Third Degree Films Hits 200 Detroit Residents With BitTorrent Lawsuits

Bob Johnson

DETROIT — More than 200 Detroit-area residents are being hit with BitTorrent lawsuits by Third Degree Films and other porn companies for illegally downloading films.

One Third Degree film, “Girls in Tight Jeans,” was allegedly downloaded illegally between July and September.

The poached file-sharing reportedly left a digital trail on computers across Detroit communities including Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, Northville, Detroit, Novi and Southfield.

Attorney John Hone, who represents Third Degree and other adult companies including Nucorp, Ltd., K-Beech, Inc. and Raw Films, Ltd., told The Detroit News that the lawsuit is in response to a group of anonymous thieves who steal movies thousands of times a month, causing millions in damages.

According to the report, the group of filmmakers have filed more than 20 federal lawsuits against thousands of "John Does" in Michigan, California, Florida, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana and beyond since December 2010.

In early November, Third Degree filed two suits — both in Florida — against 375 Does in one suit and 259 in the other.

"It is not a victimless crime. It causes many millions of dollars in damages to my clients," Hone said in an email to the News. "Make no mistake about it: in a world without copyrights, the Freedom of Expression will become the Freedom from Expression because no one will do a … thing creatively.”

The attorney wants unspecified damages and to block people from continuing to infringe on the copyrights.

Third Degree reportedly has demanded as much as $5,000 from people who illegally downloaded movies and settled for between $700 and $2,000 in some cases, according to one lawyer who requested anonymity.

The lawyer said some Does are paying $2,000 to settle to avoid embarrassment and to stem the high legal costs of fighting the lawsuit.

A hearing has been set by U.S. Magistrate Judge R. Steven Whalen for Jan. 10 in Detroit to consider letting Third Degree serve subpoenas on ISPs.

The studio wants to know whose computers were involved and wants the names, addresses, telephone numbers and email addresses of the downloaders. Each individual can be sued once the information is gathered.

Hone said Third Degree decided not to sue the file-sharing sites because they are based off shore where U.S. laws are unenforceable.

"The only way to deter this activity is to shine a light on it by suing the end users," he said. "Put yourself in my clients' shoes and ask yourself what would you do if your property was being stolen on a massive scale?"