Starting two years ago, hundreds of thousands of BitTorrent users who allegedly shared films without the consent of copyright holders have been dragged to court in the US.
The aim of the copyright holders is never to take any of the cases to trial, but to get alleged infringers to pay a substantial cash settlement to make legal action go away. Some equal this scheme to extortion, but the copyright holders say they are merely protecting their work.
One of the first film studios to recognize the potential of these schemes was Nu Image. Last year they had the questionable honor of filing the largest P2P lawsuit in history by targeting 23,322 alleged downloaders of ‘The Expendables’.
While that case was dismissed a few months later, Nu Image isn’t leaving BitTorrent users alone.
Late last week the studio filed a brand new mass-BitTorrent lawsuit at the US District Court of Maryland for another well-known movie. The suit targets 2,165 alleged sharers of ‘Conan The Barbarian,’ a film that was downloaded on BitTorrent by millions of people in recent months.
The accused individuals had their IP-addresses exposed while downloading the film, and were ‘busted’ somewhere between December 1st 2011 and February 1st of this year as can be seen from the full list of “Doe defendants” below.
Other than the new film title, the paperwork is pretty much identical to previous lawsuits that were filed by the US Copyright Group (USCG). However, a closer look reveals that the lawyers did learn from ‘mistakes’ made in previous cases.
One of the most significant changes is that all defendants appear to reside in the right district, Maryland in this particular case. Previously judges have dismissed tens of thousands of defendants because they lived in other districts. This was also the main reason why Nu Image’s ‘The Expendables’ case died prematurely.
The judge in that case advised Nu Image to use one of the many IP-location databases to find out who they can go after in court, and the movie studio has done so for their most recent filing.
Another smart move from the movie studio is to include only IP-addresses allocated to Internet providers that were previously cooperative, such as Comcast and Sprint. Noticeably absent is Time Warner, who successfully fought the mass-production of IP-addresses in a related case.
While the above give Nu Image a better chance of reaching their desired goal, BitTorrent users aren’t sitting still either.
The mass-lawsuits and the upcoming copyright alert system motivated many BitTorrent users to routinely hide their IP-addresses through proxy and VPN services. But nevertheless, the scheme is profitable enough for studios like Nu Image to continue. Even if only half of the defendants pay up the total settlement earnings will be in the millions.
And so the cat and mouse game continues.