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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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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.

"When an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song." -- Sony BMG attorney Jennifer Pariser

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