Copyright troll to the (porn) stars John Steele
is no stranger to the pages of Techdirt. His m.o. combines the subtlety of a Mafia shakedown with the careful targeting of a Publishers' Clearinghouse mass mailing. Simply put, Steele tracks IP addresses, then leans on the court system to get ISPs to cough up names and physical addresses of alleged infringers to whom he sends letters full of vague legal threats and potentially embarrassing porn titles.
For a guy with a dubious legal strategy and an ever-growing list of judges who aren't willing to humor his fishing expeditions
, he sure talks a big game. Confidence can be an admirable trait, but generally not when it's combined with a Lionel Hutz-esque grasp of any legal matter outside the "shakedown letter" arena
On the subject of IP addresses not actually equaling
a person, Steele offers up this non sequitur:
“Just because wrong person arrested for murder doesn’t mean murder shouldn’t be a crime.”
Innocent people getting arrested for crimes they didn't commit happens way more often than it should. It doesn't nullify
the criminal act. It just punishes the wrong person while allowing the guilty party to roam free. There are very real consequences
to "arresting the wrong person." Lives get ruined. Civil suits are filed. Careers end. Thousands, if not millions of dollars, are paid out to the victims. And at no point does any normal human suggest that criminal activity should be legalized in order to prevent the innocent from being accused.
If anything, false accusations generally lead toward calls for better investigative work and punishment of those responsible for the miscarriage of justice. However, if Steele falsely accuses someone, he'll likely just move on to the next name on the list. After all, he's got thousands of other targets. Whatever collateral damage results from a porn shakedown is just a problem for the falsely accused to deal with. It's highly unlikely that Steele will ever have to write out a large settlement check to any innocents caught in the crossfire. He may be dealing with some judicial setbacks here and there but, for the most part, he seems to be operating without fear of reprisal.
Steele expounds further on the IP address issue, attempting to tackle the "open wi-fi" issue :
“Don’t let people commit criminal acts on your network,” he says. “If you lend your gun to someone who commits a crime, you’re responsible.”
Wrong. Completely wrong. A person cannot be held criminally
responsible for the actions of others, no matter whose weapon it is. With the right lawyer, it's conceivable that the weapon lender might find himself on the losing end of a civil
lawsuit (like a wrongful death suit, for example), but these are two very different things. I'm sure Steele feels an open wi-fi connection makes someone an accessory to the illegal act, if not actually aiding and abetting. But the legal stipulations tied to these charges require evidence that the person lending the weapon knew
that it would be used in the commission of a crime, or actively aided in the criminal activity. At the very most, lending out a gun would violate the conditions of your permit, which is hardly the same as handing someone a gun/wi-fi connection and inviting them to do bad things.
As much as Steele (and other copyright trolls) would like to believe that not securing your wi-fi should be considered at the very least "negligent," if not actually making the accused responsible for the actions of others, the courts aren't willing to entertain this argument. The latest rejection
, courtesy of the California district courts, points out that "negligence" requires a "duty to protect," and your average internet user simply does not
have the legal responsibility to protect porn producers from acts of infringement.
On Comcast refusing to turn over subscriber information:
“It’s a business decision for them. They don’t want to lose their clients. But if you step into shoes of your subscribers, you become responsible. Comcast is sheltering people so they can make money."
Wrong again. ISPs are not responsible for the actions of their customers. This is more wishful thinking from copyright trolls who wish to hold someone, anyone
, responsible for their clients' woes. ISPs can certainly attempt to regulate their customers' internet usage (if they don't mind angering those customers
) and, as the "Six Strikes
" plan draws closer, it appears they're going to do exactly that. But under no circumstance should Comcast be held responsible for supplying the connection that allowed John Q. IPAddress to torrent some porn. Not only that, but the accusation that Comcast shelters file sharers in order to "make money" has no factual basis
. It's a myth that copyright maximalists draw on again and again, assuming that internet users only
pay for a connection in order to pirate content and would instantly disconnect their service if piracy was no longer an option.
“At least my wife loves me."
Well, bully for you, John. Do you suppose she'd love you as much if a threatening letter appeared out of the ether accusing you (perhaps falsely) of downloading a variety of pornographic titles? Would that make any unwelcome waves? Because if you, in any small way, feel that indiscriminately accusing people of downloading porn and relying on the threat of public shaming to expedite payment might
possibly be damaging
the personal relationships of others, maybe, just maybe
, your chosen line of "work" is more "problem" than "solution."