Skip to main content

EFF Offers New Help for Targets of Predatory Copyright Infringement Lawsuits

PRESS RELEASE
August 4, 2010
Website Resources Explain Rights and Options for Those Caught in Movie-Downloading Shakedown

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today published "U.S. Copyright Group v. the People," a comprehensive collection of resources designed to assist the thousands of individuals accused of online copyright infringement by a Washington, D.C., law firm calling itself the U.S. Copyright Group (USCG).

Earlier this year, the USCG filed "John Doe" lawsuits on behalf of seven filmmakers implicating well over 14,000 anonymous individuals in alleged unauthorized downloading of independent films, including "Far Cry" and "The Hurt Locker." USCG's strategy appears to be to threaten a judgment of up to $150,000 per downloaded movie -- the maximum penalty allowable by law in copyright suits and a very unlikely judgment in cases arising from a single, noncommercial infringement -- in order to pressure the alleged infringers to settle quickly for $1,500 - $2,500 per person.

EFF's new webpage at http://www.eff.org/uscg has important information for subpoena targets, including explanations of the claims made by USCG, discussions of possible responses, and resources to help people find legal counsel and assistance.

"The people targeted in these mass lawsuits need good information about this situation and their options," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Corynne McSherry. "USCG vs. the People provides answers to the many of the questions faced by anyone who learns their identity is being sought in connection with USCG's campaign or receives an intimidating letter from USCG. It also includes a list of attorneys who are interested in assisting."

"EFF has been concerned about USCG's lawsuit campaign since it first came to light this past spring," said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "USCG has ignored or sidestepped basic legal protections granted to all defendants. We believe it is misusing the lopsided nature of copyright law, which was written largely to target commercial infringers, to shake out settlements from ordinary people with few resources to defend themselves."

In June, EFF along with the ACLU and Public Citizen filed amicus briefs in these cases, arguing that USCG must comply with key legal rules that help protect individual rights. EFF and its co-amici explained that USCG had improperly joined together thousands of defendants, had sued those defendants in the wrong court, and had failed to meet the relevant First Amendment tests for requiring ISPs to identify anonymous customers. In response, a judge hearing some of the cases ordered that better notice be given to those who were targeted that outlined their rights and explained the legal process. The notice includes a link to some of the resources on EFF's website.

For USCG v. The People:
http://www.eff.org/uscg

For the court-ordered notice:
http://www.eff.org/files/filenode/uscg/40-2%20Exhibit%201.pdf

Contacts:

Corynne McSherry
Senior Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
corynne@eff.org

Cindy Cohn
Legal Director
Electronic Frontier Foundation
cindy@eff.org

JavaScript license information