Copyright Settlement Counsel

Settle your case anonymously, for less.

What Should I Do?

While the section below should answer some of your questions it can’t answer your biggest question.

I want to make sure that my clients know all their options and have an idea of the costs and benefits of each course of action before they decide what to do. I offer free email consultations do discuss your individual case.

What are these cases about?

They're either about discouraging file sharing, or about making money from file sharing, depending on who you ask.

A few years ago, some content providers (mostly porn, but also some other movie and music companies) and their lawyers realized that they would pull the IP addresses of people in a BitTorrent swarm, put that information into a John Doe lawsuit and use the court's subpoena power to get ISPs to turn over the identity of the person what had that IP address at the time.

Once an ISP is served, it sends letters to their targeted clients advising them of the situation. Usually, this is where I come in, to protect the individual's identity and quietly negotiate a settlement before the case goes further.

Where can I find out more?

As for just about anything, a general Google search will probably pull some information for you.

You can search by the name of the case and the docket number (probably something like 13-civ-00555-aba). If you have a PACER account, and it's a Federal case, you can check that, but if you have a PACER account, you're probably not reading this. Other sites also search Federal dockets. If it's a state case, it can be a little more annoying since the states all have their sites set up differently.

EFF.org has some information on their site about these cases, and maintains a list of lawyers that work with defendants at https://www.eff.org/issues/file-sharing/subpoena-defense


There are also a few blogs that do a great job of tracking these cases. They might not be written by lawyers, and they obviously aren't neutral observers, so some of the commentary is maybe a bit slanted, but they still have lots of good information. Die Troll Die and Fight Copyright Trolls are two well known blogs. I'm not affiliated with either and don't take responsibility for anything there, but I look at them on occasion. If nothing else, I think it's good to gather as much information about something before making a decision.

How I help you

When you contact me to open negotiations with the plaintiff I will do several things before we even discuss my fee. Firstly, and most importantly, I will discuss your options and answer your questions. I will discuss your case with plaintiffs counsel and tell you what their opening settlement amount is, along with what I think would be the lowest amount that they would go to for your particular case. I can also keep this entirely anonymous for you. If you want to settle, I will request an abeyance from the plaintiff. That means that they will contact your ISP and tell them that we are discussing settlement, so they should not release your information. Of course, if settlement negotiations break down, they can retract the abeyance and proceed against you as they want. If we're able to reach a settlement, you can send the settlement funds to me and I will pay them with a check from my client trust account and sign the settlement form as your authorized agent. Once they receive payment, they'll send a countersigned release and dismiss you from the case. If your information has already been released, I can block any letters and calls from them reaching you. 

Why use the Law Office of Steve O'Donnell?

An obvious question I get is "what value do I provide if I only settle cases?" I think my services are highly valuable to people that use me to broker a settlement on their behalf. First, I can stop any annoying calls coming from the plaintiff so you won't be subjected to any high pressure calls demanding an outrageous settlement. Also, working with me that you have an attorney experienced in these cases discussing your case with you, analyzing the settlement documents, and explaining them to you in detail. I can often keep your identity from being revealed. I've had clients that, for various reasons, have needed to keep their information secret. Some have substantial assets that wanted to remain completely anonymous because they feared they would be a very tempting target for a personal lawsuit; and others that could have their career destroyed if they were personally named in a copyright infringement lawsuit. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I can negotiate a favorable settlement for you. Since I just focus on negotiating settlements for these cases, I know what the current typical demands are, and what offers will be effective. My goal is to take care of the problem quickly and quietly while getting the best possible settlement.

Fees

No fee is charged if we can’t reach a settlement. I bill a flat rate for negotiation your settlement. There are no hidden fees and there never will be.

If I settle, will they come after me again?

Many people worry that if they settle they'll be tagged as an easy mark and the plaintiff will keep coming back at them until the well runs dry. I've never seen that happen. There have been a few times in my experience where someone has had their IP address hit again after they've already settled a case. Sometimes it's because an IP has been linked to several works from the same plaintiff, other times it's been because an IP address changed during a download. If they've been entirely separate downloads, the plaintiff has settled later works for much less than their typical settlement demand. If it's a duplicate because an IP address changed, the plaintiff has simply dropped the second case. When that's happened, I've been able to maintain my client's anonymity. That is one of the benefits of having me negotiate your settlement.

Is settlng an admission?

I've never settled a case that didn't state in the settlement agreement that settling was not an admission of guilt. In fact, it's rare for a settlement not to contain such language. Generally, settlements are considered nothing more than the quickest and cheapest way to put some problem to rest. They're also the surest way to get rid of a problem; often neither party really wants to invest in litigation, which can take months or years to be resolved. Settlements are also usually private. The court usually doesn't have to know anything except that the case is being dismissed. A typical settlement also contains some privacy language where both sides agree not to divulge anything about the settlement unless compelled by a court or other narrow exceptions.

What if I just ignore this?

I don't know how many people ignore these matters, but I'm sure some do.

I'm also fairly sure the plaintiffs don't proceed against everyone that doesn't settle. Unfortunately, it's impossible to predict what will happen in your case. It seems that many of the plaintiffs have become more aggressive and willing to go to court than they were a few years ago.

If you are named in a personal lawsuit and subpoenaed, the cost of even beginning to defend can quickly outpace what it would cost to settle. If you ignore the lawsuit, you'll likely be hit with a default judgment. A reasonable amount would be maybe $1000-$2000 per infringement (possibly much more), plus possible attorney fees. If you defend and lose, your damages may be similar, although with much larger potential attorney fees (plus your own attorney fees). If you defend and win, you're probably still going to have to pay your own attorney fees. The law gives the judge the discretion to award fees to the winning party, but getting an award of fees for the defendant isn’t as easy as some other lawyers are implying.

So, I can settle or fight, and if I fight and win I might still spend more than if I just settle now? How is this not a scam?

It’s the system, and it’s not in your favor. The best way to avoid getting into this position is to not share files. If you’re reading this, it might be too late for that, in that case the best solution is likely going to be settling.

Now that you understand more about these cases generally, it’s time to discuss your case specifically. Contact me to begin.