Last November, Shawn Hogan received an unsettling call: A lawyer representing Universal Pictures and the Motion Picture Association of America informed the 30-year-old software developer that they were suing him for downloading Meet the Fockers over BitTorrent. Hogan was baffled. Not only does he deny the accusation, he says he already owned the film on DVD. The attorney said they would settle for $2,500. Hogan declined.
Now he’s embroiled in a surprisingly rare situation – a drawn-out legal fight with the MPAA. The organization and its music cousin, the Recording Industry Association of America, have filed thousands of similar lawsuits between them, but largely because of the legal costs few have been contested and none have gone to trial. This has left several controversies unresolved, including the lawfulness of how the associations get access to ISP records and whether it’s possible to definitively tie a person to an IP address in the age of Wi-Fi.
Hogan, who coded his way to millions as the CEO of Digital Point Solutions, is determined to change this. Though he expects to incur more than $100,000 in legal fees, he thinks it’s a small price to pay to challenge the MPAA’s tactics. “They’re completely abusing the system,” Hogan says. “I would spend well into the millions on this.”
Of course, the MPAA isn’t backing down either. “I hear Mr. Hogan has said, ‘I’m absolutely going to go to trial,’ and that is his prerogative,” says John G. Malcolm, the MPAA’s head of antipiracy. “We look forward to addressing his issues in a court of law.” Look for a jury to weigh in by next summer.
– David Goldenberg
Finally they’ve gotten themselves into trouble by sueing people that can actually afford to defend themselves…. –Scott