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Massive Lawsuit Campaign Coming to US BitTorrent Users
March 30, 2010
Thomas Mennecke
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There's a rather disturbing article that has appeared in The Hollywood Reporter (THR), citing that nearly 20,000 new lawsuits have been filed in the US against BitTorrent users, with another 30,000 on the way. According to THR, the lawsuits were filed by US Copyright Group, an organization of lawyers working on behalf of independent film producers in Germany.

"The genesis of this legal campaign occurred in Germany when lawyers from the US Copyright Group were introduced to a new proprietary technology by German-based Guardaley IT that allows for real-time monitoring of movie downloads on torrents. According to Thomas Dunlap, a lawyer at the firm, the program captures IP addresses based on the time stamp that a download has occurred and then checks against a spreadsheet to make sure the downloading content is the copyright protected film and not a misnamed film or trailer."

One of the complaints filed in DC court cites over 2,000 John Doe defendants - a method used to force ISPs to hand over their customer's information. This practice was abandoned by the major entertainment industry leaders such as the RIAA, MPAA, BPI and IFPI because of the massive consumer backlash and embarrassment it caused.

Interestingly enough, the real enemies are no longer these big trade groups, but smaller outfits that really don't have much of a reputation at stake to begin with. How many German porn producers can you name off the top of your head versus a mainstream Hollywood producer? OK, maybe I'm asking the wrong crowd but you see where we're going.

This practice of suing customers is still common in the UK, where thousands of individuals have been targeted, many times erroneously, in the name of copyright enforcement. Now it seems this smarmy game is going to be tried once again here in the United States. THR states that a German based company named Guardaley IT developed a proprietary technology that allows for "real-time monitoring" of movie distribution on BitTorrent. It seems that Open Copyright Group was impressed with the results.

Techdirt is pulling no punches in their writeup on this - they feel the motivation has to do with making money and little else.

"Of course, those involved are also touting this as a "revenue stream" and "monetizing the equivalent of an alternative distribution channel." That's a really stunning statement when you think about it. While I'm sure some independent filmmakers are happy to get some money, this is a scorched earth method of getting paid. This is putting a gun to people, based on little evidence, and forcing them to pay up."

According to THR, some people have already paid up - which is surprisingly quick considering that one of the complaints that name over 2,000 IP addresses was only filed on March 17. Is the UK lawsuit campaign that has all but destroyed the credibly of the entertainment industry coming to the US? It seems that way, and chances are there will be hell to pay for it.

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