70-year Old Grandma Fights Porn Download Charge


A 70-year-old grandmother from San Francisco is fighting charges filed by a Chicago law firm representing the entertainment industry that she used BitTorrent to illegally download pornography. 

Named as one of 43 Jane or John Doe defendants in the latest in a string of mass lawsuits filed against BitTorrent users, the woman has retained counsel and plans to fight the $150,000 copyright infringement claim rather than pay the $3,450 settlement demanded by her accusers.

“It smacks of extortion,” she told SFGate.com.  “If Sony can get hacked, if the Pentagon can get hacked, what makes them believe that a widow can’t get hacked?  I don’t even know what BitTorrent is.” 

The woman, who is a volunteer at several charities in the Bay Area, has an unsecured WiFi connection in her house, which was installed as part of her cable modem set-up by the cable company.  She says she doesn’t know how it works, and has never used it, and didn’t know it was “out there broadcasting” for anyone to use.

If she is successful, it will be the first time that a law firm identified by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) as a copyright troll has lost in court to someone who claimed their WiFi was illegally accessed by an unknown third party.  (Most cases never make it to court, because most of the accused settle before it goes that far.  For more information about copyright trolls and what to do if you’re targeted, read this from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, this or this, two previous posts on this blog.)

A man in Buffalo, NY, however, had criminal charges of accessing child pornography dropped earlier this year after police discovered that a neighbor was accessing his WiFi illegally. 

The lesson for you and me is simple:  secure our WiFi networks.  (Under the new six-strikes agreement between telecom providers, ISP’s and the entertainment industry, this is especially important for businesses who offer WiFi to guests — you can only claim that someone illegally downloaded content on your network without your knowledge ONCE.)

Most of us have a WiFi router in our homes, and some (like Jane Doe) may not even know it.  For instance, the AT&T U-verse system has a built-in WiFi broadcast mode that ships turned on, and unsecured, as do many other FIOS and cable modems.

Becky Waring of PC World offered some tips in 2007 that are still valid, and Nick Mediati updated them a couple of weeks ago.  Follow the links for specific instructions. 

  1. Use a security solution — like Zone Alarm — that provides a firewall. 
  2. Change the name on your WiFi router, and password protect it with a strong password, to make it harder for a stranger to access your network.  (You did save the user’s manual for the router, didn’t you?  If not, call your ISP or use online help.)
  3. When you’re using a public WiFi network, make sure your notebook, smart phone, or tablet is secure.  Turn your WiFi radio off when you’re not using it.  Make sure any public network you use is legitimate. 
  4. Disable SSID broadcasting — this stops your WiFi network from broadcasting your network’s name. 
  5. Encrypt your WiFi.  Yes, this means you have to enter a secure password (numbers and letters, and NOT your home address, any combination of 1234 or other serial digits, your birthday, etc.) whenever you use your own WiFi.  But it makes it MUCH less likely that you’ll wind up the defendant in a Jane Doe lawsuit — unless you actually do something wrong.   
(FTC Disclosure:  I own stock in CheckPoint, the company that sells Zone Alarm — and I was beta user #3 when the product was first created.  A PR/marketing firm I owned represented Zone Labs from start-up through strategic sale.  That said, I haven’t represented the brand in more than 7 years, and am not a paid endorser for the product — just a very satisfied user who’s never had a hack or virus or Trojan Horse despite having a rather large target on my back as someone who represented several security products over the years.  The product just works, in my opinion.)

About debmcalister

I'm a Dallas-based marketing consultant and writer, who specializes in helping start-up technology companies grow. I write (books, articles, and blogs) about marketing, technology, and social media. This blog is about all of those -- and the funny ways in which they interesect with everyday life. It's also the place where I publish general articles on topics that interest me -- including commentary about the acting and film communities, since I have both a son and grandson who are performers.
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3 Responses to 70-year Old Grandma Fights Porn Download Charge

  1. Pingback: Granny successfully fights porn download charge | Marketing Where Technology Intersects Life

  2. Pingback: Leveraging Social News Websites | Marketing Where Technology Intersects Life

  3. Pingback: Trade Associations Issue Six-Strikes Tips for Members | Marketing Where Technology Intersects Life

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