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The USCG is accused of executing an extortion campaign that would make the Mafioso proud. It is currently trying to threaten nearly 50,000 U.S. citizens into settlements.
Record setting lawsuit against downloaders of The Hurt Locker has reached nearly 25,000 people, alone

A bizarre case just became more bizarre.  Lawyers for Voltage Pictures, makers of the Oscar-winning war movie The Hurt Locker, have announced [Scribd] in legal filings that they are dramatically expanding their record setting legal crusade against filesharers.

I. A Reverse Class Action?

The Hurt Locker lawsuit is perhaps the first of its kind.  It represents a reverse class action, with a company acting as a plaintiff and suing a large class of defendants.

Originally this class was set at 5,000.  But as promised, lawyers for Voltage Pictures have expanded the class, adding close to 20,000 newly accused defendants, for a total of 24,583 defendants.

The majority of defendants are on Comcast.  A total of 10,532 Comcast users currently stand accused.  Comcast has refused to cooperate with the plaintiffs in targeting its customers according to filed legal documents.

By contrast Verizon, who had the second most defendants at 5,239, agreed to hand over the names and information of 100 customers a month.  Third place Charter, with 2,699 defendants, agreed to hand over 150 customers a month.  

Time Warner rounds off the list with 1,750 defendants.

If Comcast can hold off the legal assault, it may safeguard approximately two fifths of the customers targeted in the case.  The plaintiffs do not currently have users' true identities -- just the offending IP addresses.  So as long as Comcast refuses to cooperate its customers will be safe.

Even in the case of Verizon and Charter it will take years at the promised rate to successfully obtain information on all the accused.

II. USCG -- Nearly 50,000 Sued

The legal brains behind this audacious lawsuit is the U.S. Copyright Group (USCG).  The men leading the USCG are a trio of lawyers Thomas Dunlap, Daniel Grubb, and J.W. Weaver whose main office is located in Washington, D.C.

The USCG have borrow a page from the Mafioso playbook, creating a mass "pay or else" scheme of legal threats, which many consider pure extortion.  

In many ways this scheme is the entertainment industry's anointed successor to the notorious Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) campaign of legal threats.  However the USCG suits are a bit different, as they actually have been filed in court, versus the RIAA threats that were negotiated out of court.  Amazingly, federal courts appear to be cooperating with the USCG's scheme to juice millions out of the unsuspecting public.

Last month the USCG announced [Scribd] a suit against 23,322 defendants for downloading the movie The Hurt Locker.  That brings the total to 47,905 -- close to the eye-catching 50k mark.

The USCG hopes to gains settlements of $2,000 from the defendants.  If it can get everyone to settle, it could in theory make $95.81M USD.  Of course it probably will get nowhere close to that, but even if it got a mere fourth of defendants to settle it would receive almost $24.0M USD -- a handsome payout compared to the $17M USD The Hurt Locker made at the box office at the $103M USD box office scoop from The Expendables.

The USCG has said that they hope to sue 150,000 U.S. citizens for various infringed works.

III. Former RIAA Lobbyist-Turned-Judge Presides Over the Case

If the selection of Judge is any indication, the defendants could be in very bad trouble.  The happy news for the USCG is that the judge presiding over the case -- Judge Beryl Howell -- was a former RIAA lobbyist who spent years decrying the evils of piracy.

Judge Howell will deliver her ruling on whether the case by Voltage Pictures with the new details can proceed and under what stipulations.

One complication is a recent ruling Judge Harold Baker, a judge at the Central District Court of Illinois that an IP address does not equate to a physical person/defendant.  However, typically federal court rulings only apply within a state, or sometimes are considered by nearby states.

Judge Howell (Washington, D.C.) is free to draw her own conclusions as she's in a separate jurisdiction in which the legal system still seems to think an IP (internet protocol) address identifies a single person.

The association between IP and identity remains a thorny legal issue in the United States.  In court, the U.S. largely upheld IP logs as evidence in trials such as the cases against Jammie Thomas-Rassert and Joel Tenenbaum.

And recently, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and its sister agencies have been conducting raids on suspected child pornography viewers based solely on IP logs -- with minimal background research.  In many cases these raids were later discovered to be case of mistaken identity -- but that discovery came too late for brutalized homeowners.

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RE: lolwut
By murray13 on 5/24/2011 10:29:25 AM , Rating: 5
It would cost Comcast many thousands of dollars to do the research to look up all those names from IP's.

They're not looking out for you, there still just looking at the bottom line!!!

RE: lolwut
By nafhan on 5/24/2011 10:52:59 AM , Rating: 2
I read somewhere that it costs one of the big ISP's (cable company, can't remember which one) about $120 per lookup. This was a couple years ago, and maybe they've automated some stuff since then, but at that rate, this would cost Comast about $1.2mil. Even if it's just half or a quarter of that, that's a big enough chunk of change that cost to the ISP is a legitimate concern here.

RE: lolwut
By LRonaldHubbs on 5/24/2011 11:31:26 AM , Rating: 2
Wow, did not realize that. Makes more sense now why they would refuse.

RE: lolwut
By mcnabney on 5/24/11, Rating: -1
RE: lolwut
By invidious on 5/24/2011 12:42:27 PM , Rating: 2
Databases are not stored on spreadsheets...

Go ahead and make a spreadsheet for 23 million users with dozens of entries per user and see how well excel handles it.

Its amazing how people with no idea what they are talking about act like they are smarter than the professionals working for multibillion dollar corporations just because they took keyboarding in high school.

RE: lolwut
By dragonsmacker on 5/24/2011 1:02:07 PM , Rating: 4
Databases are not stored on spreadsheets... Go ahead and make a spreadsheet for 23 million users with dozens of entries per user and see how well excel handles it. Its amazing how people with no idea what they are talking about act like they are smarter than the professionals working for multibillion dollar corporations just because they took keyboarding in high school.

What's amazing to me is the lack of reading comprehension. Ultimately you receive a fail on your remark of someone else failing.

He said give him the ip addresses w/ the date/times on a spreadsheet and he could have the results list in 30 minutes from the database. He never said the information was stored in an Excel file. And he is correct.

RE: lolwut
By Skelum on 5/24/2011 1:32:29 PM , Rating: 2
But he implies that such database exists... Which he has no proof of...

Not all ISP have such data warehouse yet...

RE: lolwut
By nafhan on 5/24/2011 2:52:25 PM , Rating: 2
Even if it's a flat log file or something, it probably wouldn't be that hard to parse it and look for the IP addresses in question.
Anyway, as I mentioned below, the technical aspects of the request probably aren't where most of the cost is incurred.

RE: lolwut
By FauxNews on 5/24/2011 8:15:08 PM , Rating: 1
You're also assuming the log files from 1+ year ago are kept "online".

How many companies keep years worth of IP-log activity sitting around on active storage for years?

These log files might be on tape backup at an offsite storage location for all you know.

"Figure out which tape corresponds to March 5th, 2009, Pull tape #345893 from storage, restore it, parse it, and correlate it to the customer records".

Suddenly a simple task is a pretty major pain.

RE: lolwut
By YashBudini on 5/24/2011 11:18:08 PM , Rating: 2
Suddenly a simple task is a pretty major pain.

Mostly because people who could think for themselves in IT have been replaced with H1B's or outsourced to people who are only capable of following very specific orders.

I've restored many source files from damaged "pack dump" images all on my own. If it doesn't work that way today it's their own fault.

"Figure out which tape corresponds to March 5th, 2009, Pull tape #345893 from storage, restore it, parse it, and correlate it to the customer records".

Decades of IT experience both on and off raised floors leaves me to ask, "So?"

You think the FBI or the SEC would want to hear excuses when they have a warrant in hand?

RE: lolwut
By YashBudini on 5/24/2011 1:54:30 PM , Rating: 2
Go ahead and make a spreadsheet for 23 million users with dozens of entries per user and see how well excel handles it.

What are you talking about? The complaint would supply the 5000 IP addresses for an SQL search, the output could easily be in comma delimited format for something else that a spreadsheet would accept.

RE: lolwut
By eggman on 5/24/2011 3:33:59 PM , Rating: 2
Log files are not necessarily structured data.

RE: lolwut
By YashBudini on 5/24/2011 11:27:32 PM , Rating: 2
Scanning flat file records for specific values is somewhat CPU intensive. Writing such a program is simple.

If that's beyond their capabilities load the flat file into a temporary unindexed DB2 or other table and use the LIKE SQL function with the appropriate wildcards.

RE: lolwut
By nafhan on 5/24/2011 2:47:43 PM , Rating: 3
I get the feeling you may have never worked for a large corporation... The reason this sounds easy to you is because you're just looking at the easy part.

I would imagine the procedures for requesting, accessing, and releasing the information are where most of the time/money costs come from. In fact, I'd be surprised if each data lookup request moved through fewer than three different groups. Some of that is just due to straight up bureaucratic bloat, but some of it also comes from checks and balances in place to preserve the safety of customer information.

RE: lolwut
By sorry dog on 5/24/2011 11:48:20 AM , Rating: 2
also, there is the public relations risk that if enough customer's names are turned over, that Comcast could be seen as the bad guy in customer backlash.
While the case may technically have some legal merit, if enough people are falsely accused of piracy then it's likely some publicity will be given to the IP address not being a good personal identifier. I'm in the ISP business and I'd estimate that at least half of all subscribers use a router of some type to feed more than one computer. This is only going to increase as laptops increase over desktops and computers become more personal devices.

RE: lolwut
By Jalek on 5/24/2011 4:26:41 PM , Rating: 2
Customer backlash against a functional monopoly in several markets isn't likely to be a huge concern.

Destroying the idea that IP addresses identify an individual also wouldn't seem to be a problem for the ISP, it would fall to law enforcement or the ambulance-chasing lawyers like these to find another identification method.

IPv6 will change things as well, but the torrent information they're trying to use for these suits don't have that.

RE: lolwut
By Lerianis on 5/25/2011 9:31:36 AM , Rating: 2
IPv6 won't change as much as you think. The fact is that even then, they will only be able to get the MODEM address of the person doing the 'illegal' sharing.

They could STILL be using a wireless network that someone hacked into, a modem cloner (yes, these things do exist), etc. and it's not the person who owns the wireless network doing the illegal downloading.

"So, I think the same thing of the music industry. They can't say that they're losing money, you know what I'm saying. They just probably don't have the same surplus that they had." -- Wu-Tang Clan founder RZA

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