Skip to main content

Lawsuit Says Granny Snagged Porn via BitTorrent

It's a case of the movie industry striking out against numerous Jane and John Does, one of many that judges are now kicking out of court based on a lack of evidence. In this particular case, a 70-year-old retired widow is accused of downloading porn through the torrent channels. Problem is, she doesn't even know what a torrent is, and doesn't have the financial means to defend her case.

"It smacks of extortion," she told the San Francisco Gate. Typically she spends her days doing volunteer work in the East Bay and "fussing" over her grandchildren. But a lawsuit filed in April against her and dozens of other Jane and John Does by a Chicago law firm says differently, and is insisting that these people, along with the grandmother, cough up thousands upon thousands to settle out of court.

The scare tactics used to bully defendants out of court certainly does smack of extortion, and some legal observers are agreeing with her observation. Matt Zimmerman, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said these mass Doe filings, embarrassing allegations and low settlement fees are all carefully calibrated to get "victims" into coughing up large sums of money even if they've done nothing wrong.

"It puts these defendants in a tough spot, especially with the coercive element of the porn allegation," he said.

According to the paper, Steele Hansmeier PLLC filed the case against "Does 1-46" in U.S. District Court in San Francisco on behalf of Hard Drive Productions. This case is one of many filed against 10,000 defendants of behalf of adult companies. Partner John Steele believes his firm is doing its part to fight back against "widespread copyright theft" that threatens to put his clients out of business.

The accused grandmother said the firm sent her a letter emphasizing that copyright owners can receive up to $150,000 in damages per infringing file. Her name could also be publicly mentioned, associating her with porn. To avoid the high penalty and embarrassment, the letter suggests she quietly settle with the client by charging $3,400 on her credit card. Shortly after receipt the firm followed up with a telephone call just before the settlement offer expired.

The woman told the SFG that she had no idea if her wireless Internet service required a password, but admitted that a handful of young men lived next door. The firm's letter said that someone else using her unsecured wireless network isn't a viable legal defense, and claimed that downloaders of child pornography have used the same excuse but didn't succeed in court. But as we've seen of late, that's not entirely accurate. Zimmerman said it was deliberately misleading.

"There is no legal doctrine that says you're responsible for what somebody else does on your Internet connection," he said.

The woman said she'll face trial on her own if necessary, throw herself on the mercy of the court. "I'd say to the judge, 'I have no idea how this happened,' " she said. "If Sony can get hacked, if the Pentagon can get hacked, my goodness, what chance does an individual have?"

Steel said that leaving a Wi-Fi network open to the public is like leaving a loaded gun within reach of a 3-year-old child. Apparently bare boobs can kill too.

  • the_krasno
    The lady deserves an apology and that soulless lawyer should be fired... to the sun, from a cannon.
    Reply
  • the_krasno
    Sorry to double post, but I love Kevin's final line "Apparently bare boobs can kill too."

    And I reiterate the need to get Zimmerman and Steele in space, see if their lack of souls allows them to survive hard vacuum on the way to the sun.
    Reply
  • kristoffe
    the plaintiffs should be found guilty of purposefully gaining on innocent victims. they are attempting to make a living by targeting people who don't even have their data. And it is of course a bunch of 1's and 0's. as the CIA and FBI are hacked, the same house tries it's own citizens on behalf of these scumbags. she should counter sue.
    Reply
  • alhanelem
    im surprised how they found out who and where the torrent was downloaded from, i thought torrents used a VPN and people couldn't track you...
    Reply
  • maddy143ded
    this just a preview of whats to come whit all these ISPs agreeing to share your user data with music/movie industry to find out if you are pirating their works....
    Reply
  • jsc
    Counter suit. And one of the few times that I would be in favor of a class action suit.
    Reply
  • alidan
    music and movie industry can suck it.

    these laws were made before the internet when people actually made money counterfeiting movies. they sold them in back allys for a fraction of the cost of the tape, or for the cost of a movie ticket you got to own the movie.

    these laws never attacked the people who bought it, but the people who commited the crime.

    so... whats the eta on the ad campaign

    you wouldn't steal a car
    you wouldn't steal a purse
    you wouldn't punt a baby
    and you wouldn't rob a family at gun point with the backing of the united states government
    but than again, you aren't us

    in all seriousness, these laws need to be rewritten, because its gotten to the point you get a lesser punishment if you outright stole the movies from a wallmart.
    Reply
  • redgarl
    Another reason to use torrents... to tell the industry to **** off
    Reply
  • reggieray
    What do you call a 1000 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean, a good start.
    Reply
  • memadmax
    Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the new frivolous lawsuit bubble....

    Enjoy the ride...
    Reply