U.S. News & World Report Spotlights Porn Piracy Lawsuits

Feb 4, 2012 6:00 AM PST

NEW YORK — A feature story on the proliferation of porn companies’ mass piracy lawsuits was highlighted in the U.S. News & World Report.

The article cites hundreds of BitTorrent lawsuits — many of them in the porn industry — launched against more than 220,000 anonymous defendants since mid-2010, that sometime seek settlements from 5,000 people at a time.

“[The defendants] are accused of having illegally downloaded movies — from the porno ‘Stripper Academy’ to the war film ‘The Hurt Locker’ — using a peer-to-peer file sharing client called BitTorrent, lawsuit documents show,” the report said.

According to the article, many of the defendants are victims of hijacked WiFi connections that are linked back to the owner through their ISPs and are then accused of downloading the copyrighted content.

"Copyright trolls” often coerce the defendants into quick settlements to avoid embarrassment and fines that can range from $5,000 to $150,000, the report said.

“It's a common pattern at this point, they file lawsuits against hundreds or thousands of people at a time," Internet watchdog Electronic Frontier Foundation attorney Corynne McSherry, told the U.S. News. “People are liable as long as their Internet connection was used — leaving anyone with a wireless connection vulnerable.”

McSherry stressed that lawyers are exploiting people who don’t want to be associated in any way with downloading porn.  She pointed out that in many places a motion to quash a subpoena requires the defendants to identify themselves. Rather than being outed for porn, they’re paying the settlements.

"No one wants to be associated with downloading something like [pornography]. That's going to make a lot of people extremely uncomfortable,” McSherry said.

The attorney called the method of lumping together thousands of John Does into one elaborate piracy lawsuit lawsuit by BitTorrent lawyers “preposterous,” and just a convenient way to sue.

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