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New Litigation Targets 20,000 BitTorrent-Using Downloaders 949

Posted by timothy
from the making-a-list-checking-it-twice dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "The Hollywood Reporter reports that more than 20,000 individual movie torrent downloaders have been sued in the past few weeks in Washington, DC, federal court for copyright infringement, and another lawsuit targeting 30,000 more torrent downloaders on five more films is forthcoming in what could be a test run that opens up the floodgates to massive litigation against the millions of individuals who use BitTorrent to download movies. The US Copyright Group, a company owned by intellectual property lawyers, is using a new proprietary technology by German-based Guardaley IT that allows for real-time monitoring of movie downloads on torrents. According to Thomas Dunlap, a lawyer at the firm, the program captures IP addresses based on the time stamp that a download has occurred and then checks against a spreadsheet to make sure the downloading content is the copyright protected film and not a misnamed film or trailer. 'We're creating a revenue stream and monetizing the equivalent of an alternative distribution channel,' says Jeffrey Weaver, another lawyer at the firm."
"The difference between the MPAA's past approach and the new one being offered by the US Copyright Group is that the MPAA took a less targeted approach going after a smaller sampling of infringers in a single suit for multiple films, to send a message. In contrast, the US Copyright Group is using the new monitoring technology to go after tens of thousands of infringers at a time on a contingency basis in hopes of coming up with the right cost-benefit incentive to pursue individual pirates."
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New Litigation Targets 20,000 BitTorrent-Using Downloaders

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  • Re:Good thing (Score:5, Informative)

    by sopssa (1498795) * <sopssa@email.com> on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @08:06PM (#31680002) Journal

    Also, please read the article for once:

    the US Copyright Group, on behalf of an ad hoc coalition of independent film producers and with the encouragement of the Independent Film & Television Alliance. So far, five lawsuits have been filed against tens of thousands of alleged infringers of the films "Steam Experiment," "Far Cry," "Uncross the Stars," "Gray Man" and "Call of the Wild 3D." Here's an example of one of the lawsuits -- over Uwe Boll's "Far Cry."

    This is INDIE film makers suing. Not MPAA, not Hollywood. Indies.

  • by Whuffo (1043790) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @08:09PM (#31680046) Homepage Journal
    I'm still unclear on the business benefit to the MPAA companies that comes from suing their customer base. This isn't going to win them any friends and is even less likely to increase their profits. It was stupid when they were suing dozens of people - but stepping this lunacy up to 50,000 lawsuits looks more like a death wish than "monetizing the alternate channel".
  • Re:Good thing (Score:3, Informative)

    by Jurily (900488) <jurily@noSpAM.gmail.com> on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @08:21PM (#31680238)

    Also note that the .torrent file does not contain enough information to verify the legal status of the content. My guess is they download everything they suspect might be theirs.

    If they do this, does that mean they're wide open for countersuits by anyone uploading their wedding movies? I'm guessing their death will be quick and painless, seeing how they must do willful copyright infringement on a massive scale.

  • by snowraver1 (1052510) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @08:33PM (#31680408)
    This isn't a network sniffing thing. They connect to the swarm just like any other user. Encryption is there to prevent man in the middle sniffing in an attempt to evade ISP throttling. Encryption won't help you here.
  • Re:Good thing (Score:3, Informative)

    by tpstigers (1075021) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @08:51PM (#31680658)
    "Why is the parent modded insightful?" I know I'm going off-topic here, but I thought I should point this out: Slashdot's moderation system stipulates that individuals cannot assign mod points and comment in the same thread (for good and obvious reasons). What this means is that questions like the one quoted above will NEVER RECEIVE A MEANINGFUL ANSWER.
  • by h4rr4r (612664) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @09:03PM (#31680770)

    Even if they do buy films, they will go for the used option. These are clearly price conscious folks.

  • Re:Good thing (Score:3, Informative)

    by DigiShaman (671371) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @09:05PM (#31680802) Homepage

    However, that could loosely be associated with Broken Window Fallacy.

  • Re:how? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @09:06PM (#31680814)

    That may be the case, but I'd be willing to bet that group filing the lawsuits will offer defendants a standard settlement option which most defendants will accept. If each of those 50,000 people is being sued for ~$100k and is offered a ~$1k settlement, most will take it since a) they did what they're being accused of and/or b) it's less than a lawyer would cost.

  • Re:Good thing (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @09:28PM (#31681066)

    In most locations, photo radar and red light camera tickets go to the owner of the vehicle. In order to lose your license they have to prove it was you, but for a fine all they have to prove is that you own the car.

  • by nabsltd (1313397) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @09:32PM (#31681108)

    Is it possible for a Bittorrent tracker to make IPs appear in the swarm that aren't actually representing any actual clients?

    Yes.

    It's also not guaranteed that a peer in the swam is downloading or uploading. The only way to be 99% sure is to send/receive to/from a given peer. But, if you don't send/receive 100% of the content to/from that single peer, it would be hard to claim copyright infringement, as you couldn't prove a full copy had been shared by that IP address.

    I don't know about you, but even with my very fast connection, it would take me a long time to download 50,000 copies of a movie. And, it'd be insanely difficult to make sure that I downloaded it from exactly 50,000 unique peers.

  • Re:I wonder... (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @09:47PM (#31681306)

    You pay for broadcasted content.

    You don't pay for internet downloads.

    You pay for broadcasted content either directly (cable subscription) or indirectly (via the advertising that comes with the shows/songs). Either way, the IP owners receive money from the entities doing the broadcasting.

    They don't receive money from the internet, which puts quite a dent into their business plans.

    As much as we like to compare torrents to VCRs, the fact is that they are very different when it comes to the way money runs through the system, which is the only thing that matters to the *IAAs and the like. Please remember that this discussion doesn't involve a lot of artists, it involves a lot of suits instead.

  • by Zakabog (603757) <john@NOSpAm.jmaug.com> on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @09:52PM (#31681368)

    This is why I gave up downloading movies, I now resort to buying all of my movies on blu-ray.

    Sure, most of them fell off the back of a truck, but the fines are much less harsh than getting sued by the movie industry...

  • Re:Huh? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Inner_Child (946194) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @09:52PM (#31681380)
    "Going Postal" is the name of a very good book in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. "Postal" is the Uwe Boll pile of crap you're thinking of. Please don't confuse the two as Pratchett is respected, unlike Boll.
  • Re:Good thing (Score:5, Informative)

    by adamstew (909658) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @09:53PM (#31681390)

    They don't need to prove, beyond any doubt, that you were the person who downloaded it. That's not the burden of proof in a civil case. Hell, that's not even the burden of proof in a criminal case.

    They only need to prove that you were the one who likely downloaded it. Civil cases in the US are based on a "preponderance of evidence". That simply means that they need to be more than 50% right.

    Their reasoning is "We have these records that this IP address downloaded this movie at this time. We have a statement from the internet provider who owns that IP that this account was the one who used it at the time of the download. That account belongs to Mr. Smith."

    If they go to court with that level of evidence, and you simply show up and say "Prove it" or "It might have been someone who stole my wifi signal" then you are going to lose. You also need to submit evidence that makes their evidence tell a different story, and show that it is likely to have happened.

    Now, if you showed up with logs from your router that showed that this MAC address downloaded the movie, records from the MAC address database that shows that the MAC was assigned to a particular manufacturer, plus an expert technical witness to explain what all that is, and a signed affidavit that says that you don't own, have never owned, and was not using a device by that manufacturer at that time, then you have just likely made a sufficient defense.

    Note: IANAL.

  • Re:Good thing (Score:5, Informative)

    by mellon (7048) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @10:02PM (#31681472) Homepage

    Actually, if you live in the U.S., you've committed a felony. I'm not saying that's right, but that's what the law says.

  • Re:Thanks! (Score:2, Informative)

    by spikeb (966663) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @10:04PM (#31681500)
    you realize this is a group that represents independents, right?
  • Re:Huh? (Score:4, Informative)

    by h4rr4r (612664) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @10:05PM (#31681506)

    Which will soon be another British made for TV movie. If you have not seen Hogfather and Colour of Magic (which also includes The Light Fantastic) you really should go check them out.

  • Re:They Suck (Score:5, Informative)

    by EdIII (1114411) * on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @10:06PM (#31681532)

    What if they actually do manage to book everyone in

    Yeah... You're not going to get to tell everyone in the joint you were there because you 'stole' a copy of Twilight.

    It's a civil court where these cases are going. Not criminal. Nobody is going to get 'booked'.

    Please remember that from now on. Seriously. Having people think something is crime that can be prosecuted in criminal court when it is demonstrably not so, is not a good thing.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @10:36PM (#31681848)

    PeerBlock/PeerGuardian are like holding a twig in front of your face and pretending you can't be seen by the police dogs. All it takes is for the ISP loggers to hit from anywhere, be it an open wi-fi, a hacked connection, a proxy, or anything, and the evidence is still evidence they get for the court.

    In reality, IP banning tools have zero actual protection. Might as well just ban random octets for the good it does.

  • Re:They Suck (Score:3, Informative)

    by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @11:01PM (#31682094) Journal

    What would you think about people taking code licensed under the GPL and incorporating it into a commercial, closed-source program? That would be stealing, too.

    Nope, that would still be copyright infringement.

    Read GP again, particularly the part where the Supreme Court ruled you're wrong.

  • Re:They Suck (Score:3, Informative)

    by AcidPenguin9873 (911493) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @11:34PM (#31682422)

    Well, actually, stealing usually involves depriving somebody of property.

    This Slashdot-promoted definition is wrong, and out of control. The counterexample is theft of labor, or in other words the service industry. If someone charges money to provide a service, say, mowing your lawn, and then you don't pay them for that service, that is theft, as defined by law. Here [state.mt.us] is your citation. When committing the crime of theft of labor, you have not deprived anyone of physical property, yet you have committed theft.

  • Re:Good thing (Score:3, Informative)

    by harlows_monkeys (106428) on Wednesday March 31, 2010 @12:41AM (#31682914) Homepage

    Shooting yourself in the foot, 20000 law suits at a time

    Actually, it's 5 lawsuits, not 20000. It's 20000 defendants.

  • Re:They Suck (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 31, 2010 @01:56AM (#31683434)

    Legally, "stealing" is depriving the owner of the original. Copyright infringer, which arguably may deprive rights holders of some potential economic benefit, is illegal, but it is not the same crime as theft.

  • Re:They Suck (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 31, 2010 @02:40AM (#31683706)

    Not necessarily, in several other countries (yes they do exists), the act of stealing is defined as taking a physical object. So it's really a difference between stealing and copyright infringment (legally).

  • Re:They Suck (Score:5, Informative)

    by niteshifter (1252200) on Wednesday March 31, 2010 @02:45AM (#31683742)

    Under the law, I've granted the public the right to use that program without paying me any money, but only under the terms I, as the copyright holder, have allowed. If you violate the license, you've stolen from me.

    Nice sleight of hand there. And I'm burning mod points here, so be nice and pay attention, please.

    Should you so choose you can - under the law - commence charges, in civil court against the violator. You will have to show the court your standing (your privilege to instantiate proceedings) AND what unlawful or tortuous act was committed, and be specific about it.

    Your attorney will tell you, the judge will tell you - and yes I'll point it out as well: Your feelings of being "stolen from" don't matter. What matters is the Law - which says you have a violation of Contract predicated upon Copyright Law, not an act of Larceny.

    Your GPL example is also not Larceny.

    In other words, guess what: No matter how big a bitch-fit tantrum you throw, no matter how much you wish it to be true, what you believe simply is not true - under the law.

  • Re:Huh? (Score:3, Informative)

    by nacturation (646836) * <nacturation@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday March 31, 2010 @04:55AM (#31684556) Journal

    Can you please learn to read?
    Which will soon be another British made for TV movie

    That is called the future tense, it will air end of next month, then the option for us region 1 folks will be pirate or wait 2+ years.

    You also wrote:

    If you have not seen Hogfather and Colour of Magic (which also includes The Light Fantastic) you really should go check them out.

    Try another pot of coffee. It'll help you keep up.

  • Re:Good thing (Score:4, Informative)

    by the_bard17 (626642) <theluckyone17@gmail.com> on Wednesday March 31, 2010 @07:52AM (#31685664)

    I browsed the "U.S. Copyright Group's" website. To me, it screams sleazy lawyer. They claim to "obtain the ISP addresses of the infringers" as if that's a surefire way of establishing identity.

    Then there is this: "The person who unlawfully downloads a movie cannot afford to pay a $10,000 settlement to avoid legal trouble. BUT, they can and will pay $500-$1,000 to avoid civil legal prosecution for copyright infringement. Multiply these settlement amounts by 10,000, 30,000 or 50,000 infringers, and we have created a tremendous solution to stop film piracy and recover the copyright owner’s losses."

    My response: I'm sorry that new technology has rendered the movie industry's business/delivery model obsolete. I'm not sorry that they're choosing to litigate instead of innovate.

    I will not support the efforts of any group that uses the U.S. legal system as a crowbar to pry money out of the general public.

We will have solar energy as soon as the utility companies solve one technical problem -- how to run a sunbeam through a meter.

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