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Porn company suing west Michigan residents for illegal downloads

Posted at 5:42 PM, Feb 20, 2019

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Two individuals in West Michigan are facing lawsuits filed by a Delaware-based adult film company for allegedly downloading several of their films without paying.

Strike Three Holdings filed two separate complaints in the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan Tuesday.  Both suits were filed against individuals designated "John Doe", each with accompanying IP addresses.  Strike Three says they found people at those specific IP addresses downloading their films and that they tracked the IP's down to physical addresses in West Michigan.

Strike Three says in the documents filed this week that they see more than 20 million visitors to their websites each month to watch films that are produced with a "Hollywood-style budget."  They even refer to one of their founders as "the adult film industry's answer to Steven Spielberg."

Holland-based copyright attorney Patty Hertel says West Michigan sees it's fair share of these sorts of claims. "There are some companies that are very aggressive in protecting their copyrights and will hire law firms or third parties to do these types of searches and find out if anyone has been reposting their images or content without their consent."

One defendant is accused of illegally downloading 26 movies, the other accused of downloading 30, both allegedly doing so via BitTorrent file distribution software.

While it remains to be seen what, if anything, will come from these suits, Hertel tells us the repercussions can be substantial, "for willful infringement where someone knew it was copyrighted material and they downloaded it and knew they were taking copyrighted material, damages can be up to $150,000."

Strike Three has filed similar suits across the country.  Recently, a case was dismissed in a Washington DC courtroom, with the presiding judge calling the company a "copyright troll."  Judge Royce C. Lamberth suggested the company's method of geo-pointing people that have downloaded their films is flawed.  He closed his 2018 opinion by saying the company, "floods this courthouse and others around the country with lawsuits smacking of extortion. It treats this court not as a citadel of justice but as an ATM."

About 150 similar cases have been lodged in Michigan dating back to November 2017, 41 of those in West Michigan.  Many of those cases ended up being dismissed by the courts after Strike Three apparently failed to properly serve papers to defendants in the cases.