Are California porn studios extorting users?

A woman is shocked that a California pornography studio believes she is guilty of copyright infringement for illegally downloading pornography videos. Porn videos, like other “artistic” endeavors, carry a value and are protected by intellectual property laws.

The accused 44-year-old woman says porn makers are trying to extort her and others out of thousands of dollars. She is suing Malibu Media LLC and several other porn-producing studios for conspiracy, fraud and defamation.

The studio claims the woman downloaded features from a website called “X-Art.” An attorney for the defendant studios says the companies, which lose millions of dollars in sales each year because of illegal file sharing, have a right to enforce copyrights.

Nearly 250,000 lawsuits have been brought against accused file sharers who allegedly downloaded videos from networks like “Torrent,” a name and service the woman claims she has never heard or used.

According to the court filing, the woman was informed that she had an option to pay a several thousand dollar settlement or face litigation that could cost her hundreds of thousands of dollars. Threatening calls apparently followed the woman from home to work.

The porn studios’ attorney said the woman or “someone in her home” had illegally downloaded a dozen videos over several months. The plaintiff’s attorney says the studios may know the unique Internet protocol address of the woman’s computer but cannot prove she downloaded the videos.

A live-in boyfriend complicates the case. The woman apparently told Malibu she lived with her fiancé. She did not say whether the fiancé had privileges to use her computer.

Meanwhile, Public Citizen and other public interest advocates say porn studios are intimidating people and threatening to expose their downloading habits to family and friends. A federal magistrate’s decision in a similar case ruled that IP addresses could trace computers, but not the individuals responsible for illegal downloads.

Source: Courier-Journal, “Louisville woman says California porn studios trying to extort her,” Andrew Wolfson, July 11, 2012