The avalanche of copyright infringement lawsuits in the United States, mainly against BitTorrent users, are about to hit a dubious milestone. In total 99,924 defendants have been sued in the last 12 months, and new cases are being filed at a rapid rate. Adult companies in particular have embraced the profitable pay-up-or-else scheme where tens of millions of dollars are at stake.
Mass P2P lawsuits have been filed all across the United States in recent months, especially by companies dealing with adult content. They have embraced this new revenue stream by the dozen and new studios are joining every month.
Through these mass lawsuits the copyright holders are trying to obtain the personal details of (mostly) BitTorrent users who allegedly shared their material online. Once this information is handed over, they then offer the defendant the opportunity to settle the case for a few hundred up to a couple of thousand dollars, thereby avoiding a full trial and potentially even bigger financial penalties.
In the United States the judicial system is currently being overloaded with new cases, but the scope of the issue was never really clear until now. An anonymous TorrentFreak reader has spent months compiling a complete overview of all the mass P2P lawsuits that have been filed in the US since the beginning of 2010, listing all the relevant case documents and people involved in a giant spreadsheet.
The research shows that between 8th January 2010 and 21st January 2011, a total of 99,924 individuals have been sued. The vast majority of the defendants have allegedly used BitTorrent to share copyrighted works but a few hundred ed2k users are also included.
Of the 80 cases that were filed originally, 68 are still active, with 70,914 defendants still in jeopardy.
# defendants sued
What’s further worth noting is that although the makers of the Hurt Locker were one of the first to sue, this scheme has now been hijacked by copyright trolls and adult movie studios. Nearly all the cases filed recently involve adult material, and the law firm behind the pioneering United States Copyright Group has now accepted its first adult cases as well.
The mass lawsuits have had quite a lot of criticism from consumer rights organizations, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) in particular. One of the main points of critique is that the copyright holders have no intention of going to a full trial against each of the defendants. They are out to get a settlement, which means that the (possibly weak) evidence will never be tested in court.
Two weeks ago the EFF filed an amicus brief in which it asked an Illinois judge to quash subpoenas issued in pay-up-or-else lawsuits involving alleged illegal file-sharing of pornography.
“Copyright owners have a right to protect their works, but they can’t use shoddy and unfair tactics to do so,” said EFF Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry. “We’re asking the court to protect the rights of each and every defendant, instead of allowing these copyright trolls to game the system.”
All the information regarding these mass P2P cases can be accessed by the public though this Google spreadsheet that will be regularly updated.
“I am hoping that having the data available will stimulate discussion and that it could be of value to people actively resisting/fighting the suits. Even if that is overly optimistic, public access to the information that shows the scope of this bullshit is, in and of itself, a good thing,” the anonymous spreadsheet creator told TorrentFreak.
Stopping the lawsuits wont be easy though, considering the huge amounts of money that can be made by the suing parties. Just multiply the 100,000 defendants by an average settlement proposal of $1000 dollars and it’s clear that tens of millions of dollars can be made with this dubious scheme.