200,000 BitTorrent users sued since 2010

Mass lawsuits against file sharers hit a record high.

Since the beginning of 2010, a whopping 200,000 BitTorrent users have been sued in mass file-sharing lawsuits by copyright trolls, according to TorrentFreak.

Copyright trolls are small businesses that hire teams of lawyers to go after illegal file swappers. And just a few days ago the trolls broke the 200,000 users-sued barrier -- what a win. Of course, it's important to remember exactly how mass lawsuits like this work: 200,000 users sued doesn't mean that 200,000 people are being rightfully punished for sharing copyrighted material, or even that those behind the lawsuits plan to take all 200,000 users to court.

[CHECK OUT: What to Do If You're Being Sued for Piracy]

Instead, the purpose behind these mass lawsuits is to gather the personal info of the targeted BitTorrent users. Once the copyright troll organization obtains the necessary details about a user, it turns around and offer the user an opportunity to "settle" the case, usually for somewhere between $1500 and $3000.

Many people fall for this trap, but not necessarily because they're guilty. After all, defending yourself in court -- even if you are innocent -- means paying a lawyer, and potentially putting yourself in the position to lose. And, well, we all know what happens when file-sharing lawsuits are won by those who sue.

Over the course of the year, judges have dismissed thousands of these cases, but TorrentFreak, which follows these issues, estimates the number of defendants still at risk is around 145,000. Many of these defendants come from the infamous Hurt Locker case, in which 24,583 alleged BitTorrent users were targeted.

TorrentFreak also points out that, despite the massive number of defendants, none of the cases have actually made it all the way to court. In other words, the "evidence" that the prosecuting party claims to have hasn't been tested, and we have no idea if they have any evidence at all.

But that doesn't matter -- because,if only half of the original defendants eventually settle for an average fee of $2500, the copyright trolls will be rolling in a quarter of a billion dollars in revenue.

Those copyright trolls should be saying, "Thanks, Piracy!"

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