A Chicago law firm has filed a lawsuit against a retired 70-year-old grandmother and thousands of others just like her alleging they have illegally downloaded porn using BitTorrent.
The woman, known only as Jane Doe, said "she's never downloaded porn and doesn't know what a BitTorrent is," according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
The law firm Steele Hansmeier PLLC, says "they represent content producers and creative professionals, with a focus on pursuing businesses and individuals, like Jane, who infringe on the copyrights of others through Internet-based piracy."
Steele Hansmeier said on their website that their goal is to "provide their clients with a strong return on the capital they have invested in the legal team's time," and that's where the problem lies, according to an exasperated Jane Doe.
The law firm representing Hard Drive Productions has filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco against “Does 1-46” for copyright infringement through peer-to-peer piracy. The lawsuit alleges the defendants have used BitTorrent to share files. Jane is included in this group and is confused as to why, since she rarely uses her computer and claims she hasn't downloaded or shared any porn over the Internet.
Jane and over 10,000 defendants just like her do have the option to settle, according to SF Gate. In letters sent to the defendants by Steele Hansmeier they are told they could 'liable for up to $150,000 in damages per file they have downloaded'. They are offered a quick settlement that will save them thousands of dollars and the embarrassment of going to trial. The settlement offer will "quietly" exclude them from the pending lawsuit if they agree to pay the attorneys representing Hard Drive Productions the sum of $3,400.
Jane said she can't afford an attorney to represent her and she doesn't have $3,400 available to give the Chicago law firm, so she is refusing to pay the setttlement amount offered to the defendants. "It smacks of extortion," she said and "some legal observers agree," said SF Gate.
Matt Zimmerman, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said, "The mass filings, embarrassing allegations and low settlement fees are all carefully calibrated to get people to pay up, regardless of whether they've done anything wrong. It puts these defendants in a tough spot, especially with the coercive element of the porn allegation."
The law firm said they are not extorting money from the defendants. They believe most are guilty of downloading pornography without paying and say they are only working to preserve the creative rights of their clients whose content is violated through unauthorized distribution.
Jane Doe disagrees and said she plans to go to trial and "throw herself on the mercy of the court." Jane does not know if her wireless Internet is password-protected, according to the SF Chronicle. She said that her neighbors include some younger men who may have accessed her Internet and downloaded the files. She plans to tell the judge "I have no idea how this happened, but if Sony can get hacked, if the Pentagon can get hacked, my goodness, what chance does an individual have?"