According to an Oregon Live article, "Steven Seagal movie lawsuit booted by Oregon federal judge," more than six hundred individuals living in Oregon opened envelopes in March and were surprised to discover they'd been blamed for illegally downloading a Steven Seagal movie. Each individual was told that the only way out of the lawsuit was to pay a $7,500 settlement. However, U.S. District Court Judge Anne Aiken terminated the file-sharing lawsuit, which involved 615 defendants. She ruled that attorney Carl Crowell, who represents Voltage Pictures in Los Angeles, improperly combined 615 defendants in a copyright infringement lawsuit.
The AP editorial noted that Judge Aiken concluded that the defendants were too distinctly different to be linked together in a lawsuit. What was Crowell's strategy? He wanted to find as many individuals as possible who might have downloaded the film and then threatened to sue if they didn't pay a $7,500 settlement. Crowell's strategy definitely intimidated the defendants since some said they thought about settling (even though there were individuals who never heard of the film before) so they could avoid any excessive legal fees and penalties.
According to the AP column, the lawsuit was also cost-effective for Voltage Pictures. Aiken acknowledged that Crowell sidestepped paying $215,250 in court filing fees by combining the 615 defendants. The attorney only had to pay $1,400.
The AP editorial quoted judge Aiken when she said, "Accordingly, plaintiff's tactic in these BitTorrent cases appears to not seek to litigate against all the Doe defendants, but to utilize the court's subpoena powers to drastically reduce litigation costs and obtain, in effect, $7,500 for its product." Aiken continued to say, "which in the case of 'Maximum Conviction,' can be obtained for $9.99 on Amazon for the Blu-Ray/DVD combo or $3.99 for a digital rental."
The AP article stated that although Aiken thought the plaintiffs have a case against Doe 1, she explained to Crowell that he must file separate lawsuits against the rest of the defendants who were accused of downloading the film. Attorney Kelly Rupp, who is representing Emily Orlando (one of the defendants named in the suit), claimed, "The underlying message here is that Oregon's judiciary is not going to be duped. They have educated themselves, taking a stance on using the legal process to advance nefarious objectives."
According to the AP column, metro-area attorneys are hoping that the judgment will exhibit that Oregon courts are cautious of dreadful lawsuits. Crowell has filed several lawsuits similar to the Steven Seagal movie case that deal with other clients in Salem, Oregon. Rupp said the statute of limitations on copyright infringement lawsuits is three years, which means Orlando and other individuals accused of downloading the film could face lawsuits in the future. Rupp also acknowledged that copyright infringement lawsuits usually don't go after individuals.
The AP editorial mentioned that Orlando, an English teacher who taught at Clackamas Community College for twenty-six years, had never downloaded any film on her laptop. Orlando told Oregon Live that she has a satellite and didn't need to stream videos through her laptop. Voltage Pictures is also suing a homeless man who doesn't have a computer, a broke college student, and senior citizens who don't even have an email address. Crowell's plan was to pinpoint individuals through IP addresses connected to downloads. The attorney then got permission from the court to request service providers to turn over their private information.
The AP article emphasizes that many defendants argued that their relatives or roommates must have used their computers. Some defendants asserted that their neighbors were tampering with their unsecured wi-fi connections. There are some defendants who admitted to downloading the film, but think the steep $7,500 settlement is outrageous.
Julie Samuels of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (a San Francisco based organization that sues for consumer matters and digital free speech) told Oregon Live that nearly 250,000 individuals in the United States have been involved in copyright troll cases.
Perhaps Orlando summed up the frivolous lawsuit best when she told Oregon Live, "I'm really relieved that this has been stopped, or at least put on hold. I'm relieved that the judge called it like it was: If Voltage and Crowell have legitimate cases they have to file them legitimately -- not just go fishing for anybody who they think might have done something and then ensnare innocent people. That is just so wrong."
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