Porn producer goes after illegal viewers locally

(AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A company that claims to make high-quality adult videos is targeting internet users in West Michigan for illegally watching their product without paying.

But an attorney who specializes in internet law says innocent people can become ensnared in federal lawsuits that seek big money damages.

The federal lawsuit says those who are watching the pedigree porn are violating the Maryland-based company’s copyright and they should be held accountable.

The lawsuit names numerous defendants in Big Rapids, Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids and other Michigan cities using only their IP addresses, which is the unique identifier for the internet access devices.

The suit claims that the defendants are using BitTorrent technology to illegally view movies produced by Strike 3 Holdings.

BitTorrent is a sharing service that moves large amounts of data and is often used to illegally share movies.

Strike 3 has separate brands that includes the names “Tushy, Blackened” and “Vixen.”

In the suit, Strike 3 claims they are Hollywood-level, award-winning productions and that one of its directors is “the adult film industry’s ‘answer to Steven Speilberg.’”

“Strike 3 is taking particularly aggressive tone in their lawsuits,” said Jeffrey Antonelli, a Chicago-based attorney specializing in internet and BitTorrent law.

He says he is all too familiar with suits like this that are filed all over the country.

Antonelli says the way the suits are naming the targets is a problem because while someone may be an IP address holder, those addresses can be faked or the internet service can be used by others who hook up to that internet access.

He says there are third-party sites such that seem legitimate to users but are using BitTorent in the background without the viewer knowing it.

“There are legitimate intellectual property rights that are at stake here, I have no doubt, however there are a lot of concerns over the manner in which companies, like Strike 3, are enforcing their copyrights in this litigation,” Antonelli said.

The company wants users to be ordered to delete digital files of its property and pay damages and attorney fees.

Those damages could be more than $150,000.

Those targeted by the lawsuit will likely receive a letter from their internet provider saying they are the subject of the suit and inform the defendant of their rights.

Suits like this have been filed around the country with varying degrees of success.

This can be a highly specialized field of law that not every attorney is versed in.