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Porn maker's lawsuit against roommate threatens free Wi-Fi

Electronic Frontier Foundation warns of slippery slope from bogus copyright action

By Paul McNamara on Mon, 06/18/12 - 11:49am.


Just as First Amendment advocates have long had to defend pornographers - most famously in Hustler Magazine v. Falwall - they increasingly have had to fight that same industry in copyright troll cases.

And in the most recent example of the latter, it's not only fair use or a vulnerable defendant's dollars that are seen at risk, but also the very existence of the free public Wi-Fi services we have all come to know and love.

From an Electronic Frontier Foundation press release:

Liberty Media Holdings (LMH) is suing two roommates in New York, alleging the illegal downloading of a pornographic film, even though LMH argues that only one made the infringing copy.  Remarkably, LMH claims that the non-downloading roommate is also responsible for copyright infringement, simply because the Internet subscription is in his name and he might have known his roommate sometimes made illegal downloads. ...

EFF logoCopyright trolls attempt to game the legal process, using improper claims and procedures to pressure alleged copyright infringers into settling lawsuits against them even where they have legitimate defenses.  If LMH is successful with this latest ploy, Internet users across the country would suffer.  Every day, cities, cafes, libraries, schools, and individuals operate open Wi-Fi networks, sharing their connection with the public.  This is a valuable public service, part of federal policy to promote universal, convenient access to the Internet, and also promotes public safety.  But if Wi-Fi providers could be held responsible for users' behavior, public access to the Internet would be sharply reduced because of liability fears.

The EFF on Friday filed a brief in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York urging a judge to dismiss LMH's claim that the roommate of the person who made the download acted negligently.

The porn industry has adopted an aggressive legal strategy against piracy in part because piracy of its products is rampant, but also because its lawyers are well aware that a defendant's fear of merely being identified publicly in a lawsuit associated with pornography can be enough to compel some to settle even the most bogus of claims.

The roommate in this case has yet to respond to my request for comment ... and, even though there's no reason to believe he's done anything wrong, I can't say that I blame  him.

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