Suing an Infringer Using a Pseudonym

Full Question: I want to sue an online infringer but the person posted my material anonymously. How can I find out the identity of infringer?

Answer: Often online infringers use pseudonyms or take other steps to conceal their identities in an effort to make it difficult for copyright owners to pursue them for their infringing activities. However, there is a provision in the DMCA that helps copyright owners learn the identities of online infringers. Specifically, the DMCA allows a copyright owner or the owner’s agent to request the clerk of any U.S. district court to issue a subpoena to a service provider ordering the service provider to disclose the identity of an alleged infringer.

To obtain the subpoena the request must include the following elements:

  • a copy of the takedown notice that was sent to the service provider;
  • a proposed subpoena; and
  • a sworn declaration that explains that: (i) the purpose for which the subpoena is sought is to obtain the identity of an alleged infringer, and (ii) that such information will only be used for the purpose of protecting the owner’s copyrights.

If the subpoena meets these requirements the clerk will issue the subpoena ordering the service provider to expeditiously disclose to the copyright owner or the owner’s agent to identify the alleged to the extent such information is available to the service provider.