Back in March a lawsuit filed by attorney Boden Davidson on behalf of his client Contra Piracy targeted individuals said to have downloaded and shared the 50 Cent movie All Things Fall Apart.
Contra Piracy, a claimed non-profit group, said they had monitored 2,919 individuals infringing the movie on more than 280,000 occasions. In order to stop these infringements they need the identities of the file-sharers from ISPs.
As usual, Swiss-based Contra Piracy aren’t the creators of the movie. Instead the outfit obtained “enforcement rights” from Los Angeles-based Hannibal Pictures to pursue the action. With around $8m in settlements potentially on the table, it was certainly a deal worth doing.
However, thanks to documents recently filed with the courts, we can see that Hannibal Pictures, the apparent injured party in the case, are only set to collect 40% of any “income” generated as a result of them signing over P2P / BitTorrent distribution rights to Contra Piracy. The signing over of these rights is generating quite a lot of interest with the court too.
Chief Magistrate Judge Elizabeth D. Laporte previously ordered Contra Piracy to show cause why the case should not be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction when it was noted that Contra only had “enforcement rights”. Contra was also ordered to hand over all documents relating to the rights agreements it had with Hannibal Pictures.
Last month Contra responded, stating that it had standing to sue for copyright infringement because it had been granted the right to copy and distribute the movie over the BitTorrent protocol.
However, the Court said that it needed to see further documents that had not yet been handed over, contrary to its earlier order. Judge Laporte clearly wanted to see details of the deal between Contra and Hannibal when she referenced an earlier Righthaven case in which it was deemed that Righthaven lacked standing based on a bare right to sue.
Contra were given a couple of days to come up with the paperwork and to clarify how the BitTorrent protocol would be used to “commercially distribute copyright works” as its agreement with Hannibal apparently allows it to. Their filing is interesting to say the least.
“The legitimate commercial distribution of copyrighted works via the P2P/BitTorrent protocol is certainly viable in a technological sense, however the extent of legitimate commercial distribution via P2P/BitTorrent in a market sense is severely limited by the rampant, mass infringements of copyrighted works utilizing the P2P/BitTorrent protocol,” attorney Boden Davidson wrote.
The Contra lawyer then goes on to promote the positive aspects of BitTorrent distribution, including the lack of expensive central servers needed to spread even the largest of files, therefore enabling cost savings which can be passed onto consumers in the form of lower prices. However, Contra says there are problems to be faced.
“While P2P/BitTorrent is an attractive opportunity for the low-cost distribution of copyrighted works, it is exceedingly difficult to create a legitimate P2P/BitTorrent market in light of the overwhelming infringements utilizing the protocol, e.g. the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted works, for free,” Davidson writes.
“Lower prices in a legitimate P2P/BitTorrent market would be hard pressed to compete with the for free distribution in the immense black market, highlighting the need to sharply curb or eliminate the unauthorized copying and distribution of copyrighted works via the P2P/BitTorrent protocol.”
So, the suggestion here is that by signing the BitTorrent distribution rights over to Contra Piracy the company will somehow be able to clean up the network to the extent that piracy is wiped out, allowing Hannibal Pictures to use BitTorent to distribute their movie unhindered by pesky pirates determined to undermine the value of their product.
Will the court buy this quite amazing version of events? Are Hannibal Pictures really about to take BitTorrent by storm? Stay tuned…..