For years lawyers for movie outfit Voltage Pictures have been writing to U.S. based Internet users demanding cash for alleged copyright infringements. Judging from its legal persistence the company has probably made some decent profits while doing so.
Earlier this year Voltage began filing lawsuits against alleged downloaders of its hit movie Dallas Buyers Club. In common with all similar actions the end game is not a full trial but cash settlements from worried Internet account holders.
But while there are millions of torrent users in the U.S., Voltage and its partners are now venturing overseas. According to Danish news site Berlingske, the Dallas Buyers Club piracy-into-profit model is now operating in Europe.
In a letter obtained by the publication after being sent to an alleged Dallas Buyers Club downloader, veteran anti-piracy lawfirm Maqs demands a cash payment of around $250 to make a supposed lawsuit disappear.
The lawfirm increases its chances of a ‘hit’ by writing to the ISP account holder but noting that payment should be made “if you, or someone in your household” acknowledges having downloaded or shared the movie.
“We know that in a particular household is a computer where this [piracy] has occurred from. That is why we have been asked to contact these people by the film company,” Clausen said.
In further comments the lawyer acknowledges that the Internet account holder may not be the infringer and that it could’ve been a child, neighbor, or other third-party, but whether targets will understand the implications of this remains to be seen.
These days chasing down individual file-sharers is almost unheard of in Denmark, so it’s unclear whether targets of Voltage and its Danish partners will be aware of when they’re liable and when they not. Unsurprisingly the early signs indicate that some people are simply paying up.
“Some [letter recipients] are happy to be made aware that they have done something illegal. They have recognized this, paid us, and learned their lesson. It is positive and also the response that we have hoped for,” Clausen says.
As is common in these cases, some letter recipients have told the lawfirm that they have open wifi that could’ve been used by anyone. Some claim they don’t even have a computer. Responses from others are more predictable.
“A few have responded aggressively and negatively to the letter, and several have not responded at all,” Clausen adds.
But for all groups, there is a deadline. Maqs informs its targets that if no payment is made in 15 days, it may “be necessary to institute legal proceedings”. Given past experience it seems unlikely that will transpire but Maqs says that all options remain open.
“It is a choice by the rights owner, whether one wants to go to court with this later,” Clausen concludes.
It comes as no surprise that Denmark has been introduced to so-called mass BitTorrent lawsuits and if predictions hold out, expect many more European countries to become similar targets in 2015.