Class Action Targets Law Firm Pursuing Thousands of Alleged Movie Pirates
Last year, the U.S. Copyright Group made waves by joining thousands of anonymous defendants together in a handful of lawsuits. Representing producers of such films as The Hurt Locker and Far Cry, the enterprising Washington-based law firm claimed the defendants were infringing its clients' copyrights on BitTorrent and sought to first identify the alleged pirates, and then to either extract settlements or pursue them in court further.
Now the legal campaign has triggered interesting side battles. Last week, a class action lawsuit was filed against the USCG (aka Dunlap, Grubb & Weaver).
The plaintiff, Dmitriy Shirokov, claims that he and 4,576 other individuals have been subject to "settlement fraud and extortion" on the part of the USCG.
According to the 96-page complaint filed in Massachusetts District Court, the defendant is routinely demanding $1,500 from each identified file-sharer, which increases to $2,500 if not settled promptly. The proposed class action asserts that these demands are made with "deceptive threats of impending (and even more expensive) litigation" despite USCG not having any genuine intention to pursue the thousands of claims further.
USCG tells us the claims are coming soon.
The proposed plaintiffs also allege there are flaws in the copyright
registration of Far Cry. Specifically, it's alleged that the registration was obtained under "false pretenses" and that the claims against the accused pirates came before the application of the copyright registration. The allegation, if valid, could impact the amount of damages that defendants have to pay producers down the line.
The class action is probably a long shot, but shows how the USCG is increasingly fighting more assertive defendants and an avalanche of paperwork.
Also last week, the USCG requested sanctions against a lawyer, Graham Syfert, who is selling form motions to quash to anybody accused of pirating Hurt Locker.
For $19.99, customers have access to a do-it-yourself legal defense, including paperwork and instructions. In papers to the court, the USCG claims these form motions are "frivolous" and "procedurally defective." Nevertheless, it is causing the USCG trouble. The firm claims to spend $5,000 for the
time and expense opposing each one.