It’s getting tougher and tougher for companies filing mass-defendant file-sharing lawsuits.  Federal judges have been ‘laying down the law’ all over the place, making it much harder for the firms to randomly sue individuals using mere IP addresses with regards to P2P file-sharing infringement.

In one recent holding, U.S. Magistrate Bernard Zimmerman, in On the Cheap, LLC dba Tru Filth, LLC v. Does 1-5011, decided to drop 5,010 of the 5,011 anonymous ‘John Doe’ defendants, using everyone’s favorite civil procedure cases as support to rule out every Doe defendant that did not have personal jurisdiction in the Northern District of California.  Simply put, Judge Zimmerman stated: “[d]o not sue Californians who do not live in my district!”

He also explained how impossible it would be to bring 5,011 defendants into the courtroom at the same time, in addition to each defendant having her own lawyer, issues and defenses to bring to the table.

A similar holding was announced about a week earlier when U.S. MagistrateJoseph Spero dropped 187 of the 188 ‘Doe’ defendants who were only being sued because their IP address was matched up to illegal file-sharing of pornographic materials.   Even with new geolocating devices used by companies to more correctly locate the IP addresses of individuals who are using P2P services to illegally share copyrighted material,  Judge Spero stated:

The court remains unpersuaded that the peer-to-peer architecture of the BitTorrent technology justifies the joinder of otherwise unrelated defendants in a single action

Although this may seem harsh, it is true that an IP address is not enough alone to prove what individual and what computer is connected to the illegal file sharing.  This is because other individuals may have access to certain networks that contain the same IP address, thus leading one P2P lawyer to state that he would have to check every single computer within an individuals household in order to correctly point out who the culprit is.

Meantime, Righthaven, another big filer of mass-plaintiff litigation, also has seen reverses on several fronts. The firm, which sought to litigate with hundreds of bloggers and small websites, alleging copyright infringment of newspaper articles, has not only drawn heavy fire from those sued, the blogging community and online rights groups, it also now is getting zinged by the very media companies whose works it purported to aim to protect. This has not been good for its finances, either.