Run by so-called ‘copyright trolls’, these legal efforts are often painted as the only way for rightsholders to send a tough message to deter infringement. In reality, however, these schemes are often the basis for a separate revenue stream, one in which file-sharers are forced to pay large cash sums to make supposed jury trials disappear.
Courts around the United States are becoming familiar with these ‘settlement factories’ and sometimes choose to make life more difficult for the trolls. With this potential for friction, the language deployed in lawsuits is often amped up to paint copyright holders as fighting for their very existence. Meanwhile, alleged infringers are described as hardened criminals intent on wreaking havoc on the entertainment industries.
While this polarization is nothing new, a court filing spotted by the troll-fighters over at Fight Copyright Trolls sees the demonization of file-sharers amped up to eleven – and then some.
The case, which is being heard in a district court in Nevada, features LHF Productions, the outfit behind action movie London Has Fallen. It targets five people who allegedly shared the work using BitTorrent and failed to respond to the company’s requests to settle.
“[N]one of the Defendants referenced herein have made any effort to answer or otherwise respond to the Plaintiff’s allegations. In light of the Defendants’ apparent failure to take any action with respect to the present lawsuit, the Plaintiff is left with no choice but to seek a default judgment,” the motion reads.
In the absence of any defense, LHF Productions asks the court to grant default judgments of $15,000 per defendant, which amounts to $75,000 overall, a decent sum for what amounts to five downloads. LHF Productions notes that it could’ve demanded $150,000 from each individual but feels that a more modest sum would be sufficient to “deter future infringement.”
However, when reading the description of the defendants provided by LHF, one could be forgiven for thinking that they’re actually heinous criminals hell-bent on worldwide destruction.
“The Defendants are participants in a global piracy ring composed of one hundred fifty million members – a ring that threatens to tear down fundamental structures of intellectual property,” the lawsuit reads.
While there are indeed 150 million users of BitTorrent, this characterization that they’re all involved in a single “piracy ring” is both misleading and inaccurate.
BitTorrent swarms are separate entities, so the correct way of describing the defendants would be limited to their action for the movie London Has Fallen. Instead, they’re painted as being involved in a global conspiracy with more members than the populations of the United Kingdom, Canada, and Spain combined.
It seems that the introduction of more drama into these infringement lawsuits is becoming necessary as more courts become wise to the activities of trolls, not least organizations being branded criminal themselves, such as the now defunct Prenda Law.
Perhaps with this in mind, LHF Productions tries to convince the court that far from being small-time file-sharers, people downloading their movie online are actually part of something extremely big, a crime wave so huge that nothing like it has ever been witnessed.
“While the actions of each individual participant may seem innocuous, their collective action amounts to one of the largest criminal enterprises ever seen on earth,” LHF says of the defendants.
“[I]f this pervasive culture of piracy is allowed to continue undeterred, it threatens to undo centuries of intellectual property law and unravel a core pillar of our economy. After all, the right to intellectual property was something so fundamental, so essential, to our nation’s founding, that our founding father’s found it necessary to include in the first article of the Constitution.”
If the apocalyptic scenario painted by LHF in its lawsuit (pdf) is to be believed, recouping a mere $15,000 from each defendant begins to sound like a bargain. Certainly, the movie outfit will be hoping the judge sees it that way too.