Voltage Pictures Lawsuit & BitTorrent Infringement
This post is an updated version (UPDATED 4/24/14) from the previous post Copyright Scheme.
In 2013, several copyright infringement suits were filed in the Federal District Court of Oregon, alleging that defendants downloaded copyrighted films using a technology called BitTorrent. Two such noteworthy cases are Elf-Man LLC v. Does and Voltage Pictures, LLC v. Does. Both cases add to a growing trend of similar cases filed in Washington, Illinois, Florida and elsewhere. It appears the purpose of these suits is to improperly secure forced settlements from individual defendants by shortcutting due process rights. In April of 2014, plaintiff Voltage Pictures filed a new batch of lawsuits in Oregon state courts alleging trademark infringement. Voltage Pictures, represented by attorney Carl Crowell of Salem, accuses defendants in Marion County, OR, of infringing Voltage Pictures by downloading their film The Dallas Buyers Club.
If you are not familiar with BitTorrent or this copyright scheme, BitTorrent is a peer-to-peer software that takes small bits of large files from several computers in a distributed network and rejoins them to make one file. There are legitimate and noninfringing uses of this software, but several websites, such as The Pirate Bay, enable downloading of copyrighted materials via BitTorrent. When a BitTorrent user is attached to a network, his or her computer may be transferring and receiving bits and pieces of any number of files (some potentially infringing, and some not). Other software allows copyright-holders, or their lawyers, to sniff torrent activity and identify ISPs and IPs of users. The copyright-holder then files suit with a list of IP addresses and subpoenas the names and street addresses of the account assigned to that IP from an internet service provider (ISP) like Comcast. A settlement demand follows shortly.
It can be costly and difficult for a plaintiff to prove copyright infringement by any individual, so some rights-holders may feel compelled to reduce costs by shortcutting the system and targeting groups of vulnerable individuals. Simply having BitTorrent installed on a computer does not equate to infringement, but letters from attorneys seeking settlement might imply otherwise. An individual defendant who receives a settlement offer, no matter how unreasonable the amount, could feel unable to fight the demand. Immix attorneys have experience in successfully negotiating such claims on behalf of clients, and we would like to turn the equation around by representing a number of similar defendants and protecting them from improper tactics. By offering collective defense through one law firm, similar defendants may find that cost-effective defense of their legal rights is possible.
If you have questions or want advice about copyright, trademark, or other intellectual property matters, please call Immix attorney Leigh Gill at (503) 802-5542.