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October 4, 2012

The $5,000 Movie Download:
Movie Studios Level
Copyright Infringement Accusations

As the common saying goes, "nothing in life is free."  With this in mind, BitTorrent movie file sharing site users need to be cautioned.  Currently, both the mainstream and adult motion picture industries are accusing individuals of unauthorized movie downloads.  Based on recent motion picture industry practices, a simple click of the mouse could result in months of frustration and legal fees.


It all starts with the download ...


The popular peer-to-peer file sharing protocol BitTorrent provides users with the ability to exchange relatively large movie files with other users as part of a network (commonly known as a swarm).  However, because these swarms are publically accessible, a copyright holder can readily detect the unauthorized sharing of their movies, as well as the Internet Protocol (IP) addresses identifying the computers involved.


Once detected, the copyright holder typically files a lawsuit for copyright infringement and uses these IP addresses in an attempt to further acquire the personal identification information of the subscribers who own the IP addresses. For example, the copyright holder will send a notification to the subscriber's internet service provider (ISP) indicating that the subscriber's IP address has been listed in a copyright infringement lawsuit, as well as a subpoena to release the subscriber's personal information.  The ISP will, in turn, forward the notification to the subscriber along with the copyright holder's demand for settlement.  These demands are designed to coerce the subscribers to settle the lawsuit for a monetary payment, typically in the range of $3,000 to $5,000.


Failure of the subscriber to settle with the copyright holder can result in the subscriber's identity, as well as the titles of the movies he is accused of downloading, being disclosed as part of the lawsuit.  This information can be publically accessed once it has been added to the lawsuit which, in the case of adult movies, can be potentially embarrassing.  Additionally, failure of the subscriber to settle can lead to involvement in a full-blown copyright infringement lawsuit.  If the subscriber is found responsible for copyright infringement, he or she could be held liable for damages between $30,000 and $150,000.


How to Protect Yourself


There are simple steps that you can take to prevent exposure to these types of actions:

  1. Be aware of the content you download.  Although noninfringing content can be exchanged using BitTorrent, professionally produced films, whether of a mainstream or adult nature, are often unauthorized. Downloading these films can increase your exposure to a copyright infringement lawsuit.
  2. Secure your wireless network.  Ensuring that your wireless network is closed to unwelcome guests will limit or prevent unauthorized users from initiating downloads using your IP address.  By securing your wireless network, you can minimize your exposure to legal action.
  3. Education. Alert users of your account to the dangers associated with downloading movies or other copyrighted content using the BitTorrent protocol.

I have been accused of unauthorized downloading ... what now?


If you are accused of unauthorized downloading of a copyrighted movie, there are specific actions you can take in response.  First, you should contact an attorney immediately, and allow your attorney to interface with the copyright holder's counsel.  Communicating with the copyright holder directly often results in unintentional admissions that are then leveraged to increase the demand. Second, do not ignore the demand. Ignoring the demand will result in your personal information being turned over to the copyright holder and published in the lawsuit.  Ultimately, failure to respond will lead to a court entering judgment against you.


Our Patent and Intellectual Property Litigation attorneys have experience with these types of matters and can help you avoid these pitfalls.

Patent and Intellectual Property Litigation Group


Mirick O'Connell

100 Front Street

Worcester, MA  01608

t 508.791.8500

f 508.791.8502


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Westborough, MA  01581

t 508.898.1501

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Mirick O'Connell is a full-service law firm with offices in Worcester, Westborough and Boston, Massachusetts.  The Firm's principal practice groups include Business; Creditors' Rights, Bankruptcy and Reorganization; Elder Law; Family Law and Divorce; Intellectual Property; Labor, Employment and Employee Benefits; Land Use and Environmental Law; Litigation; Personal Injury; Public and Municipal Law; and Trusts and Estates.
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