Little more than a week ago the makers of The Hurt Locker filed a complaint against the first 5,000 ‘unidentified’ BitTorrent users. Helped by the U.S. Copyright Group (USCG), the film makers are requesting the personal details connected to the IP-addresses that allegedly shared the film on BitTorrent.
The first batch of IP-addresses (copy below) has now been submitted to the Court, linked to customers of over a dozen US Internet providers. Besides the IP-address and the time when the alleged infringement was recorded the document reveals very little evidence. It is unclear from the current details what file was tracked and whether the evidence gathering techniques will stand up to scrutiny.
The D.C District Court will now have to decide whether or not the ISPs of the alleged infringers will be ordered to hand over the personal information of the users associated with the IP-addresses. If this happens, the customers who are identified will receive a settlement offer of $2,500. Through this scheme, the USCG and Hurt Lockers’ makers hope to collect millions of dollars in revenue, beating their box office earnings.
It’s interesting to note that none of the IP-addresses in this first batch are linked to Time Warner customers. The ISP in question is the only one that is standing up against the money grab, as it went to court hoping to prevent a subpoena that will force them to expose hundreds of customers to the USCG. Time Warner claims that this process would prove too time consuming.
A problem that has been overlooked by most of the press and expert comments is the fact that there will be dozens of wrongfully accused people. Through similar cases in the UK we’ve learned that the evidence provided by the copyright holders is very flaky to say the least. We suspect that the USCG, which appears to be a two man operation, is simply out to collect as much money as possible through settlements and will avoid taking individual cases to court.
Besides The Hurt Locker, USCG is working together with smaller film companies in similar campaigns, and they are looking for new clients to expand their profitable business. This success story has not gone unnoticed by their UK equivalent ACS:LAW who have announced they will also enter the US market. In the UK this scheme has been labeled a scam by politicians, while its lawyers are accused of “harassment, bullying and intrusion” and “legal blackmail”.