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Movies The Courts

How a Virginia Law Firm Outpaces the MPAA at Suing Over Movie Downloads 237

Posted by timothy
from the shame-if-anything-was-t'-happen dept.
Jamie points out this Ars Technica piece on a series of suits brought by the Virginia law firm of Dunlap, Grubb & Weaver against users they accuse of illegally downloading movies. The firm has an interesting business model in these suits; sue enough users in a DC Federal court to be worth splitting the sum of many small settlement offers (generally $1,500-2,500 apiece) with the filmmakers, rather than rely on winning after trial a small number of larger judgments. Most people settle, and Dunlap, Grubb & Weaver has so far named more than 14,000 "Does" — as in John Doe — including, as mentioned a few days ago, 5,000 who downloaded The Hurt Locker.
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How a Virginia Law Firm Outpaces the MPAA at Suing Over Movie Downloads

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  • worth a read (Score:5, Interesting)

    by alain94040 (785132) * on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @11:56AM (#32432718) Homepage

    I found this on the topic: the actual settlement form. Read it all at http://www.copyrightsettlement.info/wfesettlement.pdf [copyrightsettlement.info]

    Payment. You shall pay to the Company the total, lump sum of Two Thousand Five Dollars (US $2,500) by cashier’s check or credit card with no charge back or check cancellation.

    Confidentiality. You agree that the terms of this Agreement shall remain STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL and MAY NOT be disclosed to any other party including but not limited to internet or on-line forums.

    So don't go post this on slashdot or you'll owe this lawfirm $15,000!

    --
    The Founder Conference'2010 [thefounderconference.com]

    • Re:worth a read (Score:4, Informative)

      by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohnNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @12:02PM (#32432850) Journal

      So don't go post this on slashdot or you'll owe this lawfirm $15,000!

      That's not true. If you post about this on Slashdot, you just cannot automatically opt for the settlement. You still have the option to fight this in a court of law if you feel that you are innocent and publicize that as much as you desire. Once you go public though, you cannot select that settlement option. Also I think the plaintiff would aim a court decision more between $150,000 or $1.5 million though from what we've seen with prior cases that go to court where the individual is found guilty.

      • by Kjella (173770)

        Also I think the plaintiff would aim a court decision more between $150,000 or $1.5 million though from what we've seen with prior cases that go to court where the individual is found guilty.

        Not so sure about the court decision, but they'll almost certainly sue for the maximum of $150,000/work. Obviously they are going for a min-max strategy here and they want a lawsuit to look as unappealing as possible.

        • Also I think the plaintiff would aim a court decision more between $150,000 or $1.5 million though from what we've seen with prior cases that go to court where the individual is found guilty.

          Not so sure about the court decision, but they'll almost certainly sue for the maximum of $150,000/work. Obviously they are going for a min-max strategy here and they want a lawsuit to look as unappealing as possible.

          Not if they don't own the rights to the work or represent someone who does.

    • Surely the confidentiality agreement only comes into force once you have signed the contract? Especially since you had no previous relationship with the law firm and as such it would effectively be spam.
    • by Pastis (145655)

      Basically pay us and shut up. That's really extortion.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      My lawyer would tell me that it's not worth bothering for less than $2500, so they've got a reasonable plan there.

      It would take far more to fight that in court, even in Canada, where we've got that loser-pay system.

  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohnNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @11:57AM (#32432726) Journal
    I submitted this same exact story [slashdot.org] referencing the same exact Slashdot article on the Hurt Locker this morning around 7am and it instantly went to being the lowest color any of my submissions have ever been at (jet black). So I was pretty sure I had done something wrong enough to attract the attention of an editor. When I submit stories I check for the story in firehose and by google searching Slashdot and this wasn't there. I didn't get the popup for duplicate URL submission either ... I guess Jamie or someone just really wanted to claim the scoop on this story. What's even more bizarre is that the summary seems to be misdirected at Dunlap, Grubb, & Weaver when it's actually a larger set of plaintiffs composing the US Copyright Group [copyrightsettlement.info]. That's who is listed as behind the ~15,000 lawsuits. Oh well ...
    • by denis-The-menace (471988) on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @12:01PM (#32432832)

      I don't bother submitting anything on /. b/c I *know* it's a waste of time.

      Some users are favoured over all others.
      This is the same for all blogs.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by idontgno (624372)
        True. People complain about the Wiki editor cabal. The submitter cabal on /. is almost as bad, except that they can't get into a vicious edit war with you. Abusive moderation, perhaps.
      • by rickb928 (945187)

        Quit yer whinin.

        I've submitted stories and got rejected without explanation. Sort of like Internet dating, and for the same reasons.

        I pretty much don't bother to submit unless it caught my eye and seemed out of the norm for /. (interesting, out of the mainstream, and understandable to a normal person, yeah I know, pine inthe sky). /. is not a democracy. Get used to it. I vote with my page views, so if you're offended out there in /. admin land, you can get over it too. Happy, Visiting, or Complaining.

      • The journal I submitted got through (it was a question about PERL vs PHP for web development/security), that was my first one. I think I then posted my next journal as a story by mistake, but it got rejected anyway as it wasn't a question or story.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by LBDobbs (555102)
      The colors mean something?
    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      It happens. maybe 25% of my submissions [slashdot.org] are accepted, but a lot of them are rejected and then accepted when somebody else submist the same story. Like moderators, sometimes the firehosers have their heads up their asses.

      Don't sweat it. You [slashdot.org] get more accepted than I do!

  • Yeah.... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Pojut (1027544) on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @11:57AM (#32432728) Homepage

    In the case of The Hurt Locker, when you stand to make almost as much money suing 5,000 people for "stealing" your movie as it did at the box office, maybe you should have made a better movie.

    • by hellfire (86129)

      I know you are just being overly sarcastic and trying to get karma or something, but it just doesn't apply here. Why are you getting modded up for an unfunny, non-insightful comment that is flat out wrong? The Hurt Locker won the academy award this past year. I personally feel it rightfully deserved it, it was a fantastic movie! Light years better than Avatar, which had huge sales, and probably huge downloads as well.

      Perhaps more people downloaded The Hurt Locker because they heard about it from the aca

      • by Pastis (145655)

        perhaps the people who want to see the hurt locker, prefer to see it at home than at the theater ?

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The Hurt Locker was a decent movie up until the ending, which was among the worst I've ever seen.

        It certainly wasn't worthy of Best Picture, when you have films like Burma VJ that actually capture real human suffering and struggle, and some of the people who filmed it were likely imprisoned or killed.

      • by Pojut (1027544)

        In 1990, New Kids on the Block had a number 1 hit on the Billboard charts. I'll say that again: New Kids on the Block had a number 1 hit.

        First doesn't always mean best.

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by ArsonSmith (13997)

          Not only that, but in 2008 Barak Obama was elected president. I concede your point.

      • by thijsh (910751) on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @12:46PM (#32433634) Journal
        Don't be a smartass without looking up the numbers:
        - Hurt locker box office: $ 16,4 million domestic (box office numbers [boxofficemojo.com])
        - Hurt locker extortion: $ 12,5 million (2500 × 5000 and counting...)

        I'd say that's a fairly significant amount of money, and should not be discarded as motive for this scam. If they are true artists they would not participate in this witch-hunt-for-pay against their own biggest fans.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by somersault (912633)

          I doubt the makers of the film have anything to do with it. It's far more likely to be the publishers/distributors.

      • by PIBM (588930)

        well crafted intelligent works of art?

        I`m not sure we saw the same movie..

      • The Hurt Locker for me was just a bunch of well-scripted, well-acted and well-directed tense sequences. The first half hour or so was really promising and absorbing, but it was all downhill from there. The story line wasn't that interesting, and the absurdity of the events was getting more and more (it was a hilariously unrealistic depiction of the US army). I enjoyed every single moment of it, but this is not enough to make a fantastic movie. It wasn't memorable, it didn't engage my mind during its whole d

      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        I know you are just being overly sarcastic and trying to get karma or something

        "Funny" gains no karma. Just the FAQs, ma'am. [slashdot.org] His +5 isn't helping his karma a bit.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by darkmeridian (119044)

      Why do you equate commercial success with critical success? The Hurt Locker won the Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Director. It was a good movie even if the masses did not really go out to watch it.

    • by enilnomi (797821)

      You're gonna have to clue me in on the joke... I mean, if the cost of settling for those 5,000 Does is $2,000 each, then that's $10M to split between the producers and lawyers. Hurt Locker has racked up about $48M in worldwide box office so far (against a production cost of $15M). How is $10M "almost as much money" as $48M? (Not to mention the $28M from DVD and BD sales.)

      And, let's see....9 Oscar nominations with 6 wins, including Best Picture and Best Director; about 100 awards from groups that like to han

      • Re:Yeah.... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Pojut (1027544) on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @12:48PM (#32433668) Homepage

        You're gonna have to clue me in on the joke... I mean, if the cost of settling for those 5,000 Does is $2,000 each, then that's $10M to split between the producers and lawyers. Hurt Locker has racked up about $48M in worldwide box office so far (against a production cost of $15M). How is $10M "almost as much money" as $48M? (Not to mention the $28M from DVD and BD sales.)

        You're right, it isn't.

        And, let's see....9 Oscar nominations with 6 wins, including Best Picture and Best Director; about 100 awards from groups that like to hand out prizes; 97% on Rotten Tomatoes; the praise of two Iraq veterans with whom I watched it...yeah, it's a crappy film. Are you forgetting that it's lowest-box-office-ever-for-Best-Picture status in large part stems from its extreme shortage of prints?

        I never once said it was crappy. I personally liked it...not enough for a best picture, but I liked it. Apparently, a LOT of other people didn't. Hence my post.

        And just because it's slashdot....what's up with putting "stealing" in quotes? Are you saying that if I'm offering my car for sale and someone drives it away without paying, that my car hasn't been stolen?

        You would no longer have access to your car, hence it would have been stolen. If someone took a copy of the DVD from a Virgin Megastore, that would be stealing, as it would prevent another person from having that same DVD.

        Downloading a movie isn't stealing, as it isn't restricting your ability to obtain those exact same zeros and ones. It's illegal and immoral, but it isn't stealing.

      • "...in large part stems from its extreme shortage of prints?" ...and they are now suing people for making copies? Now THAT'S funny!

      • by ArsonSmith (13997)

        what's up with putting "stealing" in quotes? Are you saying that if I'm offering my car for sale and someone drives it away without paying, that my car hasn't been stolen? And that the fault for that is mine, by virtue of it not being a very good car?

        wrong analogy, if they took a picture of your car and went home and built an identical car to yours, would that be a problem? Funny thing about that, in social circles I've seen people get honestly mad when they get a new car and someone they know goes and ge

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mcgrew (92797) *

        what's up with putting "stealing" in quotes? Are you saying that if I'm offering my car for sale and someone drives it away without paying, that my car hasn't been stolen?

        You answered your own question. If someone makes a copy of your car and drives off with the copy, you still have your car and it hasn't been stolen. Calling copyright infringement "theft" is a lie.

    • I decided it wasn't even worth the download...
  • So In Essence (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Barrinmw (1791848) on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @11:58AM (#32432758)
    Don't download Indie movies anymore. I am sure word of mouth will still spread on how great those movies are...right?
    • Re:So In Essence (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Pojut (1027544) on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @12:00PM (#32432792) Homepage

      Interesting, isn't it? Here, you have some indie film makers suing downloaders...and yet, many other indie film makers rely on downloaders to get the word out about their work. Other than Hurt Locker, I sure as hell never heard of the other movies.

      I guess that's the difference between an artist and a professional?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Some directors have thanked pirates.

      I would have never heard of the Man from Earth [torrentfreak.com] if it didn't show up in an RSS feed.

      Ink [justpressplay.net] is another more recent movie.

      Games too [joystiq.com]

  • Seriously... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by whisper_jeff (680366) on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @12:01PM (#32432806)
    Seriously, when is something going to be done about these guys? Their business model is built on "it costs more in legal fees for people to fight these accusations than to settle with us out of court so they'll just pay up" which, really, amounts to extortion. I cannot, for the life of me, understand how they are being allowed to get away with this shit. In a sane, logical world, somebody (the feds, the bar, whomever) would come down on them like a ton of bricks. Sadly, I don't think we live in a sane world any more...

    At this point, I think I'm just holding out hope that a competing law firm will think things through and decide they can make money by suing these vulture law firms for harassment and whatever else they can drum up. After all, if those firms can make money just suing at random, surely another law firm can also make money counter-suing, right? Well, where is our white knight law firm who's eager to make a name for themselves? If the feds won't put a stop to it, maybe a last-to-sue war between legal firms can put a stop to it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by kevinNCSU (1531307)

      Well, the main kink is that the defendants know they can't take them to court, win, and then sue them to recover court costs because the defendants (whether you agree with copyright law or not)know they committed an illegal act.

      So it's really more a problem of whether the law should be the way it is then lawyers extorting people. If it's OK to get big companies to settle by threatening to take them to court when they've done something wrong it makes sense that it should work the other way around. The onl

      • by hedwards (940851)
        Admittedly, this doesn't apply to this, but here under state law the plaintiff has to demonstrate damages to collect anything. Which means that they'd have to prove that they're entitled to the money in order to win. So the most that you'd be out would be court costs, attorneys fees plus whatever the cost of the actual damages was. Because the cost of the damages is unlikely to exceed the threshold, they'd be more or less stuck arguing things in small claims court. Which also means no attorneys either.

        Wh
    • Re:Seriously... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Hatta (162192) on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @12:13PM (#32433036) Journal

      I cannot, for the life of me, understand how they are being allowed to get away with this shit.

      Because our justice system is wholly subservient to business interests. It's not that hard to understand.

      In a sane, logical world, somebody (the feds, the bar, whomever) would come down on them like a ton of bricks. Sadly, I don't think we live in a sane world any more...

      Is this really what tipped you off? Were the hundreds of thousands of pot smokers in jail not enough?

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Shakrai (717556) *

        Because our justice system is wholly subservient to business interests. It's not that hard to understand.

        No, our justice system is wholly subservient to lawyers. It's just as common for individuals to exploit the system in the manner described by the GP as it is for businesses. The fact that it costs less to settle than to fight a lawsuit is leveraged by all manner of legal practices that have nothing to do with "business interests". In fact, some of them are directly opposed to "business interests", like the ambulance chaser that my insurance company settled with even though the accident was not my fault.

        • Re:Seriously... (Score:4, Informative)

          by Hatta (162192) on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @12:26PM (#32433280) Journal

          Yeah, and who hires the lawyers? The bigger the business, the more lawyers you can afford, and the more you can pervert the justice system.

          • Re:Seriously... (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Shakrai (717556) * on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @12:42PM (#32433534) Journal

            You need to climb off your horse and realize that not every ill in this country can be blamed on business.

            I got sued by someone who rear-ended me at a stop light. There is no conceivable way that accident can be attributed to my negligence. My insurance company settled with the asshole for $12,000 and then raised my rates. Their reason? It's cheaper to settle than to fight the lawsuit. The person who sued me was an individual who perverted the justice system. It had nothing to do with business.

            • Re:Seriously... (Score:4, Informative)

              by PRMan (959735) on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @01:21PM (#32434234)
              You've changed insurance companies, right? I do know that 21st Century fights rather than pays. So that's who I picked after a similar thing happened to me.
              • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

                by Shakrai (717556) *

                That was with Esurance and I bailed on them a long time ago for this and other reasons. One of my favorite stunts they pulled was to change their billing date from 15 days before the policy renewed to 45 days prior without telling me. They sucked $800 out of my checking account on the basis of this change and my rent check bounced as a result. They refused to make it right until I got the NYS Insurance Department involved.

                Now I'm with a smaller company [nycm.com]. Not sure how they would have handled the lawsuit

            • by Hatta (162192)

              If the lawyers are in charge, why don't we pass a law requiring insurance companies to fight it out in court? Certainly that would benefit the lawyers by making more work for them fighting the original offense *and* make more work for them suing companies that fail in their duty to protect their customers. Such a law should be easy to pass, since lawyers control the legal system, and this law would *never* be blocked by lawmakers who finance their campaigns with donations from the industries that would be

      • by jeffmeden (135043)

        I cannot, for the life of me, understand how they are being allowed to get away with this shit.

        Because our justice system is wholly subservient to business interests. It's not that hard to understand.

        In a sane, logical world, somebody (the feds, the bar, whomever) would come down on them like a ton of bricks. Sadly, I don't think we live in a sane world any more...

        Is this really what tipped you off? Were the hundreds of thousands of pot smokers in jail not enough?

        And here we are, at the real reason none of this will move forward. Instead of making substantive claims why this activity is illegal or unconstitutional, it gets dragged toward another, completely unrelated debate where it is sure to die a slow death. Good job! Next time, if you want to actually make a point instead of rubbing salt in the wound, leave the pot alone!

        • Re:Seriously... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Hatta (162192) on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @12:43PM (#32433566) Journal

          I don't think it is completely unrelated. Marijuana prohibition began at the behest of the paper industry, and continues today because of the alcohol, pharmaceutical, and prison industries. If we're talking about the perversion of the justice system by business interests, it's worth pointing out that copyright abuses are the tip of the iceberg. As Americans we have to understand that we have an extremely serious problem with corruption that goes back for decades, if not centuries.

          • by jeffmeden (135043)

            As Americans we have to understand that we have an extremely serious problem with corruption that goes back for decades, if not centuries.

            Nail, meet head. Can you really call it corruption if it's been going on *the whole time*???

            You can't "correct" something that has always been the way it is. You need an approach other than "it should have always been legal" because no one attaches to that, even if they may agree with you. Slow and steady change that can't be refuted is the way to go. Look at gambling. Once a completely taboo business in any but two of the 50 states, it's now got a brick and mortar presence in half of the states in the

            • by Hatta (162192)

              If you need to be convinced that marijuana prohibition is wrong, or that this type of copyright barratry is wrong, then I wasn't really addressing you. I wasn't trying to argue that these things are wrong, I was trying to address why these evils occur in our society. At this point, with this audience, I don't really need to argue that this is wrong. There are only a few people here who would disagree, and they're too far gone to reason with. I've had that discussion often enough.

    • by thijsh (910751)
      How is this different from any other revolutionary business model success stories??? It always involves the consumers getting raped in some questionable way. Everyone always wonders why the hell it is possible that the business method is even legally possible, until the law is changed to account for this new method, and they see it as a challenge to stretch that law to the limits. Rinse and repeat.

      The fact that the government does not protect it's citizens in this case (even after some years of exploiting
    • by Pastis (145655)

      Can't the people sued make a class action suit ?

    • by cgenman (325138)

      If you get caught stealing a DVD from a store in Los Angeles, you'll be hit with up to a $400 fine. If you are a repeat offender, you may get up to 6 months in jail.

      If you get caught downloading a DVD in Los Angeles, you'll be hit with $150,000 damages, an additional $100,000 fine, and legal fees (let's say 50k). Oh, and up to 1 year in jail, if pursued.

      $400 for stealing a DVD, or $300,000 dollars for copying it. I think right there you have your problem.

    • by Kjella (173770)

      Seriously, when is something going to be done about these guys? Their business model is built on "it costs more in legal fees for people to fight these accusations than to settle with us out of court so they'll just pay up" which, really, amounts to extortion.

      So if you feel for good reason you have been wronged for $x, but a full trial would cost $y where $y >> $x, what would you do:
      a) Eat the loss because it'd be extortion to pursue it in court
      b) Offer to settle for what you think you might get in court
      c) Insist on a trial even though the only ones winning are the lawyers

      Imagine the neighbor's kids kicked a ball through your living room window, pure accident and all civil liability. Only by the most absurd logic would you not demand that he pay because if

      • then you offer to settle for what you think you might get in court (i.e the cost of a window). The equivalent here would be to offer to settle for $2500, and if you don't get it, to sue for $2500. But they'll likely sue for millions, or at least 100s of thousands. Of course, if you sued for $2500 for a $100 window, you wouldn't get $2500 either.

    • by BoberFett (127537)

      If they sue enough people, they'll eventually sue someone who's not right in the head, and this person will take care of the problem permanently. We can hope anyway.

    • by illumin8 (148082)

      At this point, I think I'm just holding out hope that a competing law firm will think things through and decide they can make money by suing these vulture law firms for harassment and whatever else they can drum up.

      I'm actually hoping some class action attorneys get in on this and start representing the 5,000 people sued as a class. I'd like to also see them add in additional damages - emotional pain and suffering inflicted on the people being extorted.

      When two law firms fight each other, everybody wins!

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      In a sane, logical world

      This is Earth. As far as we know, a sane, logical world doesn't exist.

  • S2S (Score:5, Funny)

    by retardpicnic (1762292) <retardpicnic@gmail.com> on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @12:02PM (#32432846)
    It seems as though they have found that splitting the file, whoops, lawsuit up into many pieces that can be individually downloaded, whoops dealt with in no particular order is a more efficient protocol, whoops, business model. What will they think of next?!
    • AKA the Sue-torrent business model:
      Sue a bunch of people for small amounts w/o courts to collect a total higher than they would get by suing ONE person for large amounts in courts.

      Reminds me of a scam were crooks were fake sending invoices to small companies for printer/copier toner cartridges that were never sent and demand payment. The scam worked because it was cheaper to pay the invoice(s) than paying a lawyer to go after them.

      • by langelgjm (860756)

        Reminds me of a scam were crooks were fake sending invoices to small companies for printer/copier toner cartridges that were never sent and demand payment. The scam worked because it was cheaper to pay the invoice(s) than paying a lawyer to go after them.

        Why would you bother to do either? If it's truly a scam, are the crooks really going to hire a collection agency to harass you? They're not going to be able to put a black mark on your credit report, either.

        I had a disaster of a DSL installation by AT&T about two years ago. Apparently the salesperson shouldn't have even offered my service in my area, but they did. Three technician visits and about three weeks later, I had had functioning service for a total of about 72 hours. I called and canceled, and

        • by Carthag (643047)

          That's not how the scam works. They just work under the assumption that once a business reaches a certain size, the board/owners/whoever doesn't sign off on every single thing anymore. So some invoice for 100 dollars or whatever, a secretary or somebody is authorized to pay it. And if it looks legit enough it might get paid without a second thought. So if you send out small invoices to thousands of companies and say 200 end up paying, that's a pretty decent ROI.

          Usually it's about something like being listed

      • by tompaulco (629533)
        Reminds me of a scam were crooks were fake sending invoices to small companies for printer/copier toner cartridges that were never sent and demand payment. The scam worked because it was cheaper to pay the invoice(s) than paying a lawyer to go after them.
        I had a company actually send me some supplies unsolicited and then demand payment. We had just gotten a new credit card machine at our business, and I guess this fly-by-night company bought a list of people who had bought the credit card machine, and the
    • Re:S2S (Score:4, Interesting)

      by hedwards (940851) on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @12:21PM (#32433184)
      I do wonder if this sort of reverse class action suit is even legal. I don't think that a law firm ought to be able to bundle that many defendants together without having to at least demonstrate that there's a link between them other than allegedly infringing upon the same material.
      • I don't think that it was a reverse class-action was it? (not that I've RTFA, of course). Our old friends at the RIAA got told to stop joining unrelated defendants some years ago (not that they stopped). But in any case, you shouldn't be able to show up at the courthouse one day with 5000 lawsuits naming unidentified people as defendants. Quite how such a rule would be defined would be tricky. Perhaps some sort of regulation on the template of the UK's 'vexatious litigant' rules would work, but it may need

  • by TheSpoom (715771) <slashdot&uberm00,net> on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @12:17PM (#32433122) Homepage Journal

    RIAA and MPAA were limiting themselves so that they wouldn't have the publicity generated by suing over a thousand defendants at once. They must have known that that looked just a bit like extortion.

    Anyway, I'm glad they did this, now the country can decide whether they want to spend their time on federal lawsuits of importance, like civil rights, or on this bullshit.

    Unfortunately I'm also convinced that the answer is the latter.

  • by spidercoz (947220) on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @12:22PM (#32433214) Journal
    In other news today, a group of 14,000 bittorrent users who have downloaded movies are suing the studios who produced those movies. The downloaders say the movies were deceptively marketed as being good, and that they were duped into wasting their time and bandwidth by downloading and watching them. The downloaders are asking for a collective total of 38 years wasted time and 448 terabits of wasted bandwidth, plus an unspecified amount for mental and emotional damages.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by thestudio_bob (894258)
      Don't forget that the movie studios spent millions in marketing to make you WANT the movie. Really, is this any different than what the tobacco companies did many years ago? Movies are the new addiction. They really should put warning labels on the movie trailers, fast food tie-ins, Halloween customs, etc.
      • by Jaysyn (203771)

        Movies are the new addiction.

        That's one of the dumbest things I've ever read.

  • by theNAM666 (179776) on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @12:34PM (#32433410)

    Washington, D.C.-- Super Lawyers Duenlap, Grubb and Beaver declared today that they had been able to save the ailing film industry via a new, innovative IP-chasing strategy. "It's really simple," declared Duenlap. "You just put a really shitty film on the internet," said Grubb. "And then you wait for peoples' cousins dogs to come download five minutes from the honeypot, and SUE everyone in their zip code," said Ms. Beaver.
    Due to this innovation, Hollywood stars will continue to be able to walk the red carpet with millions in diamonds and rubies, instead of being reduced to begging at soup kitchens, said Duenlap, Grubb and Beaver.
    CNET news attempted to contact the IP addresses involved in this article but ping requests were not returned.

    • by droopus (33472) *

      Even the law firm's name sounds like a Tom Wolfe invention. I loved the name he came up with in A Man In Full:

      Clockett, Paddit, Skinnum and Glote.

      ROFL.

  • by mounthood (993037) on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @12:37PM (#32433444)
    So don't settle -- their model depends on collecting smaller amounts from lot's of victims, so they'll ignore you for not paying up, or they'll loose money in an individual lawsuit. Bonus: if enough people stick together and refuse to settle their "business model" won't work at all.
    • The problem with that is that the average person would have to sell his house (assuming he has one) to defend against such a lawsuit. As much as it would pain me, I couldn't do that, could you?

  • This site [yolasite.com] is directed mostly at UK people being attacked by a very similar business model. Although not 100% relevant I'm sure it has plenty of information on there for anyone who's received a letter or simply wants to read some legal rights they may (or may not) have.
  • Movie revenue (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cdrguru (88047) on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @01:00PM (#32433894) Homepage

    Today, without major restructuring of the Internet at large, it can be assumed that within a few days of release of a DVD that the movie content will be ripped and made available online.

    If an Internet user has the knowledge to access these "available" movies, they can be downloaded and viewed with little or no risk to the downloader. This may require some fancy work to prevent the content from being redistributed and if you do not know how to do this you are certainly exposing yourself to redistribution and the legal penalties that come from that.

    If someone does not have this knowledge, they have to buy their content. Because of this we are rapidly approaching a two-class environment: some people know how to get content for free while others have to pay for it. Right now, the division between these classes is also enforced by lack of broadband capacity - if your connection is dial-up or a weak DSL link you can't download free content no matter what you know.

    Today it is possible for content providers to still make money from the 2nd class "payers", but this is going to change rapidly. I don't see any possibility for stopping this movement, no matter how many lawsuits are filed. The penalty is just too remote a possibility and too far removed from the act of redistribution. You get a notice in the mail six months after doing something and you are supposed to remember doing it? Worse, there is a trial over something that occurred two years before. It is like getting a speeding ticket from a state you used to live in and six months after you sold the car. There just isn't any connection between the act and the penalty for it to seem real and not arbitrary.

    I'd say the content providers are going to see their revenue shrink rapidly as more and more of the "payers" die off and are replaced by well-educated (in the Internet black arts) younger people with better Internet connections. They might be able to replace the direct sales revenue (which retailers share in) with some kind of ad-supported content in the future - but retailers will not be sharing in that at all. This puts WalMart as a content retailer out of the business entirely, as it does with Amazon and anyone else that would consider themselves a "retailer".

    Oh well. I think it plain to say "Piracy Rules!" If your business model depends on people paying for digital content, someone out there is going to ruin your day.

  • Here's an interesting one. In my recent federal criminal action, the Government presented multiple Usenet postings they claimed I wrote. They blathered on about "since my name was on it, it was clearly my work." My lawyers (ptui!) hadn't a clue so I asked to address the Court.

    I asked the AUSA how he knew they were my writing, and his answer was "well, your name is on it." I then gave a short soliloquy about Usenet propagation, headers and nntp, just until I saw the glaze staring to form on the judge's eyes.

    • When they get a search warrant, make a copy of your hard drive and find the movie still on there. There are some people that are smart and can cover their tracks, but when piracy is mainstream, even the idiots do it. That is the real problem, it is no longer hackers that steal movies, but the average joe.

      Even if they can't prove it was you the media company will just lobby for a law that declares copyright infringement from an IP address is the responsibility of the person owning the ISP account then y

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by coaxial (28297)

      With this in mind, how could this law firm prove that it was me that actually downloaded the movie? What with wifi and all them nasty stealers of bandwidth, exactly how could you prove to even a preponderance standard (the civil standard) that it was me who did the deed?

      Same way they always prove it [cnet.com], by filing a discovery motion to have all mass storage devices (e.g. computer hard drives, external hard drives, flash drives, tapes, etc.) turned over to a third party for expert examination. If the files are there, you did it. If the files were deleted, but still on drive, you did it.

      FYI: You don't have have to overwrite data 7 times or even 30 times to erase on today's drives. Once is enough. The original recommendations were based on 1980s technology with large magneti

    • by ADRA (37398)

      "I HATE fucking lawyers."

      Sounds like it =>

      PS: If, I had an ISP contract that said I was responsible for the content that was being downloaded, couldn't 'suing party' just sue the name associated with the ISP account? I imagine most if not all common carrier ISP's have such a clause either through service agreement the someone signed, or through law. I'd be shocked if this black hole of 'responsibility of infringement' has been sealed up somewhere. Now if you don't have your name on such an agreement then

    • by Fnord666 (889225)

      With this in mind, how could this law firm prove that it was me that actually downloaded the movie? What with wifi and all them nasty stealers of bandwidth, exactly how could you prove to even a preponderance standard (the civil standard) that it was me who did the deed?

      If necessary, they will do it the same way they did it with red light cameras. They will (through their duly purchased governmental representatives) make the owner of the connection that was used legally responsible for any content that

  • Take your foot off his head.

    I HATE lawyers.

  • I don't know how anyone gets content. All of my consumer electronics are full of buggy-ass DRM schemes, where it takes two minutes for some Blu Rays to load, and a good 15 seconds for my amplifier to recognize the TV and input device. You mean that even with all of this lockdown in my consumer electronics, someone manages to rip the film free of DRM ? I don't believe this for a second. Know where I can get that DRM free version ? Sounds less buggy than the legal netflix version.
  • And right there is the problem. Its how the entire legal system gets away with crap like this and attorneys get richer and richer, without even going to court and proving their case.

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