Hurt Locker Makers Sue Attorney for Being “Prolific” BitTorrent Pirate

In a new lawsuit Voltage Pictures, the company behind The Hurt Locker, say they have not only tracked down a "prolific proponent" of widespread BitTorrent piracy, but have identified him as a practicing attorney based in Portland, Oregon. The defendant, who describes himself as an expert in two martial arts, is said to have infringed copyright in at least 66 different copyright works. The lawsuit is littered with controversial claims that attempt to paint the attorney in the worst possible light.

There are dozens of file-sharing related lawsuits filed every month across the United States so it’s virtually impossible to keep up with them all, but one appeared this week that everyone will want to keep an eye on.

Voltage Pictures are the outfit behind the award-winning movie The Hurt Locker. The company has a record of suing large numbers of alleged copyright infringers across the United States and its latest effort will thrust the filmmaker right back into the spotlight.

The case was filed Tuesday in Portland, Oregon, against a single named defendant. The basic claims are familiar – defendant is a file-sharer who breached Voltage’s copyrights (in this case for the movie ‘Maximum Conviction’) and who must now be held accountable to the tune of $150,000 in damages.

It’s standard fare, until one starts to drill down into the details. The defendant’s name is Jim Choi and he has an eyebrow-raising occupation.

“Defendant Jim Choi is an attorney with offices at 16323 SE Stark Street # 3, Portland,
Oregon, 97233,” the lawsuit reads.

Choi’s website, PDXBankruptcy.com, has been taken down but with help from Google’s cache and Google+ his name and status can be confirmed.

Choi describes himself as a bankruptcy lawyer and a member of both the Oregon and Florida State Bars. He has a keen interest in music and also holds black belts in Tae Kwon Do and Judo. Whether they will help him fight off Voltage remains to be seen – the claims against him are scathing.

Voltage say that the IP address they traced back to Choi through ISP Century Link was observed sharing the movie ‘Maximum Conviction’ in November 2012, but the accusations don’t stop there.

“Choi is a prolific proponent of the BitTorrent distribution system advancing the BitTorrent economy of piracy causing injury to plaintiff,” the complaint reads.

The movie company then goes on to list another 66 claimed instances of copyright infringement allegedly carried out by Choi on a wide range of content including Hollywood movies, TV shows and software.

Voltage’s claims that Choi infringed other company’s copyrights are of real interest. The unnamed anti-piracy outfit hired by Voltage to monitor for infringement on the studio’s torrents is clearly monitoring and cross matching IP addresses on other people’s content too.

Furthermore, in order to accurately prove that Choi had infringed copyright on these other items the monitoring company must actively participate in torrent swarms of content that has nothing to do with Voltage. If the company does not have permission from those rightsholders to do so, it too is breaching copyright.

These facts suggest the involvement of a larger than usual operation. Voltage are known to use Canadian monitoring company Canipre, but they are not named in this lawsuit.

Moving on, the lawsuit also makes some ‘interesting’ assumptions about the nature of Choi’s BitTorrent activities.

“Another growing element of the BitTorrent model is that users are able to attach advertising to the files they upload through various means allowing them to generate revenue through the propagation of the titles they make available to others,” the lawsuit reads.

“In this case, plaintiff’s motion picture as copied and distributed by defendant is associated
with the ‘TORRENTING.COM’ branding in the title.”

The suggestion here is that since Choi allegedly shared a file that that had a website URL in its title (a common occurrence and one generally used to show where a file came from) he was doing so in order to generate revenue. And it doesn’t stop there.

“In information and belief, Choi is either directly affiliated with TORRENTDAY.COM and other third party sites as a subscriber and contributor or indirectly promoting the activities of TORRENTDAY.COM and other third party sites in an effort to profit from piracy through the copying and distribution of plaintiff’s motion picture.”

Essentially, Voltage are claiming that Choi deliberately assisted with the advertising of torrent sites and release groups (and generated profit from such) because he shared content with their names present in file titles. The full range of titles can be seen here (pdf).

The fact that Voltage Pictures have targeted an attorney certainly provides food for thought. Is an attorney more likely to quickly fold and pay up in order to protect his reputation and business, or is he likely to take advantage of his legal knowledge to mount a robust and essentially free defense?

This is a unique case and certainly one to keep an eye on.

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