Welcome to our “Copyright Bully” page. This page will serve as an AMAZING resource if you are involved in a copyright “troll” or Bittorren (“BitTorrent” or “Torrent”) lawsuit or have received notice of subpoena from your ISP due to alleged illegal file sharing (p2p). Don’t panic – even if your “strikes” are up – we can help!
The internet is still the “wild wild west” in many ways. With the BOOM of the information age, people have realized that you can digitize most anything and share it on the internet with other people. This can be known as “file sharing” or “peer-to-peer” file sharing. Almost anything can be shared on the internet such as books, movies, videos, software programs such as Microsoft Word, Office, Autodesk Autocad, Adobe Photoshop and thousands of other software programs. Often times you can easily obtain “crack codes” that allow you to use the software FREE OF CHARGE (not to say this is legal of course). You can also share comics, documents, stories, music, ringtones, and a ton of other things.
However, when these things are illegally uploaded or downloaded through the use of software programs (often called “clients”) such as Bittorent, uTorrent, and Vuze), in violation of licensing agreements or in ways that violate the copyrights of the owners and holders of the copyrights in these items, sparks can fly, legal demand letters can start rolling, subpoenas can be served and pure chaos can break loose. This page is designed to provide general tips, tricks, strategies and resources if you find yourself or your business in the unfortunate position of having to respond to a legal demand letter, “cease and desist letter” or a “Notice of Copyright Infringement” you may have received from a copyright owner, or their intellectual property legal counsel (often a copyright infringement law firm). We can also help if you are accused of satellite piracy.
RESOURCE: Click here for a list of films, videos and movies that could get you BUSTED for Copyright infringement (downloading, sharing, streaming, etc.).
Overview of Torrent Lawsuits and Potential Legal Defenses
VIDEO: This Attorney Steve video explains the Torrent lawsuit process in greater detail and includes potential legal defenses to copyright infirngement of films, video, music and software. Note that software infringement is normally handled by the vendor (Ex. Autodesk, Microsoft, or Adobe), or the SIAA or Business Software Alliance.
Is BitTorent and P2P file sharing legal?
It depends on what is being shared. Illegally sharing copyrighted videos, music, software, comics, and adult pornography may not be legal, due to copyright restrictions. But many people use Torrent Clients such as uTorrent, BitTornado, Vuze, BitLord, Transmission, Tixati, qTorrent, and Deluge and other software clients to legally share videos and other large files that would normally take too long to download using the traditional methods of computer to computer.
Can a parent be held liable for their kids illegal downloads on the internet?
Yes it is possible if you know your kid is notorious for illegally downloading things, infringing copyrights, trying to constantly find workarounds (like VPN’s or identity blocking software) to try to maintain anonymity, then yes, it is possible that the parents will be held liable, which could substantially risk the family wealth. Most parents and kids fail to understand this significant legal risk.
TIP: Parents also need to be careful about the legal risks of kids selling copyrighted software, music, videos, and games online. We have seen lawsuits that allege “vicarious copyright infringement” basically alleging that the subscriber to the ISP (i.e. the parent) is in charge of supervising and controlling anyone that uses the internet connection at a household, and even if the actual subscriber to Cox, Comcast, or Verizon, for example, are not the ones who illegally shared movies, this does not matter to the Plaintiff in a lawsuit, who may be forced to name the subscriber as a “DOE Defendant” figuring out who actually did the downloading at a later date, while still arguing for vicarious infringement. This same rationale could result in employers being held liable for the willful copyright infringement of their employees under a respondeat-superior theory (“let the master answer“).
What is Bittorent (Torrenting) and how does it work?
VIDEO: Click on the picture above to watch a video that explains the legal risks of Bittorrent and how it works in general. Make sure to click on the Red “V” to subscribe to our legal channel. This is probably the best and quickest way to understand the technology.
What should you do if you receive a “cease and desist” letter?
Here is Attorney Steve’s essential TO FIVE response checklist:
1. Don’t panic (“this too shall pass” and we will help you figure it out)
2. Lawyer up – DO NOT TALK TO ANYONE ELSE!!! The people you talk to could end up as witnesses against you. If you have personal stock or real estate assets (or other assets) it is even more important to talk to legal counsel.
3. Explore possible legal defenses to copyright infringement – in these P2P illegal movie download cases you may have such defenses as:
(a) it wasn’t me;
(b) sorry, you got the wrong IP address Charlie,
(c) unsecure wifi access (neighbor stealing the internet and downloading movies). Of course, be prepared for their IP lawyers to tell you “the wireless router comes with a default of “secured” wireless, and they have a policy that the subscriber is liable for all conduct that occurs on their networks.
(d) it was a friend, neighbor, roommate, member of the military staying over, etc,
(e) the entire movie did not download (never got a chance to see the movie as the “digital handshake” was not complete),
(f) downloaded the torrent client to search and share “public domain” items, and the software started sharing movie and music files passively, and without my knowledge (this would make it more of an “innocent” infringement and potentially reduce the damages. This could be very important in an adult porn download case with companies like Malibu Media.
If you don’t believe this is a recognized issue, watch this video from the Center for Copyright Clearance (created by the MPAA and RIIA) which makes clear they understand sometimes people can allow copyrighted content to be shared completely without their knowledge, even while seeking legal downloads in the public domain. Not surprisingly, they would rather have you delete the file sharing software (akin to throwing away your VCR because infringement is possible).
Attorney Steve Tip: Also, don’t forget, financial “hardship” may also be considered in coming up with a settlement figure. If you have a “household income” at or below the poverty line, the movie companies might be willing to cut you a break. Be prepared to write a declaration, and potentially show 2-3 months bank statements, and potentially tax returns.
4. See if the copyright holder has a history of filing lawsuits (if not, you are in much better shape). To really capitalize off this point you MUST WATCH THIS VIDEO – Attorney Steve explains how to use PACER to understand the copyright bully.
5. Stop doing what you have been doing (ex. sharing files, uploading, downloading, PUT A HALT ON YOUR INTERNET ACTIVITIES).
Should I just ignore the Notice of Copyright Infringement?
VIDEO: Watch Attorney Steve Vondran explain weighing the pros and cons of responding to an adult porno, movie, or music infringement demand letter. Every case is different, so this is not legal advice but rather some general considerations when you are trying to decide how to respond, or not. Make sure to click on the RED ‘V” to subscribe to our youtube legal channel.
NOTE: Some well meaning people suggest you should just ignore the letter and do nothing. While that may work in many cases, if you have assets and you name and address can be pulled from the ISP, you may find yourself in a bad position by taking this approach. You should at least address your assets and whether or not you should divest your real estate interests if you believe you might be sued. There are asset protection measures that need to be considered.
NOTE STARTING IN 2017 ISP’S ARE GETTING RID OF THE COPYRIGHT ALERT SYSTEM (“CAS”) SO YOU MAY NO LONGER BE GETTING INFRINGEMENT NOTICES OR 5 OR 6 STRIKES BEFORE ACTION IS TAKEN. FOR ALL WE KNOW MOVIE PRODUCTION COMPANIES MIGHT MOVE STRAIGHT TO FILING A LAWSUIT, AS THEY ARE DOING IN SO MANY CASES. You can read about the trending story on Copyright Alert System Abandoned on social media.
What should you do if your ISP sends you a “notice of subpoena?”
Sometimes you will receive a notice of subpoena from your internet service provider (“ISP”) that will notify you that a company is seeking to learn your name, identity and address. This can FREAK YOU OUT. But again, don’t panic, call us at (877) 276-5084. A subpoena is a legal command to the ISP to produce this information (often times the copyright holder will only know you as an IP address and they will want to find 0ut your name so they can try to make your life a living hell (basically by serving you with a copyright infringement lawsuit and a summons to appear and defend in federal court in your jurisdiction). Here are some of the top ISP’s in the world who may send you this notice. When you get the notice CALL US – do not mess around telling all your friends about it.
ISP’S COPYRIGHT & BITTORENT NEWS & POLICIES
- Time Warner Cable / Roadrunner (subscriber alerts)
- Charter Communications
- Verizon (Copyright notice from Verizon)
- Cox (10+ copyright strikes)
- Optimum (copyright infringement alerts)
- Century Link (DMCA thread)
- Frontier (do they monitor online)?
- Suddenlink (discussion board)
- Irdeto (formerly BayTSP)
- Shaw Communications
Here is a snippet from Earthlink’s policies [12.8 Restrictions of Use]:
You will not attempt to undermine the security or integrity of the EarthLink Web Hosting Service or the EarthLink network including, but not limited to, port scanning, vulnerability probing or denial of service attacks of any kind. In addition, running excessively CPU intensive CGIs such as IRC bots and utilities, Bit Torrent clients, and any application that acts as a server and listens for inbound network connections are prohibited. Software that acts as proxy server/scripts also is not permitted. If your processes are adversely affecting server or network performance, EarthLink reserves the right to terminate and disable the offending processes even if such action causes disruption to your website. EarthLink restricts run time of any customer’s CGI process to five minutes.
Overview of London Has Fallen Illegal Movie Downloads
VIDEO: Click on the image above to watch Attorney Steve explain illegal movie download cases with LHF Productions, Inc. (“London has Fallen“). Click on the RED “V” to subscribe to our legal channel. Note, from our research, it appears that federal copyright lawsuits have been filed in Arizona, California, D.C., Florida, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Virginia, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Washington. Call us at (877) 276-5084 if you received a copyright infringement notice or subpoena letter. If you received a letter, subpoena notice or lawsuit from the law firm of Kercsmar & Feltus, PLLC (AZ) this is a REAL Firm and seeking a free legal consultation could be in your best interest. Another firm that files London Has Fallen lawsuits is Hughes Socol Piers Resnick & Dym, Ltd. (illinois) Yet another firm is Van Sickle Law, P.C. (North Carolina).
Here are some more ISP policies and information to chew on:
- Cable One (“Hurt Locker” infringement discussed)
- AOL page (reporting copyright infringement)
- Juno terms of service
- iiNet (Hollywood loses big case against ISP iiNet)
- Adam internet (Adam Internet and Dallas Buyer’s Club)
- Century Link (article about how ISP knows about torrenting over VPN)
If you received a DMCA notice (ex. when you startup your internet browser), copyright infringement notice, or cease and desist letter from ANY of these companies, you have to realize a federal lawsuit may be pending and I cannot understate the need to retain copyright counsel BEFORE YOU TALK TO ANYONE. To put it bluntly, SOMEONE IS TRYING TO SUE YOU AND GET A LEGAL JUDGMENT AGAINST YOU. A judgement can impact the rest of your life, and if you are a company this could be a serious issue requiring a meeting of the board of directors, officers, and directors. If you have shareholders, certainly you must move fast.
What is a “Motion to Quash?”
PODCAST: Click the picture above to hear the four main grounds to “quash” a subpoena (some people erroneously refer to as “squash” the subpoena!! Click here if you would prefer to watch the Motion to Quash VIDEO. When some companies or businesses receive a subpoena notice, the “knee jerk” reaction may be to file a motion to quash the subpoena. Some of my Clients, god bless them, have referred to this as the motion to “SQUASH” – actually I like that name better. At any rate, there are limited grounds where a person who has been subpoena’d can respond by filing a motion to quash with the court. Understand it is the power of the court that issues the subpoena, and a litigant must go back to the same Court that allowed the issuance of the subpoena to move to seek to “Quash it.”
However attractive this remedy may seem, there has to be legal grounds to proceed, otherwise you can waste time and money in a “fools errand.” If the Court clearly lack jurisdiction to hear the case, this is one great reason to move to quash (for example, if your company is based in Australia or New Zealand and you are hauled into the Northern District Court in California in a copyright infringement case, you may want to move to quash the subpoena. There are other possible grounds to attack and set aside a subpoena. Call us at (877) 276-5084 to discuss.
VIDEO: Click the picture below to watch Attorney Steve explain the Subpoena process. A MUST WATCH if you are involved in this process. Make sure to SUBSCRIBE to free general legal information updates. As we like to say “be smarter than your friends” who think they know it all.
What is a motion for “Protective Order”?
A protective Order is an Order from the court that (in BittTorent type cases) involves protecting your identity from being used in the lawsuit. Many of the adult pornography cases involve the Plaintiff suing a “DOE DEFENDANT” (either a Jane Doe or a John Doe or both). This is because the Plaintiff does not actually know your name. They know you as an IP address (by sniffing out and spying on your online activities) and they then file a lawsuit naming the “DOE” Defendants and then file a motion for early discovery (I will explain later) and then serve a subpoena on your ISP seeking your name, address, identity, and sometimes even your email address. The downside of handing over this information is that the Plaintiff will be able to run an “asset search” and figure out if you have any assets worth going after. If you are a small or mid size business, they may try to find out what you have as far as inventory and assets (yes, inventory can be attached by a creditor so do not take this lightly, especially if you have shareholders).
At any rate, a motion for a protective order seeks to ask the Court to keep you identity ANONYMOUS throughout the lawsuit, for as long as possible. There is a STRONG federal policy that dictates that lawsuits should be PUBLIC and open to everyone. However, the Court MAY allow you to proceed anonymously through a JOHN DOE lawsuit possibly until and unless there is a trial by judge or jury. To accomplish this, we can file a motion for protective order to try to make this happen.
In some cases, with a strong intellectual property law firm, you may be able to get the opposing counsel to agree to this by “stipulate” to this and file the stipulation with the Court. For example, we were recently able to accomplish this with Malibu Media legal counsel. This paves the way for a better chance at legal settlement.
In a Bitorent lawsuit a motion for protective order, or a stipulation to a similar result can be CRITICAL in saving you from embarrassment and allows you or the officers and directors of your company to proceed ANONYMOUSLY. A good start.
Attorney Steve and Frontline Lisee discuss Malibu Media “John Doe” Lawsuits
PODCAST: Click on the picture above to go to this episode of Vondran Legal Hour.
What happens if you do not respond to a legal demand letter?
This is a common question. Sometimes copyright demands is a “game of chicken.” They are trying to SCARE you and there are also times when you can SCARE THEM BACK (for an example see our blog on declaratory judgements that can scare the pants off even the largest IP law firms as we have done in the past). That being said, not responding to a lawsuit or legal demand letter can lead to:
- Plaintiff may obtain a “default judgement” (it will shock most people to know ONE infringement can lead to $150,000 judgement, which frankly is DEVASTATING to most people, and companies often forcing them to file for BK protection. however, “willful copyright infringement” cannot always be wiped out in bankruptcy court.
- Plaintiff may GO AWAY and DO NOTHING. Before you “bank” in this approach read our blog about whether you should ignore a copyright cease and desist letter.
This is only two options. Other things can happen, call us at (877) 276-5084 to discuss. We are an experienced IP law firm with a strong track record of litigation and non-litigation success in these types of cases.
What happens in a federal copyright lawsuit?
If you ignore all the demand letters, subpoenas, and take the “wait and see approach” the federal court lawsuit will play itself out. When litigation is filed in federal court (copyright cases are filed in federal not state courts) the following general timeline for legal action will ensue. This is a sample scheduling order you might find yourself dealing with as a business or individual:
One thing you can probably note is that there is a WHOLE LOT of legal work involved which shows why copyright, trademark, right of publicity or trade secret lawsuits can be VERY EXPENSIVE to pursue – which is why many cases will settle privately and confidentially BEFORE a jury trial is required.
What is a typical settlement amount in a Bittoren case?
Settlement amounts will vary depending upon multiple factors. You can be looking at anywhere from a “TAKE NOTHING” to five or six figure settlements depending upon:
- The aggressiveness of the Plaintiff copyright holder (not all copyright holders enforce their rights the same way);
- The assets of the Defendant (if you have equity in real estate this could be a big issue);
- The number of alleged infringed copyrighted works (how many movies were downloaded);
- The applicability of defenses to copyright infringement
- Other factors.
I recently spoke with an intellectual property lawyer for one of the movie companies. They noted “unless someone hacked” their system we believe they are liable for infringement damages of a minimum of $750 to $7,500 (the amount of damages even for “non-willful” infringement). In other cases the “unsecured wifi” defense may also be taken into consideration. It was also pointed out to me that in the event the ISP turns over the name and address (pursuant to the subpoena), the name of the subscriber will be added to the lawsuit and if the lawsuit is NOT answered or defended a “default judgement” may be taken (and I was advised that other federal courts across the United States have entered defaults in the amount of $10,000-$15,000). So taking that approach you would have a judgement against you in a civil case and you would likely have a creditor start to seek to recover. This can be achieved by seeking to levy bank accounts, or even garnish wages through your employer and other steps.
Common Defenses to copyright infringement allegations
How to research a potential copyright bully to determine whether or not they will sue you
VIDEO: Click on the picture to watch an IMPORTANT video about researching the party that sent you a legal demand or cease and desist letter so you can determine whether or not they are likely to sue you if you do not respond to their demands. Make sure to Click on the Red “V” for Victory to subscribe for free general legal updates!! Be smarter than your friends!
BitTorent legal cases in the news
Here are a few sample cases from the copyright trenches:
- Infringement over Bittorrent cases – fact or fiction?
- Great articles from TorrentFreak
- Minnesota woman pays $220,00 for 24 illegally downloaded songs
- Erotica websites file lawsuits
- Bittorent lawsuits filed in the WRONG jurisdiction
- Porn companies sue thousands
- Is Malibu Media a copyright troll?
- Top Porn Torrent sites – be careful!
- Porn companies file mass porno lawsuits
- Is file sharing torrents legal or not?
- Defendant wins Illinois Malibu Media Lawsuit (lack of evidence of downloading copyrighted content)
Can torrent “john doe” lawsuits be settled anonymously?
PODCAST: Click on the image above to jump to our “Vondran Legal Hour” podcast that discusses anonymous settlements in illegal porn movie download cases such as Malibu Doe lawsuits.
Companies / Titles known to protect their copyrights and intellectual property (music, films, etc.)
The following types of companies have a reputation for protecting their IP (not to insinuate that they are “bullies” – but it always depends how people are treated, how settlement is approached, and how lawyering is undertaken).
- Dallas Buyer’s Club
- Dragon Quest Productions
- I.T. Productions
- Blunt Force Trauma
- Elf Man LLC
- Wicked Pictures
- Flava Works (many different types of adult pornographic films)
- Killer Joe Nevada
- Malibu Media (ex. X-Art series) – Click here if you received a notice of infringement or subpoena in San Diego area.
- Modern Jug Face
- AKM Images
- Copyright Enforcement Group (CEG-TEK)
- Smash Pictures
- Osiris Entertainment
- Breaking Through
- Cabin Fever
- American Heist
- Charlie Countryman
- ME2 Productions (Mechanic Resurrection)
- PHE Inc.
- Life on the Line
- Criminal Productions, Inc. (Film “Criminal“).
- Cell film holdings
- Glacier Films
- Good Kill
- Return To Sender
- Purzel Video GMBH
- Maverick Entertainment
- Goodman Productions
- Instinctive Films
- New Sensations / Digital Sin
- Third Degree Films (“3rd Degree”)
- Riding Films, Inc.
- Wild Horses
- TriCoast Smitty
- Fathers and Daughters (Nevada)
- Vision Films
- Pay the Ghost
- Nu Image / Millenium Films (The Expendable 2 and 3, Automata, The Humbling, Charlie Countryman and Bad Lieutenant)
- Septembers of Shiraz (September Productions, Inc.)
- Mr. Church – Cook Productions (Oregon, Indiana, North Carolina)
- The Cobbler
- Close Range
- LHF Productions (“London Has Fallen” aka “Olympus has fallen sequel“)
- QOTD Film Investment (“Queen of the Desert“)
- Elegant Angel
- Voltage Pictures
- Devils Film
- AF Holdings, LLC
- Salt and Fire
- Patrick Collins, Inc.
- K-Beech, Inc.
- Hard Drive Productions, Inc.
- Digital Content Protection, LLC
- PTG Nevada
- LFP Internet Group, LLC
- Medisentry for RIIA (Mediasentry may no longer be used)
There are many others including companies that enforce copyrights such as Rightscorp and CEG (Copyright Enforcement Group), so call us if you are dealing with the same situation. We can help. We handle copyright cases nationwide. Call (877) 276-5084.
What are the penalties for copyright infringement?
Glossary of terms
- Anonymity / Anonymize
- AAA ISP arbitration (“Copyright Alert System”)
- Bankruptcy protection for copyright judgements
- Bit Spies (copyright holders who hire digital forensic groups to monitor torrents anonymously)
- Browser Lock (DMCA notice)
- Cease and desist letter
- Communication protocal
- Copyright infringement
- Copyright strikes
- Criminal copyright infringement
- Digital Rights Management (DRM)
- DMCA infringement notice
- Federal lawsuit
- File sharing (p2p)
- File transfer protocal (FTP)
- Geolocation technology
- Hash identifier
- Hypertext Transfer Protocal (HTTP)
- Internet Protcal (IP)
- IP Address
- Joinder FRCP 20(a)(2)
- Kill Switch (What is a VPN kill switch)
- Kodi application (for streaming movies on Android)
- Lawsuit over illegal downloading or streaming video
- Maverickeye digital forensics
- Motion for protective order
- Motion to Quash subpoena
- Notice of copyright infringement (Sample from Charter)
- Peer to Peer (p2p)
- Peerblocker (forums)
- Piece (an initial feeder breaks a file into pieces)
- Real Estate equity problem for torrent downloaders
- Seed / Seeder
- Settlement agreement
- Six strikes – Copyright Alert System
- Streaming movies
- Subpoena to ISP
- Takedown letter
- Willful copyright infringement
- Attorney Steve warning explains BitTorent shakedowns
- How to use the federal PACER database to learn more about a copyright bully
- Should you ignore the subpoena?
- Motion to Quash Subpoena explained (aka Vacate)
- What happens if you ignore the cease and desist or legal demand letter?
- The Arizona Bittorent case Fathers and Daughters
- Legal risks of file sharing on the internet
- Can you recovery attorney fees if you win your copyright infringement lawsuit?
- What is the Copyright Enforcement Group (CEG-TEK)?
- How long does your ISP keep IP assignment and download records? (Challenging the period of infringement)
- Did you receive a Subpoena under DMCA 512(h) even though NO LAWSUIT was filed?
- Oregon case recommends attorney fees against Cobbler Nevada
- How to use a financial hardship declaration to try to reduce the settlement amount
- Malibu Media motions for expedited discovery explained
- Overview of digital forensics investigation companies
- Malibu Media copyrighted movie list
Call us for a free confidential discussion with a copyright defense lawyer
We heave helped many companies and individuals defend against charges of copyright infringement. We are a leading law firm in IP defense, whether copyrights, trademarks, responding to cease and desist letters or responding to subpoenas. We offer low flat rate fees for many non-litigation cases, and we have the experience to take on the trolls, bullies, extortion artists, and in some cases outright SCAM companies seeking to extract a legal settlement. We can help you explore legal defenses, understand your legal rights and seek to resolve your legal issues. For more information call us at (877) 276-5084.