Hundreds sued for downloading porn

CALL7 Investigation Finds Wireless Internet Users Vulnerable To 'Copyright Troll' Lawsuits

DENVER - Hundreds of Coloradans are being sued for illegally downloading porn.

Whether they did it or not, many pay thousands of dollars to stay out of court.

These so-called “John Does” are being accused of downloading pornography, sometimes gay porn, and the plaintiffs are trying to get their actual names to put them in public court filings.

“Going to your wife to tell her you've been subpoenaed for downloading gay porn. Um, probably not a conversation you want to have on a Wednesday night,” said one John Doe, who asked that we don't use his name to make it more difficult for the attorney suing him to try to get his identity.

“Did you do it?” asked CALL7 Investigator Theresa Marchetta.

“Absolutely not,” Doe said.

The attorneys filing the suits have earned the nickname "copyright trolls" for filing copyright lawsuits against thousands of people.

John Doe, along with thousands of other "Does" named in pages of case filings in U.S. District Court sued for copyright infringement.

“I work in I.T. for a living. This is my livelihood,” said Doe.

In his job, Doe often legitimately utilizes what are called BitTorrent sites, a file sharing program used for distributing large amounts of data, sites that are also the sources of illegally shared movies.

“What's at risk here? How much could they sue you for?” asked Marchetta.

“$150,000 is what's in the case. Plus attorneys fees,” said Doe.

Doe had an unsecured guest network he said could have been accessed by a neighbor or passer-by on the day of the alleged illegal download.

He and his wife said they were at the emergency room dealing with complications leading up to their son's birth at the time the porn was downloaded.

“They would have to come in and prove and start taking info and finding these files on my computer or some kind of proof that, ‘Yes, he has the app that goes out and downloads’,” said Doe.

Doe believes, and legal experts tell the CALL7 Investigators, these so-called copyright trolls don't want to go to trial.

"Certainly the plaintiffs have no interest in litigating these cases so far as I can tell,” said University of Denver Professor Viva Moffat.

Moffat said the cases are filed like class-actions to save money.

The attorneys pay to file just one case, but list multiple defendants listed by their I.P. or internet protocol addresses.

“Getting the names is being used as part of the leverage, much more powerful leverage if someone is accused of downloading an adult film," said Moffat, "The threat of $150k is what's driving it."

Actually prosecuting the thousands of cases filed, she said, would not be worth the expense to the attorneys or their film clients.

"It seems to be really questionable from a moral standpoint," said Moffat.

The CALL7 Investigators discovered the cases in the local division of U.S. District Court are being filed mostly by one attorney, Jason Kotzker.

In the last seven months, he has filed suit against more than 800 John Does on behalf of his clients, including Raw Films and Malibu Media.

“How do you make this go away?” asked Marchetta.

“They gave me an option of paying $3,000 to them and it would go away and I would never hear about it again," said Doe.

For about $3,000, guilty or not, defendants can avoid porn shame and make the lawsuits go away.

Even if only half of Kotzker's current defendants settle, that is $1.2 million dollars without ever stepping foot in a courtroom .

"Was this the intent of copyright laws?" asked Marchetta.

"I think absolutely not," said Moffat.

Kotzker declined to sit for an on-camera interview and the only business address he lists is the address for the post office in Highlands Ranch.

Marchetta caught up with him in person at home and again asked for an interview. He declined.

The CALL7 Investigators found judges in other states, like California and Florida, are kicking these cases out of their courtrooms.

John A. Gibney, Jr., a Virginia U.S. District Judge, put it this way;

"The plaintiffs have used the offices of the court as an inexpensive means to gain the Doe defendants' personal information and coerce payment from them," Gibney wrote.

The case Gibney is referring to was not Kotzker's, but the Highlands Ranch attorney does represent the same porn company that was the focus of that ruling.

“There are innocent people who didn't do this these lawsuits are very difficult for those people to defend,” said Moffat.

“In my opinion, it’s the lawyers who have created this madness,” said Doe.

The CALL7 Investigators found judges in Colorado are still allowing these types of cases to go forward.

Some attorneys suggest filing a motion to quash, since it creates more work for the plaintiffs and may encourage them to drop the case, but an attorney should be consulted.

Kotzker sent this statement by email:

“The movie industry in general and the adult entertainment industry in particular are being substantially damaged by people illegally distributing movies on the internet. The problem is that peer-to-peer technology, such as BitTorrent, which allows people to upload and download computer files to thousands or even hundreds of thousands of other internet users, is too frequently being used by internet pirates to steal copyrighted movies. This is unlawful. Attempts to regulate this problem at the internet-structure level (like SOPA and PIPA) have failed and were overreaching anyway. Censorship or internet regulation is not the solution. That being said, our only remedy is end user lawsuits. To that end, my clients select major infringers in hopes of sending a strong signal that they will not tolerate rampant and flagrant violation of their intellectual property rights."

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