US Copyright Group, Hurt Locker Producers Sue Dead Man & Others Unlikely To Have Infringed

from the collateral-damage dept

Most of US Copyright Group's lawsuits haven't been going too well -- including the decision to completely drop the case for Nu Image, the producers of The Expendables. USCG's other "high profile" case, however, involves the movie The Hurt Locker, and it continues to move forward. While judges in other cases have been rejecting these mass "fishing trip" lawsuits, knowing full well that they're being used to shake down people to "settle" despite being outside the court's jurisdiction, it appears that USCG got "lucky" with the Hurt Locker case, in that the case was handed to Beryl Howell. Howell, of course, was an RIAA lobbyist not long before becoming a judge, which certainly calls into question her impartiality in such a case -- especially when her rulings seem to contradict just about every other judge who has received one of these mass lawsuits.

In this case, brought on behalf of producers Voltage Pictures, by US Copyright Group (really DC law firm Dunlap, Grubb and Weaver), 24,583 people were sued based on IP addresses. And while most courts have cut out those outside of their jurisdiction, Judge Howell seems to have no problem with USCG getting subpoenas sent all over the country. And, with so many people sued on such flimsy evidence, it's no surprise that many receiving notice from their ISPs of the subpoena are shocked and insist they have nothing to do with it.

In some cases, their claims are pretty compelling -- such as the case in which the notice was returned... because the recipient was dead.
Meanwhile, Nate Anderson has been collecting a bunch of the responses from people who insist they have no clue why they're being sued. Of course, as TorrentFreak points out, in such cases, it's probably a really bad idea to write to the court directly protesting your innocence, because that publicly reveals who you are -- something that USCG might not have known previously. Even worse, in this case, rather than recognize the ridiculousness of suing 24,583 people based solely on flimsy IP addresses, Howell is saying that these responses are meaningless until a trial actually begins -- by which point many of these same people will realize that it's probably cheaper to settle up than pay to have to defend themselves.

The sampling of letters, however, certainly suggests a fair amount of collateral damage from filing lawsuits on such weak evidence. While some may insist that (1) some of these people are lying or (2) they can just prove their innocence in court, I would suggest that you're not recognizing just how traumatic it can be to get sued, especially if you're not that familiar with the law and, indeed, have no clue why you're getting sued. It's exactly this situation that USCG and Voltage Pictures were counting on with this process, so kudos to Judge Beryl Howell for making the lives of a bunch of innocent people a living hell.

Here are just a few of the letters. More can be found at the link above:
The Pinestead Reef Resort in Traverse City, Michigan:
We object to the suit given the fact that we operate a Timeshare resort named Pinstead Brief Resort that is 46 units all of which have a Wi-Fi connection using our IP address. We have numerous users at various times and are unable to monitor or control what they are doing on the computer in their room... I can assure you that the movie was not downloaded from any of the 5 computers that we use in our office on a daily basis.
MidAtlanticBroadband Hospitality Services of Baltimore, Maryland:
MidAtlanticBroadband Hospitality Services is filing an objection to provide information as our information is irrelevant, as we are not the end-user nor do we have any information related to the actual usage of this IP address.
A woman named Sarah, no address given:
I am objecting to the disclosure and release of my identifying information by Charter Communications Inc. on the grounds that Iím not the owner nor have I ever owned the computer with the MAC IP address [sic] that they are claiming illegally downloaded the copyrighted work. When this download took place I was living in a college apartment with roommates and we all shared the wireless network. I had opened the account and my roommates each paid me a portion of the monthly bill since we all shared the same wireless network. When I contacted Charter Communications Inc. regarding the subpoena to inform them they had the wrong person named for the download they said it could have been anyone in the apartment complex and that I was named as a potential defendant due to my being the one that set up the account.
Ann from St. Louis, Missouri:
As a soon to be 70-year-old woman, I can assure the court that I have neither downloaded or distributed ANY copyrighted work as alleged in this lawsuit. Thank you for your consideration.
Rick from St. Louis, Missouri:

I did not download this movie. From a telephone conversation with Charter Communicationsí technical customer service I learned it is possible someone outside my home may have compromised the IP address and downloaded the movie without my knowledge.

Charter further advised me to place a lock on the wireless router to help prevent people from hacking into the system and using my IP address. This has now been done.

Take pay cuts over the past years, having a disabled wife and struggling to support a family, I do not have the money to hire an attorney to protect myself especially in this case where I did nothing wrong.


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  1. identicon
    RD, 29 Aug 2011 @ 8:16am

    Re:

    "I agree with comment 1, it's mostly FUD. The customer with the Wi-FI left it open, and just like long distance charges on their phone line, they should be liable. They are not "service providers", they are end customers."

    Ah, good, so I can rent a car or a gun and go rob a bank and it will the fault of the OWNER of the car/gun, and not me, since the blame doesn't fall on the ACTUAL person committing the offense. Thanks for clearing that up.

    And yes, I know I just made a car analogy, but at least it wasn't how the car itself is like digital data.

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