The law firm Dunlap, Grubb and Weaver (aka the U.S. Copyright Group) has perfected the "copyright-o-matic
" approach to P2P lawsuits, sending out letters en masse to users they've identified as having traded copyrighted files, threatening to sue those users unless they settle for the rock-bottom initial price tag of $1,500. The goal is to both scare P2P users and create a new revenue stream, though the group has run into some legal hiccups for threatening and suing unidentified P2P users via often dubious evidence, and for doing so en masse.
The law firm is behind the largest lawsuit of this kind ever courtesy of Voltage Pictures, who has tried to make a buck by mass suing U.S. users who shared their film The Hurt Locker
on BitTorrent. Last year Voltage Pictures brought their mass lawsuit effort to Canada
, and this week filed legal requests with Canadian ISP TekSavvy to obtain the names and contact information of 2,300 broadband subscribers.
In a blog post
, TekSavvy CEO Marc Gaudrault says this is the first such mass-lawsuit request they've seen, and the company is torn between wanting to adhere to law, while protecting customer information and keeping customers informed in a transparent manner. The company says they won't hand over subscriber information until they receive a court order, which is expected to come next Monday.
"We have retained legal counsel to help us through this process to advise us on our rights and obligations as an ISP, so that we can apply our own judgement to the situation in an appropriate manner," said Gaudrault. "This case may well help determine how other such future cases are handled."
Voltage Pictures is seeking individual damages of up to $10,000, despite the fact new Canadian copyright laws cap damages at $5,000. The studio continues to insist they're simply trying to recoup losses from piracy.
"This is the first in a series of steps that will enable us to recover some of the losses we’ve incurred in the Canadian market," Voltage Pictures said in a press statement. "For a studio of our size, the losses we experience from piracy have a real effect. It means we hire less people and have less to invest in our films. The problem has become so widespread that we are compelled to act."
Except Voltage has been widely criticized for operating what's essentially a protection racket (pay up or you won't get hurt) that targets users they know can't afford to adequately defend themselves. In the States the company has wiggled over and around the law after being repeatedly citing for over-reaching, working most closely with ISPs that are more likely to be cooperative (like Charter Communications), as an increasing number of U.S. ISPs have been standing up to Voltage's tactics.
For Canadian consumers targeted by the suits without the means to contest them, The Law Society of Upper Canada provides a free lawyer referral service
where you can at least obtain a thirty minute free consultation to advise you of our potential options.Update
TekSavvy has posted a FAQ here
, and there's also an ongoing discussion about this in our forum