Hurt Locker Subpoenas Arrive With New Language... And Higher Demands

from the the-$400-oscar-bounty dept

Well, it took a while, but US Copyright Group (really DC law firm Dunlap, Grubb & Weaver) have finally gotten around to getting subpoenas out to ISPs in the Hurt Locker lawsuit. While that lawsuit was filed months ago, the subpoenas just went out, in part, because of the fight in another of USCG's lawsuits over certain aspects of the threat letters. That ended with a requirement for USCG to work with groups like the EFF to come up with more informative threat letters. The results don't look all that more reasonable, but it does note that those accused have the right to try to fight the subpoena, and removes the misleading threat of a $150,000 penalty hanging over their heads. Of course, being just slightly more honest has its cost. The pre-settlement fee demanded has been increased from $2,500 to $2,900 this time around.

Separately, in Greg Sandoval's article, he talks to Cindy Cohn from the EFF who notes that they're hearing from a lot more people on the receiving end of USCG lawsuits who have no idea what it's all about and aren't BitTorrent users at all. That happened with the RIAA lawsuits as well, but apparently at a much lower rate. This certainly calls into serious question the techniques that USCG is using to identify file sharers and to make sure they're not suing innocent people. Of course, when you look at the economics of it all, to USCG it really doesn't matter. When it makes mistakes, the actual likelihood of getting in trouble for it times the likely cost of such a mistake is so low as to make the incentive such that there's little reason to care about false positives. Yet, on the flip side, the cost of defending yourself against a bogus threat from USCG is certainly going to be more than $2,900 in almost every case. As Cohn notes:
"When it comes to copyright," Cohn said "the law is set up so that truth, whether someone actually violated the law or not, takes a back seat to financial considerations."
And, really, that's what's so nefarious about this whole process. The incentives are totally screwed up. USCG has no incentive to weed out the false positives, and the innocent folks threatened have powerful economic incentives to just pay up. It's still not "extortion," in that USCG can claim to have a legitimate legal basis for the demands, but it certainly comes damn close in practice.

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  1. identicon
    Bob, 3 Sep 2010 @ 5:14pm

    USCG Tracking Method

    In the CNET article you link to a John Doe has come forward saying that he got notice from his ISP that he got tagged. Awhile back there was an article that said that a person accused would be able to obtain the client and methods the USCG uses and to submit it for 3rd party investigation to find out if the information they get really shows infringement. Has anybody taken them up on that offer yet or has it been rescinded?

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