By the end of Napster’s reign in the 90s it seemed like downloading one Britney Spears song would instantly land you in the slammer and cost you millions of dollars. No one was safe. Well, if you thought you were in the P2P sharing clear, you thought wrong.
Over the last 12 months, over 99,924 BitTorrent users have been sued for copyright infringement in the United States alone.
Perhaps not unsurprisingly, the majority of the lawsuits were filed by adult companies targeting those downloading and sharing adult content illegally.
Because downloading adult material is so widespread, the adult industry is putting newly emphasized pressure on those that violate the law, which can be seen in the mass lawsuits.
What the content owners aim to do is obtain the personal details of the BitTorrent users who share their copyrighted material online.
Once they gain acess to this information, the companies serve the downloader with an ultimatum: pay anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars based on the amount of offences, or we’ll see your ass in court.
Although companies aren’t going individuals for millions of dollars, they are still making millions of dollars in profit based on the sheer number of defendants they target.
TorrentFreak reports that between January 8th 2010 and January 21st 2011, a total of 99.924 individuals have been sued, the majority of whom used BitTorrent to share copyrighted materials. Other users were sharing via ed2k.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has spoken out against these mass lawsuits mostly because it believes content providers really have no intention of taking these individuals to court. The EFF argues that this is a fishing exercise to bully individuals into paying up with weak or lacking evidence that would not warrant a real trial.
To be sure, the EFF recently filed an amicus brief asking an Illinois judge to throw out subpoenas that fit this scheme in the file-sharing of pornography.
"Copyright owners have a right to protect their works, but they can’t use shoddy and unfair tactics to do so,” said EFF Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry. "We’re asking the court to protect the rights of each and every defendant, instead of allowing these copyright trolls to game the system.”
Considering that sharing copyrighted material is illegal it seems like individuals served with a lawsuit will have little or no recourse in the eye of the law.