A grandmother sits in her sewing room and reads a letter that threatens her with $100,000 lawsuits if she doesn't admit to copyright infringement and pay a $300 fine. Not only might she have no clue as to what she did wrong, she could in fact only be a victim of copyright piracy, not a perpetrator. Unfortunately, this is a scene that, with slight variations, has played out again and again across the country, and it's time we take notice before the copyright lawyers fleece us all.
The people, grandmothers and otherwise, who are receiving these letters are embroidery fans who own computer-aided equipment to stitch from digitized designs. The letter states that it is a legal notice - and "not an advertisement, solicitation, or a scam" as one might assume -- from the Embroidery Software Protection Coalition (ESPC). The ESPC, after an investigation including records recently obtained from eBay or eBay resellers, has determined that the recipient has "purchased and utilized counterfeit and pirated embroidery designs online ... and that these pirated copies of embroidery designs are in your possession, all in violation of the Federal Copyright Act."
The letter goes on to state that, under federal law, civil damages "may be $30,000.00 per design, not per CD. Additionally, the Court has discretion to increase the amount of statutory damages to $150,000.00 for each Copyright violated if the infringement was willful." After a few more threats, the ESPC allows that the organization is willing to resolve the matter if the recipient will agree to send the ESPC the pirated designs, promise not to buy illegal copies of embroidery designs in the future, and "pay a nominal monetary sum to the ESPC for your past wrongful conduct." Although the ESPC's letterhead says it is based in Pennsylvania, a Texas phone number is provided to call for an "informal discussion in lieu of judicial action."