from the tough-slog dept
From the lawsuit:
Ms. Hansen demanded that Ms. Barker pay money to settle the lawsuit or she would be identified publicly as having downloaded pornography and would be subject to hundreds of thousands of dollars as a judgment if the suit went forward because there were multiple downloads. Numerous individuals on the Internet report receiving a phone call from the same telephone number as that provided by Ms. Hansen to Ms. Barker with a demand that they pay money to settle a lawsuit against them.This is hardly the first attempt to use racketeering/RICO laws to counter copyright shakedowns, but to date, most have not been very effective. There is the ongoing lawsuit by Dmitriy Shirokov against US Copyright Group and its parent company Dunlap, Grubb & Weaver, but that was a really fact-specific case, involving the fact that the copyright holder (Uwe Boll) had failed to register the copyright in question in the US in a timely manner, leading to some specific legal questions.
Ms. Barker refused to pay any money because she did not know what BitTorrent was and had never downloaded any pornography from the Internet. On information and belief, many other members of the class have paid sums of money in settlement with the pornography purveyors even though they had never downloaded any pornography from the Internet, and certainly had never unlawfully downloaded any pornography from the Internet.
Subsequently, Ms. Hansen and others associated with her called Ms. Barker's place of employment and left messages on the voicemail to which several of Ms. Barker's co-workers also had access and continued to contact Ms. Barker on her personal telephone. Class members have been subjected to the same or similar treatment.
There were also similar attempts to bring a class action racketeering case against the RIAA for its own practice of suing end users for allegedly making works available on file sharing networks. Those lawsuits flopped pretty badly, though.
Again, the case seems to allege some pretty specific facts that potentially could distinguish it from those other ones in the past, though it seems like a pretty massive longshot. The filing focuses on the use of the telephone to seek the money, claiming that it was "wire transmission in a scheme or artifice to attempt to fraudulently obtain money from another" under the law. But, that's actually a pretty high bar to meet, and the porn companies can and will argue that they weren't trying to "fraudulently" obtain money, but legitimately do so. I'd be surprised if the courts allowed this one to go very far.