Judges on both coasts of the U.S. have now rejected one of the copyright trolls' favorite tactics - suing an Internet subscriber for "negligence" when someone else allegedly downloaded a movie illegally. Judge Phyllis Hamilton of the Northern California federal court threw out a negligence suit by a Caribbean holding company against a Californian, Joshua Hatfield. The company, AF Holdings, had alleged that Mr. Hatfield allowed unnamed third parties to use his Internet connection to download a pornographic movie using BitTorrent, infringing copyright. Judge Hamilton ruled that Hatfield was not responsible for the actions of strangers. She joins Judge Kaplan of the Southern District of New York, who reached the same conclusions in another case in July.
The "negligence" strategy had three fatal flaws, according to the court। First, an Internet subscriber like Mr. Hatfield has no legal duty to police his Internet connection to protect copyright owners like AF Holdings. Second, even if AF had a valid "negligence" claim against Mr. Hatfield under state personal injury law, federal copyright law would override it. This is called preemption. And finally, even if copyright law didn't trump a negligence claim, Section 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act probably would.