It is no secret that U.S. Copyright law prohibits copying a copyrighted work such as a movie, tv show or music album without the permission of the owner of the copyright. Recently a number of lawsuits have targeted users who have downloaded copyrighted works via torrents.
How is a person identified as having illegally downloaded a copyrighted work?
Typically a person is notified by their internet service provider (ISP) that they have been identified as illegally downloading a movie. There are companies who monitor BitTorrent traffic associated with a particular movie and this is often how your IP address was identified.
Why were you contacted by your ISP?
If a lawsuit was filed on behalf of a copyright owner in federal court it typically targets users who downloaded and/or shared a specific movie. The plaintiff will then issue a "John Doe" subpoena to the ISP to force your ISP to reveal your identity based upon the list of IP addresses that downloaded and/or shared the torrent.
At this stage, if the subpoena is issued, your ISP will send you a letter alerting you of these facts and advising you that if you do not seek to quash the subpoena they will release your identity to the plaintiff. Once the Plaintiff has your identity they will be able to proceed with the lawsuit and seek damages.
What are you options once you receive such a letter from you ISP?
While it is tempting to ignore such a letter, to do so risks a default judgment being entered against you. Do not panic and do not initiate contact with the plaintiff. Review the details of the letter and identify any factual inaccuracies. You should consult with an experienced attorney who can advise you on potential options and strategy in the lawsuit.