There's plenty of commentary on the internet about copyright trolls, with entities such as Malibu Media being on the receiving end of that identifier. Malibu Media is a company that owns copyright rights to various pornographic works and have been active in filing copyright infringement lawsuits against defendants throughout the United States, including in the eastern district of Michigan and the western district of Michigan, for the unauthorized downloading and viewing of their works. In particular, Malibu Media files a complaint against a John Doe since they do not have the name of the person associated with the particular IP address. They then get expedited discovery from the court and subpoena the provider of that IP address, such as Comcast. The owner of the IP address is then provided notice by Comcast that their identity will be revealed if they do not quash the subpoena or otherwise resolve the matter with Malibu Media.
Once this person is provided notice, they have several options. First, they may determine that they did not violate any copyright and work with a copyright attorney to defend the lawsuit. Second, they may choose to fight the subpoena in hopes of the plaintiff not wishing to proceed further, although this is a risky endeavor. Third, they may try and resolve the matter without having their identity revealed. Copyright attorneys are available to assist in any one of these options. However, it is important for the person who is alleged to have infringed on others' copyright to understand what damages might be available under the copyright act. In particular 17USC504 provides the remedies in damages available for any copyright infringement. While a copyright owner, who has successfully registered their copyright will always threaten the $150,000 per infringement, known as the statutory maximum, that amount is not the only amount available. In fact, the Copyright Act specifically allows for damages between $750 and $30,000 as the court considers just, especially where there's no willful behavior on behalf of the alleged infringer. Tellingly, however, there is also the ability for the court, within its discretion, to reduce the award of statutory damages to as little as $200 per infringement. The fact of the matter is that there are cases that have interpreted the various provisions and can provide insight into which amount may be applicable to a given factual situation. If you have received a subpoena and could be at risk of statutory damages, you would be well served to speak with a copyright attorney who can assist you in determining your likely liability and financial exposure. Understanding what is at risk may help you to make an informed decision in the event you wish to settle or spend resources defending or otherwise tempting to quash the subpoena in the underlying matter.
Regardless, copyright infringement lawsuits by copyright owners do not appear to be slowing down. Therefore, you would be well served to understand, via a copyright attorney or on your own, what is at risk.