Thousands of people will soon be informed that they're accused in a federal lawsuit of illegally file sharing the Oscar-winning movie "The Hurt Locker."
On Friday, word came that Voltage Pictures, the independent production company that produced the film, had filed copyright complaints against 5,000 as-yet-unnamed defendants.
Voltage has hired the U.S. Copyright Group to oversee the litigation and go after alleged file sharers. The group has sued alleged movie pirates on behalf of the makers of such films as "Far Cry" and "Call of the Wild 3D." Some of the people accused of pirating those movies, including Jon Harrison from Irving, Texas, have already been notified and are well along in the process.
Harrison showed CNET the documents he received from Verizon--his Internet service provider--and the U.S. Copyright Group. To be sure, without seeing the actual notices that will be sent as part of the "Hurt Locker" suit, we don't how they'll differ. But there are likely to be many similarities.
In this photo, Harrison, 64, holds up the envelope that carried the letter from Dunlap Grubb Weaver, the law firm apparently handling some of the legal chores for the U.S. Copyright Group. Harrison said his home network is unsecured and that he has no idea who might have shared the movie.
Prior to filing a copyright complaint against those who allegedly shared unauthorized copies of "The Hurt Locker," the group had named about 50,000 defendants in copyright suits involving 10 films. It appears the company is trying to pick up where the Recording Industry Association of America left off.
The RIAA spent five years filing suits against illegal filing sharers and was never able to slow down the practice.
The court ordered Verizon to turn over the information by May 14, 2010, at 10 a.m.
On the last page is Harrison's address. The 64-year-old said his network is not secured and that he's not very sophisticated when it comes to technology. He has considered paying the money just to make the issue go away but isn't sure that's the right thing to do.
"For me, the issue here isn't whether or not peer-to-peer is evil," said Harrison, a photographer. "It is whether or not our federal courts and Verizon should cooperate with such an obvious intimidation scam."
Verizon told him to direct questions to the party that issued the subpoena: the law firm Dunlap Grubb Weaver. Verizon told Harrison that unless it received "a motion to quash" the subpoena by May 13, 2010, the ISP would turn over the information.
Harrison said he wasn't given much time. The letter may have been dated April 30, but it wasn't postmarked until May 5, and he didn't receive it until May 8, he said. That left him a week to decide what to do.
Dunlap informed Harrison in a letter that he was accused of violating copyright law for sharing "Far Cry" on March 13, 2010. Dunlap included the IP address that belonged to Harrison at the time (redacted here), and the P2P client he allegedly used (aeTorrent). Dunlap told him the letter was a "courtesy."
The photo shows the top half of the letter's first page.
After that, it would cost Harrison no less than $2,500 to settle the matter.
Dunlap also said that if it could prove the infringement was intentional rather than negligent, it could seek $150,000 per film. It should be noted that no individual file sharer has ever been required to pay an amount even remotely close to that sum for a single infringing act. A jury ordered Jammie Thomas, the Minnesota woman accused by the RIAA of illegally sharing 24 songs, to pay $80,000 per song, but the judge in the case lowered the damages award to $2,250 per song.
The letter from Dunlap is similar to those once sent out by the Recording Industry Association of America. The RIAA stopped suing individuals for illegal file sharing in 2008.
In addition to "Far Cry," Dunlap Grubb Weaver is also suing alleged illegal file sharers on behalf of the makers of such films as "Steam Experiment," "Uncross the Stars," "Gray Man," and "Call of the Wild 3D."
The movie, about a U.S. Army bomb squad, won six Academy Awards this year, including one for Best Picture. Nicolas Chartier, who co-founded Voltage Pictures, the production company that made the film, doesn't show much sympathy for file sharers.
According to published reports, Chartier responded to an e-mail he received from someone complaining about his litigation plans, by calling the person a "moron" and "stupid," and said "I hope your family and your kids end up in jail one day for stealing, so maybe they can be taught the difference."
The MPAA and RIAA are pursuing much different antipiracy strategies. They have tried convincing ISPs to send warning letters to first-time offenders. In the case of chronic pirating, the MPAA and RIAA want ISPs to suspend or even terminate service.
When it comes to sending letters, ISPs have begun cooperating. One reader, who wished to remain anonymous, sent CNET a copy of a letter he recently received from Charter Communications, the reader's ISP. The reader was notified that NBC Universal had accused him or her of file sharing the TV show "House."
As for actually shutting off someone's service, many of the top ISPs have steered clear.
Update at 9:00 a.m. PDT: Slides No. 11 and 12 have been added.
On behalf of NBC Universal, BayTSP informs the accused file sharer of the law. BayTSP also shows the documentation it has obtained about the person, including IP address and date and time the infringement allegedly occurred.
The most relevant part of the letter is that there's no threat of any lawsuit.
Mike Gravlin, a CNET reader who has not received any such notification, has opinions on the matter nonetheless. "Piracy is wrong and I don't condone it," he said in an e-mail. "I just have a problem with the heavy handed approach Voltage Pictures is taking. Where's the shot across the bow?"