9 On Your Side Investigation
Porn copyright lawyers target Tucson mom: can their threats be legal?
Attorney General Tom Horne weighs in on a 9 On Your Side Investigation
Reporter: Tammy Vo
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Imagine this, you get a threatening letter from an attorney saying that you illegally downloaded and shared porn and if you don't cough up some cash fast, they'll sue you and everyone will know about it.
In a recent 9 On Your Side Investigation, we introduced Jenny Phan, a wife, mother of two and the owner of a Tucson nail salon. She got a letter in the mail accusing her of downloading and sharing porn at her salon. She says, she didn't do it. KGUN 9 discovered that that there are around 250,000 people just like her who are being targeted by attorney's called "Copyright Trolls". They work for porn film companies and are going after people like Jenny saying, if they don't pay around $3,000 to make the embarrassing accusations go away, they'll sue for up to $150,000 for copyright infringement.
Attorney General, Tom Horne, watched KGUN 9's investigation and learned about Jenny's story.
"It doesn't look to me like she's the type of person who downloaded the pornography that she's accused of having downloaded. It's very concerning if they're preying on vulnerable people" said Horne. Phoenix area attorney, Wayne Carroll, sent Jenny the letters and told her that even if someone else hopped on her wireless signal and got the dirty movies, she's still responsible because her name is on the account.
"Do you think that holds any legal ground, that argument?" asked Reporter Tammy Vo.
"I'm not aware of any legal basis for why you would be responsible for someone else's wrongful acts if they wrongfully accessed your computer" said Horne. He also says that if there was no reasonable basis to believe that Jenny pirated the porn, threatening her for money would be extortion.
There are also Associated Press reports online of a Croation immigrant named Josip Gotvald living in Tempe, AZ who faces the same accusations. The report shows that he wrote in an affidavit that he's never even used a computer before.
9 On Your Side also got a tip from the family of a Chinese woman in Tucson who is accused of the same thing. Then, there's Jenny Phan. Attorney General Horne wonders if the Copyright trolls are picking their targets.
"If they are targeting immigrants, then that would be a bad sign and indicate they're doing it because the immigrants don't know how to defend themselves and it could be an aggravating factor for any action" said Horne.
So, why not just get a lawyer and defend yourself? It's expensive. Simply paying the $3,000 to settle is cheaper. But the Attorney General points to a law that says -- if someone brings a groundless claim against you and if you hire an attorney who wins your case, you can recover your attorney's fees from that other party.
Also, there's another sign that this could be a case of extortion. It appears in many cases that the Copyright trolls are pushing for settlements up front. But Horne says that settlements should be a last resort because both parties have tried and just can't agree on the facts of the case.
The Attorney General's office would like you to file a complaint with them if you feel that you've been wrongly accused of pirating porn. To do that, click here. Scroll to the bottom of the screen to access printable or online complaint forms.