Copyright “DOE” BitTorent lawsuits – what you need to know!
This blog discusses the lawsuit filed in Arizona District Court on February 2016 alleging illegal copying, downloading and distributing of a copyrighted film. The lawsuit was filed against 33 “DOE” defendants (which is how a Plaintiff files a lawsuit if the identity of the Defendants is not known at the time of filing the lawsuit. If you receive a subpoena from your ISP or other demand letter, we can help you analyze your legal rights and options whether you are in Tucson or Phoenix.
What is a BitTorrent lawsuit?
We have discussed the internet file-sharing phenomena on other blogs and videos. The basics of how these complaints end up getting filed is as follows:
- A user downloads the BitTorent Client.
- The user gets a copy of a song, piece of software, video game, or movie and uploads that to their computer hard-drive.
- The software client allows you to share the contents on your hard drive with other users (sometimes called “the swarm”).
- Using this mechanism, the technology allows a person to share copyrighted content with other users who essentially do not have to pay anything for it.
- This process often offends copyright holders such as software publishers, book authors, video game producers, and film and video producers (ex. adult pornographic movie makers and others).
- These “streams” or “torrents” can be monitored without the knowledge of the internet user (as we know, nothing on the internet is private) and the IP addresses can be captured by the monitoring company or their intellectual property attorneys.
- Once the IP address is obtained, and the Internet Service Provider (“ISP”) is identified, a subpoena can be sent to the ISP seeking to uncover your full name and identity.
- A lawsuit might then be filed and you could be named as a “Jane Doe” or “John Doe” Defendant until your true credentials are verified.
- You may receive notice from your ISP that a subpoena was served (“Notice to Consumer”) and you will have a limited time to object on privacy or other grounds, and/or a limited time to file a “motion to quash” the subpoena.
- Once you or your company is identified this can become a major reputational problem and you may receive unwanted publicity on the case.
This is where an experienced copyright lawyer can help you. If you received a cease and desist letter, or notice of subpoena, DO NOT TALK TO ANYONE, contact us immediately so we can explore your legal rights and possible defenses to copyright infringement.
Is using BitTorent to download books, movies, adult porno videos and software legal?
VIDEO: Click on the picture above to learn more about the legalities of peer to peer file sharing over the internet. Software and Internet lawyer Steve Vondran explains. Make sure to Click on the RED “V” for Victory to subscribe to our popular legal channel. As we like to say “be smarter than your friends.”
Key facts of Father’s & Daughters case in Arizona Federal Court
Here is what happened in one recent lawsuit that was filed in the District Court in AZ. The suit was filed in Arizona because “geo-location technology” traced the location of each IP address at issue. According to the complaint:
“Geolocation is a method for ascertaining the likely geographic region associated with a given IP address at a given date and time. Through the use of geolocation, Plaintiff can establish good cause for asserting that personal jurisdiction is proper over the Defendants.”
As Exhibit “A” to the complaint notes, some of the cities and towns in AZ where Defendants are believed to reside are:
- Sierra Vista
This is pretty wide coverage in Maricopa County and thus the Plaintiff’s believe much of the illegal file sharing and willful copyright infringement was done in these areas using the P2P BitTorrent software.
The alleged infringing activity was using the P2P file sharing software to exchange files on the internet by using individual computers to download and share the copyrighted content (MOVIE) called Father and Daughter, which starred Russell Crowe. According to the allegations set forth in the complaint:
“Defendants downloaded a torrent file, opened it using a BitTorrent client, entered a torrent swarm particular to Fathers & Daughters and knowingly and intentionally engaged in contributing to the each other’s infringing conduct by distributing pieces of the movie amongst one another that could be used by the recipient to further distribute in exchange for additional pieces of the file from third parties.”
This was alleged to be Contributory Copyright Infringement. Plaintiff’s seek an order to destroy all infringing software, seek their damages, attorney fees, and an injunction from engaging in any further activity.
What is a “Jane and John Doe” lawsuit?
Again, as noted above, when a Plaintiff Attorney does not know the identity of one or more Defendants (alleged wrongdoers – in this case those accused of “willful copyright infringement”) the lawsuit ill be filed as a “Jane Doe” and/or “John Doe” lawsuit. Once your full name is uncovered through either discovery or the subpoena process, your name will be added to the lawsuit and the Plaintiff counsel will simply file a document making a “DOE Amendment.” Once that happens, you are officially a named party on the lawsuit. Not to worry, however, as you can still seek to settle the lawsuit and make the case go away.
How did they find out I was file sharing the movie?
This is a matter of technology. In one adult pornography case we worked on, the producer of the gay porno film embedded a unique identifier in each of their movies. This allowed the movie producer to track and monitor where the video was traveling to and from. In this AZ case, the Plaintiff explained their approach for learning about infringing use as follows:
“Plaintiff employs proprietary peer-to-peer network forensic software to perform exhaustive real time monitoring of the BitTorrent-based swarm involved in distributing Fathers & Daughters. This software is effective in capturing data about the activity of peers in a swarm and their infringing conduct.”
What if I was served Notice of Subpoena from my Internet Service Provider (“ISP”)?
As a customer of the ISP, when they are served a subpoena, by law, you will receive “notice” of the subpoena and you will have a chance to object, ignore the subpoena (not recommended), or file a motion to quash. This means you want to file a motion with the Court to argue to the judge that you have a privacy or other right that should prevent your ISP from disclosing your name and identity, usually on privacy grounds or on grounds that the party filing the lawsuit has not done its due diligence in seeking your identity. For example, the person who is the ISP “subscriber” is not necessarily the downloader. Sometime a home user will have an unsecured wifi that other parties may access without the knowledge of the homeowner. One other people access the unsecured wifi normally you will have the same IP address being shown. This is the IP address the movie and music companies are going after. Thus, the illegal downloader may not be the subscriber at all. This puts the average unknowing person is a very precarious position being sued, and named in an Bittorren illegal video download case, and bringing all the unwanted publicity with it. This may force a motion to quash to challenge the evidence being used to try to force the ISP to turn over the name and address of the subscriber. In addition, a motion for protective order, or stipulation to proceed anonymously can help your case tremendously and help protect your privacy.
So in short, when you get the notice of copyright infringement or notice of subpoena from your internet service provider, you should protect your rights and IMMEDIATELY and contact a copyright litigation firm like ours. We are experienced wth federal court litigation (having appeared in over 20 cases) have handled numerous lawsuits in both California and Arizona including the Northern District in California where many of the software publishers are headquartered (such as Autodesk), and the Southern and Central Districts.
Contact an Federal Copyright Infringement & Bittorrent Defense Law Firm
Our intellectual property law firm handles cases throughout the United States and we can help you with software audits, Bitorent defense and other copyright infringement matters involving music, film photos, lyrics, poens, plagiarism, videos, podcasts and other digital content. We have help many companies and individuals defend their reputation and minimize the legal exposure and settle their cases. Few firms have our number of Avvo reviews and even fewer publish the amount of content we publish (evidencing our true passion and authority in this niche area of law) which keeps both individuals and businesses informed of the key issues and solutions in this area of law.
Caution – You are doing yourself a disservice to hire a law firm that cannot show you that they have litigated in the federal courts, and specifically, handled a copyright infringement case in federal court. Many “newbie” lawyers may claim to be experts or specialists in copyright law, but if they have not litigated a case, they are only speculating on how your case might play out.
Contact us for a free initial strategy consultation if you need to file or defend a case. Call us at (877) 276-5084. We are able to tailor a legal fee to meet the needs of your organization. For Plaintiff’s, this may mean taking all or part of your case on a contingency fee basis. For Defendants, this could mean structuring a low flat rate legal fee, or a hybrid hourly/flat rate.
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