Report: "Hurt Locker" producers will soon blast tens of thousands of BitTorrenters with lawsuit


The Hollywood Reporter recently broke news that Voltage Pictures, which produced the Academy Award-winning film The Hurt Locker, has teamed up with a law firm going by the alias "The Copyright Group" to sue tens of thousands of suspected BitTorrent downloaders.

An earlier and related story from THR is here. Other Voltage Pictures releases will be included, including Personal Effects, starring Twitter darling Ashton Kutcher.

After filing the lawsuits, the plaintiffs must subpoena ISP records in an effort to match IP addresses with illicit behavior on BitTorrent. According to lawyers at Dunlap's firm, 75 percent of ISPs have cooperated fully. Those that have resisted are mostly doing so, they say, because of the amount of work involved in handing over thousands of names. But the clock may be ticking. For example, in the lawsuit over "Far Cry," Comcast has until next Wednesday to file motions to quash subpoenas. (Here's the stipulation by the parties.) By the end of next week, thousands of Comcast subscribers could be turned over.

Of the some 50,000 individuals who have been sued thus far, only three have tried to quash the subpoena. In one instance, a Georgia man tried to invoke the state's shield law protecting journalists from having to disclose their sources. The judge denied the motion. In another instance, a woman successfully got a court to throw out the subpoena because her IP address wasn't listed in the original complaint. Unfortunately for her, the complaint was then amended. After unmasking individuals who have illegally downloaded films, the U.S. Copyright Group then sends a settlement offer.

I guess ticket sales and Netflix rentals have been underwhelming, and the producers feel like suing fans is their best hope of turning a profit. No, I don't condone piracy, but this sort of massive attack on a potential audience base seems counterproductive.

The lawsuit is expected to be filed in the coming days. If the ISPs involved cooperate, accused downloaders will receive a "settlement letter" within the next few weeks.

An aside: I was a guest on a taping of "This Week in Law" earlier today, and my fellow panelist Martin Schwimmer pointed out that legal filings from The Copyright Group show the name is sort of a branding front for a D.C. based "name, name, and name" law firm (Update: Ars Technica reports the firm's name is Dunlap, Grubb, & Weaver).
The Copyright Group's url? [Eye-roll.] Also, the website is truly clip-art-tastic.

Torrentfreak has an item here.