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This one’s a doozy even by the standards of dumb legal campaigns: Comcast(s cmcsa) is threatening to sue TorrentFreak, a news site about copyright and file-sharing, for publishing a document related to an ongoing court case. [Update: Comcast has since stated the cease-and-desist was sent in error and apologized.]
The document in question is a one-page fax — reproduced below — in which Comcast provides a defense lawyer with subscriber information as part of the legal discovery process. (The larger case relates to a copyright-trolling operation in which a law firm is accused of creating a “honey pot” by uploading copyrighted shows, then turning around and suing those who download them.)
According to TorrentFreak, attorneys for a “brand protection” agency representing Comcast are warning the site that it has five days to remove their client’s “intellectual property” or face a series of nasty legal measures.
This request is asinine for a number of reasons. First, if the fax is indeed a court document, then it is part of the public record and not subject to copyright protection. And, in any case, TorrentFreak is a news outlet that is protected by a fair use reporting privilege in the case of a genuine news story — which this is.
Finally, the copyright threat is especially stupid because it makes Comcast look like a villain when, in the case of copyright trolling, the company is actually the good guy: Earlier this year, the internet giant successfully quashed subpoenas sought by the law firm as part of its extortion scheme.
Ultimately, Comcast’s threat will fall flat and the incident will just provide another example of how over-zealous legal counsel can do more harm than good.
Here’s a screenshot of the fax included in the original TorrentFreak story: