Print 49 comment(s) - last by mindless1.. on Jun 19 at 6:55 PM

A copyright litigator claims to be on the verge of suing around 150,000 Americans for copyright infringement. It could make as much as $300M USD off the suit.  (Source: MPAA)
Torrent users beware, you may soon be receiving legal threats

Voltage Pictures, the producers of the film The Hurt Locker, made good on threats, filing suit against 5,000 owners of IP connections on which bittorrent downloads and uploads of the movie occurred.  The movie's producer even went as far as to say they hoped one critic of the lawsuit's family and kids ended up in jail.

Now the legal brains behind the epic lawsuit, the U.S. Copyright Group (USCG), have revealed plans to send tens of thousands of more "pay up or else" threat letters to those who downloaded other films.  

Thomas Dunlap, leader of the group, created a website where industry officials could go to see informative videos.  In the videos Dunlap brags about how easy it is to squeeze money out of filesharers.  Dunlap promises to handle infringement problems for studios in exchange for a hefty cut -- 70 percent of the settlement.

All of the videos have been taken down, except for this one.

According to the USCG's claims, the organization is currently tracking 300 films each with 500 tracked file-sharers, making for a total of around 150,000 potential targets at risk of receiving a settlement letter.  USCG suggests that it can send a "speculative invoice" to these individuals demanding between a $1,500 to $2,500 USD settlement.  That means that taking the middle of the settlement figures ($2,000), the USCG could try to pull in as much as $300M USD in revenue from the scheme, and pocket $210M USD of that sum.

ACLU lawyer Rachel Myers argues that this scheme may be an abuse of the U.S. legal system.  She writes:

Last week, we filed friend-of-the-court briefs in support of Time Warner Cable's motion to quash or modify the subpoenas it received for information about thousands of users who allegedly downloaded certain movies from the Internet using the BitTorrent file sharing application. We argue that the subpoenas, which lump thousands of otherwise-unrelated individuals into a few cases filed in a court far from where any of them live, violate the individual users' rights to due process and anonymity and don't give them an adequate chance to defend themselves.

Despite an early court victory Judge Collyer of the District of Columbia has demanded a review of the settlement plan.

Even without court approvals, though, the group can still forward non-court-endorsed letters through ISPs, assuming the ISPs prove willing to cooperate.  Several ISPs have already cooperated with such schemes from groups like Nexicon.

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

By Capsaicin on 6/14/2010 2:09:29 PM , Rating: 2
... do two "illegals" make a legal?

By BadAcid on 6/14/2010 2:27:32 PM , Rating: 5
They make a paralegal.

By transamdude95 on 6/14/2010 3:57:49 PM , Rating: 3
Very nice, sir.

By Nutzo on 6/15/2010 10:55:32 AM , Rating: 3
... do two "illegals" make a legal?

Actually, yes.
As long as the baby if born in the US, it's legal.

By Daniel8uk on 6/14/2010 1:54:25 PM , Rating: 1
Why do I always have the urge to go download something after reading these kind of articles.

RE: Strange..
By rcc on 6/14/2010 4:08:29 PM , Rating: 2
Unconcious desire to meet Bubba at the state Pen?

RE: Strange..
By Daniel8uk on 6/14/2010 4:11:48 PM , Rating: 1
What can I say... I find it hard to keep a hold of the soap...

RE: Strange..
By quiksilvr on 6/15/2010 9:10:39 AM , Rating: 2
I think you mean subconscious. Unconscious means you're passed out...probably something that would happen if you meet Bubba.

RE: Strange..
By gorehound on 6/14/2010 5:26:03 PM , Rating: 2
and why is it that for around a year i have not purchasde one new film from hollywood.
well because i never will again but i will buy stuff USED only.

RE: Strange..
By B3an on 6/15/2010 4:49:14 AM , Rating: 2
Until buying used stuff is also illegal in the U.S.

How ironic
By amanojaku on 6/14/2010 1:36:52 PM , Rating: 3
Dunlap promises to handle infringement problems for studios in exchange for a hefty cut -- 70 percent of the settlement.
If this is true then the content providers are partnering with pirates of a different type.

RE: How ironic
By mmntech on 6/14/2010 2:32:30 PM , Rating: 4
Fighting piracy has become an industry in itself.

It really bothers me that the government has basically given these people cart blanche supra-legal powers.

If it's really a criminal act, call the FBI and prosecute them. Otherwise you're just gold digging.

RE: How ironic
By mcnabney on 6/15/2010 10:24:58 AM , Rating: 2
They will eventually pin RICO sanctions against this type of operation. It is a clear case of racketeering based upon the mere threat of legal action.

Part of this is encouraged by laws congress passed. They set copyright violation penalties aimed at businesses that were manufacturing thousands of copies and making actual profits from the sale of such IP. Intead it is being used against individuals that are not profiting from the violation. Now if they found some of these losers burning copies and distributing them I would think that they had it coming. Each violator is costing the lawful distributor at MOST one sale (I would argue that many of these downloads did not replace a purchase).

How to fight it...
By nafhan on 6/14/2010 2:26:28 PM , Rating: 3
Well, I think I've figured it out.
Everyone needs to refuse to settle. I don't care what resources legal firm has. It can't be enough to actually bring 150,000 people to court, right? Time, if not money, would be an issue.

RE: How to fight it...
By Redwin on 6/14/2010 4:00:46 PM , Rating: 2
You're absolutely right. In the real world, however, I am pretty sure this applies:

RE: How to fight it...
By tastyratz on 6/14/2010 4:34:30 PM , Rating: 2
your right in a way.
They wont have the resources or capital, but even if EVERYONE decided to go to court they could just drag it out, approach sequentially, hire... and watch the money grow. As it grows they hire more and more and go to court more and more...
The larger settlements even if many did not lose will just pay for quicker turnover...

If only it were that easy.
Big business is too greedy on its own, this has sadly become its own competitive field; I don't see the mpaa settling for 70/30 when they could just hire someone else to do the same job for far less.

RE: How to fight it...
By tmouse on 6/15/2010 7:51:17 AM , Rating: 2
Well keep in mind it's impossible to get everyone to fight. I think it cost around $350 for them to file a civil complaint in federal court so one settlement on a average pay off of $2000 pays for 5 more filings with some profit. They will probably wrongly bundle cases together for a single fee (Direct TV did this until the courts finally wised up and dismissed the cases without prejudice). Their costs are pretty much fixed since they pay their people anyway and the cases become boilerplate. They will run up the victims costs astronomically with motions which you HAVE to answer or you will lose and stretch out discovery so your time will be eaten up (ie: loss of work) so you defense costs will quickly go well beyond 5K before even stepping into a court room. They can drop the case anytime during discovery and there will be nothing you can do to recoup your costs because they will have protection under the Noerr-Pennington doctrine (it was used successfully by Direct TV). Lose at trial and you pay $750 -$30,000 per infringement (as low as $200 up to $150,000 if you can show you were unaware the item was a violation or show willful infringement respectively) plus their legal costs. If you win you get off with just paying for your legal costs which will be well over 10k at that time. You can go Pro Se but it's a lot harder and you have a much better chance of losing. Unfortunately the game is in their favor at this time until the legal system strips that protection and allows them to be counter sued which would change the equation.

By Chernobyl68 on 6/14/2010 5:35:48 PM , Rating: 2
How is this not blackmail?

RE: Really?
By mgilbert on 6/15/2010 10:59:56 AM , Rating: 2
If you get a traffic ticket for running a stop sign, is that blackmail?

If you download a movie that you have not paid for, that's illegal. That's not blackmail. Don't break the law, and you won't have anything to worry about.

RE: Really?
By Chernobyl68 on 6/15/2010 2:18:23 PM , Rating: 3
Not the same thing. What he's done, using your speeding ticket analogy, is threaten all the people who violate the speed limit with a lawsuit, or pay him $100.

RE: Really?
By mindless1 on 6/19/2010 6:55:56 PM , Rating: 2
If a car driving away from a bank that was robbed has a license plate that used to belong to your car, but nobody saw you driving or anywhere near the scene, and the bank was robbed of (let's say 2:1 upload:download ratio) $25,

IS THIS PROOF you owe the bank $2 million dollars? Heck no.

Threatening to sue for hundreds of thousands of dollars because you are merely accused of once having the license plate on a piece of paper is blackmail when the most you should've been liable for IF it was proven you were guilty is (recall the 2:1 ratio mentioned above) 2 * 25 = $50.

If it costs $350 to file in an attempt to get $50 back, they wouldn't bother would they? This is corrupt on all sides but far moreso by the lawyers and courts than by those who illegally up/download something worth less than a nice restaurant meal.

What is torrents?
By excrucio on 6/14/2010 7:26:16 PM , Rating: 2
You know when I was younger I used to use Ares and BearShare. Now people are very familiar with torrents. However the smarter still use safe warez sites. Although most are full of viruses the private ones and the very few free ones that are clean are much safer. Piracy will never be beaten. It's a useless fight. You're gonna gun down the poor just like RIAA did. I don't ever see this war ending.

RE: What is torrents?
By conejo99 on 6/14/2010 11:18:17 PM , Rating: 2
At this rate, why should they want to discourage piracy?
More piracy is more money in the bank for these scum.

RE: What is torrents?
By mgilbert on 6/15/2010 11:15:06 AM , Rating: 2
So, people who try to keep you from stealing from them are scum?

RE: What is torrents?
By conejo99 on 6/15/2010 3:42:23 PM , Rating: 3
I don't download movies (or songs). I believe they are scum because I believe they submit a huge number of cases knowing that some (perhaps small percentage) of the plantifs are innocent and they make no provision for those who are innocent to avoid the legal trap where defending yourself costs far more than just giving in.

I've always said....
By DM0407 on 6/14/2010 1:52:24 PM , Rating: 3
theres just not enough lawsuits these days. Bravo.

RE: I've always said....
By DM0407 on 6/14/2010 1:54:48 PM , Rating: 5
I should become a lawyer and threaten to sue people for something I didn't create for a product they didn't steal.

I think I know what's driving it
By Lemurion on 6/14/2010 3:40:57 PM , Rating: 5
None of this would be possible if the penalties for illicit file-sharing were not grossly disproportionate to the severity of the act.

If the statutory damages for non-commercial infringement were in line with the actual losses - more like a $50 slap on the wrist (which is all that's appropriate) this whole "next-best-thing-to-legalized-extortion" industry would dry up and blow away.

RE: I think I know what's driving it
By tmouse on 6/15/2010 8:27:23 AM , Rating: 2
It's never going to be that low, the idea is to be punitive to discourage the actions in the future, so a price just above cost will never happen. It costs $350 to file in federal courts. In theory the costs could be as low as $200 per infringement, usually it's closer to $750-1000 per for first timers (decided by the court). If you are seen making a profit it can jump way up to 100k per. Right now the "game" is to send out hundreds of thousands of "demand offers", even a fraction of settlements nets a tidy profit. They do TRW's on the rest and chose who to file on then give them a 2-3x "settlement offer". They will not go after the poor (no money to be made if they win) nor will they go after the rich who could drive up their costs using better lawyers and perhaps providing legal precedents others could use. It's the rest of the guys that have to worry. They probably will not go after a single movie downloader since that could only net them as little as $280 (70% of the minimum of $750-350 filing fees)+ their costs which they have to provide actual time sheets for (thanks to the precedent set by Direct TV's firm which got caught trying to pass off all the original costs on each case instead of the actual costs for the boiler plate work). Many will settle in phase 1 or 2, they will file on less than 1% of the rest and call it a day. It's a really tough gamble for anyone caught in this net. Thats the unfortunate facts.

Rise up
By stm1185 on 6/14/2010 7:54:13 PM , Rating: 2
I suggest the 150,000 people band together and form the BitTorrent militia. Then march down to the USGS head quarters and shake them down for some money raging mob style.


RE: Rise up
By CZroe on 6/14/2010 9:09:03 PM , Rating: 2
Yes. Nothing good can come of the work those scoundrels do at the US Geological Survey. DOWN WITH THE USGS!

RE: Rise up
By marvdmartian on 6/15/2010 9:03:37 AM , Rating: 2
Yes!! Damn those geologists!! DAMN THEM TO HELL!!!! ;)

Seriously, are there that many people who are still downloading movies via torrent, that haven't gotten a clue yet that they're fairly easy to catch?? And they don't have a legal leg to stand on, especially as they're guilty of uploading to others, while downloading for themselves??

By zxern on 6/14/2010 2:03:40 PM , Rating: 2
Looks like the movie industry is determined to follow the same path the recording industry took.

So hopefully in 10 years we'll have drm free movie downloads available for purchase at amazon.

The USGS??
By spwrozek on 6/14/2010 3:18:51 PM , Rating: 2
Probably has nothing to do with this.

Mick supporting piracy as usual
By bill4 on 6/15/2010 7:32:38 AM , Rating: 2
Nice slanted article.

HA. I Can't Wait
By mgilbert on 6/15/10, Rating: -1
RE: HA. I Can't Wait
By conejo99 on 6/15/2010 10:14:58 AM , Rating: 2
You say "It doesn’t matter who downloaded the movie."
Legally, I have no idea. Morally, I'm only responsable for my actions or negligence. You can go from an extreem case of a grandmother who has never heard of downloading on the one hand, to a parent who just doesn't care on the other. Somewhere a reasonable standard of neglegence needs to be judged. 150,000 cases each worth $2000 doesn't allow for the proper administation of justice.
Movie producers should not be allowed to inflict injustice even in pursuit of their justifiable rights.

RE: HA. I Can't Wait
By mgilbert on 6/15/2010 11:09:06 AM , Rating: 2
Traffic tickets have set prices. Depending on the situation, shoplifting results in a citation for a set amount. That's just a couple of examples.

So, the fine for stealing a movie is $2,000. Problem solved.

Trying to stop people from stealing your work is not an injustice.

RE: HA. I Can't Wait
By conejo99 on 6/15/2010 11:34:43 AM , Rating: 2
You say "Trying to stop people from stealing your work is not an injustice." True enough, but that is not what is going on. Indescrimantly punishing the innocent along with the guilty is the injustice.
My point is that the large number and small severity of the damage claims do not lend themselves to a fair hearing.

RE: HA. I Can't Wait
By mcnabney on 6/15/2010 10:33:06 AM , Rating: 3
You don't know anything about movie production.

The studio owns the film. The people that 'made' the film are paid upfront and go on to do other things regardless of how well the movie sells. Only a handful of big directors/stars can actually get a percentage of gross sales (never get a percentage of the Net, the Net can be any number the studio wants. Forrest Gump had a Net of zero). DVD sales are just icing on the cake for studios. Think of all of the movies made from the 80's and before. Every penny made from the sale of those DVDs goes to the studio. Don't try to play the 'poor movie producer' angle. It is corporate IP, no different than software code or the formulae in medicine.

RE: HA. I Can't Wait
By mgilbert on 6/15/2010 10:48:47 AM , Rating: 1
You're splitting hairs. I'll boil it down for you. Your IP address was seen transferring data in and out from a copyrighted movie that you have not paid for. That's illegal, and it was your computer, and you are responsible. End of story. Pay up.

I'm not crazy about this any more than you are. I'm as anti-government as they come. I'm just pointing out what I believe is going to happen.

RE: HA. I Can't Wait
By mcnabney on 6/15/2010 3:39:29 PM , Rating: 2
I remember in my youth I would occasionally record songs off of the radio (damn DJ would never SHUT UP!). Same idea there. I am deliberately capturing and retaining protected IP.

Fast forward to the modern age when the same actions are simplified and automated. Only now we are allowing corporations to track our actions. Getting to be a pretty brave new world.

RE: HA. I Can't Wait
By xxsk8er101xx on 6/16/2010 12:50:13 AM , Rating: 3
You're an idiot. IP's are generally dynamic and you can easily change it at will by unplugging your router for an hour and plugging it back in.

You can also spoof IP addresses to make it look like someone else. It's not hard.

You don't see the abuse of the legal system and potential harm to innocent victims who never touched bittorent? Then you're an ignorant buffoon who has no clue about technology.

RE: HA. I Can't Wait
By Ratinator on 6/15/2010 3:01:27 PM , Rating: 2
One of the biggest complaints is the little people involved in a movie are the ones getting screwed, yet movie companies feel the need to pay lead actors and actresses upwards of $20million+ per movie. Maybe they should look again at where and how they spend their money.

RE: HA. I Can't Wait
By Jeffk464 on 6/15/2010 3:27:33 PM , Rating: 2
Come on people, you cant afford the $1 red box rental.

RE: HA. I Can't Wait
By mcnabney on 6/15/2010 3:41:23 PM , Rating: 2
That and Netflix have been my solution. I already own all of the DVDs that I am likely to watch again and again.

RE: HA. I Can't Wait
By xxsk8er101xx on 6/16/2010 12:52:40 AM , Rating: 2
the stuff you can download on bit torrent is generally not available on a redbox. Such as a super rare movie you can't find anymore because it's not in print.

This is a good public works program
By Beenthere on 6/14/10, Rating: -1
By HostileEffect on 6/15/2010 4:25:19 PM , Rating: 1
Oh cool! Are you going to pay for their days meals a day, toilets, electric bill, recreational time, the guards to make sure none of these dangerous filesharers escape back into their native habitat?

"The Space Elevator will be built about 50 years after everyone stops laughing" -- Sir Arthur C. Clarke

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki