First off, let me state that breaking the law is illegal, even if you think the law is stupid. There are some pretty ridiculous laws and precedents related to copyrighted materials at the moment, but just because you don’t agree with them doesn’t make it legal to commit those acts. By all means, protest the law by breaking it if you want to, just don’t complain to me when you face legal troubles for breaking said law.
USCG’s attorneys are responsible for suing thousands of people who supposedly downloaded films like The Hurt Locker and Far Cry. Users faced the choice of a $1,500 – $2,500 settlement or fighting it in court (which would probably cost more than $2,500 in lawyer fees).
A lawyer named Graham Syfert of the Affinity Law Firm realized that many people wouldn’t have much choice and would simply pay the settlement, as even fighting it and “winning” would end up costing just as much or more, on top of the possibility of not actually winning the case and facing huge fines (the USCG letter mentions $150,000). Syfert, in collaboration with other attorneys on EFF’s list, put together some fillable PDF forms necessary to fight USCG’s threat, and started selling the pack for $9.99 (it has since gone up to $19.95, though he was originally asking $99.99). So far, 19 people have used Syfert’s package to counter what he calls USCG’s ‘pay-up-or-else’ scheme.
So to sum that up, a big group of lawyers threatened to sue some users for apparently downloading copyrighted movies. They give the user the choice of paying a settlement now or facing huge fines in court, knowing that most users will simply pay the settlement rather than trying to deal with legal issues they don’t understand. That seems to be pretty standard procedure for these sorts of things nowadays. A lawyer who understands the problems users face in a situation like this put together a little self-help pack that people could easily afford and will at least stop USCG from trampling over people because it’s too costly and/or complicated to defend against it.
Well, now USCG is trying to sue Syfert because people used his kit to defend against their accusations.
Yeah, they’re trying to sue a lawyer for providing some generic assistance to people not familiar with law. Stop and think about that for a minute. I really hope this ends up with the legal prohibition of all lawyers…
Obviously, USCG is trying to stop this because it’s hurting their profits. Judges have been denying the motions to quash and motions for protective order, but not the motions to dismiss for a lack of personal jurisdiction. In these cases, USCG would have to refile in different states, adding significant cost to their plan. Because they would have to do more work and spend more money, they obviously don’t want word about this getting out.
Unfortunately for USCG, this sort of thing leads to the Streisand effect with people like me. The legal issues don’t personally concern me, so I wasn’t aware of Syfert’s self-help PDF pack before. However, USCG’s actions anger me on principal alone, so now I want to help spread the word to as many people as possible.