Filmmaker sues 352 Ohioans for bootleg movie downloads
Dec 06, 2012 (The Columbus Dispatch - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
A California film company sued 352 Ohioans this week, saying they illegally downloaded and shared two movies that it made.
The six lawsuits, filed in federal court, say unnamed defendants obtained the movies through the popular software BitTorrent, which speeds downloading by having groups of people upload and download movies at the same time.
Columbus attorney Douglas E. Riddell Jr., who's representing plaintiff R&D Film I LLC, said the lawsuits are part of a nationwide effort by R&D to stop people from downloading and watching its movies without paying for them.
He said R&D has filed similar lawsuits in other cities.
"They're looking for deterrence at this point," he said.
The lawsuits are similar to those filed for more than a decade by the recording industry as it fought to stop people from obtaining free music online, said Guy Rub, an assistant professor at Ohio State University's Moritz School of Law. The Recording Industry Association of America sued thousands of individual song-swappers who downloaded copyrighted music without paying for it.
They included Ohio State and Ohio University students, some of whom settled the lawsuits by paying fines of $3,000 each a few years ago.
Although the lawsuits reduced the downloading, Rub said it eventually was a public-relations nightmare for the industry.
"In the eyes of the public, those people weren't guilty," he said, even though the music industry had a strong claim about the illegal nature of the downloads.
The cases are difficult to litigate. The plaintiffs don't have the offenders' names, just their Internet protocol addresses. So they file the suits against John Does and ask the judge to order Internet service providers to provide the names.
"It's not an easy process," Rub said. "From a legal perspective, the big challenge is to get to the actual defendant. Some service providers fight it."
Rub said plaintiffs in the past sued the service providers directly but found it more beneficial to sue individuals.
"People will settle," he said, especially when they find out that two people sued by the recording industry who fought their cases lost and owed millions of dollars in fines.
Riddell said the downloads in the complaint filed this week occurred in 2011 for the independent films The Divide and Puncture. R&D Film, which made the movies, began suing individuals this summer.
The complaint asks the court to order defendants to destroy all illegal copies of the movies, to pay court costs and attorney fees for the lawsuit and to pay additional damages.
Companies have been suing BitTorrent users for copyright infringement nationwide for several years.
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