The US Copyright Group is after the blood of more than 23,000 people accused of illegally downloading the 2010 action film "The Expendables." A federal judge has authorized subpoenas forcing internet service providers to reveal the accountholders behind 23,322 IP addresses (PDF) caught downloading and sharing the movie – that's up from 6,500 when the law firm initially filed the case in February.

Subpoenas are expected to be issued this week to basically every major US ISP, including AT&T, Charter, Comcast, Cox, Frontier, Optimum Online, Qwest, Time Warner, SBC, Sprint, Verizon and others. The accused should receive letters demanding a settlement fee shortly thereafter. It's unclear how much the Copyright Group will demand, but previous cases have requested up to $3,000.

This marks the largest BitTorrent downloading case in US history, with the second-largest case involving 15,551 filesharers for downloading pornographic films, but subpoenas haven't been approved in that case. The US Copyright Group has inspired other lawyers to use the same scare tactics and more than 140,000 BitTorrent users now being targeted in similar John Doe suits across the country.

This news comes only days after another US judge declined a subpoena request in a similar case (VPR Internationale v. Does 1-1017) involving a Canadian adult film company. Judge Harold Baker ruled that an IP address is not equivalent to a person, saying the infringer might be the accused subscriber, someone in the subscriber's household, a visitor, a neighbor, or even someone parked on the street.

On the other side of the pond, European regulators are considering implementing a Europe-wide firewall to censor "inappropriate" websites, including those involving the illegal download of copyrighted material. Meanwhile, UK ISP TalkTalk unveiled a new system today that will act similarly with the ability to block malware as well as restrict access to BitTorrent and other filesharing sites.