In recent months thousands of US BitTorrent users have been sued for allegedly sharing movies such as The Hurt Locker. Among the victims are several people who have never even downloaded a single torrent file, but nevertheless have fallen prey to the infamous pay-up-or-else scheme. San Fransisco Law professor Robert Talbot and his students are now stepping up for two dozen of these wrongfully accused individuals.
Inspired by their UK counterpart ACS:Law, The U.S. Copyright Group (USCG) brought the profit-from-piracy business model to the US this year. The lawyer group was hired by several movie producers and has sued thousands of BitTorrent users who allegedly file-shared motion pictures, including the Oscar-winning Hurt Locker and more obscure titles such as Far Cry and Call of the Wild.
On behalf of the copyright holders, USCG sends out settlement offers to affected BitTorrent users. To settle the case, the alleged copyright infringers have to pay up to $2,500 or face the risk of higher penalties in a full-blown court case. We have been in touch with several victims of this scheme and nearly all of them are clueless about how to counter the legal threats.
Even those who are swearing to have never touched a BitTorrent client sometimes feel inclined to settle the case just to avoid running into more trouble later on. The main problem is that hiring an attorney often costs more than the settlement amount, and ignoring the settlement offer might lead to an even worse outcome.
A few of these alleged downloaders have found help from a University of San Francisco law professor, and it’s not costing them a dime. Cnet reports that Professor Robert Talbot and his students are currently representing 23 alleged downloaders, and there are still a few vacancies left.
“We try to go into situations where something wrong is done to someone and part of our mission is to help them. We try to combine all that while at the same time teaching students,” Professor Talbot said.
The professor is able to handle this many cases because his students are helping out with the cases. For the students these cases are an excellent learning experience and the defendants are not complaining about the free offer either. The only ones that wont be pleased are the lawyers and copyright holders on the other side.
“I feel like that this is a good cause. I’m always looking for ways to motivate students. They are incensed about what is going on,” Professor Talbot said, adding that he thinks he has a good chance of winning the cases he’s representing.
Meanwhile, the number of BitTorrent lawsuits in the US are stacking up, with the current count exceeding 20,000 for this year alone. Despite the critique from fellow lawyers, the public outrage and even a bomb threat, USCG and other law firms continue undeterred. Continued…..