Despite the occasional legal or ethical concerns, person-to-person file sharing isn’t likely to disappear any time soon. That said, BitTorrent users in the Kansas City area are understandably concerned about the ever-increasing stream of subpoenas and lawsuits filed by the U.S. Copyright Group. Although no breakdown by area is available, nationwide more than 23,000 people may find themselves on the hot seat after the latest round of subpoenas in what is being described as the biggest illegal download suit ever filed.
Wired.com reported Monday that a federal judge has approved a subpoena requested by the U.S. Copyright Group. The subpoena demands that internet service providers (ISP) provide subscriber information for 23,322 IP addresses that were used to download Sylvester Stallone’s 2010 action movie, The Expendables.
The U.S. Copyright Group is a business registered by the law firm Dunlap, Grubb & Weaver, and began operating in early 2010. Working solely for film makers, it uses custom software to monitor BitTorrent traffic and record the IP addresses of file sharers. It has filed dozens of suits and demanded identifying information for hundreds of thousands of subscribers based only on IP addresses. Once identified, the group files suit, naming thousands of defendants. These defendants are then sent letters informing them of their involvement in a lawsuit and referring to the maximum penalties possible under the law, before offering a quick settlement in return for a cash payment of anywhere from $1000 to $3000. At this point, none of the suits filed have actually proceeded to trial, and the cases have been dismissed against thousands of the defendants as being improperly filed.
The Expendables subpoena was approved just days after District Court Judge Harold Baker had denied a subpoena in an almost identical case. Baker ruled that an IP address does not sufficiently identify a specific person as being involved in an illegal download, and cited a recent FBI raid in a child pornography case. The raid targeted a home identified by IP information, but the home’s wireless network had actually been accessed by a neighbor.
BitTorrent users can use the IP Detective at Wired.com to see if their IP address is included in one of several lawsuits currently in progress. There’s no need to know the IP address before using the widget; it will automatically determine the IP address of the computer accessing the site.