Print 19 comment(s) - last by wempa.. on Dec 29 at 10:52 AM

Pirates win the day, even as movie studio faces its own claims of infringement, exploitation of U.S. soldiers

It was supposed to be a landmark case against file sharing.  Hoping to sue those who downloaded its Hurt Locker film via torrent, Voltage Pictures retained the services of the U.S. Copyright Group (USCG), led by the trio of Washington, D.C. lawyers Thomas Dunlap, Daniel Grubb, and J.W. Weaver.  The USCG quickly unloaded lawsuit claims against 47K members of the unwitting American public, even as Voltage Picture spewed a stream of vitriol suggesting that the children and families of file sharers would hopefully "end up in jail".  

With an average target settlement of $2,000 USD, USCG and Voltage hoped to rake in $94M USD -- a blockbuster total.  If the scheme worked it could have launched a new era of reverse class action claims, in which media corporations targeted thousands of members of the public for hundreds of millions in damages.  In fact, the USCG alone announced a goal of suing over 150,000 Americans for copyright infringement of various works.

Instead the case imploded.  Internet service providers, wary of throwing out paying customers and spending extra money to track down the infringers carried out the USCG's requests for information at a leisurely pace.

A panicked USCG was forced to drastically scale down the claims to 2,300 defendants.

But in the end even that wasn't enough.  Without sufficient information to carry out its reverse class action tactic, the USCG was forced to grovel before the presiding judge asking for extension after extension.

In the end, despite the fact that the presiding judge -- Judge Beryl Howell -- was a former RIAA lobbyist who spent years decrying the evils of piracy, even he grew tired of the USCG's antics.  After asking for one extension too many, he threw the group's case out of court, ending Voltage Picture's costly experiment in mass litigation.

Hurt Locker
A scene from The Hurt Locker [Image Source: AP]

The death of the lawsuit is a victory for those who claim that the U.S. intellectual property system is out of control and out of touch with modern reality.  While many of these individuals frown on piracy, they find charging citizens thousands of dollars for what amounts to petty theft to be a ludicrous proposition.  

They also point to growing legal support for the notion that an IP address cannot be equated to a person -- something the tech community has long understood.  Given that somebody can crack your Wi-Fi connection, download content, and leave you with the fine, this seems a pretty valid point.

Voltage, for its part, appears to be unwilling to give up the fight.  It reportedly is changing gears, hoping to launch a number of smaller suits against individuals, with higher settlement targets.

But like the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), it may find itself fighting against the wind.  The RIAA spent $64M USD to win a mere $1.4M USD from pirates during its most prolific lawsuit period between 2006 and 2008.

The greatest irony is perhaps that, like big music labels, Voltage and Hurt Locker writer Mark Boal are accused of ripping off and stealing intellectual property from "the little guy".  A U.S. Army Master Sgt. Jeffrey S. Sarver has accused Mr. Boal and Voltage of lifting the plot from Mr. Boal's time spent with Sgt. Sarver's company, while passing the story off as fiction in order to make sure the soldiers who put their lives on the line to serve received no compensation.  The accusations are similar to those leveled against major music labels who reportedly have been engaging in large scale theft of works of independent artists.

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The time to fight piracy is LONG past...
By letmepicyou on 12/28/2011 12:53:48 PM , Rating: 2
If you ask me, the time to stop piracy was 25 or 30 years ago when everyone was buying double cassette deck recorders and bulk packs of blank tapes. I can't BEGIN to tell you how many albums I dubbed from friends. Swapping newly purchased tapes of the latest and greatest and then copying them to a blank tape was king, and nobody, not ONE SINGLE PERSON, ever even CONSIDERED it to be theft or "piracy". A negative thought never entered our minds, we were just sharing what seemed natural to share. Heck, some decks even had HIGH SPEED DUBBING!!! Whoa, if that's not a pro-piracy technology, I don't know what is.

Point is, the bus that goes in the direction of "stopping piracy" (what I in fact call "culture sharing", because it sounds MUCH nicer, and we all know how spin rules the day) has already left the terminal. Not only did it already leave, but the regular driver called in sick, the substitute driver isn't in the union, hasn't been trained, and got lost along the way. Several passengers are believed to have died or been 'misplaced', the bathroom is broke, your luggage is lost, they've got a flat, and the bus is out of gas in the middle of a deserted highway in the middle of nowhere. Al Qaeda is not suspected.

It can be awful hard to stop a leak in the dam when the flood waters are already receding, can't it?

By wempa on 12/29/2011 10:52:03 AM , Rating: 2
Before broadband internet became widely available, it was still a lot harder to pirate music/movies/software. Somebody needed a real copy and you needed to physically exchange media. So, the impact of those dual cassette decks was very limited compared to what we have today. Nobody could have seen this coming. Heck, 20 years ago the idea of computers being used as media centers for music/movies/software with terabytes of storage seemed ludicrous.

"I want people to see my movies in the best formats possible. For [Paramount] to deny people who have Blu-ray sucks!" -- Movie Director Michael Bay

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