Although its much less of a common tactic today than it once was, some movie distributors still like to target individual downloaders and attempt to have them pay through the nose for pirating a single movie. Considering defending yourself can be an expensive practice, one judge in the U.S. has now mandated that all accused should receive free legal advice.
This is quite a lifeline as alleged pirates can often face charges up to $150,000 per movie download if convicted. Of course that isn't always what the plaintiff is after, instead hoping to bully a bill payer – who was identified by their IP address – into paying a settlement fee to make the whole deal go away.
Ignoring such a charge is one option, but that can lead to a default junction, so legal counsel is preferable. To that end, a judge in Oregon has now made a team of lawyers available, who must give up to three hours of legal counsel for free, helping the accused make an informed choice based on their charge.
Protip: Don't air-type “free download,” at your trial. Source: Warner Bros.
As FightCopyrightTrolls points out, this is especially important in cases where a pre-trial disposition is requested, since it can lead to a defendant incriminating themselves in the process. Knowing what they are, and are not, legally required to answer can be important.
Although this ruling will only apply to Oregon, it will be interesting to see if similar schemes are mandated by other judges in other districts. Here in the UK you can receive free legal advice from one London lawyer if accused of illegal file sharing, though it was out of the goodness of his heart, rather than a court order.
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KitGuru Says: Have any of you ever received a letter demanding a settlement based on an alleged download? How did you respond?