Torrent honeytraps set up to lure pirates into lawsuits

Last week, Pocket-lint brought you the news that the maker of The Hurt Locker has filed lawsuits against a record 24,583 people who, it claims, have infringed its copyright by downloading illegal copies of the movie. And that Voltage Pictures is seeking to send each suspect a settlement letter for an undisclosed amount, which, if paid in full, will prevent the case going to court.

It's a practice also being adopted by several other movie studios, including the producer of the Sylvester Stallone flick, The Expendables: Pay such and such sum and avoid legal bills or a much larger court-appointed settlement.

And, with the figures being touted, it's a scheme that could see the plaintiffs make even more off the back of out-of-court settlements than with the original box office receipts.

However, with that kind of money involved, it's also a scheme that's open to abuse. And, as such, there are now reports coming out that lesser known "copyright trolls" are allegedly setting up online P2P honeytraps in order to catch pirates downloading their content - sometimes unknowingly - and hit them with heavy settlement cases.

That is the suggestion made by US-based defendant Ms Gonzales, who was sent a settlement letter by adult entertainment company Titan Media, claiming that she downloaded one of its gay porn movies, Heat, on the eDonkey P2P network.

The company claims that she did so knowingly, and has offered her a settlement fee of $1,875 to prevent the case going to court (which will rise to $3,375, if she didn't pay immediately).

However, Ms Gonzales replied by letter to the court, stating that the file she actually downloaded was “Album – Ryuichi Sakamoto – The Best Of Ryuichi Sakamoto.rar", which, she believed, would be works by the Japanese composer. As soon as she discovered that it was gay pornography, she deleted it.

The interesting part of the case is that Titan Media knew that the name of the disputed file was as Ms Gonzales states, and describes it as such in its original claim.

And that begs the question on whether or not Titan Media originally named the file itself. If it did, this could be a reported case of a torrent honeytrap; provoking pirates to download files that are mislabelled purely in order to file a claim for copyright infringement and compensation based on the real identity of the content.

It's not even an isolated incident. Titan Media has also filed a claim against a different file sharer, claiming that they downloaded a separate porn movie masquerading as a Dire Straits concert.

Of course, rather than a honeytrap, it could be argued that Titan Media discovered the content within those files itself, and then sought out to file suits against those who downloaded them.

Certainly, when speaking to Torrent Freak, the company's lawyer, Gill Sperlein, refuted any such suggestion: "This is not a scheme to make money, he said. "My clients are hurt immensely by copyright infringement and they are not going to make it worse by actually distributing their works on these networks."

He also has little sympathy for Ms Gonzales: "I don’t think that someone searching for stolen content but simply got the wrong stolen content is going to prove they are an innocent infringer – no matter how loudly they protest that they are Christian."

Still, if it does turn out to be a honeytrap, regardless of whether it is targeted at wrongdoers, it's still as underhand a practice as can be.

What do you think? Honeytrap or fair game? Let us know in the comments below..

Pic: Flickr / BotheredByBees



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