In January, news broke that mass copyright infringement firm US Copyright Group (USCG) had signed a deal with Nu Image films and was preparing a lawsuit targeting thousands of BitTorrent users who had allegedly shared the film The Expendables.
Now, the USCG has amassed over 23,000 IP addresses from which pirated BitTorrent copies of the film were accessed, which, if approved by the court, would make this the largest mass copyright infringement lawsuit to date.
The Washington DC US District court has already granted the USCG to subpoena internet service providers for personal information on the first 6,500 IP addresses submitted to the court earlier this year. Those subpoenas are expected to be sent out this week.
Once the names and addresses associated with the IP addresses are known, USCG representatives will likely carry out their usual revenue-generating scheme of sending out settlement demand letters to the defendants. Whereas the U.S. Copyright Act allows damages of up to $150,000 per infringement, the letters often give the defendant the chance to settle their case for around $3000.
But the quest to obtain settlements from the people who are matched to the 23,322 IP addresses could face some barriers in the months ahead.
Judge Rosemary Collyer ruled back in December that thousands of defendants targeted by the USCG for illegally downloading Hurt Locker and Far Cry could not be prosecuted in the District Court of Washington DC, and that cases would have to be re-filed, individually, at the expense of the firm.
And just recently, Illinois federal judge Harold Baker, while overseeing a case filed by mass file-sharing litigation attorney John Steele, cited a recent story about a botched pornography raid and ruled that an IP address is not enough to initiate a lawsuit. “The infringer might be the subscriber, someone in the subscriber’s household, a visitor with her laptop, a neighbor, or someone parked on the street at any given moment,” Judge Baker wrote.
The reaction to the case, however, is largely dependent on the opinion of the federal judge who is overseeing it, and those opinions can vary greatly. There will surely be plenty of publicity surrounding this case as it progresses.
Currently, over 140,000 BitTorrent users are involved in mass copyright litigation across the United States, according to Wired Magazine.