Independent film studios have recently threatened many illegal downloaders with legal action. While some of the accused have caved in and paid penalties to avoid going to court, others have dared the studios to pursue further action. Although costly, lawyers representing the film studios have said they will do just that.
The Washington, D.C. based law firm of Dunlap, Grubb & Weaver is at the forefront of the fight against piracy, as it has accepted the task of representing independent studios against film pirates in other cases this year. Previously, the makers of the hit “The Hurt Locker” took action against thousands of Internet users accused of illegally downloading and sharing copies of the film.
The fight against online piracy appears as if it will be drawn out. Thomas Dunlap, one of the firm's founders, claims that some of the accused downloaders have refused to settle to avoid going to court. Dunlap's actions against downloaders typically begins by filing formal complaints against numerous John Does. The accused remain unnamed until their Internet service providers are subpoenaed for detailed records that include their actual names.
If a defendant on an ISP's records refuses to settle out of court, Dunlap will refile the claim, this time with the person's actual name involved. Some may see Dunlap's actions as a shakedown or a series of veiled threats, but he stated that the firm will go to court against those unwilling to comply. Taking things one step further, Dunlap claimed that in the next month a handful of individuals will have to go before a judge in different states.
The stance taken by film studios and the lawyers representing them against piracy is a strong, yet costly one. It is so costly, in fact, that some wonder if filing such suits is profitable. According to the legal director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Cindy Cohn, film studios that hire law firms to represent them in lengthy legal battles might find that the strategy is not cost effective. This discovery could lead them to seek other ways to battle piracy.
While many defendants have stood their ground against firms representing studios, others have caved in and settled due to fear. Settlement terms usually differ according to the case. For example, defendants in the case of illegal downloading of “The Hurt Locker” were given the option to settle early by paying $1,900. Defendants accused of illegally downloading copies of “Steam Experiment” or “Far Cry” have been given the option to settle for $1,500 if they pay by a certain date. If they wait too long, the settlement price goes up to $2,500.
The problem with the piracy suits lies with defendants who admitted to no wrongdoing. Several elderly defendants who lack technical knowledge operated unsecured wireless networks that were unknowingly used by others. Although they themselves did not download any of the movies, the fact that their name was on ISP records implicated them in the lawsuits. Many of these defendants ended up paying early settlements, whether just or not.
For more on this topic, visit http://news.cnet.com/8301-31001_3-20020260-261.html?tag=topImage3
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