KY Woman Didn't Download Porn: Lawsuit Alleges Porn Extortion - Technologist
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KY Woman Didn't Download Porn: Lawsuit Alleges Porn Extortion

Downloading porn from the internet means no one has to know it happened. When a lawsuit threatens that privacy, some people just pay up even if they're not guilty.

Jennifer Barker of Louisville, Kentucky is not one of them.

Barker started receiving phone calls from representatives for Malibu Media LLC in May. The callers told her that she had illegally downloaded multiple porn titles using a client called "BitTorrent."

The choice was to pay up a few thousand now or face litigation and hundreds of thousands in court judgments. But Barker claims she never heard of BitTorrent and certainly didn't download porn.

When Malibu reps started calling her at work, she hired a lawyer and filed a lawsuit.

Barker sued Malibu and four other porn companies claiming that what they do is essentially extortion. They target individuals and attempt to shake them down for money while threatening litigation, according to her attorney Kenneth Henry.

Lawsuits like this one by porn companies against "John Doe" defendants are far from unusual. Over 500 were filed in recent years by the companies named in Barker's lawsuit reports Louisville.com.

Companies find Internet Protocol addresses that have illegally downloaded pornography and then subpoena the names and addresses IP owners. They then tell these people to pay up or risk having their names publicly associated with downloading porn in a lawsuit.

The problem is that an IP address is not a unique identifier.

Ideally, an IP address is meant to identify the person who owns it but they can be forged by sophisticated hackers according to the complaint published in part by Ars Technica.

An unprotected or hacked internet connection can also be used to download illegal material without the owner ever knowing it's happening. Even if someone in the house did download illegal files, it doesn't mean the IP owner did it or knows who did.

The difficulty of proving that the IP owner actually made the download appears to be a central part of Barker and Henry's case.

The porn companies named in the lawsuit can expect a long fight if related cases are any indicator. A similar lawsuit involving downloads of a German film was filed in 2010 but the case has yet to go to trial.

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