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Monday, August 25, 2014

Porn Company Going After Illegal Downloaders in Northeast Ohio

Posted By on Mon, Aug 25, 2014 at 1:43 PM

Some BitTorrent users who downloaded x-art videos (logo above), are facing copyright lawsuits
  • Some BitTorrent users who downloaded x-art videos (logo above), are facing copyright lawsuits

A California-based porn company knows the IP addresses the people illegally downloading its movies and it's taking to federal court to get their names. Malibu Media, LLC — which operates the website x-art.com — has filed 25 copyright complaints in the past two months in the federal courts in Cleveland, Akron, and Youngstown, among others across the country.

X-art.com is a subscription site where (legal) users pay $40 a month for what GQ Magazine calls "perhaps the world's most sophisticated cinema erotica." But in world where one can now watch an endless amount of porn for free (and without downloading anything) on sites that stream it online — or so I've heard — the site is trying to both protect its copyrighted material and recoup some of the lost subscription revenue (more on that later) by going after those circumventing their distribution model.

Yesterday alone, four cases were filed against downloaders in Northeast Ohio — three cases in Cleveland's federal court, and one in Youngstown. They all used BitTorrent to download the files, with their IP addresses noted by the company.

One of the complaints filed yesterday includes a Time Warner subscriber in Westlake who the company says illegally downloaded 90 of their movies between April 18 and July 29. Unlike many porn titles, the videos have some of the least graphic and most tame names out there. A selection of the 90 videos the Westlake user is accused of downloading include films like:

-Trophy Wife
-Tantric Massage
-Transcendence
-Santa's Little Helper
-Spilled Milk
-The Sleepover
-A Little Rain Must Fall
-She Bad
-Just The Three Of Us
-Meet Me in Madrid
-Afternoon Picnic
-Classic Beauty
-Yoga Master and Student
-All Oiled Up
-Warm and Fuzzy
-Feeling Frisky

New Yorker writer Gabe Friedman wrote a great piece on x-art.com and their penchant for going after downloaders in a May 2014 piece called "The Biggest Files of Copyright Lawsuits? This Erotica Web Site." There, he describes how husband and wife team of Brigham and Colette Field grew the site and came to file more than a third of all copyright suits in the country last year:

By 2013, subscriptions had declined to below fifty thousand. The Fields ramped up their annual production budget to around two million dollars, hoping to lure more subscribers with fresher material. They started to post new films on X-art.com nearly every day. Their investment in high-quality production paid off when “Farewell”—a narrative-driven film about two lovers on the run in the California desert —attracted a glowing review: Adam Baidawi wrote in British GQ that year that “the mom-and-pop American start-up has grown into a global production team,” making “perhaps the world’s most sophisticated cinema erotica.” In 2013, the Fields purchased a sixteen-million-dollar coastal mansion in Malibu. Having found a niche in the crowded world of online pornography, X-art.com still had tens of thousands of fans shelling out money for its movies. Quietly, the Fields were also making some extra money in another way: by becoming the biggest filer of copyright-infringement lawsuits in the nation. In the past year, their company Malibu Media LLC has filed more than thirteen hundred copyright-infringement lawsuits—more of these cases than anyone else, accounting for a third of all U.S. copyright litigation during that time, according to the federal-litigation database Pacer—against people that they accuse of stealing their films on the Internet.

Like 25 cases filed in Northeast Ohio, Malibu Media initially brings the case against an I.P. address and then later discovers the name. And that can be problematic:

There is another catch: Malibu Media can only identify suspected thieves by an I.P. address—similar to a telephone number for an Internet connection—which is what the company initially names as the defendant. Later, its attorneys use court discovery to identify a person linked to the bill or the address for that Internet connection. “To sue an I.P. address is a huge problem,” Eric Goldman, a professor at the Santa Clara University School of Law, said. He believes that this identification system can ensnare the wrong person, as some defendants have argued. Because most cases settle, these factual disputes do not always make their way to court, where they could be considered by a jury or a judge.

The story says Malibu Media LLC average more than three suits per day across the country, and that "nearly every case settles on confidential terms." The writer reports the Malibu Media's attorney said most defendants pay between $2,000 and $30,000 to settle their cases. You should definitely check out that story.

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