If you’ve downloaded any movies produced by small studios via BitTorrent in the past year or so, you may find yourself receiving a letter in the not too distant future telling you that you are being sued … or not.
A company with the very official sounding name of U.S. Copyright Group (whose URL of SaveCinema.org also says a lot about their attitude), has taken up the fight for small movie studios against people who download films via BitTorrent. While the company has been working on this for some time, going after people who download movies such as Uwe Boll’s Far Cry, they have found themselves getting a bit more notoriety now for being hired by the producers of the Oscar winning film, The Hurt Locker.
Thomas Dunlap, a lawyer at the U.S. Copyright Group, told The Hollywood Reporter, “You can guess that relative to the films we’ve pursued already, the order of magnitude is much higher with Hurt Locker.” The new agreement with Voltage Pictures, the company behind the film, will also cover other films from their company.
It seems that the U.S. Copyright Group is following the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) lawsuit model. This means that they subpoena a service provider with the IP address they obtained, find out who the person was that downloaded the file and then they send them a letter demanding a settlement to keep the case from going to court. If the person doesn’t pay the settlement, then they are sent a second letter, and if they fail to pay that one the case goes on to trial. Due to the enormous legal fees a person would face, a large number of people choose the settlement.
The problem the company is running into now is that they are overwhelming ISPs with these IP identification requests. Time Warner Cable has asked for the subpoena in the Far Cry case to be quashed due to it requesting the identification of 809 users. Apparently TWC has told the company before that they can only handle requests for about 28 lookups per month from them as they have to deal with an average of 567 lookups a month for law enforcement. The subpoena in this case gave TWC 30 days to comply, and they have told the judge this is impossible, and to add insult to injury two more requests have come in for 398 and 224 lookups respectively.
Time Warner is arguing that the strain this would put on their system would preclude the ISP from working with law enforcement for at least three months, and they do not find this acceptable. The company is also arguing that the 809 anonymous defendants can not be lumped together because of differencing circumstances, but the company has done this to avoid paying the $350 filing fee per case. TWC is looking for the subpoena to be thrown out, or at most, that the U.S. Copyright Group be limited to the 28 requests per month they had already been told they could ask for.
According to the copyright protection group, they have a waiting list of film studios wanting to work with them, so this situation could get worse very soon. Of course, there is a point where other ISPs will begin to fight back as TWC is because at some point it will become like they are working for this group due to the amount of work they are doing for them. Either lawsuits are going to fly like mad, or this will fizzle quickly as the company gets cut off from information.