Inside D.C. entertainment

D.C.'s U.S. Copyright Group takes aim at 6,500 more BitTorrent users

February 9, 2011 - 12:18 PM
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the expendables
Are you among the 6,500 people being sued for downloading this? Shame on you!

Last month, the U.S. Copyright Group, an alias of D.C.-area law firm Dunlap, Grubb & Weaver, announced a new client: Nu Image, the independent production company behind The Expendables. Now, as promised, the firm has filed suit against 6,500 BitTorrent users who allegedly shared the Sylvester Stallone flick illegally. Like the firm's other anti-piracy lawsuits, this one was filed in D.C.'s U.S. District Court, despite the fact that Dunlap was forced to drop thousands of defendants from another case in December after a judge ruled that people living outside the court's jurisdiction couldn't be sued here.

That ruling was a major setback, putting in doubt the firm's carpet-bomb approach. Dunlap even shifted its strategy in that case — which involved Uwe Boll's 2008 film Far Cry — by partnering with other law firms around the country to sue defendants in their local jurisdictions. Now it looks like the firm is returning to its original game plan. Perhaps Dunlap hopes a different judge will have a different opinion on the matter, but more likely the the lawsuit serves as a threat to defendants, who, thanks to the cooperation of Internet service providers, will be receiving settlement letters from Dunlap in the range of $1,500 - $2,500. I doubt most of those defendants will have to step foot in a D.C. court, but they don't know that — or don't want to take that risk. So there's money to be made here, and I expect a few more lawsuits on behalf of Nu Image, whose titles include The Mechanic, now in theaters, and Drive Angry, a Nicolas Cage movie opening later this month. Other big clients may be on the horizon, too: A blog post on Dunlap's website reads, "The US Copyright Group is in active discussions with several other high-profile film production companies regarding protection of their new releases."

Meanwhile, the Motion Picture Association of America continues its concurrent war against movie piracy, quietly shutting down more than 50 torrent sites, including 12 in the U.S., and suing Hotfile, a file-sharing site not unlike RapidShare and Megaupload. An MPAA press release states [PDF] that "download hubs like Hotfile bear no resemblance to legitimate online locker services," and continues:

In fact, Hotfile openly discourages use of its system for personal storage. Hotfile’s business model encourages and incentivizes users to upload files containing illegal copies of motion pictures and TV shows to its servers and to third-party sites, so unlimited users can download the stolen content – in many cases tens of thousands of times. Hotfile profits from this theft by charging a monthly fee to users who download content from its servers.

Well, Hotfile is neither intended for, nor claims to be intended for, personal storage. It's for sharing files. But it's absurd to claim that Hotfile, simply by providing such a service, encourages users to share files illegally.

The Nu Image lawsuit:

And the MPAA's:

 

48443886-Hotfile-Complaint-Complaint-2-8-11 -

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