In recent years copyright holders have been trying to find creative ways to turn piracy into profit, with some success. One way to make money from file-sharers is to collect the IP-addresses of the people sharing a particular file, get a court to subpoena ISPs to reveal the identity of the sharers, and then ask the alleged sharers for a settlement of several hundred dollars to avoid a $150,000 fine.
These practices have been quite common in the UK and Germany for years, and in March this year the US Copyright Group imported this 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 in. After its Oscar victory the film was downloaded by millions of BitTorrent users, and in May the filmmakers sued 5,000 of these alleged downloaders all at once.
To find out whether the download rate for The Hurt Locker plummeted after the news of the lawsuit against BitTorrent users hit the mainstream media, we decided to take a look at last month’s download statistics. Interestingly, it turns out that people seem to be downloading the film undeterred.
In June, the film was downloaded little over 200,000 times, which puts it in the top 25 of most downloaded movies last month. Considering that the film has been available on BitTorrent for more than a year already, this high download number is quite an achievement and only a few percent less than the previous month.
Our statistics further show that 23% of all downloads come from the US, the territory where the US Copyright Group launched its legal action against BitTorrent downloaders.
Whether this means that BitTorrent downloaders are not easily scared by legal threats is hard to say. It could be that the people who downloaded the movie last month simply weren’t aware of the fact that their IP-address might have been noted by the US Copyright Group.
What we can say, however, is that the makers of the film don’t really mind people sharing the film now they might have found a way to make a multi-million dollar profit out of it.
At the time of writing, there are more than 200 torrent files linking to copies of The Hurt Locker floating around on hundreds of torrent sites. Although the makers of the film are quick to sue thousands of downloaders, no effort is being made to take the actual torrent files offline through a notice and takedown procedure.
Nearly every torrent site will remove a torrent file if the copyright holder complains, but clearly the makers of The Hurt Locker haven’t done so – they prefer to protect their newly found business model instead. Taking ‘their’ torrent files down could ironically result in implied losses of several million dollars in missed settlements.
Yes, it’s the world upside down.