I have represented a number of defendants in cases involving claims that they illegally downloaded a movie, video, music, or software. The following outlines the process involved in these illegal downloading cases and what to do about them if you find yourself defending claims that you illegally downloaded copyrighted material.

Illegal Download Lawsuit Process

The following steps are the typical process for “John Doe” defendants in an illegal download case:

  1. You get an internet connection.
  2. You or someone with access to your internet connection downloads a movie, video, or music using torrent software (like BitTorrent,  µTorrent, Xunlei, Vuze or BitComet), a web browser, or other internet downloading software (Kazaa, Bearshare, LimeWire, etc.).
  3. The company that owns the copyright to the illegally downloaded material (“copyright owner”) identifies your internet connection’s IP address either by (a) using torrent software to connect to your torrent software or (b) getting a list of IP addresses from the website you downloaded from by getting a court order for that website to release it’s IP log files.
  4. The copyright owner files a lawsuit in federal district court.
  5. The copyright owner gets a subpoena ordering your internet service provider (ISP) to provide your name and contact information based the IP logs. The IP logs connect the illegally downloaded material to an IP address, and your ISP can connect that IP address to you because it was assigned to your internet connection at the exact time of the illegal downloads.
  6.  The copyright owner sends you a letter threatening legal action unless you pay a settlement amount (usually $2,500 to $4,500).
  7. You either (a) consult with an attorney, (b) ignore the threat and hope it goes away, (c) negotiate a lower settlement amount, or (d) pay the settlement amount demanded by the copyright owner.
  8. If you did not settle the claims, either you get sued or the copyright owner decides it is not worth suing you.

Illegal Movie Download Defense Tips

Illegal Downloads | Pirate Sunset by bomb_tea

The following are a few practical tips to consider if you find yourself as a “John Doe” defendant in a lawsuit involving claims that you illegally downloaded a video, movie, or music:

  • You can generally negotiate the settlement amount. You do not need to accept their first offer.
  • Owners of copyrighted porn know that people are more likely to pay money to settle porn download lawsuits than other illegal download lawsuits simply to avoid the embarrassment of being listed in a federal lawsuit claiming you downloaded porn. This means downloading porn illegally is statistically more risky than downloading other copyrighted material.
  • Fighting a subpoena that attempts to reveal your identity is a waste of money because you will reveal your identity by fighting it.
  • The cost of fighting a case would far exceed the cost of every settlement I have negotiated.

Defenses Against Alleged Piracy

There are a number of legal defenses to consider, including these:

  • The court where the lawsuit is located may have no jurisdiction over you.
  • You should not be liable for the copyright infringement of another simply because that person used your internet connection to download illegal material without your knowledge or consent.
  • In torrent or BitTorrent cases, you cannot be liable for unauthorized copying (copyright infringement) when the copyright holder made the copyrighted material available to you with torrent software.

Downloading without Seeding a Torrent

I was recently asked whether it is possible for a copyright owner to sue someone for distributing a movie when all he did was download it with torrent software. The answer is yes. The nature of torrents is that you are sharing parts of the file while you download even though you are not seeding it. Thus, they can sue you for sharing a movie even though you have not seeded it.

Speak With A Piracy Defense Attorney

If you’ve been accused of illegally “pirating” software, music, games or movies, the most important tip of all may be to get help from a copyright lawyer. An experienced internet copyright attorney.

  1. can analyze your particular circumstances, legal options, and legal defenses;
  2. understands copyright infringement law; and
  3. understands the technology and defenses in illegal movie download cases.

I am happy to represent clients in negotiating a settlement. Since these cases are federal copyright claims, the state where the case is brought does not typically matter for purposes of settlement. Typical settlement negotiations involve legal fees of $325 to $650 and a settlement amount is typically $2,000 to $2,500.

Companies Behind the Movie Download Cases

A couple companies have gained a reputation for being very aggressive in bringing legal action for illegal movie downloading and copyright infringement: Patrick Collins, Inc. and the US Copyright Group.

Illegal Porn Infringement Download

Patrick Collins, Inc.

Patrick Collins, Inc. is a pornography studio in Canoga Park, California.  Patrick Collins, Inc. is also known as Elegant Angel Productions. The company was started by pornographic movie director Patrick Collins.

US Copyright Group

The US Copyright Group (UCSG) is operated by the Dunlap, Grubb & Weaver law firm. This firm also operates SaveCinema.org. US Copyright Group has brought copyright infringement suits against people for allegedly illegally downloading movies using torrent software.

Responding to an Attorney’s Cease and Desist Letter

If you have been sent a cease and desist letter or demand letter from an attorney regarding copyright infringement, you should contact an attorney to protect your legal rights. A letter from a lawyer likely means that there is at least some evidence that you violated the law (or someone with access to your internet connection). Failure to respond could result in serious legal consequences to you.

Leave a Public Comment

  • Dave
    March 14, 2014, 1:01 pm

    Can they search my computer looking for something illegal? Has this ever happened? Otherwise I don’t see how they could prove anything. My router was not secure and anyone in the area could have used my connection as a hot spot for downloading.

  • Daniel
    October 2, 2013, 1:13 am

    What if I purchased the material (blu-ray/dvd disk) and wanted a digital copy but none was included with the disk pack? I suppose downloading the material through torrent download would still be illegal?

  • Matt
    July 28, 2013, 8:10 am

    Could one argue that the ‘trolls’ on these bit torrent sites are conducting illegal searches and seizures to garner information/evidence on these persons whom are ‘pirating’ movies, music, video games, software, etc.? And also while there more than likely are trolls on these sites, could entrapment be used as a good defense as well?

  • Aaron D. Hall
    June 24, 2013, 1:25 pm
    Aaron D. Hall

    Cameron:

    Just because a file is available to be copied, doesn’t mean it is legal to copy that file. That includes files available by torrent or otherwise. If you don’t have the copyright owner’s permission to make the copy, such as by buying the software, music, movie, or book, then the copying is illegal.

    Aaron Hall
    Attorney

  • Cameron haynes
    June 22, 2013, 3:53 pm

    So if the file is available for torrent it’s not illegal to torrent it?

  • Mark
    June 10, 2013, 9:03 am

    I leave my wifi access totally unsecured. I just don’t have anything to hide and I like to allow people, strangers and neiighbors nearby to access the internet. I don’t feel I need to lock my doors on my house either. Same goes for my car, I leave the keys in it while it is parked in the front of my residence. I am at liberty to live how i wish. Why should I allow myself this paranoid view of the world e.g. that I should live in fear? Or, that my residence is a prison cell and should be locked down. The internet isn’t property that I am responsible for, I am not going to provide security or be the bouncer.

  • Deus
    March 30, 2013, 3:43 am

    I recieves a comast letter from Voltage Pictures, Inc. a.k.a., “the Hurt Locker case” If I completly ignore this letter..What are the negatives of this move? And if the matter lies in being sued! How bad will the sue be?

  • Jack
    February 15, 2013, 8:46 am

    Can anyone give an update on a Borghese case? I got a cease and desist for several thousand and while the ISP looks similar to mine, I don’t recognize the videos in question at all.

  • William C.
    February 10, 2013, 6:49 am

    I just received a demand letter ($3500) from satellite TV provider Dishnet. They claim that I subscribed to an internet service that provides access codes to electronically enable a satellite receiver to receive their copyrighted TV channels.
    In order for Dishnet to prevail at court, do they have to show proof that I owned a satellite receiver and actually used the access codes for their intended purpose?

  • Thompson Hall
    January 25, 2013, 2:32 pm

    John:

    The current trend in copyright infringement cases are the “John Doe” defendants. Generally, the holder of the protected material will file a suit against hundreds, or even thousands, of defendants at once. This process, although controversial, has found support by some within the legal community. It is possible that you received this letter by mistake; however, the fact that the IP addresses are different is not conclusive proof “Conan” wasn’t downloaded on your network. Since you have already received warning letters, we would suggest you contact an experienced internet copyright attorney immediately.

  • John Balzate
    January 20, 2013, 5:53 pm

    After Comcast letters of warning I received a settlement letter from a NuImage attorney for copyright infrigement of the move”Conan”( non porn, I presume.)Not only have I never downloaded any movie, the IP address stated is not mine. I do have a wireless router with only my wife and I living at our home.Does the non-matching IP address suggest that I should just wait and see if they sue?

  • Larry K
    December 9, 2012, 7:37 am

    I received a notice on an instance of copyright infringement by my ISP, so I went to check it out only to find there were 5 notices (4 of them were for the same title). I did download both titles, but never distributed or made any copies of the material. Settlement options have been given to me, and I am considering them. What advice can you give pertaining to the 4 four notices for the same title?

  • Jim
    October 22, 2012, 9:46 pm

    The following article was on CNN today. http://www.cnn.com/2012/10/18/tech/web/copyright-alert-system/index.html?hpt=hp_bn5
    Is it unfair to those whom have been informed by their ISP that a subpoena has been served, to start warning others now?

  • Fez
    September 12, 2012, 2:51 pm

    Hello sir,
    I just got a letter from my ISP provider stating that they got a subpoena for copyright infringement from my ISP address. I did have roommates at the time. Also I have proof that I was not present at my house when this occurred. What can I do?

  • Aaron D. Hall
    September 10, 2012, 2:18 pm

    Richard:

    I’m not sure what to tell you except to consult with an attorney. As you know, like any legal violation, you should not ignore it.

    Aaron

  • Richard
    September 8, 2012, 11:02 pm

    Hi, I just was sent an email from Mark Borghese. It was a demand letter for $1500. I am not going to deny that I had the material up for access through a filesharing program that allows access to members that you allow access to and which was set to access more folders that I should have had it set for, but I am not in a position where I can afford that kind of money since I do not have a job right now. What should I do?

  • Aaron D. Hall
    August 30, 2012, 12:43 pm

    Andrew G:

    A letter from a lawyer likely means that there is at least some evidence that you violated the law (or someone with access to your internet connection). Failure to respond could result in serious legal consequences, so I do recommend you consult with an attorney.

    Aaron

  • Andrew G
    August 30, 2012, 3:23 am

    Going off what Andrew mentioned before, I also received a message from mark telling me I owe a certain amount also, and I in no way distributed anything. Same advice to consult my attorney on this matter? Thank you

  • Aaron D. Hall
    August 24, 2012, 6:24 pm

    Andrew:

    In general, receiving a cease and desist letter is an important event, so you should retain an attorney to advise you on your legal rights and options.

    Aaron

  • Andrew
    August 24, 2012, 1:21 pm

    Recently, I’ve had Mark Borghese send me an email about cease and desist, and told me that I’d be hearing from his lawyer. I’m not sure what I should do in this case. Is it safe to wait it out, or to take action?

  • Raul
    May 17, 2012, 6:33 pm

    Mr. Hall,
    I have put together two posts over at fightcopyrighttrolls.com regarding the Lightspeed Media Corp., lawsuit pending in St. Clair county. This blog is getting pounded with Does who are looking for news, views and representation regarding this matter. Please feel free to drop by and comment.

    Thanks,
    Raul

  • Annie E. Moose
    April 17, 2012, 3:31 am

    Mr. Hall,

    I noticed you are not at present listed on the EFF subpoena defense resources page. If it is helpful to have more clients in these type of cases, many Does look at that list early in their search for help.

    (I have no horse in this race but have seen innocent friends ensnared in these schemes.)

  • Annie E. Moose
    April 17, 2012, 3:24 am

    This sounds like a demand prior even to a motion for discovery for Elegant Angel (a.k.a. Patrick Collins, Inc.), a pornography studio business.

    The ISP’s advice sounds sensible about avoiding contact, especially without clear knowledge of the case and situation. Contact with these types of plaintiffs has led to defendants having words turned against them, though they may be innocent.

    There are some information sites for John Does who are the targets of these types of allegations. They include:

    http://www.eff.org/issues/file-sharing/subpoena-defense
    http://www.eff.org/issues/copyright-trolls
    http://www.fightcopyrighttrolls.com/
    http://www.dietrolldie.com/newbie-noob-start-here/

    Educating yourself about these issues is important even when getting professional guidance. Unfortunately, the bad intent of the trolling schemes requires some work to get the picture. These schemes are money grabbing schemes disguised as copyright “defense”.

    This is for discussion purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice.

  • Curt Harlow
    April 12, 2012, 1:24 am

    I received an email from my internet provider stating – Re: Notice of Unauthorized Use of Registered Copyrights Owned by Elegant Angel Inc Case #: P12358388 “This notice is intended solely for the primary KMTelecom internet service account holder. Someone using this account has engaged in the illegal copying and/or distribution of pornographic movies. This notice may contain the titles of those movies, and therefore may contain text that is offensive to some readers.” “You may also be held liable for monetary damages, including attorney’s fees and court costs if a lawsuit is commenced against you. You have until Wednesday, May 9, 2012 to access the settlement offer and settle online. To access the settlement offer please visit copyrightsettlements.com and enter Case #: P12358388 and Password: ynbqv. To access the settlement offer directly please visit copyrightsettlements.com/?u=P12358388&p=ynbqv.”

    My internet provider instructed me to NOT respond to the email or to click on the links. Do I need a legal consult at this time? Should I simply wait it out and see what happens?

    Thanks,
    Curt