Movie Company Sues Post-Production Studio For $5 Million For Leaking 'Kickboxer' Film That Grossed $5k Domestically

from the extra-zeroes dept

It is no revelation that film studios have been in a sustained freakout for years over films that leak to the internet before they hit the theaters. While the freakout is somewhat understandable (nobody wants to plan out a film release only to have the product appear in a way outside those well-laid plans), much of the reasoning in the freakouts has to do with claims that the leaks eat into the profits the company would generate at the theater. This reasoning has been debunked many times over, most notably by AAA movies that leak online still making a killing at the box office. What should be immediately apparent is that much of this is driven by emotion and outrage rather than anything resembling facts or clear-thinking.

Which brings us to Our House Films, the company that produced Jean-Claude Van Damme's latest opus, Kickboxer: Retaliation. If you weren't aware that Van Damme had actually made another Kickboxer movie in the first place, you're in good company: the film grossed five-thousand whole dollars domestically. If you are aware that this film was made, perhaps you also are aware that it leaked early online. Our House Films blames its post-production partner, Tunnel Inc., for the leak and has filed a copyright lawsuit against Tunnel...for $5 million.

"Tunnel has failed to respond to Plaintiff's requests for substantive information concerning the parties to whom the final cut was disseminated," writes attorney Paul Sorrell in the complaint. He adds that because the film was available illicitly online worldwide prior to the release producers were robbed of all or a substantial portion of its value.

The suit goes on to accuse Tunnel Inc. of willful copyright infringement, but also suggests elsewhere that this might be the result of negligence rather than Tunnel actually distributing the film purposefully. There is nothing, it should be noted, even remotely resembling any reasoning or evidence possessed by Our House Films as to why it believes Tunnel was the source of the leak here. All it states, in fact, is that Tunnel has refused to respond to Our House's demand for an explanation. For its part, Tunnel Inc. has worked on plenty of films, some of them quite high-profile. If the company were just running around leaking client films as a matter of regular practice, it's hard to see how the company would still be in business.

Part of what makes this so absurd is the disparity in the damages requested and how the movie performed publicly. $5k gross domestically results in a $5 million copyright lawsuit? Our House Films may want to argue that disparity is directly explained by the leak, for which it blames Tunnel, but its decidedly average reviews are more likely to blame.


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  • icon
    Coyne Tibbets (profile), 22 Aug 2018 @ 10:16pm

    Hey, profit$.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 22 Aug 2018 @ 10:31pm

    I can't wait for the next chapter when they start going after the alleged downloaders to make this box office gold.

    If not for the leak, if not for the downloaders, we could have made $6,000!!! Make us whole by making everyone else pay based on what we think, not what we can prove.

    I guess they don't want to mention how 1 scene from Deadpool leaked, made sure it was made, & oh hey a sequel that made plenty of cash even with lots and lots of downloads...

    Sometimes a shitty movie is just a shitty movie & the fault is your own for making a shitty movie. Take some personal responsibility for being the dumb ass who greenlighted a shitty movie for a former action star who really really shouldn't be making movies anymore. (Serious he played twins in a film)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Aug 2018 @ 10:31pm

    A film does not make $5,000, or $500, unless the distributor deliberately tanks it. A film that only shows in a handful of theaters only makes a handful of big bucks. A film that only shows in a single theater to satisfy contractual obligations ... well...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Aug 2018 @ 3:22am

      Re:

      A film does not make $5,000, or $500, unless the distributor deliberately tanks it.

      Or the cinemas decide they want something that will actually attract an audience.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 23 Aug 2018 @ 7:32am

        Re: Re:

        It has average reviews, not terrible ones. There are films that make millions with much worse reviews. Something's fishy.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Stephen T. Stone (profile), 23 Aug 2018 @ 7:41am

          Re: Re: Re:

          There are films that make millions with much worse reviews.

          Those films tend to come with nostalgia-laden IPs/bankable movie stars attached. When was the last time you heard anyone pining for a new Kickboxer movie/a new Van Damme movie?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David, 22 Aug 2018 @ 10:37pm

    You don't understand the problem

    Part of what makes this so absurd is the disparity in the damages requested and how the movie performed publicly. $5k gross domestically results in a $5 million copyright lawsuit? Our House Films may want to argue that disparity is directly explained by the leak, for which it blames Tunnel, but its decidedly average reviews are more likely to blame.

    The problem was not a premature leak to potential moviegoers. The problem was a premature leak to reviewers not in danger of losing their prerelease reviewing privileges.

    Released regularly, even a blank screen would gross more than $5000.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Aug 2018 @ 11:04pm

    Funny how after so many insider leaks, this is the first time someone on the inside has been taken to task for a leak. If I didn't know any better I'd say that movie companies seem to be only keen to blame their own departments for terrible opsec when it's the most convenient...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 23 Aug 2018 @ 5:38am

    "SOMEONE is going to pay us what we deserve!"

    Get five thousand in profits, demand five million in fines for copyright infringement because they're super-duper sure that the other party is responsible...

    Yeah, sounds like they can't accept that their film tanked and are desperate to try to blame anyone else for it, and get the money they think it should have made in the process.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Aug 2018 @ 7:42am

      Re: "SOMEONE is going to pay us what we deserve!"

      Yeah, sounds like they can't accept that their film tanked and are desperate to try to blame anyone else for it

      Nobody's suggested the leak didn't happen, and if it did I don't see a major problem with the lawsuit. The amount of money is high, as in any lawsuit, but the post-producers had an obligation to keep this data private and failed. The movie company could have used contract law (or privacy law, if the USA had any) instead of copyright law.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 23 Aug 2018 @ 8:05am

        Re: Re: "SOMEONE is going to pay us what we deserve!"

        That is until we find out that the movie company actually did the leaking, as has happened in the past. They made a claim, but have not shown proof. The above claim is just as likely, until there is proof. This lawsuit sounds like a fishing expedition, looking for something they can point to and say 'See?', whether that is actual proof or not.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          MathFox, 23 Aug 2018 @ 8:22am

          Re: Re: Re: "SOMEONE is going to pay us what we deserve!"

          This suit has all indications of a nuisance lawsuit. It alleges no facts at all that suggest any involvement of the defendant in the alleged leak. And the leak seemed to have happened after the final copy was shipped to the distributor.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        DB (profile), 23 Aug 2018 @ 8:29am

        Re: Re: "SOMEONE is going to pay us what we deserve!"

        Accepting everything else is true, why would $5M be a reasonable amount for damages?

        "They broke a contract!" seems to be your stance. But contracts are broken all of the time. Generally the 'little people' get screwed when that happens. A judge decides the actual damages, perhaps adds a bit for court fees, and both parties pay their own lawyers. If the lawyer fees are more than the amount in dispute, it's not worth going to court.

        But somehow Intellectual Property is immensely more valuable, even when the demonstrated nationwide market is less than the cost of a basic bathroom remodel.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Gary (profile), 23 Aug 2018 @ 5:55am

    To be fair

    As was pointed out even a blank screen can make more than $5k if it's put on enough screens.
    Although it seems strange - to sane people - review blackouts are inherent to the business model of krappy movies. "It would have made more but everyone knew how bad it was" is a real excuse. It's how the free market was meant to work.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    me, 23 Aug 2018 @ 5:58am

    One more reason the MPAA needs to be abolished

    Studio made crap, crap produced crap, and now they want crazy money for a leaked piece of crap.

    They and the Music/Movie industries need to be destroyed and started over.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Gary (profile), 23 Aug 2018 @ 6:31am

      Re: One more reason the MPAA needs to be abolished

      While I can't fault your intention, I don't understand your logic. The MPAA is to blame for many things. Making movies krappier isn't one of them. Please cite.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 23 Aug 2018 @ 7:03am

        Re: Re: One more reason the MPAA needs to be abolished

        But blaming piracy whenever they do not make the profits they desire is.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          John Smith, 23 Aug 2018 @ 9:00am

          Re: Re: Re: One more reason the MPAA needs to be abolished

          Exactly how does one reform copyright law to fix this?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 23 Aug 2018 @ 6:46pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: One more reason the MPAA needs to be abolished

            For a start, reduce statutory damages to a less ridiculous level. As those stand currently, they're a bludgeon used to scare people into paying settlement money, before a case of alleged infringement can be analyzed on the merits. It's far easier to blame piracy than admit you made a shitty movie, especially when there's a chance the court will reimburse you for free.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 23 Aug 2018 @ 7:36am

        Re: Re: One more reason the MPAA needs to be abolished

        The MPAA is to blame for many things. Making movies krappier isn't one of them. Please cite.

        The MPAA runs the film rating system, and it's well documented that this has sometimes worked against filmmakers (likely not in this case). Any advertisement of an "uncut" or "unrated" version works on the premise the MPAA made the film worse.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    John Smith, 23 Aug 2018 @ 6:43am

    "It's okay to steal crap" is akin to:

    "You can't rape a prostitute." or

    "Murdering an unpopular person should carry a lesser sentence due to lack of victim-impact statements."

    Copyright law has statutory damages for a very good reason. Sometimes the courts do not recognize what they consider trolling, like in Fields v. Google, where a lawyer wrote a bunch of poems and then sued Google for archiving them. This is slightly different than what happened to the author who had taken down free books from his site and one day found someone linking to Google's cache of the copies. The act of taking them down should have de-indexed them.

    Has anyone noticed that websites are no longer cached by search engines? There's a reason for that.

    without statutory damages it would create a legal mess. Besides, what is the practical difference between suing someone for $5 million they don't have, and suing them for $500, when their attorneys will bankrupt them anyway?

    Downloaders should not be sued for more than say triple the retail cost of the film, enough to incentivize indies to sue and to keep the big corporate "trolls" at bay.

    If it's crap, don't steal it. If you don't like copyright law, make everything public domain upon creation so there is a level playing field. Otherwise, enforce the law.

    entitled freeloaders dserve no mercy when they become entitled thieves against those who refuse to cave into their demands.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 23 Aug 2018 @ 7:17am

      Re:

      Let's see, conflating infringement with theft, bringing up both rape and murder, capping off with 'freeloaders'... I do believe that's a maximalist talking points bingo.

      "It's okay to steal crap" is akin to:

      [Citation Needed]. Other than your comments, point to where a TD article has ever stated that 'it's okay to steal crap', or admit that you're intentionally and dishonestly strawmanning other people's positions.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        identicon
        John Smith, 23 Aug 2018 @ 9:38am

        Re: Re:

        It's called an analogy. Abstract thinkers can grasp the concept.

        If Techdirt, with its flood of articles of this ilk, isn't arguing that something is "wrong" with this lawsuit, what is it arguing exactly?

        Nominal damages can be awarded under existing law, btw. as low as $750 per infringement. Statutory damages are limited to $150,000 per work so the court would not likely award more than the $5,000 for infringement.

        That leaves us with intentional breach of contract, which allows for punitive damages, and which allows the court or a jury to award ONE DOLLAR in damages.

        Would a reasonable reader conclude that Techdirt is not against this lwsuit?

        How is it a "nuisance lawsuit" to defend one's legal rights? The act of releasing a film before its actual release is a serious offense. In the Food Lion/ABC case, Food Lion won against ABC (who sent reporters posing as workers in to expose something), and got damages of TWO DOLLARS (like in Better Off Dead).

        President Trump won his antitrust lawsuit against the NFL, and was awarded TREBLE DAMAGES! the verdict was tripled to THREE DOLLARS.

        To the extent Techdirt is arguing for nominal damage, I would agree, though it should be kept in mind that copyright infringement is also a CRIMINAL offense, punishable by up to five years in Club Fed. The law is more about punishiment and deterrence than the value of what was stolen.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          That One Guy (profile), 23 Aug 2018 @ 2:29pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Ah yes, the 'you'd understand my terrible comparison if you were smarter' ploy, always a classic.

          Still waiting for you to point out where TD has said 'It's okay to steal crap' or an admission that you're dishonestly strawmanning people's position.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 23 Aug 2018 @ 6:59pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          If Techdirt, with its flood of articles of this ilk, isn't arguing that something is "wrong" with this lawsuit, what is it arguing exactly?

          As above, I'd argue that this is the first I've heard of a studio going after someone on the inside for the leak. This has never happened when it came to things like Oscar screener leaks, despite the notoriously shitty security when it comes to handling those.

          Nominal damages can be awarded under existing law, btw. as low as $750 per infringement. Statutory damages are limited to $150,000 per work so the court would not likely award more than the $5,000 for infringement.

          ...And? This is something copyright fans have never been able to explain satisfactorily. If actual damages and awarded penalties are supposedly so benign, why not reduce the maximum to something that is actually reasonable? Hell, in most copyright infringement cases, the plaintiff is often cited to not sue the defendant for every work infringed because it'd cost too much.

          That leaves us with intentional breach of contract, which allows for punitive damages, and which allows the court or a jury to award ONE DOLLAR in damages.

          ...Okay? Is your case really that shitty you're afraid that the judge might give you the lowest possible punishment? So you're okay with insisting the highest possible penalty will never be awarded, but the lowest possible is a doomsday reality that must be avoided at all cost?

          The law is more about punishiment and deterrence than the value of what was stolen.

          This, right there, is why you get absolutely no sympathy. Especially when it comes to paralleling piracy with stealing. Because the latter actually demands a higher burden of proof, and doesn't have nearly the same level of punishment.

          Like That One Guy said, if piracy were to be punished in the way that stealing was punished, you'd be very disappointed in the outcome.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            The Wanderer (profile), 27 Aug 2018 @ 7:33am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            The thing is, that $150,000 maximum is reasonable - for cases of counterfeit products, i.e., where people are creating physical copies of the copyrighted work and selling them commercially in the same way/market/etc. as the original.

            It's always been my understanding that the law establishing those damages figures was written on the assumption that the only form of infringement which might be sufficiently profitable for the infringer to be worth trying to deter would be in the form of "reproduction of physical copies at scale for commercial sale", and the damages were set based on the expected profitability of that form of endeavour.

            Unfortunately, after the world developed such that assumption no longer held true, the law was never updated to better match the new reality - in large part because there were by that point influential forces in place which found those damages to be a useful cudgel to wield against infringement on a much smaller scale, which the original laws never contemplated, and to which those damages are grossly disproportionate.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 23 Aug 2018 @ 7:44am

      entitled freeloaders dserve no mercy

      Ah yes, the “kill them all and let God sort it out” mentality.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    John Smith, 23 Aug 2018 @ 6:46am

    Without copyright protection you wind up with a lot more "crap" (cheap culture) that costs little to produce, like cellphone videos that gross more in YouTube revenue than this film did.

    You see the money YouTube stars make? That's because their work is protected by Google, who gets a very well-earned 32 percent both for protecting the IP and marketing it. It's the best example of a modern business model that conforms both to audience expectations for free material, advertisers who need content, and creators who seek to be paid.

    they'd have made a ton more money by putting the film up directly on YouTube, come to think of it. About $1,500 per million views.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 23 Aug 2018 @ 7:44am

      Without copyright protection you wind up with a lot more "crap" (cheap culture) that costs little to produce

      Two things.

      1. Correlation is not causation. Copyright existed while Vine was a thing and lots of people loved a shitload of Vines.
      2. Even if what you said would happen without copyright were to happen…so what?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Aug 2018 @ 8:09am

      Re:

      >Without copyright protection you wind up with a lot more "crap" (cheap culture) that costs little to produce, like cellphone videos that gross more in YouTube revenue than this film did.

      Cell phone videos can be much more interesting or entertaining than some of what Hollywood produces. Just because it is cheap to produce does not mean it is crap, and just because it was expensive to produce does not mean that it is good.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Aug 2018 @ 9:33am

      Re: Youtube

      First off, how the hell do you think copyright prevents low quality things from being created? I thought the argument was copyright incentivized creation, not prevented it?

      Second, you have no idea how Youtube works. Explain how you think Google protects the IP of people using its platform. I imagine you believe that the search algorithms are the same as active marketing, but that's laughable by anyone familiar with it.

      If you think some unknown movie dropped on Youtube is going to get the millions of views needed to generate $5k in ad revenue then I suggest you try it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Aug 2018 @ 7:09pm

      Re:

      Without copyright protection you wind up with a lot more "crap" (cheap culture) that costs little to produce, like cellphone videos that gross more in YouTube revenue than this film did.

      Actually, and unsurprisingly, you've got this completely ass-backwards.

      Copyright protection means that it's actually more profitable to make something on the cheap, claim that obviously somebody must have pirated it or else you'd be richer, then sue grandmothers and children with the help of the "troll factories" you love to claim to hate so much.

      You see the money YouTube stars make? That's because their work is protected by Google, who gets a very well-earned 32 percent both for protecting the IP and marketing it.

      Where did that number come from? Also, if you think YouTube actually protects YouTube stars to the level you believe, streamers who discuss their frustrations with reaction channels would like a word with you.

      they'd have made a ton more money by putting the film up directly on YouTube, come to think of it. About $1,500 per million views.

      ...So, they made an arguably poor business decision. How does that translate to me needing to give you my money?

      Hell, given your presumptuous, spiteful and vindictive ramblings, I'd really rather avoid YouTube if you posted your junk to it, just so I can avoid contributing to your fractions of a penny in ad revenue.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Aug 2018 @ 7:50am

    Advertising?

    Never heard of this movie so no possible way I could have paid to watch it or even ponder the idea of downloading it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Christenson, 23 Aug 2018 @ 8:59am

      Re: Advertising?

      Now it's in a lawsuit, you've heard of it...it's been streisanded!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 23 Aug 2018 @ 9:26am

        Re: Re: Advertising?

        I still wouldn't watch it.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Christenson, 23 Aug 2018 @ 10:09am

          Re: Re: Re: Advertising?

          Meanwhile, this otherwise terrible movie becomes a cult classic because it's so bad it's funny...see "Rocky Horrow Picture Show" for an example of that happening.

          It only takes a few people not to share your attitude to do this...relax, have some imagination!

          Oh, and don't forget to bring the popcorn for the memorable smackdown from an irritated judge: You are in federal court for all of $5,000??!!!!

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Thad (profile), 23 Aug 2018 @ 5:11pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Advertising?

            I don't think Rocky Horror is a terrible movie. I think it's a note-perfect parody of terrible movies.

            It's got a mostly-great cast (Hinwood doesn't really do much but look pretty, but that's what he's there for), good songs, and it works quite well as both a loving homage to the schlocky horror and science fiction movies of the black-and-white era and a then-subversive look at the sexual revolution.

            YMMV, of course. Lots of people think it's a just-plain-bad movie.

            And regardless of whether it's good or bad, its cult status and enduring popularity was certainly a fluke, a twist of fate. It's got a certain je nais se quoi, for sure, but there are a lot of interesting movies that fade away and never achieve a fraction of Rocky's success.

            Now, The Room? There's a movie that's famous because it's so bad.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    stephen.hutcheson@gmail.com, 23 Aug 2018 @ 4:27pm

    I hear they tried to replace the star with a cigar-store wooden Indian, but had to re-film those scenes because the Indian was over-acting...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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