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Lawyer: Some One Piece Downloaders Settle Out of Court

posted on by Christopher Macdonald
Funimation counsel Evan Stone responds about negotiations, criticism

On Monday, Evan Stone — the copyright lawyer who represented Funimation in the recently-dropped lawsuit against 1,337 alleged One Piece anime downloaders — told ANN that he negotiated settlements with some One Piece downloaders.

Stone told ANN that in March, he filed 49 subpoenas, without a lawsuit, over allegedly unauthorized downloads of numerous Funimation-licensed anime series. According to Stone, the federal copyright law (as revised by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act) allows copyright owners to file limited subpoenas in order to acquire the identities of "John Doe" defendants without judicial oversight. Stone noted that while some Internet service providers (ISPs) are fighting the subpoenas, others — including Comcast, Charter, Cox, Qwest, and AT&T — have complied with the subpoenas, which is how Funimation identified the One Piece downloaders who have settled.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit organization that deals with legal issues regarding technology, noted that the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) attempted similar tactics in 2003. However, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled later that year that the RIAA had to first go before a judge and file an active lawsuit before it can seek the identities of alleged music downloaders. Stone asserted that the 5th Circuit in Texas has not addressed this issue in its jurisdiction.

While Stone could not tell ANN the specifics of any one settlement (or the number of settlements reached), he stated that in general, Funimation demands a US$1,500 settlement. This amount is based on the minimum award of statutory damages in cases of willful copyright infringement; the minimum amount is US$750, but Stone says that since the BitTorrent file-sharing protocol typically have users redistribute parts of files along as they download them, the amount was doubled to cover both the downloading and the redistribution. Funimation declined to comment on the matter.

Dallas Observer Article on Stone

Last Thursday, the free weekly Dallas Observer newspaper posted a six-page article about Stone. The article focused on a series of similar lawsuits that Stone, who happens to share the exact same name as a well-known porn star, filed on behalf of pornography companies. "I know a whole bunch of people whose shit is pirated all the time that don't give a fuck about bad press," Stone tells the Dallas Observer, explaining his decision to work on behalf of the pornography companies. All of Stone's cases have been dismissed and he has since stopped working on behalf of pornography companies.

In the cases filed on behalf of the anime distributor Funimation and other companies, Senior United States District Judge Royal Furgeson said that the plaintiffs had to file individual, separate lawsuits for each defendant because the accused were not "acting in concert." Stone argued that Judge Furgeson did not understand how the BitTorrent file-sharing protocol works; Stone said that he, unlike others who have filed similar suits, made a point of suing defendants who allegedly shared copies of the same file in a BitTorrent swarm.

Paul Alan Levy, a lawyer for the free-speech and consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, criticized Stone's strategy after hearing that Stone had sent subpoenas before receiving the court's go-ahead in one case. Levy said to the Dallas Observer, "When you sue 600 people, you're bound to make mistakes. […] He's a relatively junior lawyer, and junior lawyers make mistakes." Judge Furgeson assigned Levy to represent anonymous defendants in a copyright infringement case in which Stone represented the plaintiffs. Levy was not directly involved in the Funimation case and declined to comment to ANN on this article.

Despite the setbacks, Stone said that he will continue to work against illegal downloaders, focusing instead on independent films. (Stone and his wife co-own Wolfe-Stone Productions, an independent music video and film production company.)

[Dallas Observer article via TorrentFreak]

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