Matt: Hi, it’s Matt Plessner, and welcome to another installment of Copyright Law Radio. Today we are going to be talking about something that has kind of been a controversy on and off for quite some time. A while back in the earl 2000’s, sites came up like Napster, Morpheus and Grokster and stuff like that where you could download music for free. And of course, many artists didn’t like this and started pressing charges against even individuals. Now, stuff like this is still going on with certain sites and people are getting persecuted for this. We’re going to be talking about how you could avoid having this happen, and if it does happen to you, how does it happen, first of all, and what can be done about it most importantly. To talk to us about this today, we’re speaking with Attorney At Law Mark Clark from the Traverse Legal office of Traverse City, MI. Mark, thanks again for joining us.
Mark: You’re welcome, Matt, it’s always a pleasure to be here with you.
Matt: Now, if this happens to you, let’s just talk about how it happens. How does it happen, first of all?
Mark: Well Matt, being accused of copyright infringement can happen in a number of different ways. In the earlier days, as you were talking about, somebody could be accused of copyright infringement from either illegally downloading music or even illegally downloading a movie, say through Bit Torrent or a similar site. And you might get a, or receive a, threatening letter if they’ve identified you, and you might even, in earlier days, have been sued individually as an example to other to stay away from it. But what is happening currently is that the artists and the attorneys who represent them are no longer simply filing lawsuits against a named individual or an IP address, and including just a single individual. What they are dong is what is known now in the industry as filing suits by the copyright trolls, or “copyright trolling.” And this envisions that a law firm or an attorney on behalf of a recording artist or a movie studio, for instance, will go after and identify IP addresses that have illegally downloaded a song or a movie and gathered a number of IP addresses in one jurisdiction and file suit against a “John Doe,” called a “John Doe Lawsuit,” identifying maybe 10, 20, 100 or more IP addresses. And then what they’ll do is to send a subpoena out to the cable company or internet service provider as the case may be and say, “Who’s on the account for this IP address?” And then, at a later stage, you’ll receive a letter as the IP account holder saying “we’ve identified you as somebody we believe has downloaded a movie,” and they will go ahead and say “we’re going to name you by name in this lawsuit unless you pay us X amount of money to resolve these claims.” And again, the industry calls it “Copyright Troll Litigation,” and it’s really an extortion game, because you as the IP address holder may have valid defenses to say, first and foremost, “I didn’t do it, and I don’t know who did it, and someone who is using my IP address could have illegally downloaded it,” but the problem is that, in order to defend yourself, you’re going to have to pay a significant money in legal fees to do that.
Matt: So obviously, it sounds like the best way to prevent it is just not to do it. Pay for your music. And that, of course, is the lawful way, but take into account that this has happened to you. What should you do? What sort of action should you take besides, of course, get an attorney, what should be done?
Mark: Well, in fact, that’s usually the best course of action. The attorneys here at Traverse Legal are contacted almost daily by individuals who have been ensnared in these copyright troll lawsuits. And of course, the first question is, how do I resolve this? What we normally do for somebody who has been identified and threatened to be named as a defendant in one of these copyright infringement downloading lawsuits is to identify any and all defenses, and then what we’re able to do is to as experienced copyright infringement attorneys is to contact the attorneys who filed the suit and to attempt to extricate them from these lawsuits for less than they otherwise might be obligated to pay in order to do it on their own. What will happen, Matt, is that they will be contacted and a price for resolving the issue will range in the neighborhood of five to ten thousand dollars in order skip the hassle of trying to defend oneself, oftentimes because we can identify valid defenses and other factors that would warrant mitigation of the issues were oftentimes able to extricate these folks from their copyright litigation from anywhere 1500 and 3,000 dollars, which unfortunately, is a small price to pay in order extricate oneself from these copyright troll lawsuits.
Matt: Well this sounds like great advice, Mark, and one more thing that I was just kind of curious, and I’m sure other people are as well, is there a certain number of songs that you would have to download, like for example, if you download a hundred songs versus if you just download one song, does that make you any more or less likely to get trolled, to get a lawsuit put on you.
Mark: I think the answer is no. Because even a single download can justify a claim by a copyrighted song or movie of a hundred fifty thousand dollars per violation. So even one violation results in a potentially significant claim by the artist. However, oftentimes, the potential clients will indicated that they had an opportunity in advance of the lawsuit after receiving a threat letter to resolve the issue for less than a hundred dollars, and it was only after they had ignored that initial letter that they receive the lawsuit. So, there is an opportunity, in some cases, to extricate yourself for an extortion payment, if you will, of a hundred dollars, rather than more money. What I would caution you, though, is this: that if you have downloaded more than one song or movie, you will be repeatedly paying the hundred dollars. So depending upon how much you have illegally downloaded, it may not make sense to respond to those letters and give your credit card and pay one hundred dollars when you’ve done this twenty, thirty, forty, [or] fifty times because you’ll keep getting the letters and they’ll keep charging you the hundred dollars in order to keep yourself out of the lawsuit. In case where you have multiple downloads, it may make sense actually to ignore those and actually get into the point where you are sued and require some attorney representation in order to get out for a reasonable fee.
Matt: Well Mark, thanks a lot for joining us and talking with us about this. I know this hits home to a lot of people here. And again, Mark, look forward to talking with you more in the future and thanks again….and this is Matt Plessner again speaking for Copyright Law Radio.