For privacy reasons, I will not disclose whether or not this has happened to me.
Tens of thousands of people in Finland are currently receiving a letter in their mailbox from a law firm called "Hedman Partners", which states in the letter that the receiver of the letter is being accused of downloading and sharing copyrighted material on the internet, usually via torrenting.
The way the letter works is they offer a settlement that the receiver can opt to accept, usually varying in sum, but often up to 2000€. The tone of of the letter is basically "Pay now, or regret when you pay more" - the threat being that if the 2000€ is not paid, the case goes to court. There was a story on the news about a case being taken the court, and the receiver of the letter was found guilty and must pay up 12,000€.
The whole thing is fishy.
First of all, they don't even reveal what, if any, methods they use to find out that the person has been sharing content online. They have no way of verifying whether or not the WIFI was open, or whether someone else was using it, and the evidence they present is rather circumstantial. In the court case, they even dug up messages on a message board that the accused had posted, which hinted at him being pro torrenting. This was then used as proof to show that he, indeed, is guilty of sharing content online.
The "noble" case of these people is just a smokescreen; the vast majority of the money doesn't even go to the copyright owners, it goes to themselves. The sole reason for doing this is to generate revenue through intimidation - no different from blackmailing. The accused can pay up the protection money and be left alone, or face the consequences.
I am firmly of the opinion that the right way to go is to refuse to pay these people. When people pay, it incentivizes the behavior, and it will get repeated.
Everytime something is rewarded, it gets repeated.
This sort of thins goes on in a lot of countries right now, and I urge people to refuse to play these games. You are simply giving the crooks a reason to continue, while making them filthy rich in the process.
The Finnish police has made a statement that this is a private matter between the individual and the law firm, and that the police will not get involved, and people should stop reporting the blackmailing as a crime. This doesn't surprise me, since the police are known for not caring about the little guy. Besides, all of their resources are being used to write as many speeding tickets as possible to generate revenue for the government to fix the deficit.
So, the cops won't help.
An interesting aspect of this whole debacle is also the fact that not all the letters even entail what the shared content was that was being shared. They can simply state that it was "copyrighted material, now pay up". So, it seems that they do a lot of guess work. It wouldn't surprise me if they just assume that people in a certain age group all torrent stuff, so they are probably guilty anyway, and therefore get scared and pay.
The copyright mafia needs to be stopped. The maximum consequences for this are greater than in some rape cases, meaning that if you were to break the law, you'd be better off just raping someone. Surely this is ass backwards.
Suffice to say that I'm generally of the opinion that if I enjoy content, I will pay for it to reward those responsible for it.
But the whole issue not that simple.
First off, the notion that a pirated copy is a lost sale is based on nothing, but assumptions. Many times, if pirating content was not available, the person would simply not consume the content. Discussion can be had about the moral implications of consuming paid content that one has no intentions to pay for, but the fines are outrageous for the "crime".
As a libertarian, I personally don't find it a crime to copy content, but that goes without saying. I can still understand the frustrations of the content creators. But these bullies are not even the content creators, it's the copyright mafia that has found a great way to line in their pockets by threatening to ruin people's lives. What a great concept!
Also, in a way, pirating is just a branch of the free market. I would venture to guess that a lot of the time pirating wasn't even a money issue, but rather a comfort issue. It's a lot easier to download stuff on your computer, as opposed to getting up, going out and hunting for the item at the store.
Piracy, I argue, gave birth to streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, as well as iTunes, Spotify, etc.
Piracy created a market, and content creators reacted. That's the way it works. And the world is now a better place for content consumers since they can now enjoy the ease of just streaming stuff from the internet.
I doubt this would have happened without piracy.
But to get back to my original point, this sort of bullying and blackmailing should not be condoned. If people collectively stop paying, then it becomes too much of an expensive hassle to try and fight with all of them, and the bullying stops since it's no longer profitable.
I've been thinking about this a lot, and have come to the conclusion that I could not morally bring myself to give these people the green light.