Nicolas Chartier, who produced the Academy Award-winning film "The Hurt Locker," doesn't appear to be backing down from criticism he has received for his plan to sue those who illegally downloaded his movie.
In response to an e-mail he received from someone complaining about his litigation plans, Chartier called the person a "moron" and "stupid," and said "I hope your family and your kids end up in jail one day for stealing, so maybe they can be taught the difference," according to a story in the blog Boing Boing.
So it's on. Chartier is waging a private copyright war on illegal file sharing and will rely on the help of an antipiracy firm called the U.S. Copyright Group. But although Thomas Dunlap, a lawyer at the Copyright Group, told The Hollywood Reporter last week that the multimillion-dollar copyright infringement lawsuit was set to be filed by last Friday, CNET could find no record of the suits nearly a week later.
Chartier and the Copyright Group, which is not affiliated with any government agency, despite the sound of its name, did not respond to interview requests.
One possible reason for the delay in filing lawsuits is that some Internet service providers aren't cooperating. To sue people for online piracy, the Copyright Group must obtain their Internet Protocol addresses from their Internet service providers. That apparently requires an ISP to deploy workers to look up this information, and ISPs say this can cost big money.
The Copyright Group has already filed lawsuits involving 10 other films, including "Far Cry" and "Call of the Wild 3D," according to the Hollywood Reporter story. In those efforts, the firm is attempting to file suit against 50,000 users. Consider that in five years of filing copyright claims against suspected file sharers, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) filed less than 40,000.
Time Warner last week told a federal court that it doesn't have nearly enough employees to look up all the IP addresses that the Copyright Group has requested for "Far Cry." Time Warner said that on average, it receives 567 IP requests per month. Those requests, mostly from law enforcement, deal with everything from child abduction to terrorist activity. The Copyright Group has requested 809 names for "Far Cry" alone.
The ISPs could pose a significant obstacle for the Copyright Group. For nearly a year and a half, the RIAA has tried to convince companies such as Comcast, Time Warner, and AT&T to take on a larger antipiracy role. At best, the results of these efforts to get them to cooperate have been mixed.
As I wrote last week, it must be frustrating for Chartier to see his movie fare so well at the Academy Awards, where it won for "Best Picture," but then do so poorly at the box office.
Chartier's movie was produced by his indie production company, Voltage Pictures, which means that it doesn't see any of the security or legal backing from the Motion Picture Association of America, the trade group representing the largest film studios. After the movie leaked to the Web five months prior to its U.S. debut, "The Hurt Locker" went on to gross only $16 million in this country. According to reports, that likely makes the movie the worst box-office performer of any "Best Picture" Oscar winner.
While there's still no way to accurately measure how much the leaked copies of the movie hurt ticket sales, the Copyright Group offers small indie studios a means to conduct their own antipiracy operations. But as we saw with the RIAA, suing fans of your product can turn into a public-relations nightmare. Legal costs can also skyrocket, when people challenge accusations that they infringed on intellectual property. For instance, The Electronic Frontier Foundation, the advocacy group for tech companies and Internet users, announced that it is looking for attorneys to represent people sued by the Copyright Group.
As for Chartier, don't look for him to stop sending e-mails. He was banned from this year's Oscars after he e-mailed members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to solicit votes for "The Hurt Locker." He apologized later for violating the rules.