Internet Protocol and WiFi: A Trap for the Unwary

Posted by Geoffrey E. SpoffordDec 13, 20130 Comments

By: Geoffrey E. Spofford

Federal Court dockets are being filled by claims of copyright violation made by the adult entertainment industry alleging the illegal download of adult pornographic movies. The industry filed suits which collectively named over 220,000 unidentified ("John Doe") defendants. In Massachusetts alone, the industry has filed 39 suits against 2,106 John Does.

The pornographers find Internet Protocol (IP) addresses where a specific movie has been downloaded without payment. Through the IP address, they determine which Internet Service Provider ("ISP") assigned that particular address to a subscriber. With only this information, they have filed suits against thousands of John Doe defendants, seeking to obtain the individual identity of the subscribers. The courts, however, have recognized that while someone may be the subscriber to an IP address through his ISP, that person does not have exclusive control over those using that IP address and, therefore, may not be the infringer. Also secured and unsecured wireless networks are susceptible to hacking. Internet pirates, seeking to keep their identities hidden, will often rely on an unsecured wireless network or ones they have hacked illegally to download these movies. In a recent case a defendant presented evidence that over 30% of the designated John Doe defendant subscribers were not, in fact, infringers. Being named in such a law suit may be highly embarrassing and may subject a subscriber to thousands of dollars of litigation costs and potential damages for copyright infringement.

Judge William Young of the U. S. District Court was refreshingly blunt in a recent decision in which he dismissed all cases but "Doe 1." The case initially named 46 defendants. He ruled that each case needed to be treated independently with a separate complaint for each defendant and a separate filing fee to be paid by the plaintiff for each case. He criticized the porn industry's nationwide tactics writing, "The company relies on the combined threat of substantial statutory damages and the embarrassment of being publicly named as illegally downloading a pornographic film (not to mention the pressure applied by the knowledge that co-defendants are settling), to assume that at least some of the defendants will settle for perhaps $2,000.00 or $3,000.00 - which result comes at minimal cost to the company."

If you are contacted by a representative of an adult film company or its attorney demanding settlement and threatening that you will be named as a defendant you should immediately contact an attorney for advice and representation. You should refrain from the quick desire to settle your case to put the matter behind you. Our office has experience fighting these claims and will be happy to answer any questions you have.