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Piracy The Almighty Buck The Courts Your Rights Online

$1,500,000 Fine For Sharing 10 Movies On BitTorrent 339

Posted by Soulskill
from the equivalent-to-running-over-200-construction-workers dept.
another random user writes with news that a Virginia man, Kywan Fisher, has been ordered to pay $1,500,000 to porn-maker Flava Works for sharing ten of the company's films over BitTorrent. "The huge total was reached through penalties of $150,000 per movie, the maximum possible statutory damages under U.S. copyright law." The man did not make any defense in federal court to Flava Works' copyright infringement claims, so the judge handed down a default judgement. "In 2011 Fisher and several other defendants were sued by adult entertainment company Flava Works. The case in question differs from the so-called 'John Doe' lawsuits as the copyright holder had detailed information on the defendants who had paid accounts on the company’s movie portal. For Fisher the trouble started when instead of just viewing the films for personal entertainment, he allegedly went on to share copies on BitTorrent. These illicit copies were traced directly back to his account through a code embedded in the videos. ... The verdict will be welcomed by Flava and the many other copyright holders involved in BitTorrent lawsuits in the United States. DieTrollDie, a close follower and critic of these cases, points out that it will be widely cited in settlement letters to other defendants, but that the case itself is notably different. 'This was not the normal Copyright Troll case – there was some actual evidence beyond a public IP address. Not a smoking gun by far, but certainly enough to show a preponderance of evidence,' DTD writes.
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$1,500,000 Fine For Sharing 10 Movies On BitTorrent

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  • Re:WTF... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by slackware 3.6 (2524328) on Friday November 02, 2012 @08:56AM (#41851885)
    The problem is not Bittorrent. The problem is what you use Bittorent for.
    I I use Bittorent almost exclusivly for down/uploading Linux iso's so I think I'm pretty safe.
  • by michelcolman (1208008) on Friday November 02, 2012 @08:57AM (#41851893)

    Or to download them illegally to begin with, instead of actually paying for watermarked movies.

  • by Sasayaki (1096761) on Friday November 02, 2012 @09:00AM (#41851923)

    Speaking as someone who writes and self publishes books for a living (see sig), this is an insane judgement. $150,000 per movie? Ten movies?

    I don't know how this could possibly be considered fair. Even if the guy 100% did everything that he is accused of, what's the real cost of his actions? If each film is, say, $10, then this means he cost the porno company 15,000 sales, per movie.

    The problem is it just doesn't add up. Something free isn't the same value as something paid. I've given away approximately 20,000 books on Amazon, but I've sold about 1,000. I didn't lose 19,000 sales.

    Every retailer knows if you give away free samples or even free products you're encouraging people to come back. To buy your new offerings. People are creatures of habit and once we like something we want more of it. This massive giveaway probably did wonders for their signup rates.

    But I understand that putting *every* piece of your product online is bad, and making them permanently and easily available is damaging to sales especially in the short term.

    But that much damage? 1.5 million bucks total? This is ludicrous. It's insane. There are punishments for real, genuine crimes with real, lasting harm to a person that are less than that. How is he supposed to pay?

    So as a media producer, I think that bankrupting someone for sharing ten films online is completely immoral. It's just wrong.

  • by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Friday November 02, 2012 @09:00AM (#41851925)
    As this one was caught via user-specific codes (Something practical only in online distribution, no good on pressed discs), none of that would have helped.
  • by BLKMGK (34057) <morejunk4me&hotmail,com> on Friday November 02, 2012 @09:04AM (#41851949) Homepage Journal

    It might have helped had he bothered to defend himself, since he didn't the judge defaulted to the maximum penalty. This does seem to teach others not to purchase from this company but to get it elsewhere instead.

  • by dlingman (1757250) on Friday November 02, 2012 @09:08AM (#41851989)
    tl;dr
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 02, 2012 @09:17AM (#41852061)

    Cinavia beats that.

  • by Raenex (947668) on Friday November 02, 2012 @09:20AM (#41852081)

    What useful arts and sciences does it promote?

    The art of getting your rocks off. Judging by the prevalence of porn, lots of people find it useful.

  • by Slashdot Parent (995749) on Friday November 02, 2012 @09:25AM (#41852125)

    So what Flava Works is saying here is that Kywan Fisher would have been better off had he never paid for his Flava Works pornography in the first place. After all, if he hadn't done the right thing and supported the studio, they never would have had his credit card details to begin with, unless his credit card info was stolen...

    To those of you who think purchasing Flava Works's "works" is a good idea, let this be a less to you and torrent their content. What if your computer get stolen and the thief takes your porn collection and posts it to bittorrent sites? What if you get a virus and your porn files leak? What if you share a Flava Works file accidentally? I realize that that's a little hard to do with bittorrent, but you get the idea.

  • by Overzeetop (214511) on Friday November 02, 2012 @09:33AM (#41852189) Journal

    Remember that these fines are statutory, and were originally designed for the counterfeiter who intended to generate illicit profit by unlawfully reproducing work. In order to set a standard which would deter such infringement, a large value was set. If you're making several thousand copies of phonorecords in your industrial park building, it's easy to see that you could be tuning a solid 6 figure (or higher) profit on the black market. If they catch you with 10,000 copies of movies or records, you might be looking at $100,000 in merchandise, $300,000 with triple damages. If you're burning through a couple million dollars in sales a year, that's not a big deal. You may have sold 300-500,000 copies, but they can only charge what they can prove - your 10,000 pieces. However, if we presume your total production is larger than your inventory, there must be a way to punish you without having to track down every single disc you sold. Hence the efficiency of $150k per recording.

    Is it insane in this case? Yes, it is. But it's the law, and the people who control the law (the ones who's deep pockets depend on the status quo) like it this way.

  • by dywolf (2673597) on Friday November 02, 2012 @09:34AM (#41852209)

    No, the real lesson is DONT PAY FOR PORN!

  • Re:WTF... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 02, 2012 @09:35AM (#41852217)
    This logic gets silly, though. The same could happen if I buy a magazine which somebody has for some reason taped child porn inside, and, say, lend it to a friend or something. Same as how somebody hiding something stolen in my car doesn't make me guilty of handling stolen goods unless I was provably aware of it.
  • by bug1 (96678) on Friday November 02, 2012 @09:40AM (#41852267)

    It might have helped had he bothered to defend himself, since he didn't the judge defaulted to the maximum penalty.

    Why should the judge conclude he deserves the maximum penalty, he only heard one side.

    Judges are suppsed to, you know, judge, not just assume the worst (or the best).

  • Re:WTF... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 02, 2012 @09:43AM (#41852305)

    The only thing stupid here is your entire argument. If the distro box got rooted, they could start seeding child porn ANYWAY. They don't need torrents to do it either, they could just start up Apache serve it up on port 80 over HTTP.

    This is just thinly veiled FUD to try to stop people from downloading and hosting files from the internet. Well, fuck that. That is the whole POINT of the internet, it is how webservers work, it is how mail servers work, it is how chat servers work (streams instead of files though), and people caving to fear that assholes like you spread only hurts it. OH NO! SOMEONE MIGHT ROOT MY BOX AND START HOSTING ILLEGAL MATERIAL!

    Get. The. Fuck. Off. The. Internet.

  • Re:WTF... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by shentino (1139071) on Friday November 02, 2012 @09:49AM (#41852367)

    Interesting notions but you assume that the lawmakers actually care about common sense.

    They don't. They care about keeping their palms greased.

  • Re:WTF... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Friday November 02, 2012 @09:51AM (#41852391) Homepage Journal

    If someone rooted one of the seeds of your Linux ISO and stuck a bunch of child porn in it, you're guilty of both downloading and distributing child pornography at that point.

    No, you're not.

    With very few exceptions all criminal statutes have intent as a key element of the crime. If there was no intent, there was no crime. In many cases mere knowledge is enough to satisfy the intent requirement, and in some it can be argued that it's sufficient that you should have known. But in the case of downloading Linux ISOs, barring some additional information you had, there's no reason you should have known it contained kiddie porn, and therefore you haven't committed a crime. That's not to say you couldn't be charged and tried (which could seriously screw up your life), but the prosecutor would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you knew or should have known that the files contained illegal material in order to convict you. Which means the government would have to have pretty compelling evidence that you did know, or at least had strong hints. That's pretty unlikely.

  • by asylumx (881307) on Friday November 02, 2012 @09:52AM (#41852419)
    Especially when you can already get an endless supply of it legally for free on the internet...
  • by bzipitidoo (647217) <bzipitidoo@yahoo.com> on Friday November 02, 2012 @09:55AM (#41852455) Journal

    No good deed goes unpunished. Someone actually paid for some content, and this lawsuit is his reward. We ought to make this into a lesson for the copyright holders. Never buy content. Let them go out of business. They deserve to, for suing their own customers. But, there is another way.

    No one should ever give up their privacy to pay for a movie, whether or not it's porn. If Mr. Fisher had used a prepaid credit card with no or fake info, he would be safe from this nonsense. What should he do now? Maybe too late for this one, but he could "accidentally" lose his credit card, then claim thieves used it to buy the porn.

    Such privacy preserving payment methods aren't as convenient as they could be, but they do exist. From what I've read, you can buy a prepaid credit card with cash. You may have to give a name and address, because many merchants will use that information to verify that the card hasn't been stolen. But, the personal information does not have to be real. It only has to match with the name and address you use with the online merchant. Privacy advocates particularly recommend this Simon Card [simon.com]. Of course to preserve your privacy you shouldn't buy the prepaid card online, have to go to a store where you can buy it with cash.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 02, 2012 @10:02AM (#41852519)

    Simple watermarking is not even recompression proof. So any that would survive that kind of change would be neat to read about.

    There are companies (e.g. Civolution) that claim to have sophisticated watermarking that can survive various recording/rerecording techniques. Of course you won't find much in the way of real information on their techniques as the companies consider the algorithms and processes to be proprietary. I used to work for a set-top box company doing system architecture and implementation and had the task of evaluating several companies offerings. Even as the engineer doing the evaluation work, I could not get answers on how the process worked. The responses to questions were more along the lines of feed the video into our computer and magically we'll tell you where the original source came from. So no, you're not likely to get any real citations to read. Sorry about that - as an engineering geek, I'd like to read about the details as well....

  • Re:WTF... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by stinerman (812158) <nathan,stine&gmail,com> on Friday November 02, 2012 @10:09AM (#41852555) Homepage

    Yes, criminal copyright infringement is that way. Civil infringement is a strict liability tort. That means you're on the hook even if you took reasonable steps not to infringe and did not ever intend to infringe.

    So you could still be on the hook for the infringement of copyright if a copyright owner took you to civil court. Going to federal PMITA prison would require mens rea.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 02, 2012 @10:36AM (#41852831)

    Please explain to me, in paranoid nerd terms, what exactly is wrong with watermarking.

    You can still format shift and play on any device you want. You can still make backups for your own use. All of the classic arguments about rights restrictions don't apply to watermarking.

    The only thing you can't do is share content which you don't own the copyright to.

    I'm personally OK with watermarked files, because I can do pretty much everything I want with them, and I don't like stealing content anyway (assuming the payment goes to the actual creators).

  • by fredprado (2569351) on Friday November 02, 2012 @11:16AM (#41853357)
    Have you read the absurdity of your statement?

    He bought something and then gave it away for free without permission.

    You are what is wrong with our World, sir.

  • by Nadaka (224565) on Friday November 02, 2012 @12:15PM (#41854039)

    It is circumventable... Just like DRM. The difference is that that it does not interfere with the legal use cases of a normal user, while DRM does.

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