Need a copyright infringement defense attorney
July 9, 2012 6:51 PM   Subscribe

Received a notice that my contact information was subpoenaed from my ISP, since my IP was associated with copyright infringement (torrenting). Obviously, I need a lawyer, even though I haven't been sued (yet). Resources online mostly point to lawyers in NY, CA, and FL. I'm not in any of those places. What's the best way to find a lawyer who can represent me?

Looks like a company widely known as a "copyright troll" on the internet has caught my IP in one of their sweeps. Worse, it looks like it's for porn. It's not the sort of thing I would blab widely, but I wouldn't be devastated if it got out (I already told my SO).

Would my best bet be to find a local lawyer who will take on this sort of case, or to find a lawyer who isn't local who has handled this sort of thing before? Or maybe to ask the not-local specialized lawyer for a local recommendation?

I have until August 6 to give notice that I'm contesting the subpoena, so I'm not in a super rush, but I figure it's better to figure out what's going on sooner rather than later.

Side question-- does anyone have experience with this sort of notice? When is it necessary to get really lawyered up? I've seen folks online saying that they do sometimes go away, but I'm definitely not counting on being that lucky.

It would majorly suck to have to pay a settlement on the low end ($1000); anything much more than that is basically impossible.

I'm not interested in taking this fight to court to make any sort of principled stand; I think those arguments are basically BS. (Which, yes, does make me a hypocrite-- one who assumed he wouldn't be caught.). I can be reached at the following e-mail address for anonymous advice, etc:

YANAL, YANML, all those (basically useless, right?) disclaimers.
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (14 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Perhaps the American Bar Association Section on Intellectual Property would have some resources for you. One of the "featured resources" is pro bono assistance by geographic area. Some state bar associations have practice area listings.

Also, a couple of law firms have "pro bono" programs in IP. Several years ago Arnold and Porter helped a nonprofit I work with with a small IP issue. The big firms use pro bono as a training ground for associates, though I don't know if any are left after purges over the past few years.

I don't know anyone specific, though.
posted by Measured Out my Life in Coffeespoons at 7:15 PM on July 9, 2012

The EFF has a list of lawyers for file sharing subpoena defense. Most states have at least one recommendation. I'd start there.
posted by sbutler at 7:15 PM on July 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

I am not your lawyer. This is not legal advice. I do not even really exist.

I have in the past represented college students caughtbup in RIAA suits. You definyely want to speak with a lawyer who is a copyright specialist and experienced in this area; you probably cannot afford more than an hour of their time. Sibce this is feferal feography is less important; you need legal advice, bot a court appearance.

If you can settle for less than this for less than $1,000 I'd be very, very surprised. Bu it'll cost you tens of thousands to defend, and if you win, you have a chance of getting a court order repaying your fees. That doesn't mean you'd actually receive them.

tl;dr—you're very, very screwed, a lot worse than you think.
posted by mikewas at 7:44 PM on July 9, 2012

(sorry for typos. Stupid tablet.)
posted by mikewas at 7:45 PM on July 9, 2012

posted by griphus at 8:20 PM on July 9, 2012

Mod note: From the OP:
I have contacted the lawyers listed in my state on the EFF website. (Though I could not connect to that website through my ISP; had to go through cell network...)

At this point, I think I want to get rid of this as cheaply, and if possible, anonymously, as I can. The subpoena doesn't have the location problems that others I've seen do (it's in my local district court). I definitely don't want to get served at work.

The best option that I can see is to retain a lawyer to offer settlement before my ISP releases the information. Can anyone remotely familiar with this sort of process tell me what I might be in for, process- and cost-wise? I realize my $1000 figure might have been a pipe dream, but I'd still like to get out of this without borrowing too much from family (which is looking ever more likely)...

Thanks for the answers and e-mails so far.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:34 PM on July 9, 2012

You might want to read this BoingBoing post: "Porno-copyright trolls named in RICO class action suit."
posted by Marky at 9:32 PM on July 9, 2012

I am an attorney, but I am not your attorney. This is not legal advice.

What matters is where the attorney is located at the time the work is done, not where you are. In other words, an attorney in another state can advise and represent you over the phone and by email even if they are not licensed to practice in your state. It's even possible for that attorney to appear in court in your state, though they would have to ask the court's permission (usually granted) and probably have local counsel handle the filings. But since you want to avoid going to court, that shouldn't be an issue for you.

So, don't be afraid to contact lawyers in other states, particularly neighboring ones. Ask about pro bono work, a sliding scale for low income clients, and fixed fee arrangements, so you know what you're getting into cost-wise. Any good attorney should be comfortable discussing their rates, since it should be in writing as part of the representation agreement anyway.
posted by jedicus at 9:37 PM on July 9, 2012

Also of interest is this page, and the related blog posts at the bottom.

Were you provided any information on what entity subpoenaed your ISP? I might try to google them (if you haven't already) and see what kind of information comes up. You may not be in as bad shape as you think. If it's Righthaven (who I thought went bankrupt, but who knows) there is ideas in that article on where to turn to for assistance / representation against that specific entity. I didn't look too deeply into the related links so there may be information on other trolls as well.

Good luck. Not to condone illegal torrenting, but what these trolls are doing borders on extortion and people (and the courts) are starting to recognize it as such and take action against their predatory tactics.
posted by SquidLips at 9:51 PM on July 9, 2012

IANAL. However, read through this.

Essentially these guys are legal bottom-feeders. They are dodgy as hell, the whole thing is primarily an intimidation-based exploit of the legal system, they break the rules of civil procedure left and right, and it is highly unlikely that a properly informed court would rule in their favor. Accordingly they don't actually ever want to sue you because an actual loss would be devastating to their entire scam, and the tolerance of uncorrupted courts for them has worn very thin.

From your description the ISP has given you a copy of a subpoena addressed to themselves. This is not a subpoena of you or service of legal documentation on you, and any emails addressed to you that they subsequently send (probably) aren't either. If you are served a summons or subpoena, in an authorized manner, it would be time to take action. Until that happens, I suggest you simply ignore it; I would.

The way this technically-legal pseudo-scam works is, the trolls will send subpoenas to the ISPs controlling IP addresses involved in a torrent. These are offers to be fleeced. Victims who respond at that stage, regardless of their responses, will get fleeced. Next they will send you threatening emails; more offers to be fleeced. Victims who respond at that stage, will also get fleeced.

If they actually bother to subpoena or serve you, that's a different kettle of fish, however it is extremely unlikely that they will. There is always another torrent, and a new round of victims, among whom many will volunteer to be fleeced. Why would they do actual work?

Even if it got to the stage of a court issuing a default judgment against you, (1) that judgment may well be far less than you would otherwise spend being fleeced and/or contracting lawyers to defend yourself; (2) if not, you could appeal, and there would be wide and fertile ground for an appeal on the basis of the numerous civil procedural errors that the trolls make in the course of pursuing their scam.

They're not interested in you and they don't actually give a damn about any of this. You are one of hundreds of thousands of potential victims out of whom thousands will eagerly accept the offers to be fleeced, generating millions in revenue to fund the next round of lawsuits.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 2:05 AM on July 10, 2012 [15 favorites]

Another news story (from today) about a fight back class-action suit.. Kentucky woman sues the pornographers.

posted by TeknoKid at 10:10 AM on July 10, 2012

I am not anything remotely close to a lawyer.

Like aeschenkarnos says, double-check what exactly it is that you got from your ISP and what they're asking you to do. A subpoena addressed to you is a lot different than your ISP saying that they got subpoenaed for your information.

If this letter is like the letter many people I know have received, it's just a "cut shit out" threat from the ISP to you. The ISP may tell the trolls to go fuck themselves -- something like 50K cases were dismissed last year to give you an idea of the level of annoyance this is for an ISP, who probably have much, much better lawyers than the trolls are themselves -- and tell you to stop torrenting before they (the ISP) come down on you.
posted by griphus at 10:13 AM on July 10, 2012

It looks like griphus' link is a story about the same lawsuit as the story I just linked to..
posted by TeknoKid at 10:14 AM on July 10, 2012

Mod note: From the OP:
I ended up retaining an attorney to file motions to quash, sever, and proceed anonymously. However, while he was waiting on his motion to serve as my counsel (he is located in another state), another motion to sever removed all but one of the defendants (including me) from the case. I can be refiled against as an individual defendant, but apparently that is increasingly rare.

For anyone else in this situation, a good clearinghouse of information (among some unfortunate ad-hominem attacks) is .
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:02 PM on September 6, 2012

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