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Legal Firm Plans to Threaten up to 150,000 U.S. Citizens for Film Downloads

Legal Firm Plans to Threaten up to 150,000 U.S. Citizens for Film Downloads

Jason Mick

June 16, 2010

Voltage Pictures, the producers of the film The Hurt Locker, made good on threats, filing suit against 5,000 owners of IP connections on which bittorrent downloads and uploads of the movie occurred.  The movie’s producer even went as far as to say they hoped one critic of the lawsuit’s family and kids ended up in jail.

Now the legal brains behind the epic lawsuit, the U.S. Copyright Group (USCG), have revealed plans to send tens of thousands of more “pay up or else” threat letters to those who downloaded other films.  

Thomas Dunlap, leader of the group, created a website where industry officials could go to see informative videos.  In the videos Dunlap brags about how easy it is to squeeze money out of filesharers.  Dunlap promises to handle infringement problems for studios in exchange for a hefty cut — 70 percent of the settlement.

All of the videos have been taken down, except for this one.

According to the USCG’s claims, the organization is currently tracking 300 films each with 500 tracked file-sharers, making for a total of around 150,000 potential targets at risk of receiving a settlement letter.  USCG suggests that it can send a “speculative invoice” to these individuals demanding between a $1,500 to $2,500 USD settlement.  That means that taking the middle of the settlement figures ($2,000), the USCG could try to pull in as much as $300M USD in revenue from the scheme, and pocket $210M USD of that sum.

ACLU lawyer Rachel Myers argues that this scheme may be an abuse of the U.S. legal system.  She writes:

Last week, we filed friend-of-the-court briefs in support of Time Warner Cable’s motion to quash or modify the subpoenas it received for information about thousands of users who allegedly downloaded certain movies from the Internet using the BitTorrent file sharing application. We argue that the subpoenas, which lump thousands of otherwise-unrelated individuals into a few cases filed in a court far from where any of them live, violate the individual users’ rights to due process and anonymity and don’t give them an adequate chance to defend themselves.

Despite an early court victory Judge Collyer of the District of Columbia has demanded a review of the settlement plan.

Even without court approvals, though, the group can still forward non-court-endorsed letters through ISPs, assuming the ISPs prove willing to cooperate.  Several ISPs have already cooperated with such schemes from groups like Nexicon.

_© 2009, DailyTech.


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