In a move sure to outrage both file-traders on BitTorrent networks and legal watchdogs, a well-known pornographer has filed a federal copyright suit against 7,098 individuals.
Axel Braun Productions filed the complaint Friday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia, alleging that the defendants illegally shared the adult film "Batman XXX: A Porn Parody." The film was written and directed by Axel Braun and distributed by Vivid Entertainment, one of the country's best known porn studios.
In an interview about the suit with Xbiz Newswire, a publication that follows the adult-film industry, Braun made it clear he's prepared to take on the file-sharing crowd.
"F--- 'em all," Braun told Xbiz. "People don't realize that when you pirate a movie it hurts all of the people who work very hard to get it produced--from the cast to the production assistants to the makeup artists...So we are going after every one of them who pirates our content."
All the tough talk notwithstanding, the large number of defendants named in a single lawsuit is likely to be condemned by leaders at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an advocacy group for Web users and tech companies. EFF leaders have taken a stand against grouping thousands of separate defendants in a single complaint. In an interview two weeks ago, Cindy Cohn, EFF's legal director, told CNET: "If you lump a bunch of people together, it's harder for each individual to have their case heard and evaluated on the merits."
The law firm of Dunlap, Grubb & Weaver resurrected the practice of suing individuals for copyright violations. The firm began filing complaints earlier this year on behalf of independent film studios, including Voltage Pictures, the production company that made the Academy Award winning film "The Hurt Locker."
The music industry undertook a similar campaign from 2003 to 2008.
Several lawyers, including Ken Ford, who represents Braun in the "Batman" case, have adopted a similar strategy to Dunlap's and have filed suits on behalf of adult-filmmakers such as Third World Media and Larry Flynt, the founder of Hustler.
Up to now, attorneys replicating the Dunlap method start the process by gathering Internet Protocol addresses belonging to people who allegedly shared the movie files. The attorneys then file a complaint in federal court naming the defendants "John Does." A request is made of the court to issue subpoenas to each of the Doe's Internet service providers to obtain the accused persons' names and other information. The attorneys then offer those accused a chance to settle out of court.
If a person refuses to settle, then conceivably the attorneys representing the copyright owners will sue, although that has yet to happen. Cohn and other critics of this approach say they doubt the attorneys will want to spend the money on potentially drawn-out litigation. Ford told CNET last month that he isn't bluffing and will sue.