Movie Studio Sues BitTorrent Swarm in Civil Conspiracy Suit

As the dozens of mass-lawsuits against BitTorrent users move through the U.S. courts, lawyers are slowly optimizing their strategies. This week an interesting case was filed at the Southern California District Court, as the movie studio Liberty Media filed a lawsuit against a BitTorrent swarm, "Swarm of November 16, 2010" to be precise.

swarm The movie outfit Liberty Media has been very active in going after alleged BitTorrent users in recent months.

In January we reported that the studio wanted file-sharers to hand themselves in and pay $1000, an ‘amnesty’ scheme that mysteriously appeared to work. In addition, the company has started over a dozen (mass) lawsuits against thousands of BitTorrent users who allegedly shared their content without permission.

In a recent case filed on Monday, Liberty Media and their lawyer tried something new. Instead of simply joining the various defendants in one suit, the company is actually suing a BitTorrent swarm in the case tiled: “Liberty Media Holdings, LLC v. Swarm of November 16, 2010 et al.”

In the complaint they explain:

“The defendants are a group of BitTorrent users or peers whose computers are collectively interconnected for the sharing of a unique file, otherwise known as a ‘swarm’. The particular file a BitTorrent swarm is associated with has a unique hash,” Liberty Media’s lawyer writes.

“The torrent swarm in this case is not an actual entity, but is rather made up of at least 95 individuals, acting in concert with each other, to achieve the common goal of infringing upon the Plaintiff’s copyright both by illegally duplicating the Plaintiff’s Motion Picture and illegally distributing the Plaintiff’s Motion Picture.”

The lawyers then continue with a very detailed reconstruction of how the swarm came about. For every defendant they list the IP-address and the exact time when they joined the swarm. As the title of the case already suggests, all infringements took place on the same day – November 16, 2010.

swarm

Liberty Media’s lawyer then continues the complaint by describing how BitTorrent works, and how the alleged defendants worked together to distribute the files. Not only for their own pleasure, but also to the benefit of the entire swarm.

“In the BitTorrent world, there is honor among thieves. Those who merely download files, without publishing and sharing files, are derisively called ‘leechers’,” Liberty Media’s lawyer writes. “Being a leecher is not only negative due to the pejorative terminology, but leechers are also punished by the torrent swarm.”

According to the complaint the swarm and the 95 ‘does’ are, aside from copyright infringement, also believed to be guilty of a civil conspiracy. “The center of this conspiracy is the scheme to traffic in infringing content,” the complain reads, adding that the role of the torrent swarm is essential in this process.

Although it’s not explicitly stated, we assume that the emphasis on the swarm and the conspiracy are an attempt to circumvent the jurisdiction and improper joinder issues that led to the dismissal of previous suits.

By arguing that all defendants shared bits and pieces in the Southern District of California, even those who live elsewhere, the plaintiffs claim that the Court has jurisdiction. Similarly, it is argued that, since all defendants were part of the same swarm on the same day, joining them in one case should be justified.

Despite this innovative “sue a swarm” approach, the end-game of Liberty Media is the same. They want to know who the people behind the IP-addresses are, to kindly ask them for a few hundred or thousand dollars to settle the dispute. Pay up or else…

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