.
In this particular case, the rightsholder accused the IP-address “72.28.136.***” for sharing their content via BitTorrent without their permission. This case was assigned to Judge Ungaro in the month of February. The company stated in the subpoena that they would need permission to locate the IP-address and seek the user details from the respective ISP.
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Judge Ungaro was reluctant to grant the subpoena and sent the company a “show cause” notice asking them to provide more information on how accurate the company’s use of geolocation or other technologies for pinpointing the location of the infringer would be.
As a response to the show cause notice, the rightsholder explained that they employed Maxmind’s database for linking the IP-address to the ISP Cogeco and a location in Southern Florida. Maxmind stated that its IP-address tracing service is roughly 95% accurate in the USA.
The rights-holder stated that they were positive about the service and they further added that they, however, weren’t sure if the actual account holder is the infringer they’re looking for. But they expressed that they could find out more once they know the identity of the account holder.
Judge Ungaro wrote that merely stating its “plausible” that the infringer can be identified and failing to explain how the geo-location software can trace down the infringer wasn’t good enough to grant a subpoena. On top of this, the company wasn’t also sure and able to prove that the infringer might certainly belong to Florida’s jurisdiction.
It isn’t a surprise to see Judge Ungaro denying a subpoena such as this, as she had issued similar orders in the past as well. It is certainly a major setback for the rightsholder and they may have to come back with stronger arguments and rock-solid proof to obtain a subpoena.