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Rights holders end legal demands for ISPs to ban movie pirates from the internet

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In a surprise and for now, mysterious move by the plaintiffs, three lawsuits filed in the US based on alleged copyright violations against three telecommunications industry giants have been dismissed.

The filings, whose wording had been near-identical, wanted the courts to order AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast to cut a greater number of those identified as repeat infringers off the internet and also block more torrent sites.

But on Friday district courts in Texas, New York, and Pennsylvania received a new set of filings: this time for voluntary dismissal by the plaintiffs.

We obtained a copy of the request for you here.

The lawsuits came from a group of film producers led by Voltage Holdings, a company with a “rich” history of involvement in this type of litigation that casts its net very wide – and deep – in a bid to neutralize sites and users that it singles out as “pirates.”

In the past, Voltage went after sites, apps, individuals, as well as ISPs and hosting providers. The overall thinking behind these lawsuits has been that anyone in the (technical) chain of alleged copyright violations could be held legally viable.

ISPs, however, enjoy safe harbor protections as far as customer activity goes – unless these are “repeat infringers” who have received multiple DMCA notices – and unless there are “appropriate circumstances” justifying termination of service.

AT&T was the first to get sued, with the plaintiffs’ argument coming down to the corporation not doing enough to cancel subscriptions of users identified as “pirates,” or block targeted websites. Specifically, the telecoms were accused of not cutting off a sufficient number of “pirates,” which to Voltage’s mind meant they should lose their safe harbor privileges under the DMCA.

Financial ramifications for the three ISPs sued this time would have been enormous if the cases proceeded and they were found to be liable for the behavior of tens of millions of customers.

The Voltage-led group went for voluntary dismissal without prejudice, which means that the lawsuits can be refiled in the future.

The plaintiffs are not obligated to explain why they abandoned their own litigation attempt at this time, and they have not offered any explanation, either.

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