As the mass-BitTorrent lawsuits continue to pile up in U.S. courts, more stories of what appear to be wrongfully accused persons hit mainstream media. A 70 year-old retired widow from San Francisco falls into this category. The grandma was recently ‘caught’ sharing porn on BitTorrent and was offered a $3,400 settlement, or the option to risk a $150,000 fine in a full court case.
Since 2010 tens of thousands of regular people have been sued in the U.S. for sharing films on P2P networks without the consent of copyright holders. Unlike other lawsuits, the aim of the copyright holders is not to take any of the defendants to court, but to get alleged infringers to pay a substantial cash settlement to make legal action go away.
As has been reported in the past, many of the people suspected of sharing copyrighted material are wrongfully accused. The problem for them, however, is that fighting the case is more expensive than paying a ~$3000 settlement fee. Justice aside, settling seems to be the best option for many innocents.
But not for a 70 year-old grandma from San Francisco. This retired widow has been accused of sharing porn (Amateur Allure: Kim) using BitTorrent, but says she doesn’t even know what BitTorrent is.
The Jane Doe in this case is being pursued by lawyer John Steele, whose law firm is currently involved in dozens of file-sharing related lawsuits, ostensibly to protect the rights of adult media companies. It is the same law firm that sued people for downloading mislabeled files.
Like many other defendants the 70 year-old doesn’t have the money to defend herself, but unlike others she’s not planning to settle the case either.
“It smacks of extortion,” she told SFGate in a comment, a conclusion that was reached by many others in the past.
Determined to put up a fight the grandma said she may have to go to court to defend herself. And she already has a plan of attack.
“I’d say to the judge, ‘I have no idea how this happened. If Sony can get hacked, if the Pentagon can get hacked, my goodness, what chance does an individual have?” she said.
As we’ve seen in the past, the lawyers don’t see Jane Doe’s age as an excuse, nor do they buy the claim that someone else may have used her unsecured wireless network to download files. Jane Doe has to pay up or convince the court she’s not guilty, they insist.
A full trial is also an option, as is usually noted in the settlement letters, but the lawyers are quick to add that it would put Jane Doe at risk of having to cough up $150,000 instead of a few thousand dollar to settle.
A settlement is the wise choice according to the law firm.
“We believe that providing you with an opportunity to avoid litigation by working out a settlement with us, versus the costs of attorneys’ fees and the uncertainty with jury verdicts, is very reasonable and in good faith,” the settlement letter reads.
A tough choice, and that’s the beauty of these pay-up-or-else schemes.
News of their potential profitability quickly spread and as a result copyright holders of more obscure and adult content have embraced them. Often described as copyright trolls, these companies can make more money from speculative lawsuits than actually selling the films they produced.