After filing its high-profile infringement case against Hurt Locker file-sharers back in May, the US Copyright Group went quiet. While the lawyers moved against the 14,000 anonymous “Doe” defendants they have accused of sharing films online this year, US Copyright Group appeared to suffer a summer drought. No new cases were filed.
That changed as summer gave way to fall. On August 30, US Copyright Group filed a new Doe lawsuit against 2,177 defendants over the slasher film Cornered!. The film features a masked killer (complete with zipper over his mouth) who attacks a group of lowlifes during an evening poker game above a liquor store. Steve Guttenberg, of all people, gets top billing in the film.
A week later, another 171 Does were accused of sharing the film Familiar Strangers (tag line: “Dogs. Donkeys. Denial. There’s no place like home.”). All lawsuits were filed in the Washington, DC federal district court, which has been true of the other films represented by US Copyright Group.
These new cases bring the total number of people sued by US Copyright Group to over 16,200—and that’s in just nine months.
It’s unclear how much revenue this scheme is pulling in. After going to court and obtaining subpoenas, US Copyright Group can force an Internet provider to convert its lists of IP addresses into real names and locations. At that point, it can mail out tough letters asking for settlement money to make the case go away.
ACS Law, the main law firm doing this in the UK, requests smaller amounts of money but says that its payment rate from the letters alone is around 20 percent. The US Copyright Group letters we’ve seen ask for over $1,000 (and sometimes more than $2,000), but for our purposes let’s assume the average amount of cash actually collected is $800. If US Copyright Group can covert 20 percent of its 16,000 Does into settlements, that translates into $2.5 million.
Half to two-thirds of this money is likely shared with the P2P detection firm Guardaley and the copyright holder; that leaves $800,000 to $1.25 million for Dunlap, Grubb, and Weaver, the law firm behind the US Copyright Group and the firm that registered the business name.
Not too shabby for a few months of work—and one can see how such an approach could scale up quickly, assuming the lawyers can convince more copyright holders to sign on.
Not everyone takes kindly to this business model. Dunlap, Grubb, & Weaver were hit this week by a distributed denial of service attack originating with the group Anonymous, which has spent the last 10 days targeting antipiracy firms around the world. (The website is currently back online.)
Yesterday, someone took things a step further. According to Leesburg, Virginia media and the police department (hat tip: Torrentfreak), someone e-mailed a bomb threat to Dunlap, Grubb, & Weaver’s main Leesburg office. Bomb-sniffing dogs were called out but nothing was found.