March last year the law firm Dunlap, Grubb and Weaver imported the mass litigation “pay up or else” anti-piracy scheme to the United States.
The initial customers of the lawyers – who are also known as the U.S. Copyright Group – were relatively unknown indie film producers. But this changed when the makers of the Oscar-winning Hurt Locker (Voltage Pictures) joined up and sued 5,000 alleged file-sharers.
Voltage Pictures always threatened that this figure was just the start, and it now turns out that they were speaking the truth. In their quest to recoup their claimed losses, the studio has now added nearly 20,000 new defendants to the lawsuit, bringing the total up to 24,583.
This turns the Hurt Locker case into the largest BitTorrent lawsuit in history, breaking the two week old record set by The Expendables case earlier this month.
In a status report obtained by TorrentFreak, Voltage Pictures lawyers give the U.S. District Court of Columbia an overview of the massive list of alleged BitTorrent downloaders they filed complaints against. This report reveals that most defendants are subscribers of Comcast (10,532), followed by Verizon (5,239), Charter (2,699) and Time Warner (1,750).
The report also provides details on the agreements the lawyers have struck with various ISPs regarding the release of subscribers’ personal information. There is currently no agreement with Comcast, while Charter has promised to look up 150 IP-addresses a month and Verizon 100 a month for all ongoing BitTorrent lawsuits.
The above indicates that it may take several years before some ISPs hand over the requested information. It would take Verizon more than a decade to look up all the personal details in the various BitTorrent lawsuits, which begs the question of how long an ISP is allowed to store such private details.
The Hurt Locker case is currently being handled by former RIAA-lobbyist Judge Beryl Howell. She now has to decide if Voltage Pictures is allowed to proceed their legal endeavor and under what restrictions.
During the course of the year many of the defendants in the Hurt Locker case who were already subpoenaed have claimed innocence. However, last week Judge Howell decided to dismiss all 119 motions to dismiss, quash, and for protective orders en masse, adding them to the pool of targets.
Defendants whose ISPs give up their personal details are expected to receive a settlement offer from Voltage Pictures. The ultimate goal is not to take any of the individual cases to court, but to get alleged infringers to pay a substantial cash settlement to make legal action go away.
The math shows that this scheme could turn out to be extremely profitable for the parties involved. If ‘only’ 10,000 of the alleged infringers eventually pay a $2,000 settlement this would bring in $20 million. In comparison, that’s more than the $17 million The Hurt Locker grossed at the U.S. box office.
Update: Here’s a full list of the 24,584 IP-addresses included in the complaint.