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Huge fine for sharing net pornography

An American man has been hit with a $1.5m (£932,000) fine for pirating 10 gay porn movies via BitTorrent.

A federal court in Illinois awarded the damages of $150,000 per movie to Flava Works - the creator of the pornographic films.

The figure is believed to the biggest awarded in a file-sharing case.

The award is thought to be so large because the accused, Kywan Fisher, did not defend himself against claims that he pirated the movies.

In court, Flava Works presented evidence which it said demonstrated that Mr Fisher was the person who put copies of its films on a BitTorrent site.

In its evidence, Flava revealed that it had embedded unique codes in the copies of its films that customers pay to view. Digital detective work connected the code in the pirated films back to Mr Fisher, who had earlier signed up as a customer of Flava and paid to view the movies.

Once shared via BitTorrent the films were downloaded or viewed 3,449 times, said Flava during its court statements.

Flava claimed Mr Fisher had exhibited "wilful copyright infringement" and violated the terms and conditions of the pay-to-view video service he signed up for.

US Judge John Lee noted Flava's evidence in his summary and said in light of that and the lack of any defence or objection by Mr Fisher, he had no choice but to issue a default judgement in favour of the adult movie maker.

It is not clear whether Mr Fisher will appeal against the judgement or whether he can pay the fine.

Read more here

Jennifer Barker picked up her telephone in May 2012 to find, on the other end of the line, a woman who said her name was Stephanie Hansen. Hansen was calling to settle a lawsuit against Barker—all over the illicit downloading of pornography via BitTorrent back in December 2011.

Barker had heard nothing about any lawsuit; indeed, she said that she had never downloaded pornography from the 'Net and had no idea what this "BitTorrent" even was. Hansen nevertheless wanted a payment; if none was forthcoming, Barker might well find herself facing up to $150,000 in damages under US copyright law. And her name might be publicly linked with pornography.

Barker refused to pay, so Hansen called back, allegedly leaving multiple voicemails and even calling Barker at work. Barker, fed up, believed she was being extorted. She went out and found a local Kentucky lawyer, Kenneth Henry of Louisville, and together they devised a legal strategy to fight back.

Yesterday, Henry filed a federal lawsuit on Barker's behalf in Louisville, targeting five pornographers who seek to "extort money from individuals they claim have downloaded pornography from the Internet." The suit further seeks class action status on behalf of "individuals throughout the United States who have been subjected to the unlawful extortion attempts of the Defendants herein." Henry estimates that this class exceeds 200,000 people.

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A class action lawsuit claims that the adult entertainment industry has found a new business model to earn money: threatening alleged illegal downloaders with an embarrassing and very public lawsuit if they do not settle out of court. The lead plaintiff in the case is Jennifer Barker. Her lawsuit names Patrick Collins Inc., Malibu Media, K-Beech, Third Degree Films, and London-based Raw Films. She claims that these porn distributors have "a new business model" which takes advantage of the court system to "extort" money from users of file-sharing sites who have never downloaded any of these companies' videos.

"In effect, the pornography purveyors have developed a new business model using the court system to extort money from individuals who are merely identified by IP address and with no proof whatsoever that they downloaded copyrighted materials from the Internet. By extorting settlements of $1,000-$5,000 the pornography purveyors have developed a model whereby they can unlawfully gain more money than they can by selling access to their pornographic videos."

The complaint goes on to say that once these companies obtain some sort of contact information they begin the process of threatening individuals and demanding a settlement amount of $1,000 - $5,000. They claim this is less than the cost of a lawsuit in most cases.

Barker claims that in May of this year a representative for the named porn distributors called her and accused her of illegally downloading videos from a porn site. She also claims that this representative lied about her being named a defendant in a lawsuit pending in Dade County, Fla. She goes on to say that this representative then told her that she needed to pay a settlement or "she would be identified publicly as having downloaded pornography and would be subject to hundreds of thousands of dollars as a judgment if the suit went forward because there were multiple downloads."

Read more here