Tag Archives: New York

Being accused of file sharing is NO LAUGHING MATTER.

To my readers:

A few days ago, Wall Street Journal reported that a Minneapolis federal court found Jammie Thomas-Rasset guilty of violating copyright law.  Jammie is a single mother.  The court ordered that she pay $1.5 million for sharing 24 songs over the internet.  The plaintiff was the Recording Industry Association of America (“RIAA”).

I’m posting this piece of information to impress upon those contacting our law firm — the Cashman Law Firm, PLLC — that contrary to what you’ll read on the forums, the threat of being sued is real.  This is just one example of a case where the accused internet user likely read about low settlement amounts, and when the RIAA offered her a $25,000 settlement [where the proceeds of that settlement would go to a music-related charity fund], she rejected that offer because she didn’t believe such a lawsuit could happen to her.

I want to point out that judgement is for sharing a number of SONGS.  Our potential clients are looking to defend against downloading MOVIES.  Think for a moment about the seriousness of this.  Lucas Entertainment, Far Cry, and the Hurt Locker subpoena requests are all claiming the same violation of the same copyright law that was enforced against Jammie Thomas-Rasset just last week.

When someone calls me and balks at the prospect of paying a few thousand dollars to settle a MOVIE copyright violation, I scratch my head and wonder if they realize what they are up against.

With the representation the Cashman Law Firm, PLLC provides our clients, before we suggest that our client consider paying anything, we insist that the media company demonstrate that they have evidence linking our clients to the accused infringing download.

It also goes without saying that simply informing the media companies that their accused potential defendant is represented by an attorney, the media company is put on notice to only contact the attorney and not the client.  By doing this, they are forced to adhere to the state and federal debt collection statutes, and the consumer statutes protecting the accused from any deceptive statements that might be given to an unrepresented accused internet user.  Lastly, when writing the settlement, we make sure the release that accompanies the settlement contains language that prevents the media company from using the settlement as an admission of guilt and turning around and suing the internet downloader for the SAME DOWNLOAD they just paid to settle.  It sounds unthinkable, but remember, it is the internet service provider (the ISP) who is served with a subpoena request demanding that they turn over their subscribers’ records.  Once the media companies have this information, they immediately contact the to-be defendants and solicit a settlement.  Remember, they do this without naming the defendant in the lawsuit.  The settlement does not stop the company from coming after the defendant again in a formal lawsuit (using the settlement agreement as an admission of illegal activity).

In short, as twisted as this might sound, this is the reality of what is going on.  Be careful out there.  Hire an attorney and properly defend yourself.  Play their negotiation game, and hope that they either drop the charges or offer an amicable settlement.  When they do, be reasonable.  Many would-be clients are kicking themselves for not spending $12 at the theater, or paying a Netflix membership when they had the chance.  Now they must deal with this, and it is unfortunate.

However, ALWAYS REMEMBER that the goal is to avoid the lawsuit being filed against you.  Because if a lawsuit is filed in your jurisdiction accusing a copyright violation, it is no laughing matter.

Warm regards,
Rob Cashman

“What Happens Now That the ISP Subpoena Date Has Passed?” – an update for those accused of downloading illegal movies, music, or software.

One of the interesting niche areas of law that the Cashman Law Firm practices is Cyberlaw, where we protect internet users against companies who accuse them of copyright infringement based on illegally downloaded movies, music, and software.

A few weeks ago, a number of lawsuits have been filed where the plaintiffs (e.g., Lucas Entertainment, Inc.) have filed subpoena requests against a few hundred or in some cases a few thousand potential defendants, amicably called “John Doe #XXX.” Their intent was to have the internet service provider (ISP) turn over their subscribers’ information so that they can contact them directly to elicit a multi-thousand-dollar settlement for the illegal file(s) that were downloaded based on the internet user’s account or IP address.

Many of these subpoena deadlines have since passed, and now internet users who have been caught downloading are asking me what happens now.

Being that a majority of ISPs have clauses since the September, 11th 2001 World Trade Center attacks and the Patriot Act that followed which allow the ISPs to turn over subscriber information to third parties, regardless of the subscriber’s attempts to suppress the subpoena with what is called a motion to quash, it is likely that many ISPs have nevertheless turned over user information to these companies.

The next step is for the movie and music companies to do an analysis of which downloaders are easy targets, e.g., “low hanging fruits,” and which will be more difficult to approach. Because of the high cost in attorney fees in order to track down and contact the accused downloaders, they will likely classify users into groups — those that are unrepresented by an attorney, those that may have a defense (e.g., the download was from a cybercafe or some IP address where they will have difficulty proving that it was that user at that keyboard at that IP address linked to the download of that movie (or music file or piece of software), and last, those that will be difficult to approach [likely because they are represented by an attorney].

Once they are finished with the analysis, the phone calls, letters, and threats will start. They will first call those they believe will not defend themselves and they will collect the maximum settlement amount. Those that pose some threat to them (e.g., they have a defense), they will likely be offered a lower settlement amount (which the attorneys will claim will be significantly cheaper to accept and pay rather than defend themselves in a lawsuit, even if they are found not guilty). Last, but not least, those that are represented by an attorney will likely be contacted last, as the competent cyberlaw attorney will be aware of the law and defenses which would hinder them from collecting a settlement from their clients. Additionally, the attorney will force them to adhere to the law and he will know what acts and statements would be considered deceptive, threatening, or in violation of consumer protection laws. Because the other side knows that they can be quickly and effectively sued by the attorney if they err in attempting to collect a settlement from a potential defendant (and not an actual defendant, because in most cases they will try to extract a settlement without even filing a lawsuit).

This appears to be the state of affairs as they are right now with a number of the copyright infringement cases that are currently in progress. Obviously they could start contacting potential defendants to elicit a settlement as soon as tomorrow, or they could gather evidence and wait until the potential defendant has lost any records of a defense they would have asserted up to the statute of limitations period (this would likely be defendable based on a laches or similar defense). Similarly, they may go after each defendant WITHOUT doing an analysis separating out those that would be difficult to collect from from those who would be easy to collect from. We cannot know what goes on behind closed doors, but this would be bad business for them, so an accused internet user must assume that they will measure his ability to defend himself, and he must assume they will take into consideration whether there is a lawyer defending him or whether he is unprotected.