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BLOG: So, You're Being Sued for Piracy

By Sarah Jacobsson Purewal | June 17, 2011
What's that? You just got a letter asking for money because you downloaded a movie? Here's what you should do.

Copyright Cases Far From Slam Dunks
Much to the chagrin of U.S. Copyright Group and other copyright trolls, however, the legal actions haven't always gone as planned.

In both cases U.S. Copyright Group was allowed to subpoena offending Internet service providers for the personal details of the account holders associated with the IP addresses, though the court recently revoked the subpoenas for the Expendables case. The subpoenas were revoked because U.S. Copyright Group failed to serve the clients quickly, and because the judge realized that most of the IP addresses probably do not belong to residents of the district in which the case was filed (Washington, D.C.).

More recently a firm called Righthaven was accused of being intentionally "dishonest" by a federal judge in a copyright-infringement lawsuit over content taken from the Las Vegas Review-Journal's Website and used elsewhere. Righthaven issued as many as 300 lawsuits related to content that it claimed it owned.

According to U.S. District Judge Roger Hunt of Nevada, who was presiding over the case, Righthaven did not own the content, and the rightful owner of the content wasn't identified in the suit. According to reports on the matter, Hunt threatened to sanction Righthaven for what he called "disingenuous, if not outright deceitful" litigation efforts, at the same time questioning the company's business model. reports that more than 100 bloggers have settled with Righthaven for undisclosed sums related to the Review-Journal infringement case. Those bloggers are now mulling their own legal action against Righthaven.

Threats, Settlements, and Lawyering Up
Copyright trolls don't want to go to court. Doing so is costly and risky--neither of those things is good from the standpoint of a copyright troll. It's much cheaper and easier for them if people who receive letters simply pay up, instead of forcing an actual court case.

If you are ever on the receiving end of a copyright-infringement accusation from a troll, it will likely be in the form of a settlement letter. A letter is not a lawsuit, and you will face no legal repercussions if you ignore it. However, Art Neill, lawyer and executive director of New Media Rights, says that this doesn't mean you should ignore it.

If you receive a settlement letter through your ISP, your name has not yet been revealed to the group that is trying to get your money. Keep it that way. Maintain your privacy at all costs, says Neill, and contact the plaintiff's attorney only through your own attorney or anonymously (that is, through an email address that won't identify you personally).

Here's why anonymity is so important: Judge Harold Baker recently ruled in VPR Internationale v. Does 1-1017 that an IP address was not a person, and blocked Canadian film company VPR Internationale from forcing ISPs to give up personal information tied to IP addresses. In this case, if people had given up their names to the film company before the judgment was passed, the company would still be able to sue them--using their names.


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