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Movies The Courts

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

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

    by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT 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.

  • Attorney Emails (Score:5, Informative)

    by theNAM666 ( 179776 ) on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @12:23PM (#32433224)

    * Dunlap, Thomas M - vcard
            * Dureska, Geoffrey M. -
            * Grubb, Daniel L. -
            * Ludwig, David - dludwig@dglegal.comvcard
            * Kurtz, Nicholas A. -
            * Novel, Sur -
            * Policasti, Eugene -
            * Tate, Christopher F. -
            * Weaver, Jeffrey William -
            * Whitticar, Michael C. -
            * Gurganous, Tom -

    Someone want to get home addresses, phone #s, list of first-born children?

  • 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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @12:41PM (#32433524)

    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 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 [])
    - 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: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:Seriously... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Shakrai ( 717556 ) * on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @01:26PM (#32434310) Journal

    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 []. Not sure how they would have handled the lawsuit but I do know they didn't surcharge me because of the not-at-fault accident. They were also $100/yr cheaper than Esurance for four times as much liability coverage ($250,000/$500,000 split limit vs $1,000,000 combined single limit)

  • Re:Prove it was me. (Score:3, Informative)

    by coaxial ( 28297 ) on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @02:46PM (#32435544) Homepage

    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 [], 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 magnetic domains and inaccurate servos. At today's densities, the slop you were trying to overwrite just doesn't happen.

    (And yes, I did get this information from an known expert in computer forensics.)

  • Re:Seriously... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @04:03PM (#32436526) Journal

    Fair enough, not every business can afford to buy protection from the government. What I don't understand how you can claim that it's the lawyers that are running the system, when deregulation has been the driving political force for at least 30 years. Obviously more regulation leads to more demand for lawyers to write the regulations, to vet the legality of an action before doing it, and to prosecute and defend when the regulations are broken. Not every evil can be blamed on businesses, but I see a lot more evil being done by out of control businesses than out of control lawyers.

The human mind ordinarily operates at only ten percent of its capacity -- the rest is overhead for the operating system.