Tag Archives: Voltage Pictures

Hitman’s Bodyguard Pirates Get Automated $300 Fine

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/hitmans-bodyguard-pirates-get-automated-300-fine-171007/

Late August a ‘piracy disaster‘ struck the makers of The Hitman’s Bodyguard, an action comedy movie featuring Hollywood stars Samuel L. Jackson and Ryan Reynolds.

The film was leading the box office charts when, eight days after its theatrical release, a high definition copy hit various pirate sites.

While it’s hard to predict whether the leak substantially impacted the movie’s revenue, the people behind the film are determined to claim damages. They hired the services of “Rights Enforcement,” an outfit which tracks down BitTorrent pirates.

Rights Enforcement sends automated ‘fines’ via DMCA notices, which is cheaper than expensive lawsuits. At the same time, this also makes the settlement process easier to scale, as they can send out tens of thousands of ‘fines’ at once with limited resources, without any oversight from a court.

TorrentFreak has seen several notices targeted at The Hitman’s Bodyguard pirates. While the notices themselves don’t list the settlement fee, recipients are referred to a page that does. Those who admit guilt are asked to pay a $300 settlement fee.

“We have evidence that someone using your Internet service has placed a media file that contains the protected content for our client’s motion picture in a shared folder location and is enabling others to download copies of this content,” the notices warn.

Part of the DMCA notice

The text, which is forwarded by several ISPs, is cleverly worded. The account holders in question are notified that if the issue isn’t resolved, they may face a lawsuit.

“You may consider this a notice of potential lawsuit, a demand for the infringing activity to terminate, and a demand for damages from the actual infringer. We invite your voluntary cooperation in assisting us with this matter, identifying the infringer, and ensuring that this activity stops. Should the infringing activity continue we may file a civil lawsuit seeking judicial relief.”

The email points users to the settlement portal where they can review the claim and a possible solution. In this case, “resolving” the matter will set account holders back a hefty $300.



People are free to ignore the claim, of course, but Rights Enforcement warns that if the infringements continue they might eventually be sued.

“If you do not settle the claim and you continue to infringe then odds are you will eventually be sued and face substantial civil liability. So first thing is to stop the activity and make sure you are not involved with infringing activity in the future.”

The notice also kindly mentions that the recipients can contact an attorney for legal advice. However, after an hour or two a legal bill will have exceeded the proposed settlement amount, so for many this isn’t really an option.

It’s quite a clever scheme. Although most people probably won’t be sued for ignoring a notice, there’s always the possibility that they will. Especially since Rights Enforcement is linked to some of the most prolific copyright trolls.

The company, which emerged earlier this year, is operated by lawyer Carl Crowell who is known for his work with movie studios such as Voltage Pictures. In the past, he filed lawsuits for several films such as Dallas Buyers Club and The Hurt Locker.

When faced with a threat of an expensive lawsuit, even innocent subscribers may be inclined to pay the settlement. They should be warned, however, once the first payment is made, many similar requests may follow.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Healthy Aussie Pirates Set To Face Cash ‘Fines’, Poor & Sick Should Be OK

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/healthy-aussie-pirates-set-to-face-cash-fines-poor-sick-should-be-ok-170821/

One of the oldest methods of trying to get people to stop downloading and sharing pirated material is by hitting them with ‘fines’.

The RIAA began the practice in September 2003, tracking people sharing music on early peer-to-peer networks, finding out their identities via ISPs, and sending them cease-and-desist orders with a request to pay hundreds to thousands of dollars.

Many thousands of people were fined and the campaign raised awareness, but it did nothing to stop millions of file-sharers who continue to this day.

That’s something that Village Roadshow co-chief Graham Burke now wants to do something about. He says his company will effectively mimic the RIAA’s campaign of 14 years ago and begin suing Internet pirates Down Under. He told AFR that his company is already setting things up, ready to begin suing later in the year.

Few details have been made available at this stage but it’s almost certain that Village Roadshow’s targets will be BitTorrent users. It’s possible that users of other peer-to-peer networks could be affected but due to their inefficiency and relative obscurity, it’s very unlikely.

That leaves users of The Pirate Bay and any other torrent site vulnerable to the company, which will jump into torrent swarms masquerading as regular users, track IP addresses, and trace them back to Internet service providers. What happens next will depend on the responses of those ISPs.

If the ISPs refuse to cooperate, they will have to be taken to court to force them to hand over the personal details of their subscribers to Village Roadshow. It’s extremely unlikely they’ll hand them over voluntarily, so it could be some time before any ISP customer hears anything from the film distributor.

The bottom line is that Village Roadshow will want money to go away and Burke is already being open over the kind of sums his company will ask for.

“We will be looking for damages commensurate with what they’ve done. We’ll be saying ‘You’ve downloaded our Mad Max: Fury Road, our Red Dog, and we want $40 for the four movies plus $200 in costs’,” he says.

While no one will relish any kind of ‘bill’ dropping through a mail box, in the scheme of things a AUS$240 settlement demand isn’t huge, especially when compared to the sums demanded by companies such as Voltage Pictures, who tried and failed to start piracy litigation in Australia two years ago.

However, there’s even better news for some, who have already been given a heads-up that they won’t have to pay anything.

“We will identify people who are stealing our product, we will ask them do they have ill health or dire circumstances, and if they do and undertake to stop, we’ll drop the case,” Burke says.

While being upfront about such a policy has its pros and cons, Burke is also reducing his range of targets, particularly if likes to be seen as a man of his word, whenever those words were delivered. In March 2016, when he restated his intention to begin suing pirates, he also excluded some other groups from legal action.

“We don’t want to sue 16-year-olds or mums and dads,” Burke said. “It takes 18 months to go through the courts and all that does is make lawyers rich and clog the court system. It’s not effective.”

It will remain to be seen what criteria Village Roadshow ultimately employs but it’s likely the company will be asked to explain its intentions to the court, when it embarks on the process to discover alleged pirates’ identities. When it’s decided who is eligible, Burke says the gloves will come off, with pirates being “pursued vigorously” and “sued for damages.”

While Village Roadshow’s list of films is considerable, any with a specifically Australian slant seem the most likely to feature in any legal action. Burke tends to push the narrative that he’s looking after local industry so something like Mad Max: Fury Road would be perfect. It would also provide easy pickings for any anti-piracy company seeking to harvest Aussie IP addresses since it’s still very popular.

Finally, it’s worth noting that Australians who use pirate streaming services will be completely immune to the company’s planned lawsuit campaign. However, Burke appears to be tackling that threat using a couple of popular tactics currently being deployed elsewhere by the movie industry.

“Google are not doing enough and could do a lot more,” he told The Australian (subscription)

Burke said that he was “shocked” at how easy it was to find streaming content using Google’s search so decided to carry out some research of his own at home. He said he found Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk with no difficulty but that came with a sting in the tail.

According to the movie boss, his computer was immediately infected with malware and began asking for his credit card details. He doesn’t say whether he put them in.

As clearly the world’s most unlucky would-be movie pirate, Burke deserves much sympathy. It’s also completely coincidental that Hollywood is now pushing a “danger” narrative to keep people away from pirate sites.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Lawyer Says He Was Deceived Into BitTorrent Copyright Trolling Scheme

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/lawyer-says-he-was-deceived-into-bittorrent-copyright-trolling-scheme-170807/

For more than a decade, companies around the world have been trying to turn piracy into profit. For many this has meant the development of “copyright trolling” schemes, in which alleged pirates are monitored online and then pressured into cash settlements.

The shadowy nature of this global business means that its true scale will never be known but due to the controversial activities of some of the larger players, it’s occasionally possible to take a peek inside their operations. One such opportunity has just raised its head.

According to a lawsuit filed in California, James Davis is an attorney licensed in Oregon and California. Until two years ago, he was largely focused on immigration law. However, during March 2015, Davis says he was approached by an old classmate with an opportunity to get involved in a new line of business.

That classmate was Oregon lawyer Carl Crowell, who over the past several years has been deeply involved in copyright-trolling cases, including a deluge of Dallas Buyers Club and London Has Fallen litigation. He envisioned a place for Davis in the business.

Davis seemed to find the proposals attractive and became seriously involved in the operation, filing 58 cases on behalf of the companies involved. In common with similar cases, the lawsuits were brought in the name of the entities behind each copyrighted work, such as Dallas Buyers Club, LLC and LHF Productions, Inc.

In time, however, things started to go wrong. Davis claims that he discovered that Crowell, in connection with and on behalf of the other named defendants, “misrepresented the true nature of the Copyright Litigation Campaign, including the ownership of the works at issue and the role of the various third-parties involved in the litigation.”

Davis says that Crowell and the other defendants (which include the infamous Germany-based troll outfit Guardaley) made false representations to secure his participation, while holding back other information that might have made him think twice about becoming involved.

“Crowell and other Defendants withheld numerous material facts that were known to Crowell and the knowledge of which would have cast doubt on the value and ethical propriety of the Copyright Litigation Campaign for Mr. Davis,” the lawsuit reads.

Davis goes on to allege serious misconduct, including that representations regarding ownership of various entities were false and used to deceive him into participating in the scheme.

As time went on, Davis said he had increasing doubts about the operation. Then, in August 2016 as a result of a case underway in California, he began asking questions which resulted in him uncovering additional facts. These undermined both the representations of the people he was working for and his own belief in the “value and ethical propriety of the Copyright Litigation Campaign,” the lawsuit claims.

Davis said this spurred him on to “aggressively seek further information” from Crowell and other people involved in the scheme, including details of its structure and underlying support. He says all he received were “limited responses, excuses, and delays.”

The case was later dismissed by mutual agreement of the parties involved but of course, Davis’ concerns about the underlying case didn’t come to the forefront until the filing of his suit against Crowell and the others.

Davis says that following a meeting in Santa Monica with several of the main players behind the litigation campaign, he decided its legal and factual basis were unsound. He later told Crowell and Guardaley that he was withdrawing from their project.

As the result of the misrepresentations made to him, Davis is now suing the defendants on a number of counts, detailed below.

“Defendants’ business practices are unfair, unlawful, and fraudulent. Davis has suffered monetary damage as a direct result of the unfair, unlawful, and fraudulent business practices set forth herein,” the lawsuit reads.

Requesting a trial by jury, Davis is seeking actual damages, statutory damages, punitive or treble damages “in the amount of no less than $300,000.”

While a payment of that not insignificant amount would clearly satisfy Davis, the prospect of a trial in which the Guardaley operation is laid bare would be preferable when the interests of its thousands of previous targets are considered.

Only time will tell how things will pan out but like the vast majority of troll cases, this one too seems destined to be settled in private, to ensure the settlement machine keeps going.

Note: The case was originally filed in June, only to be voluntarily dismissed. It has now been refiled in state court.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

New Automated DMCA Notices Hit Movie Pirates With $300 Fines

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/new-automated-dmca-notices-hit-movie-pirates-300-fines-170311/

Many Hollywood insiders see online piracy as a major threat, but very few are willing to target file-sharers with lawsuits or settlement demands.

Voltage Pictures was one of the pioneers on this front, at least in the US. Together with their legal team and BitTorrent tracking partner, the filmmakers have sued tens of thousands of people since 2010.

Initially, this was a very lucrative practice, as rightsholders were able to join many defendants in a single lawsuit. However, nowadays courts are more reserved, which is one of the reasons they started to look for alternatives.

One interesting development on this front is the company “Rights Enforcement.” This outfit tracks down BitTorrent pirates, but instead of taking them to court they send automated ‘fines’ via DMCA notices, asking for a $300 settlement.

By using the DMCA notice process, the rightsholders avoid expensive lawsuits. It also makes the settlement process easier to scale, since they can send out tens of thousands of ‘fines’ at once with limited resources.

While these schemes are not new, Rightscorp and CEG TEK have done the same, Rights Enforcement has a nasty sting in store for accused pirates.

The company is operated by lawyer Carl Crowell, who is best known for his work with various notorious copyright trolls. This includes the aforementioned Voltage Pictures, which filed lawsuits for several movies such as Dallas Buyers Club and The Hurt Locker.

These ties appear to be still intact, as the Rights Enforcement company lists several movies on its client list, many of which are linked to Voltage Pictures. Dallas Buyers Club is on there for example, as well as I.T., Mr. Church, Fathers & Daughters, Pay the Ghost, The Cobbler, and Good Kill.

Rights Enforcement Website

The client list suggests that that the makers of these movies are now trying to extract settlement money from alleged file-sharers through automated settlements, because this is cheaper and possibly more profitable.

This is also what Rights Enforcement suggests on its website:

“Online infringement, including ‘peer-to-peer’ copying of material across the Internet is pervasive. Too often parties and rights holders are forced into the expensive forum of the courts,” the outfit writes.

“With filing fees of $400 and copyright damages in some jurisdictions reaching $150,000 for a single act, we work to permit rights holders to notify and address infringers and resolve their claims in an efficient and cost effective manner.”

The ‘sting’ with Rights Enforcement, is that they have a team of known ‘troll’ lawyers lined up to wave the legal stick. In other words, if targeted subscribers are unwilling to pay but mistakenly identify themselves, they can still be taken to court.

They are not shy to use this threat either. In their automated DMCA settlement notices Rights Enforcement warns that a failure to cooperate can lead to legal action.

“You may consider this a notice of potential lawsuit, a demand for the infringing activity to terminate, and a demand for damages from the actual infringer,” the automated email reads.

“We invite your voluntary cooperation in assisting us with this matter, identifying the infringer, and ensuring that this activity stops. Should the infringing activity continue we may file a civil lawsuit seeking judicial relief.”

It’s currently unknown who does the BitTorrent tracking, but according to defense lawyer Robert Cashman, it’s likely that the German outfit Guardaley is involved.

TorrentFreak spoke with Cashman, who has represented several accused pirates in the past. He is warning people against Rights Enforcement, describing it as a “monster” and the “evil twin” of settlement outfit CEG TEK.

The lawyer believes that the evidence used by Rights Enforcement might lead to inaccurate accusations, which Rights Enforcement will pursue in an aggressive fashion.

“So in essence, Right Enforcement will be a monster. It’ll be an evil version of what CEG-TEK strove to become,” Cashman says.

The link with CEG TEK comes up because it stopped sending out settlement requests recently. The company, which represented a current Rights Enforcement client in the recent past, now states on its website that it’s no longer offering settlement services. That said, we haven’t been able to find a direct link between the two outfits.

On a similar note, Rights Enforcement “boss” Carl Crowell was previously hired by another settlement firm, Rightscorp. While this may have served as inspiration, we haven’t seen any direct ties.

One thing’s for sure, though. Given the outspokenness of Crowell and the aggressive tactics he and other partners have employed in the past, this is certainly not the last time we’ll hear of Rights Enforcement.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Accused “Pirate” Questions Dallas Buyers Club’s Copyright Claim

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/accused-pirate-questions-dallas-buyers-clubs-copyright-claim-160718/

dallasMovie studio Voltage Pictures is no stranger to suing BitTorrent users.

The company has filed lawsuits against alleged pirates in the United States, Europe, Canada and Australia, and is estimated to have made a lot of money doing so.

Most of these cases target downloaders of the Oscar-winning movie Dallas Buyers Club. Voltage Pictures is one of the production companies behind the film, but as is common in Hollywood, it’s not the sole rightsholder.

In fact, another company named “Dallas Buyers Club LLC” (DBC) has also filed dozens of cases against pirates. While one might think that both rightsholders are working in tandem, they are in fact fighting over the anti-piracy loot behind the scenes.

In a case DBC and Truth Entertainment filed against Voltage Pictures last year (pdf), the latter is accused of various deceptive practices, including breach of contract and fraud.

The two plaintiffs suggest that Voltage has been holding back money from foreign proceeds. They further state that the production company hasn’t been open about its practices.

Aside from claims that money has gone missing, its anti-piracy methods are also under the spotlight. According to DBC, Voltage hasn’t provided any details on enforcement actions, nor has it shared any of the proceeds from its anti-piracy efforts.

“DBC entered into an Agreement with Voltage to act as its agent to enforce Anti-piracy actions against people who have illegally downloaded or otherwise obtained the ability to watch the movie without paying for the right to watch it,” the filing reads.

“The only updates DBC receives are thorough, mostly negative, media reports about the actions of Voltage around the World. DBC has not received any funds, reports, updates or any information from Voltage on the status numerous lawsuits filed around the World in the name of DBC.”

Where’s the anti-piracy bounty?

voltagedbc

While the paperwork doesn’t explicitly state that both parties agreed to share the anti-piracy bounty, the claims above suggest that this is the case. Most interesting, perhaps, is that it’s unclear whether all enforcement actions are ultimately driven by Voltage.

This confusing situation is casting doubt over the legitimacy of these piracy lawsuits, as FCT highlights. This prompted Nicholas Ranallo, attorney for an accused “pirate”, to ask a California federal court for an extra safeguard.

Ranallo mentions that there is doubt over who owns the movie and he cites the legal battle between Dallas Buyers Club LLC, in whose name his defendant was sued, and Voltage.

“It is unclear what rights (if any) are actually held by Voltage Pictures or the suing entities, though it is abundantly clear that Voltage Pictures controls the litigation and keeps the proceeds collected on behalf of the purported plaintiffs,” Ranallo writes.

The amended complaint against the accused pirate identifies Dallas Buyers Club LLC as the owner, but the original complaint listed Truth LLC as such. Then again, the DVD cover and other material list Voltage as the copyright holder.

“Various advertising and promotional materials cast further doubt about the claims that Dallas Buyers Club LLC owns the relevant copyright(s), and reveal a myriad of entities that have, at one time or another, claimed copyright in the film.”

As a safeguard, Ranallo asks the court to require Dallas Buyers Club to post a $50,000 bond (pdf), to secure costs and attorney fees if the suspicions do indeed hold ground.

While it’s not uncommon for several companies to have a stake in a single movie, it will be interesting to see if this case leads to more clarity over the rights they have to pursue a copyright claim in court.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Canadian Movie Pirates Targeted in Reverse Class Action

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/canadian-movie-pirates-targeted-in-reverse-class-action-160429/

When it comes to the business model of turning piracy into profit, the name Voltage Pictures is never far from the action.

The Los Angeles-based movie outfit has tested the legal waters in several jurisdictions in an effort to extract cash settlements from alleged pirates, most recently in Australia with its movie Dallas Buyers Club.

In 2012, Voltage targeted Canadian ISP Teksavvy in a long drawn out battle to identify 2000 allegedly pirating users in order to force them to settle. Now, four years later, Voltage are back again with a new strategy.

This week the company filed an application in Federal Court, requesting certification of a reverse class action against an unquantified number of BitTorrent users who alleged shared five movies including The Cobbler, Pay the Ghost, Good Kill, Fathers and Daughters, and American Heist.

According to law professor Michael Geist, reverse class actions are very rare in Canada with only a few having been reported. The application of a reverse class action in a copyright case appears to be unprecedented.

voltage-class

“Class actions typically involve a representative plaintiff who represents many others who have suffered the same harms from the actions of the defendant. Reverse class actions feature a single plaintiff (Voltage) and multiple defendants (the alleged file sharers),” Geist explains.

According to the case documents (pdf) Voltage intends to build its case around a single and as-yet-unidentified customer of ISP Rogers. He or she is referred to as John Doe #1 and by the IP address allocated when the alleged offense took place.

“Through custom-designed software designed to track copyright infringements, and the online identities of those who commit such infringements (by way of IP address and time of infringement), the Voltage Parties have identified many thousand instances of their films (including the Works) being illegally offered for download from Individuals using the Internet,” the Voltage application reads.

“The proposed Representative Respondent, John Doe #1, as well as each member of the proposed Respondent Class….are persons whose names and identities are currently unknown to the Voltage Parties, but who have unlawfully, and without the Voltage Parties’ authorization or consent, infringed copyright in the Works, including by illegally uploading and distributing the Works for free, in full or in part, over the internet.”

rogers-doe

Interestingly, Voltage is open about the reasons behind this new strategy, noting that widespread piracy and the high cost of litigation means it has sought a cheaper way to target large numbers of infringers at once.

“The Voltage Parties seek to certify this Application as a class proceeding as a way to address these issues and obtain reasonable compensation for the significant damages that each proposed Class Member has caused, in a cost-effective and fair manner for both the Voltage Parties and the proposed Class Members,” the application reads.

Voltage accuses the Class Members of three “Unlawful Acts” including making movies available for download via BitTorrent, advertising by way of the BitTorrent protocol that a work is available for download by each member, and failing to take “reasonable steps” to ensure that downloaders were authorized by law to do so.

But the big question remains – could such a strategy work? Professor Geist has his doubts.

“One of the biggest concerns involves questions of representation for the defendant class. Before certification [of the reverse class action], the court will want assurance that the interests of the defendants will be fairly represented. But who will represent those interests? Who will pay for the legal counsel?” Geist asks.

“Unlike a plaintiff-led class action, where lawyers are often willing to invest in the case, there is no payoff at the end of this case and finding someone to represent the class will be a challenge when the only named representative is John Doe #1.”

But the problems don’t stop there. Geist says that in a certified reverse class action defendants actually have the option to opt out of the class.

“In other words, after going through the process of trying to meet the requirements for class proceedings, all the defendants will be permitted to simply walk away,” he explains.

If they do, however, other questions are raised, including whether those who opt-out will be allowed to keep their anonymity. If they are not, this could play right into Voltage’s hands.

Copyright cases are complex in their own right but this strategy from Voltage will set in motion a vigorous scratching of heads. Definitely one to watch.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.