20,000 individual movie downloaders sued

by Walter Olson on March 31, 2010

Film biz follows RIAA path? “In what may be a sign of things to come, more than 20,000 individual movie torrent downloaders have been sued in the past few weeks in Washington D.C. federal court for copyright infringement. A handful of cases have already settled, and those that haven’t are creating some havoc for major ISPs.” [Eriq Gardner, THR Esq.]

{ 10 comments }

1 Le Mur 03.31.10 at 8:30 am

Here’s an example of one of the lawsuits — over Uwe Boll’s “Far Cry.”: http://reporter.blogs.com/files/complaint-boll-ag-_far-cry_.pdf says:
“The effect of this technology makes every downloader also an uploader of the illegally transferred file(s). This means that every “node” or peer user who has a copy of the infringing copyrighted material on a torrent network must necessarily also be a source of download for that infringing file. ”

Not true!

2 Jay 03.31.10 at 10:20 am

As someone that’s had the misfortune of watching Uwe Boll movies, I can safely say that any fines paid settlements reached FAR outweighs the actual value of the movie.

3 Ron Stimbert 03.31.10 at 2:43 pm

I find it notable that the people suing are not the MPAA. It is a smaller group of independents. (US Copyright Group)

Why would the smaller guys do this? I mean, I had never heard of most of those movies (not saying much though), and how much could they have expected to make off them? This sounds like such a horrible idea from the get-go.

How many of the people who downloaded those flicks ever would have known about the actors, directors, etc… of those movies? People download because it is easy. (Much easier than going to an independent film festival.) They are suing their expansion market. You know, the one where new fans come from.

Idiocy. I hope they choke on it.

4 David Schwartz 03.31.10 at 3:18 pm

These cases all seem to be about uploading, not downloading.

” The Plaintiff is informed and believes that each Defendant, without the permission or consent of the Plaintiff, has used, and continues to use, an online media distribution system to distribute to the public, including by making available for distribution to others, the Copyrighted Motion Picture.”

So far as I know, downloading copyrighted content still remains legal.

5 Paul 03.31.10 at 6:07 pm

Not everyone realizes when they use bittorrent, that they are (usually) both an uploader and a downloader.

6 gitarcarver 03.31.10 at 7:11 pm

TorrentFreak discovered that the majority of a settlement payment – a huge 70% – goes to the U.S Copyright Group and its anti-piracy partners. The remaining 30% goes to the rightsholders.

The numbers involved in these schemes are huge. An admission from group lawyer Thomas Dunlap revealed that the program in Germany handled one particular limited-release movie and netted the copyright holder $800,000.

Source: http://torrentfreak.com/rights-holders-get-30-from-mass-bittorrent-litigation-100331/

I’ll save you doing the math. In the above case where the copright holder got $800,000, the lawyers would have gotten approximately 2.67 million dollars.

7 Ron Stimbert 04.01.10 at 8:52 am

@ David Schwartz

For you to download, someone must be uploading. And Paul is correct, if you are downloading you are also sharing information at the same time. The protocol works by giving you more as you share more. (Not exactly, but it is a decent generalization.)

I don’t have the time to cite, but downloading copyrighted content can get you in just as much trouble. Many of the other people who have been sued that weren’t using Bittorrent were using methods that involved downloading only.

That said, this version of “sued” isn’t normal anyway. They don’t sue you (minus a few high-profile cases) this is throwing in a huge net and seeing how many people will freak out and pay you the settlement. It is crap.

@gitarcarver

You got it right. I bet the lawyers for the US Copyright Group are loving every minute of it. Where do you think this inspiration to sue came from?

8 Le Mur 04.01.10 at 10:13 am

And Paul is correct, if you are downloading you are also sharing information at the same time.

But you misquote him, omitting the qualifier “usually.”

See “Forensics of BitTorrent”, page 7.

9 Ron Stimbert 04.01.10 at 10:30 am

I did omit it, but I did not say “if you are downloading, you are also sharing copyrighted information”

Those diagrams detail the specific process that the protocol uses in an ideal situation, in practice you can easily share out a half copy in the time you download the full copy if you allow it, and even if you deny your own uploading of data (at the expense of the swarm and your own download speeds) you will STILL share outbound data.

If you are actively downloading from the swarm, at least some peers are checking to see if you have portions of the file they need (unless there are no peers, in which case the transfer of data is only between the seeder and the leecher, which still facilitates back and forth connections.)

My point: If you are connected, ISP logs will show you active in conversation with other computers while downloading a copyrighted file (notice that the articles say their primary check for infringement is against the filename, not the actual contents of the file.)

These lawyers do not particularly care about the strength of evidence in these cases. If your IP address is involved in the conversation in anyway, they just might count it, shoot the settlement offer and wait to see what you do. While they might drop at even the slightest challenge, they are fishing with nets here right?

10 Soronel Haetir 04.02.10 at 12:46 am

I don’t see where the fee split is off in a case like this. These lawyers are turning a near worthless asset (the right to sue) into at least _something_. I would suspect that credit collection agencies and other low payoff probability assets of this sort tend to go at a steep discount. It just goes with the territory of being hard to collect, you have to make it worth the time and effort to whoever you sign over the collection right to.

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