In recent months several copyright infringement suits have been filed in the Federal District Court of Oregon, alleging that defendants downloaded copyrighted films using a technology called BitTorrent. Two such noteworthy cases are Elf-Man LLC v. Does and Voltage Pictures, LLC v. Does. Both cases add to a growing trend of similar cases filed in Washington, Illinois, Florida and elsewhere. It appears the purpose of these suits is to improperly secure forced settlements from individual defendants by shortcutting due process rights.
If you are not familiar with BitTorrent or this copyright scheme, BitTorrent is a peer-to-peer software that takes small bits of large files from several computers in a distributed network and rejoins them to make one file.
There are legitimate and non-infringing uses of this software, but several websites such as The Pirate Bay enable downloading of copyrighted materials via BitTorrent. When a BitTorrent user is attached to a network, their computer may be transferring and receiving bits and pieces of any number of files (some potentially infringing, and some not). Other software allows copyright-holders (or their lawyers) to sniff torrent activity and identify ISPs and IPs of users. The copyright-holder then files suit with a list of IP addresses and subpoenas the names and street addresses of the account assigned to that IP from an internet service provider (ISP) like Comcast. A settlement demand follows shortly.
It can be costly and difficult for a plaintiff to prove copyright infringement by any individual, so some copyright-holders may feel compelled to cut losses by shortcutting the system and targeting groups of vulnerable individuals.
Simply having BitTorrent installed on a computer does not equate to infringement, but letters from attorneys seeking settlement might imply otherwise. An individual defendant who receives a settlement offer, no matter how unreasonable the amount, could feel unable to fight the demand. Immix attorneys have experience in successfully negotiating such claims on behalf of clients, and Immix would like to turn the equation around by representing a number of similar defendants by protecting them from improper tactics.
About the Author: Leigh Gill
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Having worked as a business analyst, project manager and consultant, Leigh’s desire is to understand the business need and apply effective real-world solutions to solve business problems.