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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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  • They Suck (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @08:05PM (#31679990)
    These types of lawyers give other types of lawyers an even worse name.

    And before you sue me for that statement I'm sure that there is some sort of 'fair use' or 'truth' defense, so phfffft!
    • Re:They Suck (Score:5, Insightful)

      by h4rr4r (612664) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @08:18PM (#31680186)

      These types of lawyers give other types of lawyers an even worse name.

      Just like cops, bad the 99% ruin it for everyone.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @08:07PM (#31680028)

    "...and monetizing the equivalent of an alternative distribution channel."

    The equivalent of a distribution channel where tens of thousands get movies for free, but then a randomly selected group has to pay a hundred times the cost of the movie in litigation fees.

    At least they're innovating...

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Jedi Alec (258881)

      The equivalent of a distribution channel where tens of thousands get movies for free, but then a randomly selected group has to pay a hundred times the cost of the movie in litigation fees.

      So kinda like insurance...except the other way around?

      Didn't someone start a p2p insurance policy a few years back?

    • by sincewhen (640526) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @09:19PM (#31680950)

      How long do you suppose it will be until we find out that they are actually seeding the torrents themselves?

      People here on Slashdot have been saying they need to find a new business model - well, now they have!

    • by TechForensics (944258) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @11:04PM (#31682114) Homepage Journal

      "...and monetizing the equivalent of an alternative distribution channel."

      The equivalent of a distribution channel where tens of thousands get movies for free, but then a randomly selected group has to pay a hundred times the cost of the movie in litigation fees.

      At least they're innovating...

      See http://www.savecinema.org/index.html [savecinema.org], the U.S. Copyright Group. They think threatening bittorrent users with demands in the $500. to $1000. range will work better than past approaches, and instead of suing few users for multiple media like the RIAA, they will sue multiple users for individual films. Most of us would cough up $500.00 to $1000.00 to keep our lives free from lawyers. They offer their services on contingency to the producers, meaning no upfront investment-- just about $20 million in recoveries per film if you multiply the typically 30,000 infringers (prior to release on DVD) times about $750.00 per. Yes, a lot of studios may come to see the USCG $20 million as an expected line revenue item. USCG specifically targets the 30,000 infringers who act in the window between theatrical release and DVD sale, which presumably means downloaders of "cam" copies are the targets.

      Who knows how this will play out. This is a new approach; we have to wait and see.

  • 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".
    • by drsmithy (35869) <drsmithy@NoSpAM.gmail.com> on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @08:16PM (#31680144)

      I'm still unclear on the business benefit to the MPAA companies that comes from suing their customer base.

      The objective is to scare all the people currently pirating into buying.

      I would have thought that would be pretty obvious.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by d_jedi (773213)

      People who are illegally downloading and distributing their works are not a part of their customer base. You have to *buy* something to be a customer.

      • by Scrameustache (459504) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @09:35PM (#31681144) Homepage Journal

        People who are illegally downloading and distributing their works are not a part of their customer base. You have to *buy* something to be a customer.

        The people I know who download the most are the ones with the biggest DVD collections. They sample by downloading, and buy what they like.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Excellent point. If you download a movie and it turns out you really like it (not likely anyway) then is a 700 MB lossy version riddled with artifacts, poor sound quality and a lack of subtitles going to be enough? I'd wager that you're going to go out there and buy the DVD or Blu-Ray. Dear Hollywood: Produce something worth buying and we will gladly buy it. Produce crap and you will see people sampling, laughing (unless it's a comedy) and quickly deleting.
      • by omglolbah (731566) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @10:10PM (#31681576)

        I buy plenty of stuff. More than I should.

        But when it comes to a lot of material I cant legally get hold of it. Delayed DVD releases is one thing that pisses me off.

        And then there is the retardedness of pricing....

        I went to buy the 7 seasons of Macgyver a while back and what was the price-tag? 600 fucking dollars. I am -not- paying that kind of money for 7 seasons of a tv-show from the 80s... I'ms orry.... It is a novelty to have on my shelf for geek cred, but I am NOT paying that much.

        Hell, the local price of the Star Trek TNG series was 134 USD per season up until recently when they just plain stopped selling em as nobody bought em...

        I'm sorry but for flippin' sake get the prices within the limits of sanity. If the 7 seasons of macgyver had been 150 dollars I would have had em sitting on my shelf right now instead of on my media-server... Probably in a lot better quality too!... Arg....

        Disclaimer: I'm sleep deprived and annoyed at real life asshattery atm so my post is heavily colored by that :-p

  • by drDugan (219551) * on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @08:09PM (#31680048) Homepage

    If the only way to keep a business model working is to "open up the floodgates to massive litigation" then we should take a close look at why our society keeps those businesses afloat.

    Personally, I think the basic reason we built the amazing companies in the "entertainment industry" is that distribution used to be difficult, and it required a lot of capital to set up channels to get media to consumers. This is no longer true; & the other reason - funding the creation of great media - obviously does not create enough value to justify the business that many of these companies continue to sue to protect.

  • by wiredlogic (135348) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @08:14PM (#31680120)

    Checks against a spreadsheet! What kind of Mickey Mouse organization is this anyway? Don't they know they could haul in 10x more pirates with a proper database backend. Maybe it helps the lawyers boost their billable hours if they can have an intern do as much manual work as possible.

  • by VocationalZero (1306233) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @08:15PM (#31680128) Journal
    Good thing enabling encryption only requires checking a single box.
    • 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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @08:18PM (#31680178)

    Can we bill them for the court's time? If they are going to use the court system to "create an alternative revenue stream", they can damn sure pay for the costs of handling all that paperwork. If an average citizen decided to do this (by using the court system to send out tens of thousands of nastygrams and collecting on the handful that pay) they'd be facing serious-ass jail time.

  • I wonder... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gillbates (106458) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @08:18PM (#31680180) Homepage Journal

    A while back, a colleague and I had a discussion about unauthorized downloading, and I quipped something to the effect that I would avoid infringement penalties by buying the content and then ripping it. He, OTOH, asked why. Why would I pay for something I could legally record from broadcast for free.

    There's an interesting double standard here:

    • Recording a song or a movie from the radio or tv is not only legal, but explicitly so (IANAL, but I'm pretty sure the audio home recording act makes this legal).
    • OTOH, downloading it from a non-broadcast source (i.e. the internet), is supposedly copyright infringement, with steep statutory fines.

    In both cases you've acquired the same content, in the same form, for the same price. But now we're supposed to believe that because it happens via the internet, a crime has been committed? That their business is now suddenly failing because people are doing the same thing they've done for years with tape players and vcrs?

    The VCR didn't kill tv and movies. Nor did the tape player kill rock and roll. If you can't make a living as an artist in the era of mp3's and youtube, well, you couldn't have made a living back then, either. Stop blaming the Internet for your own failure.

    • by StrategicIrony (1183007) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @08:24PM (#31680272)

      The Devils advocate position is that by requiring customers to wait for arbitrary showtimes and having an arbitrary limited selection pretty significantly impedes the flow of copied materials.

      If I want to watch "Uncross the Stars" tonight, I don't have any way of doing that other than paying the movie companies (or downloading it).

      In fact, I would wager that said movie will never be aired on any sort of television station that many people have.

      So, while the concept of suing customers is unpalatable to me, as well as you, I disagree that it's "exactly the same thing" as a VCR.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @08:30PM (#31680366)

    All the MPAA has to do is get me a girlfriend and I'll gladly spend 10 to go out and see a movie. Until then its torrents from my parents basement using my neighbors wifi connection.

  • how? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sjames (1099) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @08:30PM (#31680370) Homepage

    Each of those soon to be 50,000 people is entitled to a jury trial. That's a LOT of resources tied up on this and for a long time. The logistics could get ugly. And this is supposedly just the test run that could open the floodgate?

    The courts will have a choice. Either shred any semblance of justice, reject this litigative spam, or devote itself exclusively to these suits and hope they get to the last of them before the revolution comes.

    • 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:how? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Skapare (16644) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @10:02PM (#31681474) Homepage

        OTOH, it would be incredibly interesting ... even funny ... if most of the 50,000 said "fuck off big evil corporation ... I'm lawsuit proof via Title 11 ... bring it on and see what you get". Hint: there's no crime under Title 11 unless there is a conviction.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @08:55PM (#31680694)

    Couldn't this proprietary software package being used to track downloads be construed as a wire tap ergo inadmissible in a court of law?
    Or is this AC being a silly little AC again?

    With love

    The Anonymous Coward

  • by cosm (1072588) <thecosm3@nospaM.gmail.com> on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @09:27PM (#31681046)
    Is it me, or is everything getting shittier everyday. It feels like more and more, articles, columns, and information leaks point to the ever diminishing rights of citizens of the world. The United States is broke, and its overlords are continuing to spend more money. The rest of the world is either pussyfooting under political correctness, stripping their citizens of any rights they once had, while other countries continue to grow their nuclear arsenals and further fuel the idiotic self-destructive nature that humankind cannot seem to shake.

    I am ranting, I know, but for mother fuck-fuckity-fucks sake how much longer are the rational, intelligent, and reasonable going to continue to stand for this? Are the aforementioned independent free-thinkers to disjointed, apathetic, and outnumbered to ever turn the tide? I feel this civilization is edging towards a serious crises, one much worse than we have ever seen. Be that crises a nuclear holocaust, or the silent denigration of of the common sense rights that a democratic mentality provides, the crises is coming, and we don't seem to be heading anywhere near the appropriate direction to turn the tides of destruction.

    Perhaps my tinfoil hat is too tight, maybe I need to get some sunlight. I don't know. But it is hard as a relatively young individual to imagine a positive environment for future children. Each day that passes, more rights are stripped, more debt is incurred, more inflation rapes the dollar, more political seats are bargained, more people hate democracy, more people get lazy, more people become passive obedient workers, taking the big red, white, and blue dick right up the ass, while the bourgeoisie reap the benefits of a society that becomes more mentally jellified by mass-media induced mind-fucking every day.

    Sorry about that. Your regularly scheduled broadcasting will now continue.
  • by agrif (960591) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @09:47PM (#31681314) Homepage

    I am not an economist, but...

    The fundamental problem with selling music or other media over the internet is that data is not a scarce commodity. Copying music does not deprive anyone else of access to that music. It's much like copying an entire book without buying it. The book is still available for buying, and the store still owns it, so who cares?

    Of course, this is a harmful position to take. If everyone thought nothing of "pirating" music, then artists would receive no compensation for their efforts, which is wrong. (Of course, imagine for a second an ideal world where all music purchases went right to the artist. The RIAA/MPAA just muddies things a bit.) Artists deserve compensation, but it will never work to sell data, which is inherently non-scarce, for money, which is scarce. Why spend money on something that has no actual scarce value at all? At least, there will always be people who will say that.

    (Yes, the creative work of the songs themselves would be a scarce work, but in the end you're paying for a copy of the work, not the idea of the work itself. More on that in a second.)

    The best solution would be for us to pay for copies of music with some non-scarce currency, but that sort of system is hard to set up and harder to maintain inside a predominately scarcity-based economy, because people tend to attach no value to non-scarce goods when there are scarce goods around. The two economic systems don't mix well at all. I suggest that, instead, artists give music away for free (or for Whuffie, real or imaginary), and sell the primary scarce thing they have left to sell: performance. Get artists to make their money on tour! Give the music away for free to get fans, and the fans will come to the concerts!

    ...

    For more fun, consider that numbers cannot be copyrighted, and that all data can be represented by one really long number. I'm not so much trying to say that data can't be copyrighted, as I am that copyright should be seriously looked at again.

  • by Zakabog (603757) <john@j[ ]g.com ['mau' in gap]> 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...

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