MEDFORD, Ore. — 34 Southern Oregon residents are being sued in a federal lawsuit over online piracy and they may not even know it yet. The damages could amount to as much as $180,000 apiece.
As of now, the 34 people accused in the piracy case remain unidentified, known only by their IP (internet protocol) address. The case was filed in the U.S District Court in Medford by production company Voltage. It alleges that the defendants illegally downloaded and shared copies of one of their films.
Voltage is seeking $30,000 from each defendant in the lawsuit. If they can establish willful conduct, or deliberate intent to pirate and distribute, they could seek another $150,000 each in statutory damages.
The movie in question is called “Maximum Conviction,” a 2012 film starring Steven Seagal and Steve Austin. It was allegedly downloaded by those accused using a peer-to-peer file sharing system called Bit Torrent.
According to Jerry Haynes, an intellectual property attorney not involved in the case, these kinds of lawsuits are not unusual but they can get very complicated, both in proving fault and proving damages.
“In a typical lawsuit, if you’re in a car accident, you can prove your medical bills and your auto repair bills, et cetera. But in copyright cases, it’s much more difficult for the owner of the copyright to establish that,” Haynes explains.
Haynes says that these cases can last several years, often requiring expert testimony to actually prove fault. Voltage is reportedly asking the defendants’ internet service providers to provide their names.
Haynes also says that these legal battles arise for several reasons. Not only is it about recovering damages lost from illegal distribution, but also setting a precedent to prevent future downloads.