ANDERSON – Copyright infringement lawsuits are on the rise, including those against people accused of downloading illegal movies in Madison County.
Since 2012, Malibu Media, a subscription-based website for adult content and art, has filed almost 200 cases against people living in Indiana, accusing them of illegally downloading pornographic content. Three lawsuits were filed against people living in Anderson, Elwood and Pendleton.
“We are one of the few erotic companies doing this,” said Colette Field, co-owner of Malibu Media and X-Art in Malibu, Calif. “I feel like some people don’t know that it isn’t OK to steal from us. You are actually doing something illegal.”
Local defendants named in the copyright lawsuits are accused of installing a software program called BitTorrent to download large files through multiple users. Using a third party to track down Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, the company is suing people for downloading copies of Malibu’s “Pretty Back Door Baby.”
Field said Malibu is a small company with no box office sales and the pirated movies cost her company money. She said attempts to keep content from being illegally downloaded, including the use of special software, have been unsuccessful.
Suing people, however, helps deter the activity, Field said. “We want people to think twice before stealing a movie from Malibu Media.”
Advances in technology make the protection of copyrighted work difficult, Field said. To date, the company has filed almost 2,900 lawsuits nationwide, and many of the filings target dozens of defendants.
In Indiana, Malibu Media has filed 104 lawsuits involving 121 people. The legal action is both costly and time-consuming, Field said. But the company, she said, is “very careful” about who it sues.
“We don’t want to ruin someone’s life,” Field asserted. “I do not want to cause anyone financial hardship.”
Unless there are unusual circumstances involved, she said, she does not want students or members of the military to be sued for illegal downloads. She said she also understands some people might not know they’re breaking the law.
When Napster was originally released in 1999, allowing users to share copyrighted music in a similar way to the BitTorrent process, Field downloaded songs from the site. She said she was unaware that she was breaking the law, until a neighbor was sued for stealing music.
“We want to raise awareness and stop losing sales from pirating,” Field said.
Attempts to contact Keith Lipscomb, the attorney who represents Malibu Media, were unsuccessful.
John Bradshaw, an attorney with Overhauser Law, with offices in Indianapolis and Greenfield, represents several clients sued by Malibu Media. He said most of his cases have been resolved, but new lawsuits are being filed regularly.
Malibu Media “is suing people all over the country,” Bradshaw said. “They are clogging up the courts.”
He said Malibu Media sues the person on the account where the content is downloaded, even if a different person actually downloaded it. He said innocent people are being sued, and the company does not offer to compensate those wrongly accused.
“That is not the way the world is supposed to work,” Bradshaw said. “If they wrongly sue someone, they should be compensating that person.”
Hundreds of the lawsuits are filed against IP addresses and list the defendants as a “John Doe” or “Does.” Bradshaw said his clients have also included military personnel and students.
“It is unclear who is calling the shots,” he said. “But there is no way she is controlling a thousand lawsuits at once.”
The cost of legal representation by his firm in a lawsuit involving intellectual rights is generally between $1,000 and $5,000, Bradshaw said. Fines for illegally downloading the copyrighted material are $750 for each movie. On average, most defendants face $15,000 in fines, plus Mailbu Media attorney fees, he said.
“That is the least we can get,” Bradshaw said. “It’s a scary position to be in, and it’s terrifying for defendants.”
The people Malibu Media should file charges against are not the people downloading the material, but the people uploading it, he said. The company should also immediately remove the content, not monitor it.
“Everyone acknowledges online piracy is a problem,” Bradshaw said. “But they should be taking steps to take it down instead of collecting names of people who are downloading it.”
Bradshaw also pointed out that not everyone using BitTorrent is engaging in illegal activity.
“There are innocent uses for BitTorrent,” he said. “But my general advice – I would not use it.”
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