The avalanche of mass-lawsuits in the United States that target BitTorrent users has reached a new milestone. Since last year, more than 200,000 people have been sued for allegedly sharing copyrighted material online, and this number continues to expand at a rapid pace. Added up, the potential profit from the so-called pay-up-or-else scheme runs into the hundreds of millions of dollars.
Mass file-sharing lawsuits have been filed all across the United States in recent months, almost exclusively targeting BitTorrent users. Copyright holders have embraced this new revenue stream by the dozen and new lawsuits are being filed every week.
The United States judicial system is currently being overloaded with new cases, and a few days ago the number of targeted Internet subscribers in federal courts broke the 200,000 barrier.
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.
A fairly exhaustive spreadsheet shows that the current number of Does that have been sued since the beginning of 2010 currently stands at 201,828. Nearly all of the defendants are accused of sharing copyrighted files via BitTorrent, and 1,237 allegedly used the eD2k network.
Over the course of the year several cases have been dismissed and settled and the estimated number of defendants who are still at risk lies at 145,417.
Most defendants are being sued in the high profile case brought by the makers of The Hurt Locker. As of May this year this lawsuit targeted 24,583 alleged BitTorrent users, and the first batch of settlement letters have been sent out to the people who pay for the allegedly-infringing Internet connections.
Despite the massive number of defendants, none of the cases have made it into a full jury trial as the copyright holders ask for in their original complaint. This also means that the evidence they claim to hold has not been properly tested.
It is believed that a significant amount of the people who are accused in these cases are not the actual infringer. However, since the copyright holders prefer settlements above full trials and because defendants don’t want to risk a $150,000 fine, the accuracy of the evidence remains a mystery.
What’s very clear is that for the copyright holders, tracking companies and lawyers, the settlement scheme is extremely profitable. If half of the original defendants eventually settle for an average fee of $2,500 they would generate a quarter billion dollars in revenue – from piracy.