Torrent users sue US Copyright Group for fraud and extortion

By on November 29, 2010, 3:21 PM
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.





User Comments: 77

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Guest said:

Fantastic!

Finally someone standing up to the corrupt corporations that abuse, harass, and steal hard-working tax payers' money!!!!!!!!

princeton princeton said:

"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."

Should be grounds for life in prison. That's cheating the system to try to destroy other peoples lives in an economic crisis.

stensland said:

princeton said:

Should be grounds for life in prison. That's cheating the system to try to destroy other peoples lives in an economic crisis.

Scrap life in prison, executions all around

yRaz yRaz said:

get out the Guillotine, it's time for public executions.

matrix86 matrix86 said:

stensland said:

princeton said:

Should be grounds for life in prison. That's cheating the system to try to destroy other peoples lives in an economic crisis.

Scrap life in prison, executions all around

Send them down here to Texas and we'll make sure that happens, lol.

TomSEA TomSEA, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

This lawsuit will go exactly nowhere. People were caught illegally downloading a copyrighted product, they got busted, and that's that. Perfectly within the rights of the copyright protection agencies to go after those people no matter how much they complain about it. And is also a very, VERY common practice to offer a settlement first prior to litigation.

I also find it amusing that a Russian - who's ethnic group is arguably the largest collection of illegal downloaders and propagators of malware/viruses/spam in the world - is filing this lawsuit.

princeton princeton said:

TomSEA said:

This lawsuit will go exactly nowhere. People were caught illegally downloading a copyrighted product, they got busted, and that's that. Perfectly within the rights of the copyright protection agencies to go after those people no matter how much they complain about it. And is also a very, VERY common practice to offer a settlement first prior to litigation.

I also find it amusing that a Russian - who's ethnic group is arguably the largest collection of illegal downloaders and propagators of malware/viruses/spam in the world - is filing this lawsuit.

You do realize the companies "moving" the movies establishment date to make the fines higher is also probably "illegal"

TomSEA TomSEA, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Copyright protection lasts for 70 years (as of 1978). There is no such thing as "limited protection of works." I have no clue what Dmitriy is trying to demonstrate tossing these various dates around, but they're completely irrelevant when it comes down to copyright protection within the first 70 years of copyright issue. Doesn't make any difference if Far Cry 2 was release in 2007, 2008 or even 1940. It's still a protected product.

princeton princeton said:

TomSEA said:

Copyright protection lasts for 70 years (as of 1978). There is no such thing as "limited protection of works." I have no clue what Dmitriy is trying to demonstrate tossing these various dates around, but they're completely irrelevant when it comes down to copyright protection within the first 70 years of copyright issue. Doesn't make any difference if Far Cry 2 was release in 2007, 2008 or even 1940. It's still a protected product.

It changes the amount the people would have paid. Read the article...

dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

I also find it amusing that a Russian .

Who is a citizen of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (Acton, Middlesex County)

- who's ethnic group is arguably the largest collection of illegal downloaders and propagators of malware/viruses/spam in the world

Damn Bostonians !

He-ah in Bawston...paying fow-ah movies is nawt owah thing...

Come to think of it Tom...with the amount of Xenophobia you're displaying, you'd probably fit right in

BTW: The term used to discribe the actions of these "lawyers" is Copyright Profiteering - and no, it's not a compliment.

TomSEA TomSEA, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Yes, I read the article and again, that is irrelevant. This is how it works sports fans. You go steal a gallon of milk that runs $2.00. You get busted, you go to trial. You're found guilty of theft. Do you pay the $2.00 and everyone says "OK, we're all good now?" Not quite. You violated the law which has set fines for being guilty. You will pay several hundred dollars in fines, court costs, attorney fees, plus maybe have to serve a little jail time or community service. Has nothing to do with the milk costing $2.00 or when the milk was put out for sale. It's the criminal charge penalty cost.

So let's say they offer a settlement in advance such as what's going on here with Far Cry instead. You can bypass all the nastiness of going to trial by cutting a check instead. Again, the $2.00 is irrelevant - the negotiated settlement is based on the penalties you might incur if found guilty in a court.

The only time the amount comes into play is if it bumps the charge into a greater category of theft (grand theft or grand larceny as example).

Oh yes, I'm a Xenophobe for sure, divide. You really nailed it...

PinothyJ said:

?threatening people with expensive litigation and fines unless they pay "settlement offers" of $1,500 to $2,500?

What's the definition of blackmail again?

Blackmail is the act of threatening to reveal substantially true information about a person to the public, a family member, or associates unless a demand is met?

I don't care if it is "common practice", that be blackmail, at least as defined by US law which is what will be the most applicable here.

You kids and your lawyers?

PinothyJ said:

Um, replace the '?' with '...', obviously techspot doesn't accept ellipses ...

TomSEA TomSEA, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

No Pinothyj, it's not blackmail either. These people engaged in theft of copyrighted material and are being offered an alternate settlement rather than going to court. I believe there's a case out there right now where some gal decided to go to court, was found guilty and hit with a 163 million dollar fine (which even I think is off-the-charts insane). She's appealed twice and lost both times although the amount has been reduced to a "few" million dollars.

So basically, if you're not guilty and feel confident you can prove it, by all means go to court. Otherwise, this settlement offer gives you the opportunity to wash your hands of the affair and hopefully not suffer what this poor gal has gone through.

And the moral of the story? Don't steal and bad ju-ju won't come your way!

Darkshadoe Darkshadoe said:

TomSEA said:

"People were caught illegally downloading a copyrighted product, they got busted, and that's that"

Exactly WHAT PROOF does these lawyers have to sue these people? IP addresses? Tell ya what Tom, Let me hack your personal wireless network and download a few thousand movies and songs and you can explain why you downloaded all those movies and songs to the lawyers.

Darkshadoe Darkshadoe said:

TomSEA said:

Yes, I read the article and again, that is irrelevant. This is how it works sports fans. You go steal a gallon of milk that runs $2.00. You get busted, you go to trial. You're found guilty of theft. Do you pay the $2.00 and everyone says "OK, we're all good now?" Not quite. You violated the law which has set fines for being guilty. You will pay several hundred dollars in fines, court costs, attorney fees, plus maybe have to serve a little jail time or community service. Has nothing to do with the milk costing $2.00 or when the milk was put out for sale. It's the criminal charge penalty cost.

So let's say they offer a settlement in advance such as what's going on here with Far Cry instead. You can bypass all the nastiness of going to trial by cutting a check instead. Again, the $2.00 is irrelevant - the negotiated settlement is based on the penalties you might incur if found guilty in a court.

The only time the amount comes into play is if it bumps the charge into a greater category of theft (grand theft or grand larceny as example).

Oh yes, I'm a Xenophobe for sure, divide. You really nailed it...

Your analogy is inaccurate.

If a store only had one 2 gallon jug of milk and I went in and took that jug of milk home, that would be considered stealing.

If a store had only one 2 gallon jug of milk and I went in and made a perfect clone of the jug of milk, leaving the original jug of milk in the store, took the cloned jug of milk home, that is copyright infringement.

To steal, you must deprive the store owner from the use of his or her 2 gallon jug of milk. If he or she still has possession of his or her jug of milk, it could not have been stolen.

PinothyJ said:

TomSEA said:

No Pinothyj, it's not blackmail either. These people engaged in theft of copyrighted material and are being offered an alternate settlement rather than going to court.

No, that's blackmail. If I have pictures of you doing something illegal with a goat and offer the only copies of these pictures to you for a small 'settlement' that there is blackmail. What is the difference between this firm who have 'evidence' of these people doing something illegal who will agree not to proceed if an agreed 'settlement' is paid? If a settlement is agree during proceeding then that is one thing, but as that is written and as the situation was describe, that is blackmail. As I said in my last post, I don't care if that is an accepted practice, it's blackmail.

PS. the goat says hi...

crazyboy88 said:

Darkshadoe said:

TomSEA said:

Yes, I read the article and again, that is irrelevant. This is how it works sports fans. You go steal a gallon of milk that runs $2.00. You get busted, you go to trial. You're found guilty of theft. Do you pay the $2.00 and everyone says "OK, we're all good now?" Not quite. You violated the law which has set fines for being guilty. You will pay several hundred dollars in fines, court costs, attorney fees, plus maybe have to serve a little jail time or community service. Has nothing to do with the milk costing $2.00 or when the milk was put out for sale. It's the criminal charge penalty cost.

So let's say they offer a settlement in advance such as what's going on here with Far Cry instead. You can bypass all the nastiness of going to trial by cutting a check instead. Again, the $2.00 is irrelevant - the negotiated settlement is based on the penalties you might incur if found guilty in a court.

The only time the amount comes into play is if it bumps the charge into a greater category of theft (grand theft or grand larceny as example).

Oh yes, I'm a Xenophobe for sure, divide. You really nailed it...

Your analogy is inaccurate.

If a store only had one 2 gallon jug of milk and I went in and took that jug of milk home, that would be considered stealing.

If a store had only one 2 gallon jug of milk and I went in and made a perfect clone of the jug of milk, leaving the original jug of milk in the store, took the cloned jug of milk home, that is copyright infringement.

To steal, you must deprive the store owner from the use of his or her 2 gallon jug of milk. If he or she still has possession of his or her jug of milk, it could not have been stolen.

nice analogy

hang them lawyers ^ ^

Darkshadoe Darkshadoe said:

Pinothyj said:

PS. the goat says hi...

LOL nice

Seriously though, I was reading through the court papers and found this very interesting...

"192. But in the meantime, the Letter emphatically demands that no files be removed until

settlement is finalized:

(This is part of the USCG letter)

Please consider this letter to constitute formal notice that until and unless we

are able to settle our client's claim with you, we demand that you not delete any

media files from your computer."

Correct me if I am wrong , but wouldn't this be proof they have no evidence that someone actually downloaded that movie? Also since this is a threat letter, they have not officially filed the lawsuit against the defendant so erasing or destroying the hard drive would not be destruction of evidence.

matrix86 matrix86 said:

Technically, there is nothing wrong with pirating music/movies. Like everyone else is saying, it's just simple copying. Nothing is literally being stolen. Lawfully, though, it is illegal. If something is copyrighted, you are not allowed to distribute that material (meaning uploading it for someone else to download it) without authorization. That's just the pure and simple law...unfair but still the law.

The problem, though, is that even if I can't get that movie or music off the net, I can just go to the library, stick it in my computer, copy it, and nobody would ever know. So there's no difference between me doing this online than going to my local library. Only difference is that if I wanted to distribute what I copied, I'd have to charge for the CD/DVD I bought to burn it on...which would bring us into a whole new subject of stealing and copyrighting. I don't agree with doing that. But the full freeness you get on P2P sites, I find nothing wrong with it as the distributor is not making any money off of it.

Guest said:

There are so many things wrong with that (russian) statement, so you know what.... gtfo

Guest said:

Sorry, last statement was directed towards " TomSEA " on the main page of the article

PanicX PanicX, TechSpot Ambassador, said:

TomSEA said:

Yes, I read the article and again, that is irrelevant.

Can you link the article you read, because all I see a link to here is the actual filed lawsuit documents. Are you implying you read the whole 96 page lawsuit? And after reading the whole lawsuit, continue to fail at comprehending the meaning of the lawsuit?

The Lawsuit says:

Under 17 U.S.C. 412(2), no award of statutory damages or of attorney's fees may be made for infringements that commence after a work's first publication, but before the registration's effective date, unless the registration is made within three months of the first publication

The lawsuit then clearly defines how the defendant LIES about the publication dates to inflate the proposed damages and extort more from their victims, while having no proof of damages and never intending to actually litigate.

I have to say, your blind, unyielding defense of the RIAA, MPAA and friends, really detracts from any legitimate point of view you'd like to express. Defending intellectual property / copyrights definitely has a strong argumentative advantage, but ignorantly evangelizing the methods of reciprocity used by these companies easily pegs you as a shill and ultimately invalidates your opinions.

matrix86 matrix86 said:

PanicX said:

The lawsuit then clearly defines how the defendant LIES about the publication dates to inflate the proposed damages and extort more from their victims, while having no proof of damages and never intending to actually litigate.

I don't think you could have hit the nail on the head any harder. Even I deviated from the point of this article. Thanks for bringing us back to speed.

Darkshadoe said:

Also since this is a threat letter, they have not officially filed the lawsuit against the defendant so erasing or destroying the hard drive would not be destruction of evidence.

Shoot, forget that. Just go buy a new hard drive from a parts store (considering you still have your OS Installation disk) and store your current one at a friend's house before the police come to claim your drive...but now i'm assuming the average person is smart enough to do this, lol.

Guest said:

Pirates or no pirates, you manipulate the legal system at the expense of another person, you deserve no mercy from it when you are placed in the machine.

dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

I have to say, your blind, unyielding defense of the RIAA, MPAA and friends, really detracts from any legitimate point of view you'd like to express. Defending intellectual property / copyrights definitely has a strong argumentative advantage, but ignorantly evangelizing the methods of reciprocity used by these companies easily pegs you as a shill and ultimately invalidates your opinions.

+1

I don't think I could have phrased it any better

matrix86 matrix86 said:

Guest said:

Pirates or no pirates, you manipulate the legal system at the expense of another person, you deserve no mercy from it when you are placed in the machine.

Indeed. What these lawyers don't understand is that by doing this the way they are doing it, not only will they face charges, but their case against the pirates can be dropped. So they face legal repercussions, having their case thrown out, and a lawsuit from the pirates...not very smart lawyers.

Guest said:

Since when did you have to prove innocence.....

Guest said:

how can i reach you guys so i can sue too....

Guest said:

Why don't these fools try to sue us here in Philippines?

I haven't even tried any original games in my life. I haven't seen

any of my friends who bought one. (except SC2)

I don't buy movies, music, software, magazines, ebooks.

They're all available online, we just download them.

Try implementing copyright laws in our country - if you can.

We double dare you!!!

Can somebody sue me now please so I can go to jail...

Guest said:

The courts tend to "look the other way" when a corporation commits a crime where copyright is involved. It's not fair, but hey, Momma never said life was going to be fair. :P

Fact remains that the downloaders committed copyright infringement. I see this going badly for the plaintiffs. Just because the company commits a crime doesn't excuse the plaintiffs from the fact that they commited crimes themselves. I see this going one of two ways:

1. Both parties are fined heavily, and/or spend jail time.

2. (more likely) The corporations will be exonerated through circumstance, and the plaintiffs will spend time in jail.

If it were up to me, I'd go with #1.

Guest said:

lets ban TomSEA from TS

please, post a pool in the main page

im tired from his crying about the piracy

Guest said:

I REEEAAALLLLLLLLLY don't care about stealing movies/music/video games. Now my momma always told me 2 wrongs don't make a right. Well I disagree. If the government wants to enforce fair competitive business practices, if the businesses decide to protect their consumers interests by striving to offer fair competitive services and pricing, then I'll be glad to pay those prices. Meanwhile, a stealing I will go. I will not deprive myself of entertainment I should have been able to afford, neither will I reward companies by paying their price.

Guest said:

These lawyers lied and abused the legal system and their position to scare people into paying their outrageous fines.

No better than street gang member who threaten to kill you unless you pay protection money up front.

If they want to protect their intellectual property they need to come up with a better system then what they have in place now. Steam comes to mind for example.

But of course they rather hire thugs in suits to do their dirty work.

Guest said:

the rules barring deleting of electronic discovery kick in upon notice of the likelihood of a lawsuit, not when a lawsuit is actually filed. At that point, you're supposed to put a hold on your data and begin the process of preserving it. Significant penalties can arise out of deleting or even manipulating or altering files which are the subject of a lawsuit when you have been given notice that a lawsuit is looming, but not yet filed. See qualcomm cases and similar decisions. In some cases, the deletion can turn into an instruction to the jury to consider the deletion as an admission of the existence of the subject data.

Please consult an attorney before trying to come to legal conclusions.

This message brought to you by the shark foundation.

princeton princeton said:

dividebyzero said:

I have to say, your blind, unyielding defense of the RIAA, MPAA and friends, really detracts from any legitimate point of view you'd like to express. Defending intellectual property / copyrights definitely has a strong argumentative advantage, but ignorantly evangelizing the methods of reciprocity used by these companies easily pegs you as a shill and ultimately invalidates your opinions.

+1

I don't think I could have phrased it any better

It's nice to see I'm not the only one who thinks tom needs to rethink his views on piracy.

princeton princeton said:

Guest said:

lets ban TomSEA from TS

please, post a pool in the main page

im tired from his crying about the piracy

I hate to be mean but I was thinking the same thing. And I bet I'm not the only one...

Guest said:

The Real problem here is that no actual law was violated ... These people that have downloaded the game from a torrent site probably committed no legal crime. They only found a program that was already put forth by someone else and downloaded it. Only if these people contributed to uploading the product would it be a legal offense. Thus only the initial distributor of the product of the internet is liable for the crime as long as the other down loaders did not themselves seed or upload any information to the site....

Yoryka said:

Im gonna jump on board the LOL train with this, copyright, seriously, its like lets makes games easy as hell to hack, movies to download, then allow the peoplel to put movies from a dvd onto there computer, yeah, lets sell blue-ray burners, its not the people taking the product, its the retards that made the product to easy to take...... KIINND of like we can profit MORE for suing someone for stealing, then we can for selling a single copy, if you catch my drift, if you ask me its the companies, knowingly basicly giving there products away for a little extra cash, think how hard it is to shop lift, then think how hard it is to download a movie........ bells not ringing?

matrix86 matrix86 said:

princeton said:

Guest said:

lets ban TomSEA from TS

please, post a pool in the main page

im tired from his crying about the piracy

I hate to be mean but I was thinking the same thing. And I bet I'm not the only one...

Come on guys, you can't ban someone simply for their opinions. No matter how blind or misguided they are. I don't agree with the guy, but he's done nothing to violate techspot rules.

Back to the subject, I wonder if the courts would have overlooked this extortion if someone else hadn't pointed it out...I bet "yes" (isn't it sad when you have no faith in your justice system? lol)

Guest said:

umm if im correct copy right or not if you really wanted to get by this use the "fair use" act of 1976 i believe this states that all material being used copy writen or not, if you are not profiting from that of anothers product its fair game maybe im wrong... but idk, also these lawyer's had no grounds or no ability to know of the pirating... other than hacking, and that invasion of privacy... (dont get me wrong hacking is fun)

Guest said:

Pfft.. Texas has some of the most IP "friendly" judges in the country. Many companies file lawsuits in the eastern district of Texas specifically because of this: http://www.innovators-network.org/2010/02/01/eastern-distric
-of-texas-preferred-venue-for-ip-lawsuit-plaintiffs/

Guest said:

Hey smart guy, they are being prosecuted in civil court for monetary damages, not criminal court.

Guest said:

You sir are the classic example of someone with a little knowledge being very dangerous. But the danger is only to the rest of us, you are one of the many who follow along blindly believeing anything you are told.

There is no proof of guilt in any of these cases. It's like me telling the cops I saw my neighbor steal something from me. They will ask f I have any proof, I will say well I saw it. My neighbor will deny it, the cops will go, ok work this out unless you have any actual proof that he stole it.

They said these people were downloading the files. Were they actually able to get on the persons computer and verify that the file exists? Or did they see a link with the name of a file that happened to be of the same name. Did they also download this file to verify that it was an illegal file? If so then they are also guilty of sharing out that file, unless they turned off uploading, but I would guess they were not that savy.

The burden of proof is on the prosecution and an IP is not necessarily enough. There is no way they can prove that the person did not mistakenly download the file and delete it when they found it was not the one they were looking for. So this is blackmail and a threat.

There is no proof that other than they believe they saw someone downloading a file which was copyrighted. And how did they do this? By checking IP addresses, any tech worth their dollars will tell you that it is quite possible to spoof your ip address. In fact they could make it look like the ip being used is actually your IP Tom, which would mean you are guilty of downloading that file, based solely on your ip address.

If you don't believe this, go and do some research on the IP stack in linux and windows. ButI have a feeling you will ignore this because you need to go get your daily fix of opinions you can share as your own from CNN. Good luck

Guest said:

Actually, it is extortion. It violates the Fair Debt act which makes it a crime to claim you are going to sue somebody to collect money when in fact you have no intention of actually doing so, as appears to be the case here. The people downloading aren't the only ones breaking the law.

Guest said:

Fact remains that the downloaders committed copyright infringement.
The act of downloading copyrighted content is NOT illegal! It is the act of uploading content, or distributing content. Your naivety on this subject invalidates your entire argument.
I see this going badly for the plaintiffs. Just because the company commits a crime doesn't excuse the plaintiffs from the fact that they commited crimes themselves.

Is no one innocent until proven guilty any more?

Guest said:

In some cases, the deletion can turn into an instruction to the jury to consider the deletion as an admission of the existence of the subject data.

Assuming a file to have been present on an HD because it can't be found is ludicrous. The absence of evidence is not proof of guilt, except in a corrupt court. Such an instruction is no different than a forced confession, or forcing one to testify against themselves.

That it would happen in America today is of little surprise, considering how corrupt both ALL three branches of our government are. We have the best government money can buy, voted for by citizens whose main interest are self-entitlements, i.e., government handouts. We have arrived at the old Russian proverb: "There is no truth in the news and no news in the truth", and, "we pretend to work and they pretend to pay us."

Guest said:

matrix86> Send them down here to Texas and we'll make sure that happens, lol.

Texas?!?! Some of the worst judges in the US for favoring copyright abuse over consumer rights are in Texas. One of the best things for this problem would be to remove Texas from the union all together! Let the lone star state be a lone star again. Don't just build a wall between Texas and Mexico, wall off the whole thing!

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