Ever been accused of something you didn’t do?

In the past few years, tens of thousands have been accused of illegally downloading racy or pornographic movies online, a privacy group tells CBS13.

Many of those people didn’t do it but are being shamed into paying up anyway, the group tells CBS13.

“It’s embarrassing,” said Michael, a UC Davis student whose IP address was identified in a lawsuit by porn company Celestial, Inc.

That lawsuit claims 252 IP addresses — Michael’s being one of them — downloaded an obscure pornographic film. Now a judge has issued Internet service providers to release the names and addresses associated with those IP addresses.

Michael tells CBS13 he didn’t even know what the movie’s title meant when he got a letter from Comcast saying his name would be released for allegedly downloading it.

“I can’t believe I’m getting blamed for something that I’ve never done,” he said.

It’s not the first lawsuit filed by Celestial, Inc., and privacy organization the Electronic Frontier Foundation says this is typical of companies involved in “copyright trolling” — the act of suing for copyright infringement as a means of making money.

Once the Internet provider hands over the names each person could be sued up to $150,000 for copyright infringement.

“I would call it extortion,” said attorney Julie Samuels of the EFF.

Samuels says adult film companies sometimes zero in on innocent people, shaming them into coughing up thousands of dollars to settle.

“What they’re doing is saying to the defendants, ‘We are going to associate your name publicly with really kind of graphic pornographic film unless you pay us to go away,'” she said.

Neither Celestial, Inc. nor it’s attorney returned messages or requests for comment from CBS13.

But should Internet providers hand over your information anyway?

Comcast tells us it has no choice; It must follow court orders.

“You’re kinda playing on their court,” said Michael.

Unwilling to cave in and pay a settlement, Michael hopes a judge throws out the case.

“All you can say is, ‘OK, I’m innocent,'” he said.

So what can you do if your name is released?

The EFF recommends consumers contact an attorney. It has posted a list of attorneys it recommends on its website.

Many of them, CBS13 is told, work pro-bono.


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