How Porno Downloaders Are Shamed into Paying Cash to Keep Their Names Clean

By Kyle Wagner on at

You don't pay for porn. That's a problem for pornographers, but aces for porno copyright trolls like John Steele, attorney at law. Buzzfeed took a deep look into how they squeeze money out of porn torrenting cases, whether you downloaded anything or not.

For a point of reference, here's, basically, how the operation works:

The basic mechanism is thus: Identify a porno that has been uploaded to BitTorrent; make a list of IP addresses that uploaded the film; subpoena the names behind the IP addresses; send out form letters asking for a settlement to make (embarrassing) alleged wrong go away; threaten a lawsuit otherwise; rinse and repeat.

From there, lawyers like Steele will send out a second wave of threats, in the form of robocalls informing people their settlement window has closed, and they'll be served with a lawsuit soon. This is all pretty standard stuff for copyright thumpers chasing mass subpoenas for torrenters. But it gets uglier when you factor in the porn side. Here's Steele, talking to the Chicago Tribute in 2010:

"People always ask me that - are you trying to extort things? I guess there's something to be said about people being more embarrassed about this than [illegally downloading] a regular movie like 'Titanic.'

And that's true, sure, but it's also true of innocent people who happen to be dumb and left their networks unprotected. Or people who were wrongly accused by the still-suspect software used to isolate individual torrenters. These people are being bullied into settling with identity smear campaigns on the back of an "ISP=identity" argument that's been tired for years. Sometimes they even have to submit their names to court documents in order to keep their names out of court documents. It's absurd.

For a full look at the fap-shaming legal crusades, check out the full piece over at Buzzfeed. [Buzzfeed]