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Declaratory Judgment Complaint filed vs. Hard Drive Productions

I’ve been meaning to write about this for a day or two now, but Courthouse News beat me to the punch.

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – A woman claims a pornographic filmmaker tried to coerce her into settling a bogus copyright infringement case – and that even if she did download its porn, which she did not, pornography is not copyrightable, because it is not a science or a useful art.

via Courthouse News Service.  Now, I’m not sure the obscenity arguments here have merit- that line of reasoning has been tried and rejected before.  But the really interesting thing is the procedural situation is totally flipped by this case.

In a dec judgment action, the plaintiff (who used to be a Jane Doe) spends $350 to file a case in her home court, and then the burden shifts onto Steele and Prenda and Guardelay and the movie studio.  She doesn’t have to prove that she didn’t do it- they have to prove she did.  If they can’t prove she did it, she wins.  And they will have to pay her costs and attorney’s fees.

The complaint itself is interesting (warning, PDF) because it also accuses the porn studio of violating criminal prostitution laws.  I’m not sure that’s helpful for the copyright component of this case, but it’s sure not going to help the porn guys win favor with the judge.

Oh, and did I mention there’s a demand for a jury?  I’m sure that the porn studio people can expect a lot of sympathy in front of a jury. Maybe they’ll even get to explain how they recruit women to star in their movies.  And then how much they earn from selling those movies.  And then how much they pay their actors.

Lots of sympathy.

Filing a dec judgment complaint like this could be an excellent strategy for John Doe defendants who are factually innocent and who won’t mind the publicity.  This brave Jane Doe will likely receive the same kind of media attention (and bad legal reporting) that has been focused on Jammie Thomas over the years.  Of course, there is strength in numbers- if every threatened John Doe were to file one of these cases, it wouldn’t be news anymore.

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