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23,000 File Sharers Targeted In Latest Lawsuit 386

Posted by Soulskill
from the go-big-or-go-home dept.
wiedzmin writes "Subpoenas are expected to go out to ISPs this week in what could be the biggest BitTorrent downloading case in US history. At least 23,000 file sharers are being targeted by the US Copyright Group for downloading The Expendables. The Copyright Group appears to have adopted Righthaven's strategy in blanket-suing large numbers of defendants and offering an option to quickly settle online for a moderate payment. The IP addresses of defendants have allegedly been collected by paid snoops capturing lists of all peers who were downloading or seeding Sylvester Stallone's flick last year. I am curious to see how this will tie into the BitTorrent case ruling made earlier this month indicating that an IP address does not uniquely identify the person behind it."
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23,000 File Sharers Targeted In Latest Lawsuit

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  • Busy Work... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by yeshuawatso (1774190) * on Tuesday May 10, 2011 @12:21AM (#36079208) Journal

    Comcast and Time Warner are going to be busy. Just IDing and notifying the downloaders is going to be a pain in the ass, and God forbid the customer moved, switch, and/or can't be found. As a manager, I would file a motion to stop this just to keep my cost down. Furthermore, this is a witch hunt and the sitting Judge needs to step down for being incompetent. While I may not have a JD, any rational person can see that the company is just trying to start a legal phishing scheme.

    What really irks me, is that they'll try to sue these people into paying rather than engaging them as customers. MPAA, here's an idea, instead of sending notices to ISPs about someone stealing a movie, how about you work with ISPs to send the downloader a link to pay for the movie instead. Give the option to rent or buy it, and play with the price until you find a sweet spot these el cheapo's are willing to fork over. Threatening them with lawsuits because it seems like a great way to set an example hasn't worked thus far, why keep beating this dead horse then?

    • Re:Busy Work... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Aryden (1872756) on Tuesday May 10, 2011 @12:26AM (#36079226)
      I can't wait till a few Governors, Congressmen, Senators, Justices get hit because their kids downloaded content.
      • Re:Busy Work... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by mug funky (910186) on Tuesday May 10, 2011 @12:37AM (#36079284)

        i have no doubt in my mind that there is a "safe" list of IPs that will never receive a subpoena. i'm sure getting added is just an embarrassing phone call away.

        • Re:Busy Work... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Tuesday May 10, 2011 @02:34AM (#36079794)
          A safe list of IPs wouldn't be practical. It'll be rather less hi-tech than that. When the subpoena results come back, someone is just going to be given the task of reading them all, running a quick google on each name, and striking off the list anyone they find who might pose a problem.
      • Re:Busy Work... (Score:4, Informative)

        by feedayeen (1322473) on Tuesday May 10, 2011 @12:39AM (#36079292)

        I can't wait till a few Governors, Congressmen, Senators, Justices get hit because their kids downloaded content.

        There are about a thousand individuals in the US with enough political power to get the ball rolling for change in this matter. Of them, their demographics put them with an average age of upper 40's to lower 50's making well over a million each year. Among those who still have kids living at home, to most of them, their thousand dollar settlements is chump change.

        Given a US Internet population of about 200 million, and the assumption that 50 thousand will face legal action of similar nature, statistically, there is not even a 1% chance that someone with political sway has dealt with this.

        • by bryan1945 (301828)

          Spoof an IP address. Make friends with their kids. Break their WiFi. Probably some I missed. Not that I advocate breaking the law, just pointing out ways it could be done.

          Even better idea, hypothetically, do the same with the 'Copyright Group' members. Or their lawyers. Haven't heard from Anonymous recently. But I would never advocate anything illegal.

          • by Surt (22457)

            I think another thread really captured it though ... any such case would get dropped, and I am sure that the AAs have their lawyers at least doing a cursory check to try and make sure that no such embarrassing/risky case gets filed in the first place.

            • by bryan1945 (301828)

              Ah, must have missed it, though I still think it would be possible to these guys, somehow. Not that I advocate anyone. I have to stop trying to speed read stuff- seems I'm not good at it.

            • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

              Be a fun time making the original IP lists gathered disappear in discovery, should they be requested. You lose the 'Oh, we didn't realise...' argument used in personal jurisdiction disputes and whatnot if it's found you've been doing SOME kind of homework on the IP addresses gathered.

              Somewhat related, is there any comparable tactic to Selective Prosecution that can be used in civil disputes?
    • ...is the great possibility that a U.S. Copyright Group stooge put the movie out there in the first place.
      • by hedwards (940851)

        I'd expect it to be tossed. The US Copyright Group can't provide the torrent and then sue people for using a lawfully provided torrent. Unless of course the US Copyright Group didn't have the right to distribute those files, in which case they'd be liable for say, eleventy billion dollars.

      • Why would they?

        It's not like they need to. The movie's gonna end up on BitTorrent the day it's released (or, more likely, beforehand), whether or not they put it there. It's not worth the extra hassle.

      • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Tuesday May 10, 2011 @03:55AM (#36080090)
        If they put it there, then they are guilty of copyright violation: illegally distributing the work.

        If they did not put it there, then they are still guilty of copyright violation, because in order to find out who is downloading a file, they have to have a copy of the file for comparison! This issue has been brought up before: they cannot use illegal means to pursue legal "solutions" to their piracy problem.

        Remember that in the past, their means of detecting who was violating copyright (I won't say "pirating", because a pirate has to distribute, not just copy) was itself accused of being illegal. Frankly, I don't see how they could devise a legal means to do it.

        Honestly, I think these cases are dead in the water. I don't think they'll go anywhere anymore. Too many judges have become aware of how this all works. Or doesn't work, as the case may be.
    • TWC and Comcast are just conduit providers connecting their subscribers to the rest of the world. I'm sure they don't like having to rat out their own customers. But the law is the law, and subpoena's can't be ignored.

      • But, as TWC have already done once, they can prevent having an 'undue burden' being placed on their business operations, and stem the flow of responses to a reasonable level; after all, they have other requests from government agencies that take precedence. Finally, National Security is helping us!
    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      While I may not have a JD, any rational person can see that the company is just trying to start a legal phishing scheme.

      The **AAs know that the courts can't handle a flood of 23,000 cases.
      The **AAs know that the major ISPs can't handle a flood of ID requests.

      I think that longterm, this is part of a **AA plan to change the way civil copyright cases are dealt with.
      They're going to engaging in mass lawsuits until Congress passes ACTA or some similar lawyer enabling regime.

      The **AA were created by man. They evolved. And they have a plan.

      • Re:Busy Work... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Tuesday May 10, 2011 @02:38AM (#36079824)
        The courts wouldn't see 23,000 cases. The usual procedure here is settlement. The copyright holder just has to make an offer that cannot be refused: Either settle for $7,000 or so, or go to court and face tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees even if you win.

        As for the ISPs, I imagine the **IAs would love to see them inconvenienced even further by piracy. It means more of an incentive to put in place technological measures to stop piracy like blocking popular trackers, traffic shaping and tiny usage quotas.
        • The courts wouldn't see 23,000 cases. The usual procedure here is settlement. The copyright holder just has to make an offer that cannot be refused: Either settle for $7,000 or so, or go to court and face tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees even if you win.

          You can actually file a motion to have the prosecution pay your legal fees if you win. You shouldn't have to look very far to find a lawyer who's willing to take on the case without charging you directly, considering some of the precedent that's be

        • As for the ISPs, I imagine the **IAs would love to see them inconvenienced even further by piracy. It means more of an incentive to put in place technological measures to stop piracy like blocking popular trackers, traffic shaping and tiny usage quotas.

          Or an incentive to just stop caring and start ignoring the requests from media lawyers.

  • by TemperedAlchemist (2045966) on Tuesday May 10, 2011 @12:24AM (#36079218)

    Since the court ruling of IP address != identity. I would certainly like to see said copyright group charged with extortion.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Aryden (1872756)
      and as one, the world cried out just a single word... RICO.
    • by snl2587 (1177409)
      Moreover, I really wonder how things will pan out with people who downloaded but didn't seed. The wording of the court order seems to suggest that they're assuming all downloaders infringed on multiple copies, but most would only have viewed one. Even with punitive fines, there's no way the typically insane awards should hold up in court.
      • by hoggoth (414195)

        That's a useless distinction, legally. The way BitTorrent works, as soon as you finish downloading the first block you are sharing it out to someone else. Seeding only refers to when you have 100% of the file and you are sharing it. You can be sure if you have 99% of the file and are sharing it out nobody is going to make the legal distinction that you weren't "seeding" it.

        • by Rennt (582550)

          I agree that seeding is meaningless, but can't you make a legal distinction between somebody with a 1:1 ratio and somebody with a 1:100? Surely these are not the same level of infringement?

          Even the pirates do not consider your contribution to be worthwhile until you reach 1:1. For all practical purposes you have not made anything available to anybody.

        • So, if they detected that your BitTorrent client uploaded a portion of a file, how do they know it wasn't just that... a portion of the file? Which might come under the heading of fair use.
    • Since the court ruling of IP address != identity. I would certainly like to see said copyright group charged with extortion.

      The rulings of a single district court judge counts for damn little in the American federal system.

      Tracing an IP address stands a pretty good chance of leading yoiu to the primary account owner.

      The legally responsible adult, if you like.

      It isn't perfect. But nothing in the law has to be perfect. Least of all in the earliest stages of civil litigation.

      That a plaintiff disagrees with a lower court judge in Texas on the law of evidence does not make the offer of a settlement in New York or California extorti

      • IP != person in logic. An IP refers to an access point. It very well may be a personal access point, but since most private wireless networks can be broken into easily by any competent person with google, it stands to reason that assuming that IP = person is a logical fallacy. A "snapshot" of your IP address only proves that your access point was used to download copyrighted material. If there were a connection that you are, in fact, the only person to use this access point, then the conclusion may be m

      • What's "a pretty good chance"?

        If you are a parent, the chances are that the IP address is in your name, even if your children (including adult children) are the ones who use the internet the most. And in many cases, like mine for example, there are probably 20 households who have access to my open router. That's 20 households... houses and apartments... so say maybe 50 people.

        In a great many cases, an IP address actually has only a very small chance of identifying an individual. Arguing that in other
  • by Sparx139 (1460489) on Tuesday May 10, 2011 @12:29AM (#36079232)
    If all 23,000 customers refused to settle. Would the Copyright Group drop the charges, or would they take them all to court?
    • by artor3 (1344997) on Tuesday May 10, 2011 @12:35AM (#36079272)

      They'd pick the richest hundred or so of the group and destroy them in court, and drop the rest.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        But the 100 richest would be the ones who could hire expensive lawyers and take off work to fight the them in court just for fun.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 10, 2011 @02:07AM (#36079686)

      What if all 23,000 file sharers each ponied up $50 dollars to make the problem go away? And by make the problem go away I mean hire some professional hit men to brutally kill a bunch of the lawyers who thought suing 23,000 people would be a good idea. I reckon that for 11.5 million dollars you could buy yourself a great big heap of dead lawyers.

  • In response (Score:5, Funny)

    by Ghjnut (1843450) on Tuesday May 10, 2011 @12:30AM (#36079236)
    They should countersue for the time they lost watching the movie.
  • That 23,000 people downloaded that movie intentionally.

    I feel sorry for the poor folk who wasted drive space on that piece of crap.

    • Saw it in the theater... Wasn't so bad for what it was... over the top action flick. Now "Vampires Suck" I want my money and dead brain cells back.
  • how it'll tie in. If you've got the resources to fight it they'll probably drop it fast and move onto easier pickings...

    The only real question is, will they ever attack enough people to result in real copyright reform? I doubt it. The judges have been careful to keep this under control, and that's probably why...
  • by bogaboga (793279) on Tuesday May 10, 2011 @12:45AM (#36079322)

    I am curious to see how this will tie into the BitTorrent case ruling made earlier this month indicating that an IP address does not uniquely identify the person behind it."

    Why did it require a visit to the court system in order to establish this 'obvious' fact?

    The IP in my opinion only identifies a service/hardware to which it's tied. Not a human being. Seems obvious to me.

    • by artor3 (1344997)

      Doesn't matter how obvious something is until either a law or a precedent says so. It's better that way. The problem is when aging judges who think televisions are the bees' knees fail to understand what we know to be obvious. See the WoW Glider case, and the ruling that copying a program from your harddrive to your RAM constitutes copyright infringement.

      • See the WoW Glider case, and the ruling that copying a program from your harddrive to your RAM constitutes copyright infringement.

        How did I miss this one? That's like the old lady who calls to piss and moan about her cell phone not giving her a dial tone...

    • by xenobyte (446878)

      It is obvious and has been so forever, even for wired connections.

      Most (all?) standard Internet connections today gives you one IP per household, and inside each a number of private IP's are issued to the devices that request an IP. They all share the public IP. Now, households with just one person exist of course but most have more than one person and usually also more than one device that's using the Internet connection. Seen from the outside is it completely impossible to determine who in the household m

      • Now, you cannot prosecute a household, only specific people. But you cannot determine from the outside who was behind any action on the Internet so you cannot put a name on the offense. You can also not knowingly accuse an innocent of something (one committed the offense, everybody else is innocent), nor can you say that the Internet connection was used with permission, thus putting a name on someone 'responsible', so in essence you cannot use any log just showing an IP as any kind of 'proof' of someone in particular committing something, as you need a specific person to prosecute.

        Thankfully the court have ruled in favor of this obvious fact.

        This "obvious fact" has been up in courts several times before, and they've gone the other way. I doubt this ruling will stand (and it's not binding on any other court anyway).

        You bring an action against a "John Doe" - you don't need a specific name, nor are you prosecuting a household. Once you bring the action and have established a prima facie case that someone has committed copyright infringement via a particular modem, then you get subpoena power from the court and can get router logs, hard drive scan

  • You coming for me?

    I'll be waiting, bitches!

  • ...for me to expand my list of artists to avoid supporting financially. Too bad; I kinda liked tuning in for the last 5 minutes of Rocky whatever.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 10, 2011 @12:57AM (#36079372)

    I've said it before, and I'll say it again: All of these cases are based on the work of unlicensed private investigators, working behind closed doors, doing who-knows-what. There is absolutely no proof that ANY of their "evidence" is real. These "investigators" and their shyster lawyer accomplices are the real criminals. They are the ones who should be fined and imprisoned. And given a good flogging.

  • Revenue Stream (Score:5, Insightful)

    by drmofe (523606) on Tuesday May 10, 2011 @01:10AM (#36079436)

    The movie grossed $103 million at the US box office

    Assuming a movie ticket price of $20, this means that 5.3 million people saw the movie in theatres. These guys are suing 23222 people, or about 230 times fewer

    At $150K per defendant, the potential works out to $3.48billion or roughly 33 times the US gross (and $700million more than the highest grossing movie ever - Avatar

    My business pitch to the movie studios would be: "Straight to torrent then litigate - that's where the money is..."

    • by Dishwasha (125561)

      Nobody really mentions this, but if ever I download something whether legitimate or not, I rarely if ever see my seed ratio exceed 10:1. So even if I let 10 people fully download a movie from me, the real loss of distribution is only $200 assuming the inflated $20 a box office ticket. Even if we take a potential loss of 100:1, that's still only $2000 and I highly doubt anyone ever really seeds to this amount. Even a $2,000 fine is incentive enough to get someone to stop torrenting copyrighted works and d

      • by Xelios (822510) on Tuesday May 10, 2011 @06:21AM (#36080618)
        Take it one step further. With Bittorrent you're rarely in a position to transfer the entire file to one person, especially on popular torrents like newly released movies. What you're really doing is uploading small chunks of the film to different people, something that everyone here has no trouble understanding but seems to be a hopelessly complicated concept for much of the older generation.

        Now the question is, what does copyright apply to? The entire film or all the little bits that make up the film? I don't think any sane person could claim it's the latter, because practically that would make every sequence of bits someone's intellectual property. Even if we couple that idea with a context how do we legally define the context? The name of the file those bits are a part of? And what happens if I encrypt or compress those bits? What if I mix them with bits from other sources? There's just no way to make this definition work. So if I'm not distributing the film in its entirety, if I'm not even distributing large parts of it to the same people, then I think you could argue that distributing it over Bittorrent doesn't violate any IP laws.

        Lets say I have a counterfeit bag, some expensive designer one. If I sell that bag to someone, or even give it to someone, I've distributed counterfeit goods. But if I cut that bag up into hundreds of little pieces of fabric, then distribute those pieces to hundreds of different people, have I broken a law? What if I do this 10 times with 10 bags, over thousands of people, have I distributed 10 bags to people? I don't think so. Even if you could reassemble those pieces into an original bag I still haven't given a bag to any one person.

        Even the law itself [copyright.gov] defines infringement to be "any secondary transmission by a cable system that embodies a performance or a display of a work which is actionable as an act of infringement". How can anyone claim a small segment of the billions of bits that make up a movie embodies it? Without the rest of it, they're nothing. Even if you argue that a person could extract a single frame from them, then a simple encryption pass would turn them into truly random noise. At least, until you have the whole file to decrypt.

        Sure it's all technicalities, but isn't that what law is?
  • by Greyfox (87712) on Tuesday May 10, 2011 @01:11AM (#36079442) Homepage Journal
    They would have us believe 23000 people took the time to download a Sylvester Stallone flick?
  • It still identifies the account holders with the ISP, who can, quite reasonably, be held accountable for damages caused through their accounts, unless any of the subscribers can provide further assistance to identify the actual parties who should be sued, I can see no reason why they should not have to pay damages here.

    Maybe when people realize they can be civilly liable for damages if they don't properly secure their network access, people will actually start practicing respectable security policies at

    • by codepunk (167897)

      I am not one to condone copyright theft however if I leave my front door open it does not make me a criminal. The person that enters that door locked or not however is very much a criminal.

      • by mark-t (151149)
        Note that at no time in my prior post did I suggest that the holder of the account should be held criminally responsible for the actions of the downloader, only that they could reasonably be held accountable for civil damages.
        • by jroysdon (201893)

          Akin to leaving your keys in the car - someone uses it and damages another's prorperty - then you would be liable.

          I think the same could be said of your unsecured wireless Internet connection that you don't take reasonable measures to protect from harming others.

          I'm not a lawyer, just throwing that out there.

          • by mark-t (151149)

            Its funny how people keep making analogies to things being stolen as a counterpoint to my statement when the general concensus seems to be on slashdot that copyright infringement is not theft.

            It's a lot more like if your kid breaks something in a store and you have to pay for it. If you don't want to be accountable for what your kid breaks, don't bring him into the store. If you don't want to be accountable for what people you don't know do with your internet connection, then don't let them use it. S

            • Except for the fact that there isn't currently a completely impervious method to secure a wireless network, even with 'respectable' best practices on your home network, you're still at risk for your connection being hijacked and used for nefarious purposes.

              All in all, the analogies presented aren't unreasonable; if someone exceeds a known boundary (walking into a house whose door happens to be unlocked; opening the door of and operating a car that they don't own--things known to be crimes), that liability
          • by adolf (21054)

            Akin to leaving your keys in the car - someone uses it and damages another's prorperty - then you would be liable.

            Right, because as we all know, leaving the keys for anything in plain sight is an open invitation for people to come and use that thing, even though they know that the thing does not belong to them.

            That's right up there with the "Did you see what she was wearing? Dressed like that, she was just ASKING to be raped!" line of "reasoning."

      • by BitterOak (537666)

        I am not one to condone copyright theft however if I leave my front door open it does not make me a criminal. The person that enters that door locked or not however is very much a criminal.

        Actually, if you leave your front door open, and leave a gun on your coffee table, and someone comes into your home, takes the gun and uses it to commit a crime, you could be liable for civil damages. The doctrine is known as "attractive nuisance". I imagine similar reasoning might apply to deliberately unsecured WiFi connections.

        • by Aeternitas827 (1256210) on Tuesday May 10, 2011 @03:28AM (#36080012)
          Cursory search points me to Wikipedia. The summation at the top pretty much covers how this instance would NOT apply:

          In the law of torts, the attractive nuisance doctrine states that landowner may be held liable for injuries to children trespassing on the land if the injury is caused by a hazardous object or condition on the land that is likely to attract children who are unable to appreciate the risk posed by the object or condition. The doctrine has been applied to hold landowners liable for injuries caused by abandoned cars, piles of lumber or sand, trampolines, and swimming pools. However, it can be applied to virtually anything on the property of the landowner.

          The last sentence notwithstanding, all tests against this doctrine are with regards to child trespassers.

          If a child walked into a house with a loaded gun on the coffee table and popped his pal who happened to be with him, this holds merit; an adult walks in, however, grabs the gun, and goes house-to-house offing neighbours, this is completely off the table.

    • unless any of the subscribers can provide further assistance to identify the actual parties who should be sued, I can see no reason why they should not have to pay damages here.

      That's just another form of being guilty until proven innocent. Just because you can't prove somebody else did it doesn't make you guilty... it's the plaintiff's responsibility to prove to some standard that you did it.

      Ironically DMCA protects you as an account holder from liability for people that use the Internet Service you Provide. Basically all you need is to inform your users they they'll get the boot if they are repeat infringers and "reasonably implement" that policy. Then the most the RIAA/MPAA

  • To download the torrent now, then show up in court with the copy I bought like 3 months ago. Actually won't be a bad idea to try and push the trademark, pirating, owning, multiple copy, whatever else ideas they try into court. Probably too expensive though, since it wouldn't fall under "frivolous" or "malicious," and wouldn't be able to recoup lawyer costs.

  • What happened to Copyright being between the artist/developer and the customer. How is it right to have these a "Copyright group"? If someone has breached copyright on a particular product, it should be up to the original developer of that product to sue them.
    • "What happened to Copyright being between the artist/developer and the customer. How is it right to have these a "Copyright group"? If someone has breached copyright on a particular product, it should be up to the original developer of that product to sue them."

      This is a very good point; one I wanted to make myself. The recent Righthaven case made it clear that the parties who sue must have sufficient rights to do so. They may not just be some group of thug-lawyers who were hired to pursue the case. Righthaven did not actually own any copyrights, so the judge told them they had no standing to sue. Period.

  • by martin-boundary (547041) on Tuesday May 10, 2011 @03:58AM (#36080102)

    I am curious to see how this will tie into the BitTorrent case ruling made earlier this month indicating that an IP address does not uniquely identify the person behind it."

    Easy! From now on, only IP addresses can be sued for infringement. If one of them loses, it goes straight back into the ICANN IPv4 pool. That way, not only do the lawyers get to sue a number of IP, but the movie pirates get to save the internet without all this complicated IPv6 nonsense!

  • by hedleyroos (817147) on Tuesday May 10, 2011 @06:05AM (#36080566)

    Downloading the movie or having bad enough taste to download the movie?

  • by kaizendojo (956951) on Tuesday May 10, 2011 @08:27AM (#36081252)
    .. is that 23000 people were actually willing to download this for free. You'd have to pay ME to watch that piece of dreck.
  • by ArcCoyote (634356) on Tuesday May 10, 2011 @01:13PM (#36085090)

    BitTorrent should support a "random assist" mode. Clients (even if idle) announce they want to assist. The tracker selects an active torrent randomly or based on need and returns a peer list.

    The client doesn't have the .torrent, so it doesn't know what the files or piece hashes are. It simply requests peers give it random pieces, then shares the pieces it receives with anyone that needs them.

    After a random amount of time the client leaves the swarm, and securely deletes the torrent and any data from it.

    The reasoning behind this is that you cannot determine if anyone on an infringing torrent had any intent to infringe. It could just be their client assisting the swarm. Even if the peer downloaded every piece of the torrent, it could be their client randomly decided to assist for a long time.

    A beneficial side effect of this is that all swarms will get more peers.

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