Remember that lawsuit from awhile back that targeted 50,000 individuals who pirated a bunch of relatively unknown indie films like Uwe Boll’s Far Cry? It was filed by the U.S. Copyright Group (hereafter referred to as “The Group”) in an attempt at creating a new “revenue stream” for the financiers of those films.
Turns out that, as promised, those lawsuits were just the beginning, and U.S. Copyright Group is now upping its game. Its next target? People who pirated The Hurt Locker.
Before it was acquired by Summit Entertainment and set on the path towards its Best Picture Oscar, The Hurt Locker was financed by a small production company called Voltage Pictures. From Reuters, we now learn that Voltage has joined the Group in its litigation campaign against BitTorrent users who have illegally downloaded The Hurt Locker. The film was leaked onto the internet not too long after it premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 2008, far in advance of its June 2009 theatrical release. Its Oscar winnings intensified the rate at which it was downloaded. While the case has not yet been filed yet, it could happen as soon as today.
One of the big questions around the initial lawsuit was whether or not the Group would have any luck getting Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to hand over the personal information of their customers. According to the Group, 75% of ISPs have already complied, and those that haven’t are only holding out due to the logistical difficulties.
Once a person’s name and information is revealed, the Group then sends them a “modest settlement offer,” which I’m guessing is a letter that reads something like “Pay us $___ or we will sue your ass.” The Group claims that 40% of people have already settled; those that haven’t will be sent another round of settlement offers and eventually served lawsuits.
“You can guess that relative to the films we’ve pursued already, the order of magnitude is much higher [with Hurt Locker],” said one lawyer at the Group. You got that right. But if the firm is successful at extracting a substantial amount of value from these individuals, then I fear the MPAA may try to get in on this game. And aside from the privacy, technology, and legal implications — all of which are terrible — of suing people in this manner, we’ve already seen how effective that strategy was for the RIAA’s business (Spoilers: Not very).