In March the U.S. Copyright Group imported the mass litigation “pay up or else” scheme to the United States. The initial targets were relatively unknown indie films, but this changed when the makers of the Oscar-winning Hurt Locker joined the lucrative scheme, suing 5,000 alleged file-sharers all at once.
Through legal action the copyright holders hope to compensate for the losses they claim piracy is causing. For the lawyers involved, the quest for settlements is also a profitable one as they get to keep 70% of the recouped money.
The USCG is coordinating the scheme and has been preparing for the huge amounts of settlements they expect to come in. They’ve now set up a payment portal where ‘victims’ can conveniently pay off their debts online. All the defendants have to do is enter their Record ID and they are ready to settle.
To ensure that the defendants pay up quickly instead of considering a court case, the USCG uses a variety of threats and persuasion tactics.
In the Far Cry case the alleged downloaders were offered an initial settlement amount of ‘just’ $1,500. However, this would increase to $2,500 if they failed to pay up within three weeks. A classic persuasion tactic, which was followed by a threat that going to court could lead to a fine of up to $150,000.
Up until now around 15,000 BitTorrent users have been sued as ‘John Does’. Several of the defendants have already received settlement requests after their ISPs were ordered by the Court to give up their information. However, not all alleged file-sharers have been willing to settle immediately.
To deal with these defiant defendants, the USCG has now called in the help of 15 law firms across the United States that will act as local counsel and pursue those who refuse to pay.
The Hollywood Reporter claims that this will result in an “explosion of lawsuits around the nation” starting in August. Although it’s not impossible, we have reason to doubt that there will indeed be thousands of cases against individuals.
For one, the cost of this operation would be huge, and without doing a trial case it might turn into a financial disaster for the lawyers if their evidence doesn’t hold up. If anything, we believe that USCG is more likely to go after a handful of select individuals with poor defenses first, in order to set an example and to make clear where they stand.
Perhaps the announcement should just be seen as a threat to those who are thinking about not settling their case?
More news about the new round of lawsuits is expected to follow in the weeks to come, apparently.