Copyright infringement lawsuits against people who download or watch movies using BitTorrent technology has dominated the dockets of federal courts across the country for years. In many cases, the person accused is using an application or website that appears to be perfectly legitimate, but in fact may violate the Copyright Act. You may learn that you are a target in one of these “copyright troll” or “torrent” lawsuits in any of several ways: you may receive an ISP subpoena notification letter, a settlement demand letter from an attorney, or you may be served a summons and complaint by a process server. The Russell Firm represents people at every stage of a torrent lawsuit. Attorney Erin Russell has successfully represented thousands of people in BitTorrent download cases.
Many people who receive an ISP subpoena notification, a settlement demand letter or a summons are somewhat confused as to why or how their name got involved. We can help you to understand the anatomy of a torrent lawsuit, how you became a target, and perhaps most importantly, how you can best protect your interests.
This is how it starts:
The owner of a movie catches people sharing it online. They hire an expert to monitor torrent traffic online, and to capture the IP addresses of the people who are sharing pieces of their movie. That’s how BitTorrent applications and websites work. BitTorrent technology takes a large file, like a film, and breaks it up into little pieces. Each piece has an identifying number. Little pieces move faster over the internet than big ones, so this helps internet users to share large files quickly. There are many legitimate uses for this technology, and there are some illegitimate uses. A movie sharing application takes this technology an applies it to a movie. When you use one of these applications or sites, you are participating in downloading all of the little pieces that make up a particular movie so the program can stick them back together, allowing you to watch the movie. As you are downloading the pieces from users of the application or website, you are sending your pieces out to other users. Many people do not understand that the website or application is doing this, but that is in fact how it works.
The owner of the movie then files a lawsuit. They are then called the plaintiff. The plaintiff files a copyright infringement lawsuit in federal court. (Federal courts have exclusive jurisdiction over copyright matters. That’s why the cases are filed there.) They tell the court that they caught a group of people sharing pieces of their movie with others, including their expert, on the internet. If they can prove all of the elements of copyright infringement, they can win damages. However, at this point in the process, they only have a list of IP addresses. They do not yet know the names of the account holders behind those addresses. The only way for them to unmask the account holders is to ask the court for permission to send a subpoena to the internet service provider, giving them the IP address and the date on which they allegedly caught the IP address sending their expert a piece of their film, and ask that the internet service provider tell them the name and address of the person assigned to that IP address on that date and time.
The ISP sends you a letter. Your Internet Service Provider is required by law to notify you when anyone sends them a subpoena seeking your identity. If you received a letter from Comcast, Verizon, Cox Cable, AT&T, Time Warner or any other internet provider with a copy of a subpoena, this usually means a plaintiff in a copyright infringement case has gotten permission from a judge to send a subpoena asking for it. In the letter you will be told that you have a deadline by which you may object to the subpoena, and if you do not object by that date, the ISP will make the requested disclosure. They may mention that you might file a motion for protective order or a motion to quash the subpoena. In some jurisdictions, the filing of these motions has been successful. In most, it has not. The Russell Firm has experience in filing motions for protective orders and motions to quash in many jurisdictions, and we would be happy to advise you as to whether it is a good financial and legal choice for you. You can avoid disclosure of your identity by settling your case prior to the scheduled disclosure date (also known as the release date).
If you do not object or settle prior to the release date, the Internet service provider will send the requested information to the attorney for the film. The attorney will then send you a series of settlement demand letters. They will present the laws they allege you broke, the amount of damages they think they can get the judge to award and the amount they are asking for to settle. They will be talking a lot of big numbers that upset most people when they read them. Don’t let them upset you! The Russell Firm can help you resolve your case for numbers that won’t make you feel that way. The lawyer will send you three or four of these letters, each in order if they don’t hear from you. If you did not resolve your case before getting this letter, you should talk with The Russell Firm about resolving your case at this phase. You can still do so without your name being made public. This is an outcome that is preferable to most people.
Whatever you do, don’t ignore the settlement demand letter. This is critical. It is your last chance to resolve the case before your name is made public. If you receive advice from any attorney suggesting that you will benefit from ignoring the ISP subpoena notification letter or the attorney settlement demand letter and waiting until you get served, please contact The Russell Firm at 312-994-2424 for a free consultation immediately. Waiting to get served is a terrible idea. It means that the attorney for the plaintiff has amended the complaint and added your name to the court’s docket. That creates a public record that appears in background and credit checks. This is something most people can avoid, and it is absolutely avoidable if you act to protect your rights as soon as you receive a letter about your case. The attorney will have done a great deal more work on your case by the time the complaint has to be amended and that can make it more expensive to settle your case. If you continue to ignore the case after getting served, the judge will eventually enter a default judgment against you. Default judgments also show up on background and credit checks, and can affect your credit rating. A default judgment is absolutely avoidable, and is a terrible result in a torrent download case.
You need and deserve the best legal advice from an attorney who has both settled and litigated BitTorrent download cases. Attorney Erin Russell has that experience. Erin has represented thousands of people in torrent download cases across the country. Some of those people settled. Some proved they were not responsible for the download and were dismissed without litigating. Some litigated their cases and won, or the plaintiff eventually gave up the lawsuit. Erin’s experience working with torrent download copyright infringement cases, in both settlement and litigation, means she can help you figure out whether to settle your case or to litigate, with a plan that is sensitive to your financial and privacy concerns.
Settlement is not surrender. In all litigation, whether the parties are major corporations or individuals, assessments are made as to how much it will cost to litigate a case all the way in court versus how much it will cost to settle. Settlements do not equal admissions of wrongdoing. In fact, the vast majority of settlement agreements contain language specifically denying liability. 97% of all civil cases in this country result in dismissal or settlement. If you want to invest in litigating your case, The Russell Firm has the experience to help you do that. Effectively and decisively. However, if you weigh the costs and burdens of litigation and decide you would prefer to settle because of the general financial benefit of doing so, we can help you to reach a settlement that is reasonable and financially wise for you. One of the keys to settlement of a torrent download case is to enter settlement negotiations as early as possible, to curtail any argument by the plaintiff that they have expended large amounts of time and resources pursuing their claims against you.
The Russell Firm always charges a reasonable flat fee to settle torrent download copyright infringement cases. We also give discounts to senior citizens, full-time students, veterans and active duty members of the military. You can call 312-994-2424 seven days per week for a free consultation. Attorney Erin Russell personally handles every free consultation. If you hire The Russell Firm to represent you, Erin will personally handle your case from beginning to end. You will never be handed off to a staff member or associate attorney. We accept payment of our fees by cash, credit card, and now by BitCoin and Ethereum.