Judge Michael Baylson of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania has called the bluff of pornography publisher Malibu Media—a company that has filed hundreds of lawsuits against alleged copyright infringers to try to extract settlements. Rather than letting the lawsuits before the judge become more examples of what federal district court Judge Otis D. Wright has called “essentially an extortion scheme,” Judge Baylson has decided to move forward with a “bellwether trial” to determine the validity of Malibu’s claims.

A bellwether trial is a trial that is meant to set precedent for an issue bringing many cases before the courts. Judge Baylson had 31 Malibu Media cases referred to him, making it far more reasonable to join five of the defendants who had already filed motions in their cases. The cases revolve generally around whether the defendants violated copyright by sharing Malibu’s copyrighted material by using BitTorrent.

In his order setting the trial, Judge Baylson acknowledged that the five defendants would be more financially burdened by this turn of events, but assured them that “[i]n the even Plaintiff’s allegations cannot be sustained, the five John Does will have adequate remedies to recover most, if not all, of [the] litigation expenses and/or damages from Plaintiff.” (Order, p. 19–20.)

The trial will give those parties who may have been erroneously aggrieved by copyright trolls the opportunity to help stave off future suits of this sort from Malibu and other entities that engage in this sort of litigious behavior. The question is whether Malibu is actually acting as a troll, or simply protecting its interests. We may need to wait until the trial commences on April 2, 2013. (Order, p. 3.)

(photo: Shutterstock: 98100167)