The Electronic Frontier Foundation has decided to come out fighting against a new round of litigation targeted at Bit Torrent users. 50,000 lawsuits have already been filed against unnamed litigants in DC’s federal court. The ironic part about this is that the file sharing targeted in the lawsuit is the file sharing that is most beneficial to many creators. The independent movies in the claims are likely gaining more fans from file sharing, and those fans are much more likely to buy products if they like the films. Independent film makers need viral marketing, the U.S. Copyright Group (taking up evil where the RIAA left off) is harming both consumers and the artist with this spam litigation. This type of copyright litigation is designed to extort settlements out of end users and never go to court. The suits exploit the broken state of Statutory Damages (pdf) which threaten automatic damages of up to $150,000 even when no harm has been done. These lawsuits are betting that most people will settle instead of hire a lawyer. I am glad to see EFF acting to stop these suits before they get off the ground by protecting end users privacy at the ISP level.
Here is the full press release from EFF:
Are you an attorney licensed to practice law in the United States? If you are, EFF needs your help to fight spam-igation.
The U.S. Copyright Group has quietly targeted 50,000 Bit Torrent users for legal action in federal court in Washington DC. The defendants, all Does, are accused of having downloaded independent films such as “Far Cry,” “Steam Experiment,” and “Uncross the Stars” without authorization. U.S. Copyright Group has recently announced that it will also be targeting unauthorized downloaders of the film “Hurt Locker.” News reports suggest that the attorneys bringing these suits are not affiliated with any major entertainment companies, but are instead intent on building a lucrative business model built from collecting settlements from the largest possible set of individual defendants.
The lawsuits proceed similarly to the RIAA lawsuits against unauthorized music downloaders: US Copyright Group files a copyright infringement suit in federal court in Washington DC, against thousands of Does, identified by IP address. Then it presents ISP’s with the list of IP’s and dates and subpoenas the billing address of the user who had that IP at that date. The ISP’s then contact then contact their customers, inform them of the subpoena, and give them an opportunity to file a motion to quash.
In the event that no motion to quash is filed, the ISP gives up the identity of the user. US Copyright Group’s attorneys then contact the user and offer a settlement, usually starting at $2500.
EFF is seeking as many attorneys as possible to advise the targets of these lawsuits and, where appropriate, file motions to quash. Respondents’ contact information would be added to a website that will act as a resource for the targets of these lawsuits.
If interested, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org with your contact information or the contact information for your firm, and the states in which you are licensed to practice law.