Duffy v. Smith, No. 13-3801 (7th Cir. 2014)Annotate this Case
Lightspeed operates online pornography sites and sued a defendant, identified only Internet Protocol address, which was allegedly associated with unlawful viewing of Lightspeed’s content, using a “hacked” password. Lightspeed identified 6,600 others (by IP addresses only) as “co‐conspirators” in a scheme to steal passwords and content. Lightspeed, acting ex parte, served subpoenas on the ISPs (then non‐parties) for the personally identifiable information of each alleged coconspirator, none of whom had been joined as parties. The ISPs moved to quash and for a protective order. The Illinois Supreme Court ultimately ruled in favor of the ISPs. Lightspeed amended its complaint to name as co‐conspirator parties the ISPs and unidentified “corporate representatives,” alleging negligence, violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, 18 U.S.C. 1030 and 1030(g), and deceptive practices. Lightspeed issued new subpoenas seeking the personally identifiable information. The ISPs removed the case to federal court. The district judge denied an emergency motion to obtain the identification information. After several “changes” with respect to Lightspeed’s lawyers, the court stated that they “demonstrated willingness to deceive … about their operations, relationships, and financial interests have varied from feigned ignorance to misstatements to outright lies … calculated so that the Court would grant early‐discovery requests, thereby allowing [them] to identify defendants and exact settlement proceeds.” After granting Lightspeed’s motion for voluntary dismissal, the court granted attorney’s fees under 28 U.S.C. 1927, stating that the litigation “smacked of bullying pretense.” Failing to pay, the lawyers were found to be in civil contempt and ordered to pay 10% of the original sanctions award to cover costs for the contempt litigation. The Seventh Circuit affirmed.