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Copyright Lawsuit-O-Matic Hits U.S. Shores
ISPs fighting new movie industry user lawsuit push...
by Karl Bode 04:03PM Tuesday Mar 30 2010
Techdirt directs our attention to the fact that a new company named the US Copyright Group has started representing a collection of independent filmmakers by launching an automated copyright infringement threat letter campaign. The campaign has kicked off by filing copyright infringement lawsuits in federal court against some 20,000 BitTorrent users, with another 30,000 forthcoming. As with a similar controversial campaign in the UK, the money-making effort involves sending users rapid-fire threat letters in the hopes they'll settle outright, but it raises a litany of questions (and Techdirt asks all of them) over whether this is a smart PR move, legal, the reliability of the IP-address evidence being used, etc.

ISPs have traditionally fought handing over usernames tied to an IP address unless they see a subpoena, and getting a subpoena can be a costly affair for the copyright holder. Hollywood Reporter notes that the effort is seeing blowback from ISPs, with the exception of one unnamed ISP that voluntarily turned over 71 customer names to the lawsuit machine:
When the U.S. Copyright Group filed its recent lawsuits and approached AT&T and other ISPs for account information, the lawyers say they were stunned at the reaction. "Their subpoena compliance group said, 'We thought we had shut this (approach) down with the MPAA before,'" says Dunlap. . . So far, the US Copyright Group says that one ISP has cooperated, handing over 71 names and addresses. These individuals will be sent settlement offers. Eight of those cases have already settled. The other less cooperative ISPs are in the midst of fighting in court or reaching out to their respective customers.

The difference between the MPAA's past approach and the new one being offered by the US Copyright Group could come down to numbers. Weaver says the MPAA took a less targeted approach going after a smaller sampling of infringers in a single suit for multiple films, to send a message that would hopefully resonate to a much larger crowd. In contrast, Dunlap and his partners are using the new monitoring technology to go after tens of thousands of infringers at a time on a contingency basis in hopes of coming up with the right cost-benefit incentive to pursue individual pirates.
Apparently, the US Copyright Group has reached out for MPAA support, but the MPAA wants to see if the company can get past the ISPs in court before getting too excited about this new "revenue stream."

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