P2P and BitTorrent

Defending those being sued for alleged downloads
Home / Blog / Schedule

For more than thirteen (13) years, our firm has represented individuals sued for alleged illegal downloading and uploading of copyrighted content (whether songs, films, photos) on the Internet.

Defense Against Copyright Trolls

Whether you have just received a notice from your Internet Service Provider ("ISP") or have been actually sued in litigation, our firm possesses the experience and knowledge to represent your interests. The five pages on this topic have been structured to provide you with information that addresses the most pressing concerns of our clients and others with whom we have spoken over the last thirteen years.

This Overview page provides basic introductory information. The content on our Stages page informs about the relevant litigation process that occurs in most P2P / BitTorrent litigation. On Strategies, we describe the general approaches from which our clients can choose to be represented. We also provide a FAQ that has developed over time based on questions received. Finally, the Archived RIAA (in development) will provide links to older pages that existed about the RIAA litigation.

Beyond the information provided on our website, we provide complimentary consultations that you may schedule with our principal attorney, Charles Lee Mudd Jr., or one of our associate attorneys. Our objective has been and remains providing information to those finding themselves in these situations such that they may make informed decisions about how to proceed.

You may also visit our sections on copyrights and IP litigation for more information on our related areas of practice.

Preliminary Recommendations

Seek Legal Counsel
In all cases, we recommend that you speak with legal counsel immediately upon receiving notification that your identity has been subpoenaed from your ISP or that you have been named in a lawsuit. Please note that in some jurisdictions (eg Illinois) oral settlement agreements can be enforced. Thus, it remains imperative that you speak with legal counsel as quickly as possible. Again, you can contact Charles Mudd or visit www.subpoenadefense.org for a list of several attorneys providing representation in these circumstances.

A Note on Fees
Our firm emphatically believes that a defendant in a P2P / BitTorrent litigation matter should not have to pay more than $1,000.00 to hire an attorney to negotiate a settlement in these matters. Be cautious about who you hire. While some circumstances may require a higher fee (fighting a subpoena, proceeding with litigation, multiple lawsuits), there generally exists no need to spend more than $1,000.00 to hire counsel to negotiate a settlement from beginning to end in these matters.

Our attorneys can become involved at any of the various stages of P2P / BitTorrent litigation.

Notice Stage
Most, but not all, of the phone calls we receive relating to P2P (Peer to Peer) and BitTorrent litigation begin with the caller informing us he or she received notice from an Internet Service Provider ("ISP") relating to alleged infringement of a copyrighted work. This involves a number of substantive issues, so let's work it back.

When someone creates a work (lyrics, photo, scribble, code, etc.), a copyright vests in that work (this differs from the law as it existed in years past). The copyright provides the creator or owner (this could differ from the creator in work-for-hire, assignment, or other relationships) of the copyrighted work certain rights. However, the work must be registered with the United States Copyright Office to enforce such rights (some jurisdictions differ on whether it needs to be registered or whether an application for registration).

The owner of the registered copyright may engage any number of services or technologies to monitor the Internet for possible unauthorized use of the copyrighted work or infringement. Where unauthorized use of the copyrighted work occurs, the owner of the copyright may be able to determine the Internet Protocol ("IP") address for the computer or source of the unauthorized use. With an IP address, one can determine the ISP associated with it through services like ARIN.

Once a copyright owner obtains the ISP for a particular IP associated with an alleged infringement of a copyrighted work, the copyright owner may send the ISP a notice advising the ISP that the IP address has been associated with alleged infringement. The ISP may then send the subscriber who had the IP address on the particular date and time an advisory notice and warning (in some circumstances, we have seen an ISP terminate a subscriber's account).

However, most of the ISP notices our clients receive advise them of subpoenas having been served on the ISP seeking the subscriber's personal information.

Subpoena Stage
A subpoena represents a court sanctioned discovery device through which a party may seek information from a third party. A lawsuit must be filed before a party may initiate discovery and issue subpoenas in civil litigation. The United States Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. § 501, et seq., governs copyright law. For this and other reasons, the federal courts have exclusive jurisdiction for actions involving copyrights. While the Copyright Act does provide for both criminal and civil proceedings, the court proceedings initiated by copyright owners relating to P2P and BitTorrent use have been in the civil context in nearly every circumstance.

So, should a copyright owner seek information about who engaged in alleged infringement of its copyrighted work, it must initiate a lawsuit in federal court by filing a complaint. Typically, it names anonymous parties (eg John Does 1-x) as defendants. It then files a motion seeking leave to issue expedited discovery prior to the appearance of any defendants (which is logical given it does not know the identity of the defendants). Assuming the court grants the motion, the plaintiff copyright owner can issue subpoenas to ISPs seeking information about the subscriber(s) who used particular IP addresses on specific dates and times.
Over the years, the response of ISPs to such subpoenas has varied. In the beginning of the RIAA initiative, some ISPs would produce information to the plaintiff copyright owners without notifying subscribers of the subpoena. In other circumstances, the ISPs actually challenged the subpoenas. Now, most ISPs do not challenge the subpoenas, but do provide the subscribers at issue with notice of the subpoena and an opportunity to challenge the subpoena.

Doe Litigation Stage
Upon receiving notice that her ISP has received a subpoena seeking her personal information, a subscriber could file a motion opposing the subpoena. Typically, this would be called a motion to quash the subpoena. In the past, there existed a number of arguments that may or may not still be viable depending on the circumstances.

Should someone want to oppose the subpoena, the filing of the motion to quash does not end the matter. While it may preclude the ISP from disclosing information initially, the ISP will wait to see how the court decides the motion. To reach the point of a court ruling, one must proceed through the nuances of motion practice. Assuming the anonymous subscriber hired counsel, the motion would be filed. The Plaintiff would then have the opportunity to respond. The subscriber may also - depending upon the court's practice and counsel's decision - file a reply. Thereafter, the judge in the court may or may not hold oral arguments. Even with oral arguments, the court may not issue a ruling or decision until some time later. In all, the court ruling on a motion to quash could occur months following the initial filing.

And, to be quite frank, motions to quash subpoenas in these contexts do not have a high success rate. Should the motion be denied (eg lose) and not appealed, the ISP could then release the subscriber information to the ISP.

Named Litigation Stage
Assuming the plaintiff obtains the subscriber's information and settlement does not occur, the plaintiff may then name the subscriber as a defendant in the litigation. This would typically occur by filing an amended complaint substituting the subscriber's name for one of the John Doe defendants. The plaintiff may then have the subscriber served with a summons and complaint. After being served, the subscriber would need to file an appearance and either file a motion or answer to the complaint to avoid default judgment. Should the subscriber fail to appear in the litigation, the plaintiff will likely seek default judgment. And, if default judgment is entered against a subscroiber defendant and more than 30 days elapse, it will be very difficult for the subscriber to vacate the default judgment.

Should the subscriber file an appearance and proceed with filing an answer, the litigation will proceed into discovery, possible summary judgments, and eventually trial.

However, along each step of the way, there exist strategies of resolving the matter.

We provide our P2P/BitTorrent clients with a number of strategies to resolve their dispute.

Our firm has represented individuals in settling, filing motions to quash, and defending the substantive claims in litigation. We discuss each of these strategies below. For more detailed information and the ability to ask specific questions, schedule a complimentary consultation with one of our attorneys.

By far, settlement represents the primary strategy our clients choose to implement. However, before discussing the settlement strategy, we should address some alternative strategies.

Wait and See
We do not recommend a strategy of "wait and see." This strategy essentialy involves doing nothing and waiting to see if the litigation will simply "go away." It may. But, it also may not. Indeed, we have spoken to many people who chose to "wait and see" before calling us but later were named in the litigation and served with a summons and complaint. In other circumstances, people with whom we spoke chose the "wait and see" strategy and later called us because the litigation had not disappeared.

Now, in some cases, the plaintiffs do dismiss a complaint and choose not to refile it or proceed against the people whose identities they obtained. In other cases, courts have dismissed complaints where the plaintiffs failed to name the defendants by the court's deadline. Again, the plaintiffs may not reflle the litigation.

However, in many other circumstances, the plaintiffs do name specific individuals as defendants. In some circumstances, the plaintiffs may obtain default judgments. For these and other reasons, we do not recommend the Wait and See strategy.

Motion to Quash
After receiving notice from their ISPs indicating that their information will be disclosed absent filing of a motion to quash, many people believe they must file a motion to quash. However, in these circumstances, an anonymous subscriber defendant need not file a motion to quash.

Should the client seek to file a Motion to Quash, our firm drafts a motion to quash using many of the arguments that have been employed over the years. Importantly, we also draft the motion in a customized approach for the particular client (without naming the client of course). This takes time. Although we have mechanisms to react where a subscriber retains us a day before an ISP deadline, a subscriber places themselves at a disadvantage the longer they wait to contact and retain legal counsel.

After filing a motion to quash, we inform the ISP. The ISP will typically not disclose the subscriber's personal information (in some infrequent cases, the ISPs have inadvertently disclose such information despite knowledge of the motion; this often occurs where the subscriber has waited until the last minute to contact and retain legal counsel). The entire motion process can take months. And, to be sure, as with any litigation, there exists no guarantee of any outcome.
Litigation Defense
For a muriad of reasons, some clients wish our firm to defend their interests in the litigation beyond a motion to quash. This would involve written and oral discovery; possible motions for summary judgment; and, trial.

Written discovery involves the parties serving on each other interrogatories (written questions), request for production (seeking documents, electronic evidence, etc.), and requests to admit (providing statements that must be admitted, denied, or subject to objection). There may also be subpoenas issued to third parties. The parties and third-parties may file motions objecting to some of the discovery or compelling production over objections. Oral discovery involves depositions of the parties and possible third parties. To be sure, discovery can last several months and be very costly.

Each party may file a motion for summary judgment. A summary judgment motion asks the court to conclude that - considering all of the evidence - there exists only one way to conclude a factual or legal matter. In essence, one argues that there does not exist any question of material fact. Particularly in federal court, motions for summary judgment can generally involve fact intensive arguments and work. The time involved with motions for summary judgment can last several months.

Should a motion for summaru judgment not be filed, or should they all be denied (with the court concluding questions of material fact do exist), the litigation will eventually proceed to trial.

Settlement (continued)
At every stage of the litigation, parties may attempt settlement. In these types of disputes, we can negotiate on behalf of our client without the plaintiff obtaining our client's identity. The settlement strategy represents the approach that has the potential to most quickly resolve the dispute. Balancing all factors, the settlement strategy also presents an opportunity to settle the matter for the least amount of money. Although the pure Wait and See Approach has the possibility of being the least expensive (no settlement, no judgment, no attorneys fees), it also has the possibility of higher settlements, default judgments, and a long wait (with the statute of limitations for copyright infringement being three years).

As such, unless a party wants to pursue the Wait and See Strategy (which again we do not recommend), there rarely exists any reason not to attempt settlement.

Various factors will play into the effectiveness of settlement negotiations. As such, you should speak to a firm and attorneys who have substantial experience negotiating these types of litigation matters. With our principal attorney, Charles Lee Mudd Jr., having represented individuals in hundreds of P2P/BitTorrent settlements over the last thirteen (13) years, we know which factors to use in each particular client circumstance.

Moreover, given the nature of the allegations and the plaintiffs' personalities, typical copyright infringement negotiations will not necessarily translate into effective strategies in these matters. Our firm possesses the background and experience to provide exceptional representation in settlement negotiations.

Call us or schedule a consultation with us today.

We have worked with firms throughout the country providing them with solid, dependable local counsel services.


Are the subpoenas issued to me?
No, not the subpoenas described here. The subpoenas are issued and directed to the ISPs associated with specific IP addresses (this could be a cable company like Comcast, an academic institution like Purdue University, or a traditional ISP like Comcast. Should you be the individual associated with an IP address at a particular time, the subpoena may seek information about you from the ISP. However, the subpoenas is issued and directed to the ISPs.

How did the Plaintiff find me?
There exists a debate on how plaintiffs obtain the IP addresses of alleged infringement.

Where an IP address is publicly identified with particular works uploaded to certain networks, a plaintiff may simply read the IP address.

We also suspect that some plaintiffs may have established dummy sites or tagged certain files released onto file-sharing networks. Thus, like the use of tagged money, these files can be traced and report back to the plaintiff relevant IP addresses.

With an IP address, a plaintiff can easily determine through various online sources to which ISP the IP address has been assigned. This information provides the plaintiff with the party to whom a subpoena should be served seeking information about who use the IP address on a particular date and time.

The plaintiff would then send a subpoena to the ISP seeking the identity of the individual who used the IP address on the particular date and time.

Finally, there has been some suggestion that plaintiffs may merely "make up" or choose random IP addresses for purposes of litigation and settlement. This would expose plaintiffs and attorneys to sanctions. While this may have occurred in some rare circumstances, the presumption should be that this has not occurred in any specific situation. Indeed, of the hundreds of cases we have handled, only a few might possibly have been in this situation.

How do I determine my IP address?
If you don't know your computer's IP address, you usually can check it in your TCP/IP settings or the complete header in the email you send from your computer (ie send yourself an email). If you still cannot determine your IP address, contact your ISP. Some ISP customers pay for static IP addresses that remain the same for as long as the customer continues to pay for them (this fee is in addition to typical Internet packages). Most ISP customers obtain dynamic IP addresses. While the IP address may remain the same from day to day, or even week to week, the ISP may assign a new IP address without notice to the customer. Under the old dial-up method of connecting to the Internet, customers would be assigned a new IP address each time one connects to the Internet.

For the foregoing reasons, an ISP customer's IP address at the time she receives a ISP notice may very well be different from the one identified in the ISP notice that she had at the time of the alleged conduct.

Please also understand that if your computer is on a network, you will have an internal network IP address. Usually, these IP addresses begin 192.168.xxx.xxx. This is not the IP address for which you should be looking.

IP addresses in the form 10.x.x.x and 172.16.x.x thru 172.31.x.x have also been reserved for private networks. [Thank you to James Ford for this technical clarification.] Consequently, you should not be looking for IP addresses falling within these blocks as well.

You should also note that there has been a recent shift to IPv6 IP addresses that differ signficiantly from the old IPv4 addresses described above.

How do I know whether my ISP received a subpoena?
In most cases, the ISP will provide you notice soon after receiving the subpoena. We do not recommend calling your ISP to ask whether it received a subpoena in relation to your IP address. Such an inquiry would only prompt suspicion and you might not obtain a correct response in any case.

Will my ISP provide me notice of a subpoena received seeking my information?
Most do. However, the answer depends on your particular ISP who, upon inquiry of its legal or subpoena response department, will be able to tell you its practices in response to subpoenas.

Should you receive notice from your ISP that it has received a subpoena, you should contact an attorney immediately. The ISPs often provide a limited amount of time to see evidence of an objection filed with the court (eg motion to quash) before releasing information.  

Will my ISP reveal my identity to a plaintiff?
The answer to this question again depends on your ISP. Contact your ISP's legal or subpoena response department for more information on its specific policy.

Many ISPs will provide the customer with an opportunity to object prior to disclosure of your identity. Consequently, should you receive notice from your ISP through email or snail mail, contact an attorney immediately.

Identity Revealed by ISP

What happens when my identity has been revealed to a plaintiff by my ISP?
When the ISP reveals an identity to a plaintiff's attorneys, the ISP will reveal the identity of the customer in whose name the Internet account is registered, not necessarily the individual who engaged in the conduct alleged to be unlawful.

As mentioned elsewhere, a lawsuit will have already been filed against one or more John Does prior to the ISP receiving a subpoena and disclosing any information. The information revealed by the ISP in response to a subpoena will be associated with a particular IP address related to one of the specific John Doe defendants in the litigation. Consequently, in effect, the "individual" has already been sued.

A plaintiff will typically use the identifying information obtained from an ISP about a particular customer to contact the individual and provide an opportunity to settle the matter. There will likely be a specific deadline by which to contact the plaintiff's attorneys.

If one does not settle, the plaintiff may name you in the lawsuit or file a separate suit with you named individually (eg from John Doe to Charles Mudd). The consequences may also become more severe in terms of settlement when this occurs.

Will I be sued if the plaintiff obtains my identity?
As mentioned above, you ikely will have been sued as a "John Doe" by the time the plaintiff receives your identity. However, if the questions is whether you will be named as a defendant in the litigation under your real name obtained by the plaintiff, this is possible.

What do I do if my ISP has revealed my identity to a plaintiff?
Call an attorney immediately. Beyond this, each individual will be faced with individual circumstances that warrant individual responses and legal representation.


Has a copyright troll plaintiff actually sued anyone by name?

How will I learn that I have been sued?
With John Doe suits, you will usually learn from your ISP that a plaintiff has targeted your IP address. As such, this means that you have been sued as a John Doe associated with your particular IP address. While it may appear that you have not actually been sued yet, this represents a significant misunderstanding. Sometimes, a party may proceed against a John Doe. Moreover, unless one intervenes, a plaintiff usually obtains the identity of the John Doe. In such a case, the plaintiff can replace John Doe #XX with your personal name (eg John Doe becomes Charles Mudd).

Where you have been named in litigation, you will likely learn of the litigation by being served with a summons and complaint by a sheriff, special process server, or United States Marshal.

Previously, when the RIAA initially began suing individuals, media contacted certain of the individuals named in the litigation. Should this still occur (when one is personally named in the suit), it is always wise to consult with an attorney before communicating with the media (if ever). Simply state "No Comment" should you be contacted. Your statements to the media may be used against you. The media can be a great tool and resource. However, proceed with caution and consult an attorney before communicating with the media.

In other situations, you may learn from your academic institution or employer that you have been targeted. You should be cautious. Some academic institutions have been reported to instigate disciplinary proceedings. Should disciplinary proceedings be a possibility, we recommend that you consult with an attorney. However, we also encourage prompt attention to all requests by the academic institution. They may offer resources to assist you. YOU SHOULD BE AWARE THAT ILLEGAL FILE-SHARING MAY LIKELY VIOLATE COMPUTER USE POLICIES AT ACADEMIC INSTITUTIONS and EMPLOYERS with GOOD REASON.

What do I do after I learn I have been sued by a plaintiff?
Consult an attorney immediately.

I have been sued, but its no where near where I live. Did they make a mistake?
While possible, it's unlikely. The most recent suits have been initiated near or in the jurisdiction in which the ISP intended to be subpoenaed happens to be located. The location or court in which the particular case has been filed should not be construed as a mistaken identity or mistake by the plaintiff.

RIAA and MPAA Archive

Under Development

Why Choose Us?


Our team works diligently to develop creative solutions to our clients' litigation matters.


We work tirelessly on behalf of our clients and their interests.


We welcome our clients' communications and involvement in the litigation process.