The makers of the Oscar-winning movie Hurt Locker have joined a very lucrative ‘pay up or else’ scheme that will target tens of thousands of U.S. BitTorrent users. The massive lawsuit is expected to be filed in the coming days and if ISPs cooperate, suspected downloaders will receive a settlement letter in the weeks to come.
The Hurt Locker has been a great success on BitTorrent, before and after its Oscar triumph. The film’s screener leaked in February of last year, months before it premiered in movie theaters in the United States. However, the demand on BitTorrent went up significantly after it was chosen as the Best Picture of 2009
The day after the award show ‘the hurt locker’ was the most typed in search phrase on BitTorrent, with ‘hurt locker’ ending up in ninth place. This increased demand was also reflected in the download numbers which skyrocketed. Since its win at the Oscars the film has been downloaded more than three million times, totaling well over 10 million downloads.
Despite the recognition from Academy members and the huge success among downloaders, the U.S box office revenue has been relatively low at $16.4 million. In an attempt to increase the film’s revenue its makers will threaten to sue thousands of BitTorrent users who have illegally downloaded (and therefore uploaded/distributed) a copy in recent months.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the Hurt Locker team has signed up for the services of the U.S. Copyright Group, who will launch a mass lawsuit targeted at tens of thousands of Hurt Locker sharers. The lawsuit is expected to be filed this week and will ask U.S. ISPs to reveal the account owners linked to the IP-addresses that shared the movie on BitTorrent.
The U.S. Copyright Group announced its mass litigation scheme in March, when it targeted thousands who allegedly infringed copyright on several indie film titles. All infringers that have been identified were kindly asked to settle the dispute, or face further legal action. It is expected, however, that the scope of this new round of letters will be much greater due to the high demand for the Hurt Locker on BitTorrent.
“You can guess that relative to the films we’ve pursued already, the order of magnitude is much higher with Hurt Locker,” said Thomas Dunlap, a lawyer at the U.S. Copyright Group. Dunlap also said that 75 percent of ISPs have cooperated thus far and that 40% of the BitTorrent users that were targeted early this year have already settled.
Although U.S. Copyright Group say it is their intent to sue individuals who do not pay, in reality that eventuality is impossible to maintain on any scale. Their aim will be to scare as many people as possible into paying, perhaps backed up with legal action against a tiny minority to prove a point.
As we reported earlier, the ‘pay up or else’ scheme is not only lucrative for the rights holders, who get only 30 percent of the settlement money. The remaining 70 percent goes to the U.S Copyright Group and its anti-piracy partners.
In the UK these schemes have been highly criticized by the public, consumer organizations and politicians because of the intimidating tactics and lack of solid evidence. In the UK House of Lords they have been labeled a scam, and the lawyers operating them accused of “harassment, bullying and intrusion” and “legal blackmail.” We expect that the U.S. equivalent will also meet great opposition.