Monday, May 30, 2011

Bounty hunters track down hackers on the Web

United States, the war against illegal downloading of copyrighted movies is changing in nature. For years, the Hollywood majors conduct their proceedings according to a strictly punitive: everyone caught can be dragged to court and sentenced to a heavy fine. These procedures are expensive, but no matter, because the goal is to make examples.

However, in recent months, there appears a new breed of pirate hunters, who tend to be bounty hunters. One of the pioneers of this new business is the U.S. Copyright Group (USCG), which despite its name associative connotation, is the commercial arm of the law firm of Dunlap, Grubb & Weaver, based in Washington.

Lawyers spot a pirated movie on the large-scale peer-to-peer Bittorrent, then contact the producer to spend with him an agreement to share any revenue in case of "capture". Once the contract is signed, USCG is the IP numbers of computers downloading the movie. Then he filed a complaint against "X.

.." and asks a court to compel Internet service providers to deliver the identity of subscribers with corresponding numbers. Once it gets the name and address of a suspected downloader, USCG sends a letter announcing that he will be prosecuted, and he faces a fine of 150,000 dollars (105,000 euros) per download ..

. Then the letter offers an alternative: whether to pay immediately a lump sum of 1,500 dollars, all charges will be dropped. The steps are minimal: the homepage of the site USCG is a form of electronic payment accepting all types of credit cards. If the accused is reluctant, the offer remains valid for a few weeks, but the amount due up to 2500 dollars.

Soon, USCG has found customers, but at the beginning, business has languished. Some judges were reluctant to send their collective orders to ISPs, which, in turn, were the resistance, because the information of their customers do not seem to them good for their image. Then, on May 10, USCG has won a spectacular victory: A judge in Washington ordered several providers to deliver on-field names and addresses ...

23 322 Internet users suspected of downloading The Expendables, the latest film by Sylvester Stallone. If the case is completed, it could theoretically yield up to 35 million. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the lawyers have a much longer list, but they have researched the defendants to select the most creditworthy.

Harassment complaint This court may spawn vocations. Already, producers of pornographic films launch similar operations. Here, blackmail is obvious. If the alleged offender refuses to pay, there will be a public trial - and whatever the verdict, his family, his neighbors and his boss have learned that one evening he used the family computer to download this kind of movie.

The judicial machine starts thrashing. Several associations of civil liberties have filed a complaint against USCG, citing breaches of procedure. A user of Massachusetts, who claims to have been charged in error, contacted other victims to organize a collective complaint of harassment. USCG-cons then attacked with a new lawsuit against the recalcitrant.

In Florida, a lawyer sells standard folders for use by defendants who wish to defend. USCG has already filed a complaint against this colleague. Article published in the edition of 31.05.11

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