What do you think is a fair amount to fine a person for illegally sharing copyrighted content? The MSRP (retail value) of the shared copyrighted content times the number of people who downloaded it? More? Less? Legally speaking, in the United States (and I’m quoting from Wikipedia, since I’m not a lawyer) a person can be fined up to $150,000 “per work” of illegally shared copyrighted content if found guilty of “innocent infringement” and upto $300,000 per work if found guilty of “willfull infringement”.
Do very many people get fined the maximum penalty? No. However, we already know of Kywan Fisher who received the hard end of a $1.5 million default judgement for sharing 10 movies. Now we have the case of Anwar Ogiste. And for better or for worse, the plaintiffs in this copyright claim is once again Flava Works, a gay porn company.
Flava Works accused Anwar Ogiste of sharing 7 gay porn videos via a gay porn torrent website, downloaded a total of 6,632 times. For this violation of Flava Works’ copyright, the company sued Ogiste in Illinois District Court for a “very reasonable” $1.5 million. Ogiste, who lives in Maryland, failed to show up to defend himself and, as a result, the Judge George Lindberg slapped him with a fine of the $1.5 million Flava Works asked for.
Whenever it comes to copyright infringement cases, it is always a matter of trying to prove who shared or downloaded what. In the case of Flava Works, they embed digital trackers into videos downloaded by their paying members. If any of these videos end up being shared online, via torrents or otherwise, Flava Works knows who shared the videos because they can match the digital tracker of the shared video to a specific account of a paying member.
Now, of course, being able to embed and identify digital trackers is not enough to prove someone is guilty of illegally sharing videos. Indeed, there are many questions that can be asked about this method, such as if the trackers could be faked, if it was Ogiste himself that shared the videos or someone else that used or hacked him computer or account, etc. However, since Ogiste did not defend himself, no one asked the questions and he received the maximum.
Did anyone consider Ogiste couldn’t travel from Maryland to Illinois? I’m not defend illegal sharing of copyrighted content but, really, working class people typically cannot just get up and travel to another state on a whim. Then again, I suppose he could have hired an attorney in Illinois to represent him.