I got a DMCA takedown notice via my ISP from a CA attorney calling itself a 'copyright group' that claims to hold the rights to some film they claim I downloaded via a torrent. They gave me a link to settle for $80. Well not knowing what to do, and figuring I don't want to fly to CA to go to court, I paid. Two weeks later, I get another letter -- they claim a second incident of infringement occurred that same day, but 2 hours later. I guess it's a shakedown now but apparently what they're doing is legal. They seem to have my IP and file hash info attached to this torrent and of course I can't prove that I -didn't- torrent it, maybe someone cracked my wireless (now disconnected). If they file a civil suit out there in CA, do I have to fly to CA? Can they serve me via email?
"You already paid the 1st $80 claim without getting a release in return" I actually got a PDF release for this. When I sent it to them they said "oh, that was #1, this is infringement #2. Pay another $80" "You don't seem surprised that this 2nd claim happened, so you've either maintained a very insecure internet connection" Well, they say #2 happened one hour later. I had my new wireless set up unsecure for one day before I passworded it. The offense occurred in my home state here on the east coast. This copyright group calls itself 'Copyright Enforcement Group' and operates out of a one-man law firm who specializes in immigration law. They have announced in a press release that they are deliberately torrenting porn movies they claim to have bought the rights to, then they sue every IP address that shows up in the torrent. (Unbelievable but true, a google search of their name in quotes will reveal this)
No one should try to represent themselves in federal court copyright infringement litigation, it's way too complicated.
If you were going to try to defend yourself, you could appear electronically in the Central District of CA (that's LA), and actual court appearances are rarely if ever required.
If you hired a lawyer, then you'd have to hire a CA lawyer from the LA area or a lawyer who gets admitted "pro hac vice" to the CA Central District court (who can also receive and file documents electronically).
You don't seem surprised that this 2nd claim happened, so you've either maintained a very insecure internet connection or you've been doing some illegal downloading. No one's likely to sue you for $80, but if you expect a lot of these claims to happen, and if the rightsholder is eligible for statutory damages, it becomes worthwhile for the claimant to sue you.
You already paid the 1st $80 claim without getting a release in return, which wasn't smart. Who is this "copyright group"? This may be a scam. Don't do anything else until you consult with an IP litigator.
Disclaimer: Please note that this answer does not constitute legal advice, and should not be relied on, since each state has different laws, each situation is fact specific, and it is impossible to evaluate a legal problem without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the facts and documents at issue. This answer does not create an attorney-client relationship.
Intellectual Property Law Attorney
This DMCA takedown notice seems highly suspect, and it quite possibly is a scam. DMCA takedown notice are ordinarily provided to a service provider such as You Tube, not to individuals (although if you operate a web site you might receive such a takedown notice). Further, normally there is no economic consequence if an internet service provider (like You Tube) timely complies with the take down notice. Without knowing all of the particular circumstances I cannot be certain if this was a scame, but this is the first I have heard of a company that provides instant justice by providing a link for "settlement."
I would be quite interested in learning more about this alleged "copyright group". I suspect that there are law enforcement officials at both the State and Federal level who would be interested in knowing more about this group.
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