Chris from Zeropaid recently had the chance to sit down with Shawn Hogan, who is an interesting guy fighting an MPAA settlement agreement. Shawn was accused of downloading Meet the Fockers (a DVD he actually owns), offered the traditional $2500.00 settlement, and instead opted to see the fight through to trial. We will be following this story through to the finish, so consider this a first installment.
Here is the interview:
CH: Ok, we are sitting with Shawn who is currently being sued by the MPAA. Shawn, give us your full name and your website.
SH: My name is Shawn Hogan and my website is DigitalPoint.com
CH: We have been following your case for a while, why don’t you fill us in from the beginning. How were you first contacted by the MPAA?
SH: First I got a notice from my ISP last summer that they got subpoenaed for my info, at this point I didn’t really care too much.
CH: So just for the record, what movie did they accuse you of downloading?
SH: Meet the Fockers, and I actually own the DVD. Pretty ironic.
CH: So you never downloaded Meet the Fockers? Do you download any movies or music at all using p2p software?
SH: No. Not at all.
CH: Ok, so you paid for the DVD, then they accused you of stealing it and demanded $2500.
SH: Exactly. Then in November the MPAA sent me a letter and I was contacted by their little settlement hotline, they called up and demanded $2500. I told them to piss off at which point the lady got all huffy and told me they were going to sue me in federal court and told me I could be liable for hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages and even if you won it would cost more than $2500 to fight it.
CH: This sounds like a pretty clear cut extortion case, what did you do then?
SH: I told her I still wasn’t interested in settling, but she insisted on sending a copy of the settlement agreement. I told her I wasn’t going to sign it or read it so don’t bother. I didn’t hear back from them for a while, then I got served with the actual lawsuit March 21st, telling me I’d been sued in the 9th district court, blah blah blah. At that point I got my attorneys involved to craft a response, and that’s pretty much what’s gone on so far.
CH: So is there an amount they are actually suing you for?
SH: No, they are just suing for “damages.” Actually, after I got served they sent another settlement offer, this time for $3500.
CH: The amount went up?
SH: Yes, apparently they thought that after being served I would be scared and more likely to settle. That’s pretty much where it is now. This Tuesday I am meeting with the Judge for a preliminary hearing to see if we can settle without going to court.
CH: So your position is that you aren’t going to settle and that you didn’t do anything wrong?
SH: Yep. At this point they have pushed me enough to where I’m going to do whatever I can to keep them from dropping the case. I can’t prevent them from dropping it, but I am going to try and force them to go to a full trial. Basically, my lawyers aren’t even going to file a motion to dismiss.
CH: That would be great, it would have to be pretty embarrassing for them to go to a full trial that ends up clearing you completely.
SH: It will set a precedent for everyone else, that’s the whole point. Between the RIAA and the MPAA it’s almost 20,000 people that have settled. All John Doe lawsuits, not a single one has gone to a final judgment. All these people settling for basically what adds up to extortion, I want to put a stop to it. At this point, I don’t care what it costs. If they drop it, I will find something to counter with to keep it in court.
CH: There are options, you could file for defamation of character or something.
SH: There’s that, and there’s also the woman in Oregon who is suing the RIAA under the RICO statute, the old gangster racketeering laws. Surprisingly it hasn’t been thrown out of court and it was filed six months ago, so maybe that’s an idea.
CH: Interesting point, do you know how that case is doing?
SH: A little bit, it’s still pending. I know her racketeering complaint hasn’t been thrown out, after six months. She filed the counter complaint in November and it’s still ongoing so… I know she’s going to try to go to trial.
At this point the food came and we decided to follow up after his “Early Neutral Evaluation Conference” which was May 23rd. I spoke with Shawn that afternoon, and it sounded like another waste of his time. Basically the point of the hearing is to avoid trial by seeing if the Judge can negotiate a settlement. Not that the MPAA offered it, but the Judge asked Shawn if he would settle for $500, Shawn said no and reiterated his desire for a full trial, and heeeeere we go. The Judge said the trial was “fasttracked,” meaning it might get into court before the end of the year. Stay tuned!