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BLOG: So, You're Being Sued for Piracy

By Sarah Jacobsson Purewal | June 17, 2011
What's that? You just got a letter asking for money because you downloaded a movie? Here's what you should do.

That said, if you decide to settle, it isn't wise to do so anonymously. Some copyright trolls give you the option of settling through a website or over a phone number, and identifying yourself only by your IP address. This is a bad idea, Neill says, because IP addresses can be dynamic, and keeping your name out of the settlement may get you sued again.

Don't Waste Your Time and Money (You'll Need It)
If you're innocent, or if you think you have a case, the goal is to spend as little money as possible. If you did download files, deleting them won't save you (though you may receive a "cease and desist" letter requesting that you remove them).

Also, running out and purchasing a physical copy of the material you've downloaded will do no good--though it might help you make the (irrelevant) argument that piracy helps sell products, says Jason Rosenfield of Scenic Labs. If you already own a copy of the material, and you can prove that you purchased the copy before you downloaded the file, you may be protected under "fair use."

Though a settlement letter is not a lawsuit, it's still a good idea to contact an attorney.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has assembled a list of defense resources for people who have been contacted by their ISP or by a copyright troll. The list includes a number of lawyers in 33 states who will be willing to assist you, and who have experience with these types of cases. Neill, who is named on the EFF's list, recommends contacting a lawyer in your state or in the state in which you are being sued.

What If You're Innocent?
What's that? You've been contacted, but you have no idea what they're talking about? You've never downloaded a song or a movie in your life, and you use your computer only once a week?

Unfortunately, you should still contact an attorney. Even if you are truly innocent, you'll need someone to defend your innocence. Plus, copyright-troll groups are usually spearheaded by attorneys—U.S. Copyright Group, for example, is a business registered by the law firm Dunlap, Grubb & Weaver.

It's worth noting that copyright trolls do not want to spend money for nothing. Rosenfield says these groups are "terrified of losing," and will thus probably not move forward unless their case is airtight. Still, Rosenfield says, you'll want to back up your innocence with proof (such as evidence that your Wi-Fi was stolen), if you have it.

Consider Settling
If you're not innocent, you may want to consider settling, depending on the settlement offer. Your attorney will be able to coach you through this decision, but it can help to look at some past cases for precedent.

In 2005, Jammie Thomas-Rasset and Joel Tenenbaum made headlines by being the first two people who received settlement letters from the RIAA and refused to settle, which forced their cases into court. Unfortunately, the tactic didn't go over too well: Both have had multiple trials, yet still face extremely large fines.

 

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