Tag Archives: Voltage Pictures

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.