Shawn Hogan has received plenty of attention in the last year for his decision to fight the MPAA over the lawsuit they filed against him, claiming he had shared the movie Meet the Fockers via a file sharing program. The problem? Hogan didn't actually share the movie, has never downloaded it, and actually owns the DVD of the movie in question. The MPAA made it clear that if he just paid them $2,500, they would forget the whole thing -- which certainly has the feel of extortion.
So, Hogan decided to fight the case in court to prove they were wrong, and said he wouldn't let them back out and run like they've done in other cases. All this, despite the fact that it would probably cost him over $100,000 in legal fees. Hogan decided it was worth it on principle. However, in preparing for the case, it looks like Hogan and his lawyer discovered that the studio might not actually have the rights to the movie.
The explanation is a little confusing, but it appears that there are two separate organizations involved: Universal City Studios Productions LLLP and Universal City Studios LLLP (you can see why this gets confusing). The first ( we'll call them "Productions" ) is the one who sued Hogan. However, it was the other ( "plain old Studios" ) who filed the copyright registration.
So, in preparing for the case, Hogan and his lawyers went looking for proof that plain old Studios had transferred the copyright to Productions -- which they got. The problem, however, is that the notice transferring the rights happens to occur two months before plain old Studios actually registered the copyright. In other words, they handed over the rights before they even got them -- making the whole thing a bit of a mess.
Apparently, it's messy enough that Hogan and his lawyer hope to have the whole case dismissed. Unfortunately, having such a case dismissed on what appears to be a (stupid and careless) technicality won't help much in dealing with other cases where people are falsely accused (assuming this thing isn't that common) -- but it should save Hogan a lot in legal fees.
Either way, it's yet another example of the somewhat reckless abandon with which the industry seems to file these lawsuits. Why bother making sure (a) the person did it or (b) you own the copyright before suing? That takes all the challenge out of suing your customers.
News source: Techdirt