Google and Yahoo were among the top advertising networks servicing the most ads on pirate sites, according to a new study unveiled Thursday. The analysis by the Annenberg Innovation Lab at the University of Southern California found that Pasadena, California-based …
Beginning in a few weeks, the nation’s major internet service providers will roll out an initiative — backed by Obama and pushed by Hollywood and the record labels — to disrupt and possibly terminate internet access for online copyright scofflaws …
Two men are being ordered to pay $1.5 million each for uploading gay pornographic movies to file-sharing sites without permission from the Florida distributor, Flava Works.
Both Cormelian Brown (.pdf) of Delaware and Kywan Fisher (.pdf) of Virginia were ordered to pay the maximum $150,000 fine for each of 10 Flava Works films a judge concluded that they separately uploaded to Gay-Torrents.net and other sites.
The damages, the maximum allowed under law, are the highest ever in BitTorrent cases.
By comparison, Jammie Thomas-Rasset, the first music file-sharer to go to trial, was dinged $2 million by a federal jury in 2009 for sharing 24 MP3s on Kazaa, the now-defunct file-sharing service.
In the gay porn case, neither defendant appeared in court nor were they represented by lawyers. As a result, default judgements against the two were made days ago by two different Chicago federal judges who found the defendants liable for infringement based on watermarking technology that Flava Works uses to track its films. Flava Works applies a unique watermark to each film that is downloaded, which is associated with the customer who downloads it. Watermarks assigned to the two defendants were discovered copied thousands of times on the internet, Flava Works said.
Daliah Saper, a Chicago attorney representing other defendants in the litigation, said no IP addresses ever linked any of the defendants to the purloined torrents — just the unique watermarks, which she is challenging in court as unreliable.
Neither of the defendants could be reached for comment. Fisher did not answer phone calls made to what is believed to be his residence. Contact information for Brown could not immediately be determined.
Meanith Huon, Flava Works’ attorney, declined comment.
A handful of pornography producers are being accused of racketeering, fraud, defamation and other charges in connection to their BitTorrent online litigation trolling strategies.
The program is simple: They sue IP addresses in court — addresses detected to have allegedly and unlawfully downloaded copyrighted pornography without permission. Often, judges in these cases order internet service providers to cough up the identities of the account holders of the ISP — and the shakedown begins, according to the Kentucky federal court suit (.pdf), which seeks class-action status.
The companies have no intention of litigating, but instead demand settlements from $1,000 to $5,000, and many people settle due to the fear of embarrassment over being accused of downloading pornography. Moreover, under the U.S. Copyright Act, defendants face up to $150,000 in fines for a single copyright violation.
The suit comes a week after a federal judge declared a BitTorrent lawsuit brought by Malibu Media “an extortion scheme.”
We’ve written about the scams repeatedly, and a year ago we were aware of 130,000 IP addresses targeted.
In contrast to the Recording Industry Association of America’s much-criticized and now-abandoned litigation war against music pirates — which targeted 20,000 downloaders in six years — the movie lawsuits appear to have been designed from the start as a for-profit endeavor, not as a deterrent to piracy.
“The pornography purveyors know that this amount of money is less than the cost of defense would be if suit were filed. They also know that individuals such as the plaintiff in this matter are embarrassed to have their names associated with pornography, and therefore, are susceptible to being shaken down,” according to the suit, which claims it could represent as many as 200,000 people.
“In fact, if the individuals could be proven to have downloaded the pornography unlawfully from the internet, the pornography purveyors could collect civil statutory damages of $150,000 for a willful infringement such as they allege, yet they settle for $1,000-$5,000.”
The RIAA was hit with a similar lawsuit years ago, but that eventually fizzled.
Lory Lybeck, a Washington state attorney not connected to the Kentucky class action, said he is defending hundreds of clients accused of downloading porn. “There’s a slime element associated with the porn cases, which makes it much more apparent than the music cases that there is an extortionist element to this,” he said in a telephone interview.
The case targeting the porn studios was brought on behalf of a Kentucky woman named Jennifer Barker. A representative of Intellectual Property Protection, which works for the porn companies named in the suit, allegedly called her at home and at work seeking a settlement for allegedly downloading X-Art videos produced by Malibu Media, the suit said. She claims she is innocent.
The company, the suit said, “demanded that Ms. Barker pay money to settle the lawsuit or she would be identified publicly as having downloaded pornography and would be subject to hundreds of thousands of dollars as a judgement if the suit went forward because there were multiple downloads.”
Malibu Media did not respond for comment. Third Degree Films and Patrick Collins Inc. declined comment. Raw Films was not immediately reached.
BitTorrent Inc. of San Francisco, the developer of the BitTorrent file-sharing protocol, claims in a federal lawsuit that a German company is ripping off its intellectual property.
San Francisco-based BitTorrent Inc. says its peer-based “branded products and services are used by hundreds of millions of people in the United States and internationally to find, share, and move digital media.” According to a trademark infringement and cybersquatting suit in San Francisco, it claims BitTorrent Marketing GmbH, a German company, is capitalizing on the BitTorrent name and duping users into thinking they are doing business with the real BitTorrent company.
BitTorrent file sharing, aka torrenting, is a protocol often used by online pirates to obtain free music, games and software.
In addition to providing a file-sharing client, BitTorrent Inc. also offers some paid services, including antivirus software, media players and file converters. A BitTorrent Inc. set-top box is in the works that allows people to torrent files right on their televisions.
The company has a registered trademark in the United States of the BitTorrent name, according to last week’s suit.
The German version of its namesake, according to the suit, illegally owns hundreds of infringing domains, some of which redirect to bittorrent.net, which is not owned by the San Francisco company.
According to the suit:
“Defendant is capitalizing on misdirected users who are seeking to avail themselves of BitTorrent’s products and services and are instead led to defendant’s BitTorrent website (through defendant’s use of the infringing domain names.) Users are then presented with offers to access and download digital media and content that they would typically find through plaintiff’s BitTorrent client and protocol, and likely sign up and pay for the services available through defendant’s BitTorrent website under the misimpression that such services are offered by, sponsored by, or affiliated with plaintiff.”
The suit adds that the German company has “an intent to confuse consumers and profit from the goodwill and consumer recognition associated with plaintiff and its BitTorrent trademark.”
The German company has registered the BitTorrent name in Germany and the European Community, which the American company is challenging.
In January, the American company announced that the file-sharing client had 150 million monthly users.
The suit, which demands millions in monetary damages, seeks forfeiture of BitTorrent-like domains and demands that the German company stop using the BitTorrent namesake.
Bram Cohen, a computer programmer, unveiled the BitTorrent file-sharing protocol in 2001. Four years later, Cohen agreed to remove copyrighted material from the official BitTorrent Inc. search engine, although other popular, uncensored search engines remain, including The Pirate Bay.
A 28-year-old California man has pleaded guilty to a single count of criminal copyright infringement for being part of an in-theater camcording group known as IMAGiNE, whose goal was mostly internet cred, not money.
Sean Lovelady faces a maximum 5-year term when sentenced later this year. Under the terms of his Wednesday plea, he agreed to cooperate (.pdf) with the authorities for a potentially reduced term.
Lovelady, one of four men indicted (.pdf) last month in connection to the scheme, was accused of audio-recording films such as Friends With Benefits and Captain America: The First Avenger. Others in the group would record the film at a theater with a camcorder. Then the sound and video would be combined into a full-featured movie, the authorities said.
While the group allegedly took an undisclosed amount of “donations” via PayPal for their services, the main motive appears to be street cred, the authorities said.
“The conspirators informally identified themselves as the IMAGiNE Group and sought, among other things, to be the premier group to first release to the internet copies of new motion pictures only showing in movie theaters,” according to the indictment in the Easter District of Virginia.
Other films the group recorded and uploaded included The Men Who Stare at Goats, Avatar, Clash of the Titans, Iron Man 2, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, and, among others, The Green Hornet.
Assistant Attorney General Breuer said in a statement that the group “sought to become the leading source of pirated movies on the internet.”
That’s a bit over-the-top, given that camcorder releases are of much lower quality than copies ripped from DVDs, don’t look very good even on laptop-sized screens and are a poor replacement for a theater experience.
The authorities said the group utilized servers in France, Canada and the United States to offer in-theater-only movies from websites like unleashthe.net, pure-imagination.us and pure-imagination.info.
The indictment said the group accepted donations “to fund expenses, including the cost of renting servers used by the conspirators, and to accept payments for the unauthorized distribution and sale of pirated copies of copyrighted works.”
The indictment alleges that the IMAGiNE Group’s websites included member profiles, a torrent tracker, discussion forums and a message board.