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Utahns, accused of illegally downloading a movie, are told to pay up

Utahns, accused of illegally downloading a movie, are told to pay up (KUTV)
Utahns, accused of illegally downloading a movie, are told to pay up (KUTV)
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(KUTV) The movie The Mechanic: Resurrection is a 2016, action packed, assassin movie.

Karen Warren swears she's never even heard of it. So imagine her surprise when she got a lawsuit in the mail telling her she's being sued for downloading it illegally.

A letter tells karen she can make the lawsuit go away for "$4,900." But she must act quickly. “This offer will expire two weeks from the date of this letter,” it reads, at which point, it'll take an additional $1,000 to make the lawsuit go away.

The letter goes on to say that, if the case goes to court, she could end up having to pay big time: “$150,000 plus attorneys' fees."

“I felt very bullied,” she said. “I felt that the letter was very unprofessional. It made me feel like it was a scam."

It's the same story for Gary and Kimberlee Tremea. Apparently their IP address was also used to illegally download the movie.

Like Warren, they swear it wasn't them or their son who downloaded the movie.

They’ve found it very difficult to tell that to the law firm.

"It's so hard to get a hold of them,” Gary said. “The first time, it took almost eight phone calls to get anybody to respond."

Gary says he'd love to fight the lawsuit, but he can't afford that. He says he suspects that’s the law firm’s plan.

"That's what they're hoping for is that you're just going to pay up," he said.

The lawsuits are being filed in federal court on behalf of a company called ME2 Productions. In the suits, ME2 Productions claims to be a "producer" of the film. The company isn't listed in the movie's credits.

Get Gephardt found that ME2 Productions has filed lawsuits in 21 states. 346 cases have been filed in Utah.

In Utah, the letters and lawsuits are being sent by law firm Kirton McConkie. In a statement, the firm's president wrote, "Our clients have invested significantly into obtaining legal intellectual property rights that may be lost if not enforced. Regretfully there are people who have obtained and are distributing pirated copies of our clients' intellectual property without their authorization. As a result we are taking the necessary actions to protect our clients' interests."

Byron Ames, with the law firm Ames and Ames, is among a handful of lawyers across the country who represent people against, what he calls “bit-torrent trolls” or “copyright trolls." That is what he suspects ME2 Productions is.

"They are the people who purchased the right to enforce the copyrights for this movie. So it's not the producer of the movie. It's somebody who says, ‘Hey, we want to go enforce these copyrights and make some money,’" Ames says.

Ames says there's nothing illegal about suing to protect a copyright. In fact, what's illegal is downloading a movie without paying for it.

Still, it raises a lot of questions, like whether or not you are responsible for everything that someone else does on your home's Wi-Fi.

There is no law that requires you to password protect your home’s Wi-Fi. Also, because most Wi-Fi signals are protected with a single password, it is easily hacked and is often shared with friends and visitors. So, if your babysitter, your friend, or a stranger parked in front of your house on the street downloads something illegally, without your knowledge, using your home network, are you responsible?

Ames says that's the multi-million-dollar question that, unfortunately, doesn’t have a clear answer. Copyright trolls virtually never take one of these cases all the way to trial, he says, so there's no firm precedent.

"[Copyright trolls] want to blanket the earth with these things and see how many people they can get to bite at it," he said.

His advice to people who get a letter accusing them of copyright infringement is to call a lawyer.

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“The best way to go is see if you can negotiate a resolution - either [the lawsuit] goes away because you present the right defenses or you negotiate a much lower settlement," he says.

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