Torrent users sue US Copyright Group for fraud and extortion

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Dmitriy Shirokov is suing a Washington law firm that sent threatening letters to thousands of alleged movie downloaders, accusing the firm of fraud and extortion. He filed the 96-page lawsuit, which argues that lawyers at Dunlap, Grubb & Weaver made a business of threatening people with expensive litigation and fines unless they pay "settlement offers" of $1,500 to $2,500, in the US District Court of Massachusetts.

The firm was apparently never interested in actually litigating these claims. Although the legal firm threatened victims with expensive court action if they didn't cough up the cash, it neither had the resources nor the inclination to do so, meaning the letters in question were simply intended to frighten and get cash out of P2P users.

Shirokov wants to make the case a class action that represents him and 4,576 other people who received threatening letters for having allegedly downloaded copies of Far Cry. Despite being released in the summer of 2007 (Canada) and in December 2008 (US), the lawsuit says attorney Thomas Dunlap obtained a US copyright on the work by falsely asserting a date of "first publication" of November 24, 2009, allowing the law firm to claim that downloaders would be liable for statutory damages of up to $150,000 per download. Actual damages under the limited protection for works shown long before the copyright date would be a fraction of the retail DVD price of $27.

In short, Shirokov's lawsuit is accusing Dunlap, Grubb & Weaver of knowingly breaching copyright law to make money. The big picture is that it's alleging that the US Copyright Group is guilty of extortion, fraudulent omissions, mail fraud, wire fraud, computer fraud and abuse, racketeering, fraud upon the court, abuse of process, fraud on the Copyright Office, copyright misuse, unjust enrichment, and consumer protection violations.

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