Judge: Over 99% of 'Expendables' pirates are untouchable

By on August 2, 2011, 6:30 PM

US District Court Judge Robert Wilkins has all but dismissed the massive piracy case brought against some more than 23,000 alleged infringers. In early May, the now infamous US Copyright Group (front name for the law firm Dunlap, Grubb & Weaver) acquired subpoenas forcing Internet service providers to reveal the accountholders behind 23,322 IP addresses (PDF) caught downloading and sharing "The Expendables." At the time, it was the largest filesharing case in US history, but was trumped soon after by an update in the Hurt Locker case.

The firm (who represents various smalltime filmmakers -- "NU Image" in this particular case) targeted those individuals in a "pay-or-else" scheme, demanding filesharers pay a settlement fee (often $1,500 to $3,000) or risk facing greater penalties at trial. Such tactics are extremely profitable for the effort required as one can target a boatload of people with the convenience of a single suit and then scare a percentage of the accused into paying the settlement. Unfortunately for the US Copyright Group, things won't be that simple this time around.

Judge Wilkins ruled that the plaintiffs overextended their reach by suing many individuals who aren't within the court's jurisdiction. "Plaintiff has only shown good cause for, and will only be entitled to discovery related to, those John Does for whom there is a good faith basis to believe may reside in the District of Columbia," Wilkins wrote. As such, only about 84 of the original defendants (less than 1%) remain relevant to the suit according to TorrentFreak, who determined how many of the IP addresses were actually in the District of Columbia area.

"The court understands why, for the sake of convenience and expense, the plaintiff would desire to use this single lawsuit as a vehicle to identify all of the 23,322 alleged infringers...Furthermore, the court understands and is sympathetic to the need to combat copyright infringement. However, it is not appropriate, and there is not good cause, to take third-party discovery in this case solely to obtain information that will be used in another lawsuit in a different venue." 

If this sets a precedent for similar suits, it would require firms like the US Copyright Group to file separate cases in various districts, which may become too expensive and unwieldy to remain a viable business model. It's worth noting that we're not sure if the original 23,322 subpoenas were ever served (we don't believe so). Wilkins revoked the subpoenas about a month ago (two months after approving them) because the US Copyright Group was taking its sweet time issuing them to alleged offenders. He called the delayed action "inexcusable."

User Comments: 10

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gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Untouchable eh? Well, when there is a problem, Hollywood has made a movie about it. And if they made one movie, they can make a sequel.

Kevin Costner, Sean Connery and Andy Garcia unite as a team of crack MPAA agents which will bring down these so-called untouchable pirates, breaking rules, breaking hearts, and breaking the box office: Un2ouchables

Then you can keep the long tail going by making a reality show about real life MPAA agents trying to track down people who pirated the Un2ouchables, followed by the Court TV broadcasts of the trials themselves. Then a reality show about how these pirates cope with prison and entrance back into society.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

That all sounds so much worse than sitting through "The Expendables" in the first place.

In lieu of opting to downloading another Sly Stallone ego trip and getting in trouble for it, might I suggest renting "Sucker Punch" from Redbox?

Guest said:

Cop Land was awesome.

Benny26 Benny26, TechSpot Paladin, said:

I haven't seen 'Expendables' yet...maybe it's a good time to pirate a copy.

But alas, I'm a good boy, and my bandwidth wouldn't allow it anyway; "Expendables 57" would be kicking around by the time my download had finished.

treetops treetops said:

When you make a good movie people pay to see it, when you make a bad movie people torrent it, watch it for 20 minutes and then wish they had there 20 minutes back. Iv never seen the expendable and god willing never will. I give sucker punch 7\10.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

When you make a good movie people pay to see it, when you make a bad movie people torrent it, watch it for 20 minutes and then wish they had there 20 minutes back.
Sadly, the offending bandwidth is only a memory too.
I give sucker punch 7\10.
That's about 3 1/2 stars, gotta be worth a buck, right?

r8bwp said:

yep i bought the expendables 4/10, sniff what a sack of cack. Watch Red instead much better in everyway 8.5/10 . suckerpunch great action. 8/10

Guest said:

As more inexpensive is a product so more people prefer it and vice versa.

So isn't true that all the people who have seen the movie for zero price they will want to see the movie for a non-zero price.

So if someone don't want buy a movie and see it for free there is no loss for anyone.

stewi0001 stewi0001 said:

Can we just sue Hollywood for lacking creativity and for all the ideas they have stolen from people who never got credit?

Guest said:

The impudently large crowd of alleged pirates definitely contributed to this outcome. Smaller cases don't get as much publicity. http://fightcopyrighttrolls.com

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