Copyright Troll Insists Septuagenarian Is An Enormous Copyright Infringer, Then Runs Away After Backlash
from the facepalm dept
Update, April 2020: The lawyer in question, Kerry Culpepper, has just informed us that a roommate of Harding, Gary Graham, “admitted to being behind the infringement,” and has since agreed to pay the movie studios for his infringement.
For the evil scourge of copyright trolls out there, it must be true that one of the most problematic aspects of their business model is that they can’t actually choose their victims. When all the trolls have to go on in order to target their extortionist settlement letters is an IP address, they can’t possibly know much about who is on the other side of that IP address. IP addresses, as it turns out, are shitty identifiers in both directions. That, I assume, is how you get the attorney for a film studio sending a threat letter to a 72 year old man in Hawaii, claiming that he is one of the greatest copyright pirates on the planet with an odd taste in bad contemporary action films.
In Hawaii, a recent target of a copyright trolling expedition claims to be innocent, and he’s taken his case to the local press. The 72-year-old John J. Harding doesn’t fit the typical profile of a prolific pirate, but that’s exactly what a movie company has accused him of being.
In June, Harding received a letter from local attorney Kerry Culpepper, who works for the rightsholders of movies such as ‘Mechanic: Resurrection’ and ‘Once Upon a Time in Venice.’ The letter accused the 72-year-old of downloading a movie and also listed over 1,000 other downloads that were tied to his IP-address. Harding was understandably shocked by the threat and says he never downloads anything.
And he means anything, legally or otherwise. Instead, Harding insists he uses his computer for the same thing I imagine most folks his age use it: email, news, and some casual gaming. Harding isn’t particularly shy about voicing his innocence either, nor is his couching it any moderate language.
“I know definitely that I’m not guilty and my wife is not guilty. So what’s going on? Did somebody hack us? Is somebody out there actively hacking us? How they do that and go about doing that, I have no idea.”
Telling this story to the press was probably a smart move, getting attention paid to his case. Somewhat predictably, once the media tuned in to this story, Culpepper reached out to Harding and informed him that he would be dismissing him from any proceedings or legal action.
Attorney Kerry Culpepper informed TorrentFreak that he already sent a letter to Harding’s family about his intention to dismiss them. The attorney says that he doesn’t use “the Prenda strategy” to try to extract nuisance settlements from innocent people.
Except that this only brings up more questions. We can start with the obvious one: why did Culpepper agree to dismiss Harding? What makes his case different than all of the others? It cannot simply be his age. The Elderly are capable of infringing copyright, after all, and if all of the evidence against Harding equates to the evidence against younger targets of these letters, his age alone shouldn’t be the difference maker. Except that of course it is. What this dismissal does is highlight the laughable idea that the authors of these settlement offers have any real evidence against the recipients at all. If they did, this evidence could not be defeated by someone simply shouting, “But I’m just so old!”
And yet the threat letters go out, embarrassing miscalculations and mistargets and all. It’s probably long past due that we had some legal clarity on the legal value of IP addresses as evidence of infringement.