Lawyers and Pirates go to the Movies

We all know, by now, the sad story of the RIAA, and how it sued 18,000 people, among them 12 year olds and the deceased, for illegal downloading of music.  As much as bad publicity for the music business, these suits cost far more than they brought in, and sensing failure, the agency finally stopped it litigious behavior. But this week, the Hollywood Reporter said that a group called the US Copyright Group is taking a page from the RIAA’s book and is litigating against about 50,000 people who allegedly downloaded 10 independent movies. This is not going to be an easy feat for the group. First of all, to bring a lawsuit the attorneys will need to convince judges to order Internet service providers to disclose the names of their users. (One ISP has apparently turned over that information on its own, but the others say they won’t do so without a court order).  And even if it gets the names of individuals, the group will then have to get users to settle with them rather than face a court hearing.  And almost certainly, some of those users, won’t settle. The idea for the suit originated in Germany, where real time technology that keeps track of downloads on torrents can be checked against a spreadsheet of copyright protected films.  These have been used to take pirates to court and they have apparently been successful. The IFTA and the MPAA are so far not interested (the MPAA is sort of interested, actually, but they want to see proof that this can work before taking up the cudgel themselves). Says HR, “The US Copyright Group plans to issue a press release soon touting the success of this program. The lawyers are also traveling to the Festival de Cannes in May with hopes of convincing other producers —  and perhaps major studios — to try their luck suing hundreds of thousands of pirates.”

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