The U.S. Copyright Group has filed a new lawsuit against 5000 defendants, which are grouped into one "John Doe" group, over movie downloads on the Bit Torrent network. The U.S. Copyright Group is a group of IP lawyers that have come together to sue as many downloaders in 5 months as the RIAA did in five years. They've filed 14,000 already this year.
The movies in question are "Far Cry," "The Hurt Locker," "Steam Experiment," and "Uncross the Stars."
The U.S. Copyright Group is a freestyle band of lawyers acting on the own entrepreneurial spirit, filing lawsuits and sending a settlement notice to the downloader with a demand a settlement amount of anywhere from $1500 - $2500 for their download. If they don't pay up, they threaten to go to court. The U.S. Copyright Group then works with the copyright holders of these movies and splits the court winnings with the copyright holder.
Although this makes little sense in light of how much of a disaster this turned out be for the RIAA and music industry, the U.S. Copyright Group seems to have learned that the legal responsibility lies more with the user/downloader than it does the people who made the software.
This makes even more sense when you compare it to last week's court decision in Google's favor for YouTube vs. Viacom. They upheld the part of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that says that ISPs and software makers are not responsible for the activity of the users of their product.
On P2P networks, a user downloads a file from a single other user. On Bit Torrent, though, downloads are handled more efficiently by grabbing a piece of the file from many different users; this allows each piece to download at the same time before being reassembled into a single file again. This is the crux of the U.S. Copyright Group's strategy in pursuing people in one big legal action.
"Essentially, because of the nature of the swarm downloads as described above, every infringer is simultaneously stealing copyrighted material through collaboration from many other infringers, through a number of ISPs, in numerous jurisdictions around the country," reads the filing from the U.S. Copyright Group.
So if a person in the U.S. Copyright Group's cross hairs doesn't take the settlement offer out of court for $1550 -$2500, they threaten to go to court for a price tag of $150,000 for each movie that was downloaded.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and Public Citizen have already argued via an amicus brief that the U.S. Copyright Group doesn't have jurisdiction in this matter.
What's perhaps most scary about this is that the person being sued by the U.S. Copyright Group isn't always the person who downloaded the file. Imagine the common scenario of a person with a wireless router in their home that has no password protection on the router. There's nothing to stop neighbors or people parked on the street from using that wireless signal to download movies with no possibility of being sued. Instead, the naive wireless newbie with the router and the ISP account with their name on it gets stuck with a major lawsuit that will bankrupt them for life.