ISP Copyright Infringement Letters – What to Do
Over the years, Antonelli Law has represented many internet subscribers across the country accused of online copyright infringement. This article explains what the copyright infringement notice means, and what steps you can take to protect yourself from making matters worse.
Receiving a Copyright Infringement Letter From Your ISP Could Mean a Lawsuit is Coming
But not necessarily. If the letter from your ISP (Comcast, TimeWarner, Verizon Fios, etc.) tells you that a lawsuit has been filed, and the ISP received a subpoena to turn over your identity, you could be facing a real lawsuit very soon. Call an experienced lawyer to get an opinion.
In some lawsuits, like the kind Antonelli Law has seen filed by many movie companies like ME2 Productions, LHF Productions, UN4 Productions, and Dallas Buyers Club LLC, the chances that you will soon be served with a summons and lawsuit complaint may depend on other facts, such as:
- Whether the movie company is suing just one person, or a small handful of people in the lawsuit.
- Which attorney the movie company hired in your state’s federal district court to file the lawsuit.
- Recent events, such as favorable judgments – or criticism from the same judge assigned to the lawsuit you might be facing.
In some cases, we may be able to tell you that the chances are somewhat low that your situation is going to turn into a serious one. When we say serious, we mean getting served with a lawsuit summons. We can never guarantee that any person will or will not be served with a lawsuit summons. What we can do however is explain the recent behavior of the attorney that movie company hired in your state’s federal district court. For example:
- Does the movie company lawyer seem to be particularly aggressive?
- Or does the movie company lawyer mostly seek settlements without going to court, and serving summons is something that happens, but less frequently?
The ISP Copyright Infringement Letter Will Tell You About A “Motion to Quash Subpoena”
As part of the litigation (lawsuit) process, your ISP may inform you that you have the right to file something that is called a Motion to Quash Subpoena, sometimes called a Motion to Vacate Subpoena.
This special type of motion must be filed by an attorney representing you, and it asks the federal judge overseeing the lawsuit to stop your ISP from revealing your name and address to the movie company. Without this information, the movie company probably cannot serve you with a lawsuit.
Whether filing a Motion to Quash Subpoena is worth it depends on a number of factors. You can contact an attorney at Antonelli Law to discuss your particular circumstances, so you can make an informed judgment.
Don’t Make Things Worse
First, even if you are nervous and you in fact downloaded the movie (or someone in your home did), don’t delete the file. If the lawsuit proceeds, and if the court finds out that you destroyed or altered this evidence, you could be liable for something called court sanctions. Sanctions are serious, and could be far more punishing than dealing with the lawsuit directly.
Second, do not call the movie company’s lawyer and admit to doing anything wrong. Don’t even say your son or daughter downloaded the movie rather than you. The reason is that sometimes, some movie companies have made the argument that the internet subscriber is liable for the actions of anyone they allow to use their internet access. This will almost certainly not hold water in court, but it can create more problems for you than is necessary.
Fight, Settle, or Possibly Do – Nothing?
When you receive a copyright infringement letter from an ISP, it is your first notice there is a problem. What to do?
- First, if there is any infringing activity, make sure it stops. If one lawsuit can happen, other lawsuits can happen, too.
- Second, determine what the risk is that you will actually be served with a summons (see above). Do you need to settle for personal or business reasons? Or can you take a chance and just wait and see?
What Happens After the ISP Copyright Infringement Letter?
Once your ISP releases your name and address to the movie company’s lawyer, you may be contacted by letter. These letters often offer both reasons to elevate your anxiety, and also reasons to pay the lawyer and movie company to “settle” and go away. You should call us. We will tell you from our experience whether this “settlement demand letter” is likely to be more bluff than bite.
Can A Movie Copyright Infringement Lawsuit Be Defended?
Yes, of course it can. It may take just a little legal work to make the lawsuit “go away” or settle for a more reasonable amount than what was stated in the settlement demand letter. Or, it may take a lot of legal work and legal fees to prevail. And, of course, you can also lose in court. Call Antonelli Law for a free consultation and we can discuss the risks and benefits of paying for a legal defense verses a pre-litigation out of court settlement. The US Copyright Act allows the plaintiff movie company to be generally be awarded between $750 up to a rare but possible $150,000 plus attorneys fees if they win. And if you prevail, you may be awarded your attorneys fees and costs by the judge.
Whether you in fact downloaded (or “streamed” via PopCornTIme) a copyrighted movie does not mean the movie company has a slam dunk case against you. Similarly, even if you did not download the movie it does not mean that you will win. Litigation is inherently risky, burdensome, expensive – and mostly unfair for most people and businesses. We do have the demonstrated ability to not let the movie company push you around. When we are retained by a client to fight back, we will do so. And with the client’s best interests in mind.
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