Copyright Subpoenas

Did you get a letter from your Internet service provider (e.g. Comcast) indicating they have been subpoenaed and unless you take action they will disclose your information?

Few things have been left untouched since the digital revolution of the past few decades. A personal computer in every house, capable of playing high definition video streamed or transmitted over high-speed internet lines – the amount of data and media at our disposal is astounding. On the one hand this has been very empowering to content creators, allowing certain writers, musicians and other creative professionals to make more money than ever before. On the other hand, piracy and illegal distribution of movies, music and books is more rampant than ever, making it more difficult for some creators and media companies to generate profits. Small wonder why copyright infringement is one of the most pressing legal issues of our times – the survival of whole industries is at stake.

On the other side of this complicated situation is the average media consumer, who, thanks to a slow economy and shrinking middle class wages has less money to spend on books, movies or other forms of entertainment. It’s not surprising that a college student or a struggling twenty-something would do anything to avoid spending money.  Why pay $60 for a video game when you can visit a torrent site and download it for free? Or pay a licensing fee to make their blog more attractive by using a picture that they do not have the proper ownership rights to when they can download it from Google Images?  A season of your favorite TV show can cost as much as $30 – but if you stream it off an illegal site you pay nothing.

The temptation to pirate or use copyrighted material is thus extremely strong, especially as piracy becomes less cumbersome and more streamlined. Nowadays pirating everything from software to novels is extremely simple – sometimes MORE simple than purchasing the item in question. Anyone who has had to deal with frustrating DRM (Digital Rights Management) knows how frustrating it can be to be denied access to content one has legitimately paid for.

What Should I Do If I Have Been Subpoenaed For Copyright Infringement?

No matter how legitimate (or illegitimate) one’s gripes about DRM and media might be, the law remains harsh for copyright offenders. Because most people who download illegally post or distribute copyrighted content under false names, and because all they likely have on you is your computer’s unique address known as the “IP address”, copyright holders often have to subpoena the internet service providers (ISPs) of the alleged copyright infringer to find out who has been downloading and/or distributing their content. You may have received a letter from your internet provider informing you of just such a situation or a demand letter from a law firm that seeks to protect the ownership rights of their client’s copyrighted material. Whatever the case, if you find yourself in an ordeal of this nature you ought to consult a lawyer immediately.

Every case is unique and requires a specific response, one that a qualified attorney is best able to determine. An experienced copyright lawyer may be able to “quash the subpoena” – i.e. demonstrate to the court that the subpoena is unfounded or illegitimate.  However, there are strict deadlines for taking action and if the motion to quash is not made within a certain time frame, your internet service provider will release your name to the copyright holder and they can sue you directly. Often they will start by mailing you a letter with an attempt to settle for a sum of money.

As a result, it is vital you consult a lawyer as early as possible. A lot is at stake – including a great deal of money.

How can an Attorney Help? 

If you are the recipient of a copyright infringement letter regarding a subpoena or pending legal matter, contact the capable lawyers at Rosenblum Law today. They possess both the experience and expertise you need to avoid the worst outcomes.

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