Occasional reflections on Life, the World, and Mathematics

Porn suits


One of Roald Dahl’s final and most bitter stories (from the late 1980s) tells of a scam engineered by a rare book seller, who picks names out of the obituaries, and then sends a bill to the grieving family that includes expensive items of exotic erotica. The families inevitably pay the bill and avoid asking any embarrassing questions, assuming that the deceased had kept these proclivities well hidden.

I was reminded of this when I saw this article in The New Yorker, about the web site X-art.com, that has become “the biggest filer of copyright-infringement lawsuits” in the US.

Today, they average more than three suits a day, and defendants have included elderly women, a former lieutenant governor, and countless others. “Please be advised that I am ninety years old and have no idea how to download anything,” one defendant wrote in a letter, filed in a Florida court. Nearly every case settles on confidential terms, according to a review of dozens of court records…

It is hard to see why anyone facing such a suit would choose not to settle: hiring a lawyer costs more than settling, and damages are exponentially higher in the event of a loss at trial. Plus, no one wants to be publicly accused of stealing pornography. To avoid embarrassment, many defendants may choose to settle before Malibu Media names them in a complaint.

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