Shame Upon Shame: Use BitTorrent to Snag Some Free Porn? The Feds May Be After You

Let's say you... err, no... your friend happened to illegally download some porn over the past year or so. Now, your friend knew he was breaking the law when he did it. And sure, it's gross, but he was sad and cripplingly lonely, and they had just installed high-speed Wi-Fi in his condo building. But your friend wasn't really hurting anyone, was he?

It turns out, uh, your buddy's illegal skin flick download might land him in federal court. For the past year, an L.A.-based porn company has been filing lawsuits against people who've illegally grabbed porn movies through BitTorrent programs. The practice is called "copyright trolling." In early May, Malibu Media filed ten new lawsuits against users across Broward.

The catch is, if you're being sued for your porn grab, you probably don't yet know. The company files against John Does at specific IP addresses. The internet service provider is eventually subpoenaed, and one day you open the mail and see you're being sued for that copy of In Love With Lexi. You can fight it, but then you'll be officially named in the proceeding as a porno fiend.

According to David Tamaroff, a Miami attorney who defends clients against these lawsuits, that threat alone is enough to force many to settle. "It depends on the individual," he says. "To some of them, it's of the utmost importance. They would do anything to prevent themselves from being associated with these kinds of videos. So there is a coercive effort to this."

The possible financial penalty also has enough teeth to scare defendants into a settlement. If you go to trial and lose, you're not just forking over the $20 for the DVD. By law, copyright infringement can lead to a $150,000 bill for the offender. Rather than fight the charges, offenders frequently settle, sometimes for as much as $10,000, Tamaroff says.

Still, if you're convinced you had nothing to do with that copy of Tiffany Teenagers in Love that passed through your internet connection, it is possible to win.

"Each individual's circumstances are different, but we have found instances where it's difficult to show that an IP address links to a particular person," Tamaroff says. "[For example] they had lots of people living in a household at that time. Or some smaller condominiums have wireless included."

But Malibu Media isn't afraid to play dirty. As part of its federal filings, the company includes not only a list of titles a defendant has allegedly downloaded but all files pulled from that IP address. That means every last bit of data illegally downloaded — from Midget Porn Pass to Downton Abbey, season three, to the latest Swedish House Mafia album — will be out there in the court record for all to see.

"Privacy is more important for some than others," Tamaroff explains.

 
My Voice Nation Help
0 comments
 
Miami Concert Tickets
Loading...