Marc Randazza of Corbin Fisher ars technica article
"Standard operating procedure: file "John Doe" cases against alleged file-swappers and then demand $1,500 settlements to make the charges go away.
Nonstandard operating procedure: don't file any lawsuits at all but ask those who have shared your company's porn through BitTorrent to voluntarily pay you $1,000.
It may sound odd, but gay porn producer Corbin Fisher this week adopted the latter tactic, telling file-swappers that it has their IP addresses. The file-swappers get a 14-day "amnesty" period under which they can e-mail Corbin Fisher, arrange a $1,000 payment, and keep out of court completely when the company brings its "John Doe" lawsuits later this year. In return, file-swappers get a one-year membership to Corbin Fisher's site.
Ars spoke with Marc Randazza, the first amendment lawyer serving as Corbin Fisher's counsel, about the new approach to turning pirates into customers."
Amnesty or extortion?
Porn producers, especially the small ones, are being thumped by copyright infringement, with some studios seeing 1,000 copies of pirated works online for each legitimate sale. "It's almost as if the porn industry is run on the honor system," says Randazza.
He sat down with Corbin Fisher to develop a campaign that would target pirates "in the nicest possible way," a campaign that was not about using the courts or settlement letters as a business model in themselves, but as tools to convert freeriders into paying customers.
The result was the "amnesty" program. Who would voluntarily contact a porn company and pony up a thousand bucks? "A few people," says Randazza, though he admits business is hardly booming.
Corbin Fisher has hired an investigator—it won't say which one—to track down the IP addresses of people sharing its content online, and the company has tracked the addresses over time. Randazza says that when the time comes to sue those who don't settle now, Corbin Fisher will target people who "are contributing significantly to losses" and have been "stealing Corbin Fisher's content for a long time"—not mere downloaders whose IP address shows up only once.
To motivate pirates to participate in the amnesty, Corbin Fisher has been touting a settlement it reached recently with a BitTorrent seeder of this material. That case was settled for $250,000, which is the number Corbin Fisher uses when warning people about how a real court battle could end. Randazza freely admits, however, that the individual in question will only pay $25,000 of that amount so long as he refrains from further piratical activity.
One argument made against the "P2P settlement letter" factories is that they are shaking down users for just enough money that it costs more to hire a lawyer than to settle, and that the cases pit legal professional against thousands of citizens with no legal training and possibly limited resources. Randazza rejects the idea that he's extorting anyone—despite the angry e-mails he has already received from people making this exact claim.
"The fact is, these companies are entitled to make a profit from their creative works," he says, pointing out that Corbin Fisher isn't targeting mashups, or potential "fair uses"; these cases are about wholesale reproduction and sharing. Besides, those who settle now get a year's membership at the site, worth several hundred dollars—and Randazza says they should have paid last year, too, in order to watch the content they did. "
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