In a state-wide crackdown conducted by Hawaiin police recently on its residents for downloading illegal movies, a 72-year-old Kailua man is being sued for downloading pirated movies. However, he has denied the claim as “absolutely absurd” and said that he has being wrongfully accused.
“I’ve never illegally downloaded anything … or even legally! I use my computer for email, games, news and that’s about it,” John J. Harding said. “It was kind of overwhelming because I’ve never downloaded anything in my life, and a movie, it’s crazy!” Harding added.
A local attorney has been hired by movie companies to hunt down alleged offenders. However, some are of the view that innocent people are being targeted by movie companies.
In the month of June, Harding received a letter from local attorney, Kerry Culpepper, that accused him of downloading a movie and also listed Harding’s IP address for having over 1,000 other pirated downloads. Culpepper works for the rightsholders of movies such as ‘Mechanic: Resurrection’ and ‘Once Upon a Time in Venice.’
Culpepper asked the Hawaii Federal Court for a subpoena, which ordered the associated Internet provider to disclose the details of the customers who downloaded illegally at IP addresses that he tracked down. Although Harding was one of them, it’s possible someone else may have used his internet service.
The accusation came as a shock to Harding, who said that he never downloads anything, which means it is likely that someone else may have been using his internet service.
“I know definitely that I’m not guilty and my wife is not guilty. So what’s going on? Did somebody hack us?” Harding said. “Is somebody out there actively hacking us? How they do that and go about doing that, I have no idea.”
The settlement requests sent by the attorney to the exposed users’ states, “Our firm is authorized to accept the sum of $3,900 as full settlement for our client’s claims. This offer will expire on 7/31/2017. Thereafter, our client will accept no less than the sum of $4,900 to settle this matter, but this increased settlement offer will expire on 8/7/2017.”
However, the elderly man was not interested in accepting the offer. “The tone of the letter was basically, pay up or we’re coming after you,” Harding said. “It’s absurd. Absolutely absurd.”
Culpepper said damages go up to $150,000 per illegal download and said the letter was not just a scare ploy.
“I have to strike a balance between getting the attention of the subscriber, but not causing too much stress, and I believe that my letters strike that balance,” Culpepper said.
Adding further, Culpepper said that people who feel that they have been wrongfully indicted need to contact his office.
“This is similar to a car stolen. If your car was stolen and your car hit someone or did some damage, initially the victim would look to see who was the owner of the car,” he said. “You would probably tell them, someone stole my car. That time, that person would try to find the person who stole your car.”
In the past, Culpepper said that he has accepted lower settlements and sometimes apology letters instead of payment.
“We’re not trying to bankrupt people or take food from the mouths of struggling people. The purpose of this campaign is to deter piracy,” he said.
While Harding is not planning to hire an attorney due to expenses, on the other hand, Culpepper is advising people not to ignore his letters.
“The worst thing that could happen would be someone who is not responsible for this becoming a named defendant.”
Jonathan Yunger, vice president of Millennium Media, the parent company of one of the complainants, said they are not after people’s money. They want people to take piracy very seriously and stop downloading illegally content.
Source: Hawaii News Now
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