Q&A: Attorney Evan Stone Wants Pirates to Pay

Lyla Katz
DALLAS, Texas — Representing Lucas Entertainment, VCX, Mick Haig Productions, LFP Internet Group and others, it’s been a busy year for Dallas attorney Evan Stone.

In fact, there have been more lawsuits filed in 2010 than ever before on behalf of various adult companies and Stone is leading the way in a new strategy that he says will change the way adult operators go after those who infringe on their copyrights.

XBIZ spoke exclusively with Stone, who is currently on his fifth bit torrent lawsuit to date, about his methodology and the changing face of copyright infringement lawsuits.

XBIZ: Why has the adult industry seen such an increase in copyright infringement lawsuits and how did this all come about?

Evan Stone: Well, in the past, the motion picture and the recording industries haven’t conducted their lawsuits in a cost-effective way. This year, all of these defendants engaged in specifically, bit torrent piracy and these kinds of lawsuits significantly cut down the cost of litigation. I asked someone who already worked in adult if the company would be interested in this kind of approach and they were.

XBIZ: What exactly is the process if a studio suspects infringement?

Stone: Sometimes, people at the studios are well aware of the infringement. If they’re aware of it then they’ll let us know about it. Once we are made aware of the infringements, we engage a company to validate and record the infringement. What they see is a long list of IP [Internet Protocol] addresses which leads them to the service providers. Then we file a federal infringement lawsuit against the infringers [John Does].

The court has to grant permission to conduct discovery regarding who those individuals are. This is not a fast-track method, but you can join all the defendants in one lawsuit because they were all reproducing and distributing pieces of the same film to each other at the same time. It costs $350 just to file. We do it on a contingency basis, so there are no out-of-pocket expenses for the studios.

XBIZ: In your attempts to stop the infringers, you’ve also sent letters, how effective has that approach been?

Stone: After years of sending cease and desist letters to no avail and getting nowhere, we now sue and send demand letters for unlawful distribution.

XBIZ: Once you identify the infringer, what happens then?

Stone: We usually ask people for $1,500 to settle out of court. Statutory damages begin at $750 and go up to $150,000 per work infringed. Most of the time, the damage is much greater than $1,500. The number of defendants we have represent only 5-10 percent of the people who have pirated the films.

XBIZ: What about the people who claim they’ve only done it one time and didn’t know what they were doing was illegal?

Stone: You need to have special software, you need to find a torrent file, and when you find it, it's within a large index of obviously copyrighted content. The innocent infringer? We don't see it happen. Not only are they copying if for themselves, they’re also distributing it to others.

XBIZ: Is it possible to catch all of the infringers?

Stone: I don’t think it’s possible. It’s very costly and there are also foreign jurisdictions we would have to deal with. It really is a tedious and difficult task to fight all the piracy, but it’s the only option we have left to be able to recoup actual revenue that’s been stolen for years.

XBIZ: A group of senators have recently introduced a bill that would give the Justice Department power to shut down illegal-file sharing sites. What do you think about that?

Stone: I’m excited about it. If the proper checks and balances are put into place, I think it’ll be fantastic.

XBIZ: What do you say to those people who say the bill amounts to nothing more than censorship?

Stone: Whatever system is set up should have checks and balances and should stay within the guidelines of due process.

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