Sued For Downloading Porn? One Victim’s Answer

March 10, 2012
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Copyright Trolls Attack – This isn’t The Lord of the Rings!

Many people do not know that a growing number of Americans are being attacked by Copyright Trolls. A Copyright Troll is the term given to a lawyer who (with questionable ethics) uses the federal civil courts to pursue people accused of copyright infringement of his clients’ creative works. Most notably and perhaps the most active of these Copyright Trolls is the ones who specialize in going after people accused of downloading copyright protected pornographic movies. The downloading/sharing of these pornographic movies occurs over peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing applications, most notably BitTorrent.

I became involved with this type of Copyright Troll in 2011, when I was accused. So yes, I’m one of the 200,000+ (and growing) John Doe defendants who have been threatened with a federal lawsuit for allegedly downloading/sharing a copyright protected pornographic movie. No, I didn’t download/share the movie in question. I have proof that unauthorized personnel have been on my network. I keep this information ready in case the Troll decides to actually come after me someday.

After stressing out about possible financial ruin I faced, I started to search the Internet for information explaining who these people were and why they were coming after me. I got some great information from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and talked with a lawyer specializing in these cases. I found out that these cases have nothing to do with protecting the rights of the copyright owner. This is a business model designed to make millions of dollars, regardless of guilt or innocence.

The Copyright Troll eventually got my personal information from the Internet Service Provider (ISP) and I was repeatedly threatened with a federal lawsuit if I didn’t settle (pay a couple thousand dollars). My case stayed open for over a year and the Copyright Troll eventually dismissed the case. So right now I wait until the statute of limitations expires.

Shortly after being accused and threatened, I started my journey to educate myself and others on this subterranean “Legal” denizen, as well as try and do something about them. I have given myself the name of “DieTrollDie,” and run a blog titled such. I’m a layman (non-lawyer) with some legal experience, as well as being a certified Information Technology specialist. In addition to providing news and views on this topic, I also provide templates/examples for legal motions and have started to file legal declarations against some of these cases.

Regardless of what you think of pornography or the file-sharing of copyright protected works via the Internet, the actions of the Copyright Trolls and the porn owners are wrong. The Copyright Trolls will say they are only going after “Pirates,” who steal their clients’ works. The way the Copyright Trolls pursue these cases is akin to the police blindly firing a shotgun into a room containing armed criminals as well as innocent bystanders. I equate it to “Sue them all and let the courts settle them out.” The Copyright Trolls will claim that this is the only way their client can protect his works, as well as recovering fees from lost sales.

These cases do nothing to stop illegal file sharing and the copyright owners have realized it is a great revenue stream. One thing most of the porn copyright owners don’t do is send Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) Take-Down notices to the ISP of the offending IP addresses. This is one of the simplest and cheapest steps a copyright owner can take to respond to people stealing his works. When a DMCA take-down notice is sent to the ISP, they (the ISP) have to take steps to correct it or they can possibly become liable. Instead, most porn copyright owners are content to let the activity continue and just seek settlements from alleged offenders. This keeps a never ending cycle of copyright infringement law suits coming. The settlement amounts can vary, but they have generally stayed in the area of $3,000.00 per movie. The Copyright Trolls and porn owners picked this amount, as it is cheaper than hiring an attorney to defend oneself. The fact that these allegations deal with pornography (some of it is gay or fetish in nature), some people will pay (regardless of guilt) to make it go away and avoid any embarrassment. Before I get into how a case is started and what to do if you are accused, here is some background on the offense.

Copyright infringement is covered by US Code, Title 17, Chapter 5 (Federal Law). There is a three year statute of limitation from the date of offense. As there are no States laws for this offense, the Federal courts are where it is generally played out. As each case and situation is different for the Doe defendants, I will provide a general outline on how the cases are started, the money the Trolls make, what options you have, and possible outcomes.

How the cases are started

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