20,000 US BitTorrent users sued; 30,000 more lawsuits pending

The number of Americans targetted by entertainment industry lawsuits nearly doubled this month, as the the US Copyright Group ("an ad hoc coalition of independent film producers and with the encouragement of the Independent Film & Television Alliance") brought suit against 20,000 BitTorrent users. 30,000 more lawsuits are pending, bringing the total number of US entertainment industry lawsuit defendants up to 80,000 (when you include the 30,000 victims of the RIAA).

This beatings-will-continue-until-morale-improves gambit is puzzling to me. It seems likely to me that most of these defendants will settle for several thousand dollars (regardless of their guilt) rather than risk everything by hiring a lawyer to defend themselves. But does the "US Copyright Group" really think that Americans will go back to the mall with their credit-cards in hand once their friends' lives have been ruined by litigation?

How about making peace, instead? Offer blanket licenses, DRM-free downloads, ad-supported streams, and products whose EULA consists of "By buying this product you agree to abide by copyright" (a far cry from the current status quo, which goes more like "By buying this product, you agree... [15,000 words omitted] ...that we can spy on you, take it away again, stop you from exercising your consumer rights to lend or give away this product, etc etc etc).

New litigation campaign quietly targets tens of thousands of movie downloaders (via Michael Geist)


  1. Here’s an idea: Why not offer a product of decent quality that’s reasonably priced? It’s a unique idea, and it certainly hasn’t been tried before.

    1. What? Ten dollars is too much money to see something in the theater? Eight too much for a Netflix account? Fifteen too much to buy a DVD? I get it when college students want to get free stuff, but when grown adults who are able to pay their bills are doing it, than it becomes a bad habit not “sticking it to the man.”

    2. I think Netflix is a great service that’s reasonably priced. And iTunes is pretty good for 99 cents. I guess they could be cheaper, but the price is tiny compared to my car payment or the insurance.

  2. Clicking through to the cited article reveals that “Here’s an example of one of the lawsuits — over Uwe Boll’s ‘Far Cry.'”

    Although I’m on board with just about all of the copyright agenda here at Boing Boing, I have to in this case accept a little good along with the bad.

    I can’t see how suing Uwe Boll fans could do anything but improve America’s overall cultural level.

  3. Ah USA… Land of the free… to be sued by your corporate overlords. All hail king media conglomerate, our just and fair leader…

    1. …and people think we’re doomed to become slaves to an elected president…HA! Sounds like THE MAN we’re doomed to become slaves to is the ‘entertainment’ industry!

  4. Normally I’m neutral on this issue, but this makes it hard to defend the studios:

    “We’re creating a revenue stream and monetizing the equivalent of an alternative distribution channel”

    In others words we upload a movie that has not made any money then make a fortune in the courts.

  5. I’m mainly surprised that there were enough Uwe Boll fans to rate listing them by name – let alone enough trying to download the movies on bit torrent.

  6. Just imagine that they get $10.000 for each lawsuit.

    It could be more rewarding than a 412 scam.

  7. So if everyone fights this, could they bankrupt the studios? I imagine that 20000 concurrent civil cases would rack up quite a lawyer bill.

  8. Do we have any information on which ISPs are cooperating with this nonsense? I would lay the blame as much on an ISP providing this information for money (they charge for each John Doe request). So far the details of the story are fairly vague.

  9. I’m certain that if it wasn’t for those pesky pirates “Far Cry” would have been a gigantic success. You monsters are driving Uwe Boll to the POORHOUSE!

    Honestly, when you’re reduced to suing people to generate (more) revenue your business model is not only broken, it’s on fire, on wheels and careening towards an orphanage.

  10. I don’t have much sympathy for anyone downloading movies when they are so easily available on netflix or to rent but where can I watch wonders of the solar system legally?

  11. My solution: I almost never go to movies, can count the number of CD or DVD discs I buy yearly on the fingers of one hand (with change left over), and don’t bother stealing music or movies either.

    I don’t much care for most of the “product” extruded by Hollywood and the RIAA lately anyway, and reading just makes much more sense.

  12. Where can we find a member list of of this ‘ad hoc coalition of independent film producers’? I would be pleased to add all of them to my personal black-list right along side Michael Richards, Tom Cruise, Mel Gibson, and Gary Busey. I feel good when I withhold my support (and money) from the anti-semites, the deluded and the crazy.

      1. Very true, but I don’t have to finance his downward spiral into a drooling vegetative state. His life will soon mirror his career.

  13. I’m waiting for the day to come when someone “famous” gets sued for this sort of thing. Like one of the BoingBoingers, Om Malik or Anil Dash. Not to suggest that those folks are doing this sort of thing — I’m just curious to see how it would play out on a high-visibility blog.

    1. Most famous people can afford to pay a few bucks to rent a movie or get it from iTunes. Even people with minimum wage jobs can afford to pay these prices.

      1. sure people on minimum wage can afford to pay for itunes and netflix. if they live out of doors and buy one 99 cent song per month.

  14. I’d like to see some more information on this ‘program’ that ‘allows for real-time monitoring of movie downloads on torrents.’

    So, what, they go to every torrent site they know of and download every torrent with the name of their films and record every IP address they get connected to by the tracker? Doesn’t that mean that they, themselves are guilty of copyright infringement by seeding the pirated file? How do we know that they aren’t uploading the torrent in the first place?

    How do we validate their findings? It seems a little too easy for them to pick fifty thousand IP addresses that return a ping request (or just a valid IP) and say ‘we have a spreadsheet saying we connected to you, so that means you’re downloading this torrent.’ What if somebody spoofed a random IP and it happened to match mine?

  15. Because THIS IS THE WAY THEY’VE ALWAYS DONE THINGS. These people don’t understand another way, and as long as we keep giving them our money, they don’t need to know another way — in no small part because justice is too expensive for most people.

  16. Given the reality of the situation on the user end (that people will keep downloading regardless of the lawsuits), it makes me think that the goal of the lawsuits cannot be to stop the downloading. Perhaps the lawsuits are really for the benefit of the investor class. After all, the recording companies and movies studios have to look like they’re doing *something*, or else they’re admitting their business model is dead and then their stocks tank.

  17. We all know from childhood what is right and wrong. When we choose to do what we know is wrong, for whatever reason, we also choose to accept the associated risks.
    Life *can* be that simple.

  18. “I’m waiting for the day to come when someone “famous” gets sued for this sort of thing.”
    “I’m just curious to see how it would play out on a high-visibility blog. ”


    How about real Fame?

    I’m still waiting on a book about the real pirates.
    Ya know… The original Movie Pirates… Like Studio Heads, Producers, Actors Blah blah blah.

    Oooohhh, Didn’t know that the Dark Underbelly of Hollywood is filled with it’s own brand of Pirates?

    Here’s just one that’s Known about:
    FBI raided the Hollywood home of Roddy McDowall and seized the actor’s large collection of pirated films.

    That, Of course, Got swept under the rug so’s to speak.
    And He HAD Actual Studio Prints!

    There’s something for you to blog.

  19. Here’s my problem with all of this. A few months back I got an “infringement notice” basically accusing me of torrenting a TV show I watch on TV (like no duh right), well I missed the first episode of the season because my DVR got preempted by some such BS. So what the hell else was I supposed to do? Wait for it to re-air months later, wait for the DVDs to come out in a year or so? And the whole time be somewhat lost as to what was going on? I really don’t see what revenue loss that created for them as I don’t watch the commercials anyway and I already pay for my cable. So what gives? It really gets my ire up when these idiots sue mostly well meaning consumers for consuming their product in an alternate (and lower quality I might add) version. Just makes me want to dump all of that crap. And really any time I watch TV or a movie is more or less a waste of time and money. And any time they sue or notify the consumer it is an even bigger waste of time and money. GTFO you greedy twits.

  20. The larger issue for the entertainment industry seems to be that they’re incapable of making anything worth watching, much less downloading.

  21. Not sure these folks even want to drive people back to the mall. This is, perhaps, their new business model. Why sell content when just gather money from the poor folks that will just settle and pay up?

  22. My legal system has better things to do, thankyouverymuch.

    Lets increase their noise-to-signal ratio and highlight the absurdity of this system by putting our networked printers to use in sopping up some of their lawsuity-goodness… like these smart folk have demonstrated: http://dmca.cs.washington.edu/

  23. How about making peace, instead?

    Whatever the hell for? They have a wonderful new business model– extortion. 80,000 defendants that settle for a few thousand dollars. . . why even offer a product? They have lawyers on staff anyway, might as well make use of them and have them earn their keep.

    The only way to stop them is to have EVERY SINGLE DEFENDANT continue the case instead of settling, gumming up the courts and their corporate lawyers until it becomes unprofitable, and that will never happen, people can’t afford the lawyers or the time spent.

  24. So how long until they just sue the internet? Bring a suit agaisnt every IP address in existence; maybe throw out the big ones off hand like microsoft, google, yahoo, etc… but pretty much every non-commercial IP would have a letter sent extorting money.

  25. Heh. I live in Germany, and I have never heard of the massive action mentioned in the linked article (though there are some nasty subjudicial shortcuts a plaintiff might take that would not become public record).

    Also, the Guardaley site lists a UK physical address but German phone #s. A rather odd business, surely?

    1. That was my initial thought, too. “US Copyright Group” just sounds too much like those phony yellow pages companies that call to “verify your contact information” then sign you up for a “free trial” that costs you a ton of money and a ton of time spent getting the charges reversed.

      They may file real lawsuits, but I’m guessing they have as much merit as the yellow pages invoices. The demand letters should not be paid; they should be fought.

  26. This will be Big Brother’s Waterloo, U.S. telecoms have overstepped their corporate mandates chasing short term profit, keeping us from regaining our rightful place as the world’s information tech leader. We’ve already lost two decades to greed, and it doesn’t seem as though piracy is driven by the lack of true competition in the IT and Entertainment markets.

  27. I, for one, welcome our evil Corporate overlords.

    I promise to buy many many many of your products, and will of course, never let any other consumers see, hear, touch or smell them.

    Please dont sue me.

  28. So I have a unique perspective I think on the whole US CopyEvil Group. I think indie filmmakers are going to completely upset and upturn the entire system, and as such, I can only forsee tears for them.

    Speaking as an indie filmmaker – for about 5 grand (less than the cost of a car) you can get a nice Canon 5DmkII or 7D, which shoots at a sensor size equal to 35mm. So they don’t have the cameras on us. Cast & Crew, just get your friends or crowdsource craigslist. Locations, offer credits for free locations. Script, write it yourself, obviously. The only thing they really have on us is DVD distribution… but uuuuh, ever heard of this little thing called the internet? It’s just become too easy to produce indie content that looks and feels just as good as the stuff from the ‘big dogs’ of tv and film, and I really feel like we’re about to see an explosion.

    If you’ve got the passion and drive, you can produce content, and then what do they have, really?

  29. I choose not to subscribe to the content, problem solved.

    The only way to hurt these guys is to make them irrelevant by not using their products, legal or otherwise. Besides we have so many alternatives to choose from, artist that give their music/movies/software away. These people (and I count myself among them) bust their ass and don’t ask for much in return except that if you like it, spread it. I guaranty that none of use will come after you with a lawsuit just because you like our product, we would consider that to be uncouth.

    Now I’ll get off my soap-box.

  30. If you shoplift from Lowes or Home Depot and are caught and plead no contest, you will be fined and perhaps receive a small ding on your criminal history. Some days later you will receive a letter from a scary-sounding legal firm requesting that you pay an additional civil penalty. If you ignore this letter, you will receive a second letter asking for twice the original proposed settlement. Eventually they might even start calling and leaving automated messages at all hours. But if you don’t respond, they eventually go away. You can even call them and tell them to unlist your number, because sometimes criminals give intentionally bogus numbers. I suspect the US Copyright Group is a similar basement-based legal operation. They’re out for the low-hanging fruit of those who can be intimidated.

  31. this thing is getting ridiculous. they managed to alienate their old customers while creating a whole new generation that does not even know that music is actually for sale and not free. at least in Greece and Italy everyone under 20 is a complete freetard out of habit not ideology. try to reverse that.

    unless they get some sense really fast and agree on a reasonable flat fee to be paid with your internet connection (and share the gains as they see fit) they are simply going to lose everything. lawsuits only take you so far. you cannot sue entire nations (and even if you could i doubt that the Indians and the Chinese would be bothered).

    no sympathy for big corporations. they loot the world for profit it is only fair that they get looted back by pirates, freetards you name them. so basically they will have to sell their products for what the people and non CEOs decide. Bono will not get a new jet and Bradgelina will have to forfeit on their Dubai artificial island. big deal. Boohoo.

  32. For the alleged pirates this works out like a variant on the prisoners dilemma.

    They are only ever going to bring one or two case to court in spite if this show of bravado.

    So if no one settles upfront you have only say a one in 10,000 chance of having being bankrupted and your life ruined. You could argue that it’s much higher as the court may acquit you, but with the US justice system you are probably ruined by then anyway. Otherwise you get off scot free.

    But if many settle your chances are much worse so at some point it becomes better to settle as well.

    Are you feeling lucky today punk?

  33. The real irony is that at this stage the “Stealing” probably does more for “Free Advertising” than costs in revenue.

    A bank robber, in a sense isn’t a “Radical” (a “Robin Hood” at best) because in his own way he defends the “System” the most, for he certainly agrees with the banker the value of the money in the vault. The true radical tries to get people to use a different currency, or go back to barter.

    I, personally, don’t care about these “Latest” pictures or video games. All hype that’ll end up in the “Bargain Bin” later.

    My “Hack” of the system is just to wait a little while then maybe buy/rent something.

    Having said that, I pledge to, if on a Jury “Nullify” a case like this. The punishment for this crime is too draconian. If a person sells bootlegs on the street they don’t get 1/10 what a “File Sharer” gets if targeted for lawsuits.

    The lawsuits, IMO, are just a greedy, complacent and corrupt industry trying to squeeze as much money as possible from all sources until it dies. It’s dying because it makes drek and sh-t and flings it at the public like an 800lb gorilla that can sh-t where it wants to.

    I rarely go to any movies, most of the video games I like are considered “Retro” and I loathe most of the cr-p on the radio. I felt pretty weird and isolated, but then with the net I found so many “Independent” artists/musicians, game designers who’ll NEVER be in a store, on the radio or TV because the industry keeps them out. If they aren’t a marginally talented sock-puppet or a disposable ‘act’ that looks more like a police lineup than any performer, they not only don’t get jobs but the media keeps them out. But that’s been going on close to a century.

    The music industry (and movie, soon publishing) cries it’s being destroyed by a ‘new technology’ that ‘steals’ it’s labors? Well, boo-hoo. When it became feasable to record, mass-produce and sell music, video, art – 95% of all musicians, artists, thespians went out of business within a generation. Cheaper to play a recording made once than hire a band every time. Cheaper to rent movies from the studio (or share ticket sales) than to hire a troupe of actors.

    I really hope the industry dies. For that reason, I hope people will “Steal” from it less.

    What we should do is seek out “Independent” acts and buy from them directly, or donate if they post for free. And based on what we like. While they certainly may hold and defend their copyrights, a few basic things should be observed. No DRM. Allowing reasonable tribute/attribution.

    All music, movies, etc. at their purest level are a form of “Busking” (playing music on a street corner for $ from passers-by) The industry has forgotten this. I dare say that for the fact that if you toss $1 into the hat of a guy playing a flute on the corner, you pay him far more than if he was a “Pro” and you bought his $18.99 CD. Really, they usually get paid 5 cents to a quarter, if anything. And the lawsuits do not seem to go to the musicians. A recent WIRED article had a bunch of musicians suing the RIAA since they’d gone through their fan bases like a chainsaw, showing a significant drop in revenue, with no money going to them.

  34. At work, I uphold copyright law religiously because in 99% of the cases, it’s absolutely ridiculous, and I want people to become so infuriated that they go and do something about it. But it doesn’t work…. because half of the people I talk to (in a white suburban town with a higher-than average level of education) don’t even know that it’s illegal to download movies and music. I actually had this argument one time in which 5 different bystanders pitched into to tell me that “obviously it’s legal, or else why would they let us do it?”

    My point is… maybe a simple television commercial actually telling people it’s illegal would do more to stop downloading than suing them after the fact? If a commercial can convince people that they have restless legs and that their impotence has nothing to do with their diabetes than I’m sure it would work in this case.

  35. I find these comments that the “solution” is to enjoy non-RIAA music, etc to be elitist. Is that a more polite way of saying that “If your tastes are low class enough to listen to Lil Wayne, you deserve to be sued?” Even if it’s not, it’s totally beside the point, which is that there’s something wrong with current copyright laws.

  36. Our mission is to educate the masses of the impending robotic doom coming humanity’s way. The human race has become blinded by the quickness and accesibility that technology provides, but understand that every “scientific advancement” is a warning sign.
    Through the teachings of “That Urban Punk,” “Prior M,” and, time traveling correspondent, Operative 9…you too can rise against “THE ANDROID MASSACRE.” : http://www.androidmassacre.com

  37. Here’s the best idea:

    Turn against Hollywood, stop buying and watching their movies and then watch them go bankrupt. A vast majority of them are not even worth wasting bandwidth on.

    We’d be a better nation without them.

  38. The only solution for this entire shit riot is making plotless and pointless gigantic films like Avatar, Alice in Wonderland, etc which can only be watched meaningfully in a huge theater.

    TV serials can survive easily with
    -syndication(some people still watch TV),
    -product placements in the show(will be seen by even downloaders, more relavent than commercials)

    Artists will survive if they get actually earn their keep by doing what they should be doing – concerts. Not just record one song and overdose on royalties.

  39. Anyone who doesn’t fight this is an idiot. I know it takes lawyers and stuff but I would think you could defend yourself here. Even if you fail, I can’t feasibly see more than 10,000 cases being heard until the courts decided to start fining them more. The evidence they gather is 100% circumstantial, and in no way can be linked back to a physical person (and sometimes not even to a specific computer). You can claim ignorance, and watch as the other side desperately tries to prove you harmed them monetarily. You don’t need a law degree, you just need common sense. Even in their worst case scenario you can’t cause more than a few hundred dollars worth of damages, plus use peer guardian, nothing they can do when you block their IP’s. And while not perfect, it works.

  40. Yeah I agree with watchout5. And I think I would join the Pirate party they have launched in europe. Members of ex priatebay group. Gosh they have to probably fine 20 million people if they start doing that in India. LOL

  41. “What do we want? We just want to be free to ride our machines without being hassled by the man!”

  42. 50,000 times $3,000 each = $1.5 BILLION; $500,000,000 to attorneys, $1,000,000,000 to execs, $-0- to actual producers.

    Why do they do this?

  43. The attorney that manages to turn these ridiculous lawsuits into a pricey countersuit could walk off with a fortune from an industry with some deep pockets. That’d get their attention.

    The law must be pretty damn broken for these cases to actually go forward in court. Even if you fall on the side of “filesharing is theft” it’s plain to see that the punishment is all out of proportion to the crime.

    Guess I shouldn’t have torrented that Victor Jara record. He would have wanted me to pay $50.00 to some CD collector for it.

  44. From the linked article:

    So far, five lawsuits have been filed against tens of thousands of alleged infringers of the films “Steam Experiment,” “Far Cry,” “Uncross the Stars,” “Gray Man” and “Call of the Wild 3D.”

    so it’s the little guy picking on the littler guy? Who do you even cheer for?

    1. Not all copyright owners are “big guys”, which is a shade of grey many of you are quite uncomfortable with…

  45. OK, I’ve got it! I am declaring myself an IP lawyer, and every commenter in this thread owes me — um — $3000. For — hmmm — downloading music! Ya that’s it!

    What music? Who do I work for? You don’t want to go to court or pay a lawyer, so never you mind. Pay up or I’ll sooooooooooooooooo!

    I think that’s how it works now. I wish I could think of a fix that wouldn’t be twisted into a slightly different extortion racket.

  46. A few years back, my brother and I bought Fight Club. Its one of our favorite films, saw it more than once at the theaters, and sick of the mediocre dubbing on mexican cable, we bought it on DVD as soon as we saw it on the shelf, making sure the box was labeled regions 1 and 4, so it would be compatible with our dvd players.

    When we got home, we discovered that the DVD was only region 4, altough it was clearly labeled as both 1 and 4.

    We couldnt play it on our old region 1 player.

    Somehow, it wouldnt play on our cheap chinese made multiregion player.

    While I could, theoretically, play it on my laptop, I would need to switch the reader from region 1 to region 4, locking out the rest of my collection. (and locking them out permanently after 3 more of those switches)

    So our special edition Fight Club Doovde is sitting brand new on our bookshelf.

    So thank you very much for alienating your legitimate customers.

  47. well, i didn’t expect the companies to do it themselves. its not like they want OUR lives to be good. just as long as they get cash.

  48. This is just getting ridiculous; you’re not going to solve anything by lining people up and sticking your hand out. This is just shameless legal bullying by an increasingly clueless and dying industry.

  49. these companies are pathetic, and to the artist that let this happen(music), they should be happy people are even listening to their music.

  50. I dont know about ne 1 else but I simply CAN NOT AFFORD to go the the fucking movies…$20 for tix, 5 for a drink, 8 for popcorn….FUCK THE GREEDY! LONG LIVE PIRATEBAY!

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