You may receive a notice from your Internet service provider (ISP) that it was subpoenaed to reveal your name to a copyright owner claiming you infringed its copyright when you downloaded copyrighted content like movies, software, music or games through a peer-to-peer (P2P) system like the BitTorrent network. Receiving this communication can be frightening and intimidating, but there are usually legal remedies available and smart responses you can make.
An experienced piracy defense lawyer can advise you of these options and help you respond. But time is of the essence, so do not delay in seeking legal advice. If you ignored this notice without opposing the release of your name, the ISP likely gave it to the copyright owner, probably a copyright troll monitoring torrenting activity to uncover downloading of its content.
Talk to a lawyer about a settlement offer or lawsuit
You would probably then get a letter in your name from the copyright owner demanding that you settle its claim for an exorbitant price. If you do not have legal counsel yet, this is the time to seek legal advice about how to respond and considerations to make regarding the settlement demand letter.
Next you might receive a summons and complaint notifying you that the copyright troll has sued you for copyright infringement in federal court. Seeking out a lawyer with BitTorrent litigation experience to represent you is smart, as these suits can be very expensive and may result in a judgment against you even if you do not think you did anything wrong.
A recent example
This can be particularly true if you do not respond and the court enters a default judgment against you. For example, in a similar New York case, the court entered a default judgment against the defendant who was accused of illegally downloading and sharing files comprising about 145 of the plaintiff Strike 3 Holdings’ adult films.
The court found the defendant liable for copyright infringement and Strike 3 got each remedy it requested:
- Statutory damages of $750 per infringement totaling $108,750
- Injunctions (court orders) that the defendant stop infringing and destroy all files and copies containing the movies at issue
- Payment of the court fee
- Postjudgment interest to accumulate until the defendant pays the judgment in full
In addition to economic consequences like this, involvement as a defendant can hurt your credit rating, reputation and ability to access employment, security clearances and loans. But an informed, smart response at every stage of a dispute like this may greatly increase the odds of a more positive outcome for the P2P user who may not have intentionally violated any laws or understood copyright restrictions.
While the outcome of this lawsuit may seem intimidating, several defenses may be available to a defendant that could bring a different result. From the first letter from the ISP and through every step of this process, there are actions the person accused of copyright infringement can take to resolve the matter in a more reasonable way. Legal counsel can provide information, advice and representation at any stage.
(The link above to Strike 3 Holdings, LLC, v. John Doe leads to the Report and Recommendation of the U.S. Magistrate Judge. A U.S. District Judge adopted the Report and Recommendation in Jan. 2021, available on Westlaw at 2021 WL 21532.)