Did you just illegally download pornography? You better pay up, or we'll tell everyone what your name is and that you watch porn. No, not really. But that's essentially what a handful of pornography producers are accused of doing.
A lawsuit filed in a Kentucky federal court is accusing five porn producers of extortion and "trolling."
If porn producers suspect that someone unlawfully downloads copyrighted pornography, they sue the IP addresses in court to identify the account holder's name, Wired Magazine reported. The producers then contact the downloading suspects by telephone, asking for settlement money. Defendants risk facing up to $150,000 in fines for a single copyright violation under the US Copyright Act, Wired said.
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But innocent internet owners are sometimes unaware that other people have downloaded pornography on their networks. Still, they often choose to pay the porn companies the settlement money rather than risk embarrassment, the JD Journal reported. "The tactics of the pornography purveyors clearly indicate that they are not convinced that the individuals they accuse of downloading pornography from the Internet have actually done so," the lawsuit says.
Thousands of the people accused of downloading copyrighted porn are now fighting back. A woman named Jennifer Barker says that she received a call from someone named Stephanie Hansen in May of this year. Hansen demanded settlement money from Barker for illicit downloading. Barker says she never downloaded porn and refused to pay, Ars Technica reported. Barker says Hansen then began calling her at home and at work. Barker is now one of 200,000 people represented in the lawsuit.
“There’s a slime element associated with the porn cases, which makes it much more apparent than the music cases that there is an extortionist element to this," an attorney not involved with the suit told Wired.
Two similar lawsuits have also been filed in San Francisco this year, Reuters reported.