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EFF backs red-faced porn watchers vs. copyright trolls

Watchdog says threat of embarrassment leading some to settle bogus claims

By Paul McNamara on Mon, 11/29/10 - 5:05pm.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is leaping to the defense of adult video aficionados who have found themselves targeted by what the group says is a concerted effort by copyright trolls to cash in on the natural reluctance of porn watchers to be publicly identified.

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From the organization's press release:

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has asked judges in Texas and West Virginia to block requests to unmask accused file sharers in several predatory copyright troll lawsuits involving the alleged illegal downloading of pornography.

The cases were filed by two different companies and involve different copyrighted adult material.  However, the tactics are the same.  In both cases, the owners of the adult movies filed mass lawsuits based on single counts of copyright infringement stemming from the downloading of a pornographic film, and improperly lump hundreds of defendants together regardless of where the IP addresses indicate the defendants live.  Consistent with a recent spike in similar "copyright troll" lawsuits, the motivation behind these cases appears to be to leverage the risk of embarrassment associated with pornography to coerce settlement payments despite serious problems with the underlying claims.

Details of the Texas case can be read here.

And the EFF's amicus brief supporting Time Warner Cable in the West Virginia matter is here.

"Some producers of adult content have apparently come to the conclusion that filing shoddy mass lawsuits under the assumption that the defendants will be too intimidated to fight back is a good business strategy," said (EFF Senior Staff Attorney Matt) Zimmerman. "It is our hope that courts will quickly see through these tactics and ensure that the right to a fair process is ensured for every defendant."

It is also the hope of a whole lot of nervous John Does.

(Update: CNet recently spoke with one of the movie moguls involved in these lawsuits, who had this to say about his targets: "F--- 'em all. ... People don't realize that when you pirate a movie it hurts all of the people who work very hard to get it produced--from the cast to the production assistants to the makeup artists...So we are going after every one of them who pirates our content.")

(Update 2: And then there's this quote to an adult-industry news outlet from another porn exec contending that her earlier comments that the EFF characterized as threatening were actually meant to be educational: "The statements made by me were in the spirit of educating the end users that the content they access on peer-to-peer sites can and will become the subject of end-user litigation regardless of the content niche and is a risk end-users should be aware of." See, they're just looking out for your best interests.) 

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