HAMMOND, Ind. -- Defendants in dozens of copyright infringement lawsuits filed in federal court in northern Indiana say the California company suing them is using the threat of embarrassment to get them to pay thousands of dollars without protest.
Malibu Media accuses the 56 defendants of illegally downloading pornographic videos it produced. But a Hobart, Ind., man named in one of the lawsuits has filed a counterclaim alleging that the company makes it easy to download videos by not encrypting them, then sues people who do so. He also contends Malibu makes its money from litigation, not by selling a product.
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"What they want to do is scare people and get them to settle," Ann Rominger, dean of Indiana University Northwest's School of Business and Economics, told the Post-Tribune (http://bit.ly/I1f3oQ ).
Malibu has filed more than 2,000 copyright infringement lawsuits across the country since February 2011. Almost all federal cases in northern Indiana were filed this past spring; two were filed in 2012. The suits rely on data collected by a German information technology company that checks websites where users can share digital files for anyone with files of Malibu's movies.
After the company subpoenas local Internet service providers to identify the account's owner, it sends letters threatening to make their names public if they don't settle.
Malibu officials defended their actions, saying the number of lawsuits is small compared with the hundreds of thousands of people they claim illegally download their movies.
Because the company uses a German IT company, defendants could spend thousands of dollars to depose the employee who did the work. That can make settlements more attractive, said Kurt Opsahl, an attorney for the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation.
A Valparaiso woman isn't letting that daunt her. Her attorney, Thomas Vetne, said her Wi-Fi wasn't password-protected, and the woman contends any of her neighbors could have used it to download movies. She's explained that to Malibu but is still being sued, Vetne said.
"She doesn't mind exposing the fact that these people are trying to get money out of people whether they deserve it or not," Vetne said. "She doesn't like the idea of giving in to bullies."