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FAQ for Bittorrent Cases: Or, “I got a letter from my ISP and…”

5.    What kind of settlements are they demanding?  How did they come up with this number?

It varies from case to case.  Settlements have been from as low as a few hundred dollars to as much as five or six thousand.  It also varies from individual doe to individual doe, and Plaintiff’s lawyer to Plaintiff’s lawyer.   For example, individual Doe #1 has virtually no assets and a steady income, and individual Doe #2 is a member of the military or an elderly grandmother or some other variety of person who might make for an interesting news story.  Doe #1 might be asked to pay $3000, and Doe #2 might be asked to pay $1000, because they do not want media attention.

The number that they come up with is picked out of the air, or out of a hat, but any accounting experience would tell you that the number is more related to the overhead of the law firm if the law firm is doing the actual collections.  In cases where the copyright holder or a third party is doing the collections, they are simply looking to maximize their profit based on what they think an average American might afford. 

A short digression into analogy, and hypothetical situation. Put on your skills of imagination and picture it.

Imagine that I, Graham W. Syfert, Esq., sent you a bill in the mail for mowing your lawn.  
The letter says: “Per our agreement to mow your lawn, please pay $500.00 by the 30th of next month.  If you do not, the amount will increase by $200.00 daily until the end of time.  Sincerely, Graham W. Syfert, Esq.”

First, you are scared because it is coming from an attorney, but secondly, you have no idea what agreement I am talking about and you mowed your own lawn.  You decide to call me up.  

*Ring Ring*  “Hello, this is Graham.”   

“Hi, you sent me a letter saying that you mowed my lawn, but I have no idea what you are talking about.   I mowed my own lawn.”  (notice that you gave me information)

“Yeah, my guys got there probably a day after you mowed it.  It was in pretty good shape, that’s why we were surprised when you wanted it mowed.  So how would you like to pay?”

“I didn’t agree to this, and neither did my husband.” (again you gave me information)

“No, it was your neighbor.  Let me tell you something, I’m an attorney and I’ve been practicing law, and you haven’t.  If you give your car keys to your neighbor knowing he is drunk, and he hurts someone, you are liable.  So, you are liable for your neighbors acts, especially when you benefited from them, and it also said so in the contract that your neighbor signed.”

You have two options at this point.  Negotiate, or tell me to sue you.  I could have started with a thousand dollars, or three thousand dollars. It does not matter.
This practice is called speculative invoicing and is essentially the same as what is termed copyright trolling, but with a different subject matter.

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Graham Syfert - Jacksonville Defense Lawyer

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