updated 03:20 pm EDT, Wed March 31, 2010
New method could spell bad news for movie pirates
DC-based US Copyright Group, has filed more than 20,000 individual lawsuits against Internet users who download movie torrents. According to a Thursday report, the group was created on behalf of independent film produces and has rallied the support of the Independent Film & Television Alliance. Another mass lawsuit aimed at 30,000 other downloaders is due soon as well, and the two could set a precedent that could hugely deter BitTorrent movie downloads in the US.
The lawsuits discovered by THR are largely made possible by a technology from Germany's Guardaley IT that can monitor movie downloads on torrents in real time. The program captures IP addresses based on the time stamp that a download has occurred and ensures that it is copyrighted content that is being downloaded rather than a trailer or just a similarly named film.
Lawyers with the US Copyright Group tried to get the MPAA onboard along with other big studios, but these parties wanted to see that ISPs would cooperate in this effort first.
The US Copyright Group's approach is different and could therefore be more effective than past efforts to curb illegal downloads via lawsuits, such as the MPAA's attempt to sue a smaller number of infringers for multiple films.
The US Copyright Group has had one Internet service provider (ISP) cooperate, resulting in 71 names and addresses of alleged downloaders being sent. Eight of these have settled, and all received settlement offers. Other, unnamed ISPs are either in court fighting this order or informing their customers of this lawsuit.
Many ISPs have often been reluctant to voluntarily identify customers as they often cite concerns about safe harbor, which exonerates them when someone is caught in illegal activities on the network. Agreeing to help these searches implicitly puts some of the legal burden on the provider, which many are keen to avoid as it can be difficult or impossible to completely halt piracy.