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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.

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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.

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