It all seems so easy. Movies, music and even computer software is out there in the cyber world, free, seemingly at your fingertips. For some, downloading illegal copyrighted material is justified by their at times exorbitant prices. But in the end, it could cost you a lot of money.
While one can find and download material anywhere with access to an internet connection, the act is by no means anonymous. Companies that own the copyrighted material can identify illegal downloaders; typically by use of torrent software or by court order for the website to release its files. By this process, the company acquires the IP addresses from all computers that have downloaded the software. From here, an illegal downloader is on the hook for the copyright owner.
At this point, a copyright owner presents the illegal downloader with two options: pay a settlement or face legal action. Take the first option, and you could be short a couple thousand dollars (settlements typically range between $3,000-$4,000, depending upon the amount of content), go to trial and you risk being included in a lawsuit claiming you downloaded (potentially embarrassing) content. Of course, defending a lawsuit can also be quite expensive. Most likely, fighting your position in court would be more expensive than the cost of a settlement. For this reason, most situations are settled outside of court.
In any case, if you receive a letter accusing you of “pirating” and threatening legal action for downloading copyrighted content, it is wise to contact an attorney on the issue.
An attorney can properly analyze your situation, and weigh the consequences. There may be legal defenses in your favor, including want of jurisdiction or lack of knowledge or consent. If you choose to settle, your attorney can assist in negotiations. In fact, copyright owners are typically willing to negotiate a lower settlement cost. After all, the costs and time expenditures are high for both parties in a lawsuit.
Illegal downloading is a potentially serious crime, and with advances in technology, copyright owners are finding more efficient ways to track down offenders. Attempting to save a little money now could cost you big later.