A 70-year-old retired widow from San Francisco who was accused of sharing a porn movie on BitTorrent has seen the case against her dropped. The woman, who went to the press after being threatened by a notorious anti-piracy law firm, was told that they targeted her by mistake. In what appears to be an attempt at diverting attention away from the damaging and embarrassing truth, the law firm claims it has now found the ‘real’ infringer.
In recent months hundreds of thousands of people have been accused of downloading and sharing copyrighted material on BitTorrent, often in cases related to adult content.
A significant number of the defendants are likely to be guilty, but there’s also a lot of collateral damage. Firstly it’s unclear how accurate the evidence gathering techniques of the copyright holders are, and even when they have the correct IP-address it doesn’t necessarily follow that the account holder on file is actually the infringer.
In previous weeks we showed how copyright holders accused the dead, blind and also a 70-year-old grandma who claimed to have never heard about BitTorrent. Unlike many others, the latter had no intention of paying up. Instead the retired widow from San Francisco went to the press with her conclusion that the letter she received “smacks of extortion.”
Paying the copyright holder a settlement fee for sharing porn (Amateur Allure: Kim) was out of the question, and she was determined to fight the case in court.
Lawyer John Steele, whose law firm is representing the copyright holder in this case, read the press reports on this case with great interest and took a step we’ve never seen before. Apparently Steele and his team decided to review their evidence, only to come to the shocking realization that they sued the wrong person.
In a letter to the woman signed by Steele, the lawyer explains that they’ve made a mistake and that the case against her is being dropped immediately. The letter further notes that the actual person who did download and share the porn movie was found.
Although this is great news for grandma, something is really wrong with this story.
If Steele claims that something went wrong, and that the real person has now been caught, this means that they actually included the wrong IP-address in the original complaint. Since an IP-address is the only evidence the copyright holders have, they must have made an error that they were able to correct later.
If that is indeed the case, then we have to wonder how many times such mistakes have been made in the past. Mistakes that cost innocent people several thousand dollars.
The other possibility is that the ISP made an error when matching the supplied IP address to a name, but there is no mention that this is the case and the lady in question has received no apology from her service provider.
The remaining explanation for this turn of events is that Steele and his friends are diverting attention away from the truth in what has turned out to be a significantly embarrassing case brought against a rightfully defiant lady. That wouldn’t be unthinkable either as copyright holders and the lawyers that represent them generally know that suing the old, dead, blind and crippled is bad for PR.
In the past we documented how the UK anti-piracy law firm ACS:Law deliberately chose to drop such cases to avoid bad press.
“If you find someone who is blind, one legged and dying, and you think they are not worth pursuing due to the possibility of bad PR, please also put them in [the folder of people who not to pursue] there,” lawyer Andrew Crossley wrote in an email to his colleagues.
It wouldn’t surprise us if the case against the 70-year-old grandma was dropped for exactly the same reason. But either way, instead of covering the case by dropping it, Steele and partners only raised more suspicion with their failed attempt to rationalize their ‘mistake’.
Adding insult to injury, their failure to even give grandma the courtesy of an apology only serves to discredit them further.