A copyright owner that files a “John Doe” infringement complaint but withdraws the case once the alleged infringer’s identity is revealed, without attempting to prove the accuracy of its claims, is not liable for attorneys’ fees, according to the US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.
Killer Joe Nevada, the owner of the rights to 2012 crime movie Killer Joe, dropped its copyright infringement complaint against defendant Leigh Leaverton after she was identified as the John Doe user of an IP address that had been associated with illegal downloads of the movie.
Leaverton (Defendant) rejected Killer Joe Nevada’s motion to dismiss the complaint, arguing that she should be awarded attorney’ fees because the lawsuit was unreasonable without an investigation into whether she had indeed infringed in the first place, stating:
Although this court has not reached that precise question, a plaintiff such as Killer Joe Nevada may properly sue “John Doe” to ascertain the ISP subscriber.
Leaverton cites no binding authority that a Copyright Act suit based on the infringer’s IP address is frivolous or unreasonable. The district court thus did not abuse its discretion by concluding that Killer Joe Nevada’s acts were reasonable.