Attention movie pirates: New round of lawsuits coming

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Attention movie pirates: New round of lawsuits coming

Fri Jul 16, 2010 @ 12:30PM PST

By Eriq Gardner

Picture 12EXCLUSIVE: Get ready for the second phase of a litigation campaign against thousands of individuals accused of pirating "The Hurt Locker" and other films.

The U.S. Copyright Group, which is representing a handful of independent film production companies, has signed up 15 law firms across the continental U.S. to act as local counsel and begin filing individual lawsuits against those alleged file-sharers who refused to settle.

Beginning the first week of August, expect an explosion of lawsuits around the nation.

Meanwhile, there's other news in this litigation campaign.

Two weeks ago, a federal judge ordered the U.S. Copyright Group to cooperate with the EFF, ACLU, Public Citizen and others in drafting a notice that would be sent out to those flagged for alleged copyright infringement in these cases, explaining their legal rights.

Hardly surprising that the parties aren't seeing eye-to-eye so far. 

The amici groups have gone back to the judge now, hoping to compel the plaintiffs into adopting their suggestions about what the alleged pirates should see in the notices.

The amici groups have submitted a memorandum to the court expressing concerns that the proposed notice contains legal terms and phrases such as "motion to quash" that will go over the head of those without legal training. Additionally, they want the notice to explicitly mention grounds for opposition, including joinder issues and the First Amendment.

Here's the proposed notice, which has been redlined with suggested additions by the amici groups.

And here's an alternative notice drafted by the amici groups.

The amici groups want the plaintiffs to maintain a website that will contain copies of principal case documents, such as a motion for early discovery and motions to quash. They point to precedents such as the site set up in the Google Books case that informed class members about their rights and options in the aftermath of a settlement.

Of course, this isn't a class action per se, and we're not aware of any plaintiff that has had to maintain a website before trial and without a settlement. But a case where thousands of "John Does" are being sued for copyright infringement has been treading new ground from the get-go.

Regardless of the judge's decision on the proposed notice, new lawsuits will be filed soon. By subpoenaing the records of ISPs, a fair number of the targeted "John Does" have already been identified, especially in some of the early cases involving such films as "Far Cry," "Steam Experiment," "Uncross the Stars" and "Call of the Wild 3D."

We'll have more big news on this litigation campaign soon.

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The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to [email protected]

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