This week, a Federal Judge in South Dakota sided with ISP Midcontinent and quashed one of the many Hurt Locker subpoenas seeking subscriber information. The ISP had, on August 9, received the subpoena via fax instructing them to hand over the details on people connected to several IP addresses. Midcontinent Decided thatrather than comply, they would take the case to the local Federal Court.
The legal action stems from claims made by the US Copyright Group on behalf of a number of indie movie companies, including Hurt Locker makers Voltage Pictures. This legal group is issuing huge numbers of "Doe" subpoenas to force ISPs to divulge the real identities of those believed to have shared the film online.
While the ISP in question made a number of arguments as to why they should not have to comply, Judge John Simko decided to stop the subpoena right there because of "Federal Rule 45", which addresses how subpoenas must be handled with regard to geographic location. Simko believed that the Subpoena did not fulfill any of the four requirements, so it was quashed. The Judge also more or less called the US Copyright Group lazy for sending the document by fax instead of courier, or registered mail. Do you think this will affect other pending subpoenas in the case?
Armed with a new anti-piracy legislation, which seeks to promote “the distribution and protection of creative works on the internet" using a three-strikes policy, copyright holders in France have launched a massive hunt for illegal downloaders and file-sharers. The Hadopi law, as the three strikes anti piracy legislation is known, makes it incumbent on ISPs to identify alleged copyright infringers when approached by copyright holders with the IP addresses of such persons.
According to a report on a French website, a major ISP admittedly received the first batch of IP addresses a few days ago. The copyright holders are said to have hit the ground running with a very healthy rate of 10,000 IP addresses per day. However, you would probably want me to revisit the cliche in the last sentence on being told that they wish to ratchet up that average to around 150,000 IP addresses per day over the next few weeks.
The ISPs have no choice but to keep up with indefatigable copyright holders as a failure to identify alleged infringers within 8 days of being notified could cost them 1,500 euros per day for every unidentified IP address.
A few months back, Voltage Studios (the indie studio that made "The Hurt Locker") began legal proceedings against those seen illegally sharing the movie online. 5,000 "John Doe" lawsuits were filed by the film's producers. Voltage Pictures has now started moving ahead with the next phase of the legal process. Several ISP customers have received notices that their provider has been subpoenaed, and must turn over their names to Voltage's lawyers.
A number of small movie studios have been working with the law firm of Dunlap, Grubb & Weaver. This firm is managing the cases in exchange for a portion of any settlements of judgments that result. The ACLU and EFF have both strongly opposed this action. Some ISPs have even objected due to the huge number of subpoenas they are likely to get.
Some alleged infringers have already been offered settlement offers of several thousand dollars. When faced with the possibility of huge legal fees, many individuals may choose to settle. This strategy didn't work out so well for the RIAA, do you think the producers of The Hurt Locker have a better chance of success?
A few years back, the RIAA announced they would be stopping the large scale lawsuits against consumers. At the time people speculated about the cause, but thanks to some new figures uncovered by p2pnet's Jon Newton, we can be fairly sure the reason was largely financial. In 2008, the RIAA paid over $16 million in legal fees in order to recover $391,000 through settlements. Not the best business to be in.
It gets worse the farther you go back. In 2007 they spent over $24 million to pursue alleged infringers and got back only $515,929. It 2006, it was $19 million spent to coerce people into shelling out $455,000. So in this three year period, the RIAA spent $64 million to recover about $1.3 million.
Seeing the continued spread of p2p in 2008, the RIAA may have concluded that any deterrent effect of the lawsuits was minimal at best. At that point it becomes harder to justify making all those lawyers filthy rich. Is it at least possible for the RIAA to repair their image with consumers after this PR nightmare?
On the bright side for convicted file sharer Joel Tenebaum, the 26-year-old Boston University student no longer is being ordered to pay $675,000 in damages to four record labels. The bad news? He still owes a lot of cheddar.
A Boston judge reduced the award to $67,500 for illegally downloading and sharing 30 songs online. U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Gertner said the original amount was "out of proportion with the government's legitimate interests in compensating the plaintiffs and deterring unlawful file-sharing."
Tenebaum, while pleased as punch at having his fine reduced to 10 percent of the original amount, contends that $67,500 is "equally unpayable."
"We feel vindicated that Judge Gertner agreed that $675,000 was an unconstitutional award," Debbie Resenbaum of joelfightsback.com says. "But it is only a step along the way toward recognizing the abusiveness of the RIAA's litigation campaign."
Tenenbaum, who admitted to downloading the songs through Kazaa, had the chance to settle for $4,000 before this went to trial. He now owes $2,250 per song.
The Swedish Pirate party announced back in May that they would be providing hosting for torrent site The Pirate Bay. Now they are taking things a step further and are expected to run the site's business from within the Swedish Parliament. The Swedish Constitution, they say, would protect this endeavor with its guarantee of legal immunity for actions undertaken as part of a party's political mandate.
The Pirate Party stresses the issues of government transparency, privacy, free speech, and copyright reform. An election is coming up soon, so much of this could just be political bluster. Still, they sound pretty serious. "We can never accept the copyright industry’s way of systematically and legally harassing anyone who tries to build next-generation industries," said Pirate Party leader Rick Falkvinge.
It seems The Pirate Bay just won't die, no matter how many battles they lose. There's always someone to clean things up and fill in the missing pieces.
Vice President Joe Biden spoke at a Thursday press conference with the administration's intellectual property enforcement coordinator to outline the government's new strategy to protect the nation's copyright holders. In the speech, the VP did not, in any way, mince words. " But piracy is theft. Clean and simple. It's smash and grab. It ain't no different than smashing a window at Tiffany's and grabbing [merchandise]," said Biden.
The guidelines contain 33 recommendations. One major point is an intention to work with foreign governments to shut down infringing websites. As expected, Hollywood studios applaud the new list of recommendations. The movie and music industries contend that they are losing billions of dollars to piracy, though many have disputed the numbers. Biden also commented that ISPs should be cooperating with entertainment industry efforts to penalize users. He was likely referring to various plans for so-called "three strikes" rules that would result in users being disconnected after repeated accusations of infringement.
The document also discussed more conventional counterfeit product smuggling, but the online piracy talk stole the show. The tone was a little heavy-handed, but we should remember this is basically just a document of ideas. It's unclear what sort of enforcement activities may per pursued. Where do you come down on the issue?
If nothing else, give Jammie Thomas credit for stretching out her five minutes of fame for much longer than that. When the legal dust does finally settle, however, she'll either go down in history as the first person to take the RIAA to task over copyright infringement claims and won an unlikely victory, or the person who foolishly opted not to settle and owes the music industry a bunch of money as a result.
So far in her file sharing saga her place in history has leaned towards the latter, though after all this time, Thomas is still fighting. Everyone at this point is ready to move on, including a federal court in Minnesota, which has just appointed a special master to help mediate the case.
The decision to appoint a special master falls squarely on Judge Michael Davis and is not the result of any urging by the RIAA. Regardless, the special master inherits a four-year case littered with appeals and all kinds of legal drama. In case you somehow managed to miss it all, Thomas was found guilty of copyright infringement back in 2006 and ordered to pay $222,000. The judge later ruled that he erred in instructing the jury that the act of making songs available constitutes copyright infringement. Thomas got her retrial, only the second time around the jury increased the award to $1.92 million, an amount that would later be deemed "monstrous and shocking" and lowered to $54,000.
Since then, the RIAA has tried to settle with Thomas for $25,000, all of which would be donated to music charities. Thomas refused, and so here we are.
Read the order appointing a special master in Capitol v. Thomas-Rasset here.
File sharing service Limewire looks to be on its last legs. Late last week, the RIAA filed a motion with the court asking for a permanent injunction against Limewire offering their software. There was a possibility that the Judge could order Limewire shuttered immediately this morning. Instead, U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood is giving Limewire two weeks to respond to the motion. At that time, in all likelihood, Limewire will be ordered to close up shop.
It was just last month that Wood found that Limewire and its founder, Mark Gorton, were liable for copyright infringement. Limewire has made significant sums of cash while providing their file sharing software. Limewire's legal counsel asked for an additional two weeks to respond to the motion, but was denied. "We feel a permanent injunction is not the best course of action. It could hold back the creation of new digita-music technologies that LimeWire is in the process of developing..." the company said.
Damages have not yet been awarded, but many expect the judgment could top $1 billion. Is anyone out there still using Limewire's products? How do you feel about the precedent of a company being held liable for copyright infringement committed by users?
Taking a leaf out of the Recording Industry Association of America's (RIAA) book, the producers of the Hurt Locker on Monday instituted legal proceedings against people who illegally downloaded the critically acclaimed film from the internet. Voltage Pictures, the production company responsible for the film, fired the first salvo in the form of a copyright infringement complaint against 5,000 people. The scope of the complaint might even be expanded to accommodate more downloaders later on.
“The true names of Defendants are unknown to the Plaintiff at this time. Each Defendant is known to the Plaintiff only by the Internet Protocol (“IP”) address assigned to the Defendant by his or her Internet Service Provider on the date and at the time which the infringing activity of each Defendant was observed,” reads the complaint.
Voltage Pictures told the court that it will amend the complaint to reflect the true names of the defendants as and when it is able to identify them. And yes, the complaint also mentions the Hurt Lockers's amazing feat of six Oscar victories (probably in a bid to make a strong first impression).
The production company believes it is entitled to recover from the downloaders actual or statutory damages, costs of filing the suit and attorney fees. It is also seeking “injunctive relief” in the matter, asking the court to prohibit illegal downloaders from further downloading, pirating or hosting/storing unauthorized versions of its films.
Although RIAA has abandoned the mass lawsuit strategy, the contagion seems to be sweeping the film industry, with a consortium of film studios called the US Copyright Group filing a similar complaint against 20,000 downloaders in March.