After suing hundreds of alleged downloaders in the United States, the makers of Dallas Buyers Club expanded their legal campaign to Europe late last year.
The first cases were brought in Denmark, with anti-piracy lawfirm Maqs demanding fines of roughly 250 euros per infringement.
After collecting several successful payments the scheme is now getting traction locally, especially following reports that Popcorn Time has become more popular than Netflix.
“You could say that the ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ letters have been a success in the number of inquiries that have come in,” Maqs’ lawyer Jeppe Brogaard Clausen told DR, noting that new letters are still being sent out for Dallas Buyers Club.
One of the filmmakers interested in the “speculative invoicing” scheme is Danish producer Ronnie Fridthjof. Together with other industry players he’s determined to go after Popcorn Time users.
“I had hoped that politicians and the police would take care of such matters, but unfortunately that hasn’t happened. When my business is threatened, I am more or less forced to do something,” Fridthjof tells TV2.
While Popcorn Time is specifically mentioned as a target, the action will affect regular BitTorrent users as well. After all, Popcorn Time streams films by connecting to regular torrent swarms.
The new fines are expected to be sent out this summer. The first ones will be around 1,000 to 2,000 Danish krone ($150 to $300), and will increase if recipients fail to respond. As a last resort the filmmakers are considering whether to take alleged pirates to court.
According to some users streaming films via Popcorn Time is seen as something in a legal gray area. Fridthjof, however, has no doubt that it’s against the law.
“It is absolutely crazy that people believe it is legal. It is in no way! It is comparable buying and selling counterfeit goods right next to an official store,” he says.
Similarly, the filmmaker doesn’t buy the excuse that people use Popcorn Time because the legal services don’t have the latest films. That doesn’t justify grabbing something for free, he says.
“We must be able to choose which business model we want, and it must not be guided by unlawful acts. We will not make a business model that competes with free content,” he says.
Legal threats against Popcorn Time users are not new. In the U.S. lawsuits against BitTorrent pirates are quite common, and in Germany Popcorn Time related ‘fines’ have also been issued.
Responding to these developments, various Popcorn Time variants have warned their users over possible legal repercussions and have started offering anonymizing options. Both popcorntime.io and popcorn-time.se now have built-in VPN support.
For now there are still many people using Popcorn Time without anonymizing services, so there will still be plenty of people to fine.
Update: The same scheme may be coming to Sweden as well.