The flooding along the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers will soon pass, but we should be on the lookout for the next flood of copyright infringement cases now that the courts are starting to authorize subpoenas that will identify tens of thousands of people who have downloaded movies from peer-to-peer (P2P) networks. Expect to see copyright infringement lawsuits filed over the next couple of weeks citing illegal downloads of The Expendables, B-list movies and porn.
It is reminiscent of the old days when the music industry decided that it would sue anyone and everyone who it thought illegally downloaded a song off of Napster and its prodigy of P2P networks. It was lucrative for some lawyers as they would process thousands of claims by settling for a few thousand dollars a claim. Few cases ever went to trial. The lawsuits did get the word out to many that there could be consequences for illegally downloading a song, but, it was a public relations disaster and the music industry shifted its strategy away from filing thousands of lawsuits against individual copyright infringers.
The movie industry, for the most part, was able to sit along the sidelines and watch because unlike songs, it was difficult to share the large files that movies demand. But, with more efficient technology to transfer large files and greater Internet bandwidth available to everyone, more and more people are illegally downloading entire movies.
That some in the movie industry are taking action is not a surprise. What is a surprise is that some independent film makers through the U.S. Copyright Group, a business operated by a law firm, appear to be following the music industry’s now abandoned response of filing batches of lawsuits against individuals who it said were infringing their copyrights by downloading music files illegally. The Motion Picture Association of America, International Film & Television Alliance and the large studios have not adopted this strategy, but are said to be taking a wait-and-see attitude.
This strategy may work for pursuing those who download porn films as there is not likely to be much outcry about the lawsuits — I imagine the accused will be more eager to settle just to keep one’s name out of the public. Also, it is doubtful that these studios particularly care if they receive bad publicity and may even crave any publicity at all. Likewise, the law firm’s private company can process thousands of alleged infringers on a contingency-fee basis and make a tidy profit. Supposedly, a company in Europe was able to recover $800,000 this way.
But, I don’t see the mainstream movie industry moving forward with this strategy. The movie industry has had the benefit of watching the music industry and saw what has worked and has not worked.
Don’t get me wrong. The movie industry has every right to go after those who infringe their copyrights, but I suspect that it will more likely follow the music industry’s current strategy of working with Internet-service providers rather than joining in filing lawsuits against individual copyright infringers.