Copyright Law

Law Firm Poised to Bank Millions on Peer-to-Peer Prosecution

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In the past five months, Virginia-based law firm Dunlap, Grubb, & Weaver has filed suits against thousands of individuals accused of illegally downloading independent films—an operation that could yield the firm and its clients more than $19 million in damages.

The enterprising lawyers, under the operative the U.S. Copyright Group, seek out indie filmmakers and offer to sue anonymous movie pirates for no charge. The firm then subpoenas Verizon, AT&T and other ISPs to identify each John Doe user, and threatens to sue each person for $150,000 unless they agree to a $1,500 to $2,500 settlement fee, according to Ars Technica’s Law & Disorder blog and Techdirt. Defendants can pony up the cash on a website set up to accept checks and credit cards.

To identify illegal file-sharing, the firm uses a program that captures IP addresses based on the time stamp that a download has occurred and then checks it against a spreadsheet to make sure the downloaded content is the copyright-protected film and not a misnamed film or trailer, according to the Hollywood Reporter’s THR, Esq. blog.

More than 14,500 users have been targeted, according to federal court records, Law & Disorder reports. As most peer-to-peer, or P2P, users settle—as evidenced by the RIAA campaign against file-swappers—the lawyers, studios, and the P2P detection company are currently poised to split as much as $19.7 million.

However, the firm could soon find a monkey wrench its operation, according to multiple court filings today to sever the joined lawsuits—some of which name as many as 5,000 unidentified users—by the American Civil Liberties Union, Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Citizen, Law & Disorder reported today.

Also see:

THR, Esq.: ‘Hurt Locker’ Producer Files Massive Antipiracy Lawsuit

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