In the past, most of the discussion over movie piracy has been focused on big Hollywood blockbusters like Wolverine. Those are the movies most likely to be pirated and there’s at least some miniscule amount of evidence there which could be used to suggest that illegally distributing them over the internet hurts box office. Yet illegal downloading of smaller, independent movies has been largely ignored. In part, it’s because for some of these movies it’s kind of a good thing. Independent films don’t have the big advertising budgets of Hollywood blockbusters and if people are pirating your micro-budgeted movie, then at least it’s getting seen and hopefully, they’re spreading the word and encouraging others to buy it while they do it. But now, the Independent Film & Television Alliance has decided it likes money better than potential buzz.

THR says more than 50,000 lawsuits have been filed in federal court against individual downloaders for copyright infringement. Mostly, they all concern tiny indie-movies movies that no one is all that interested in seeing. Uwe Boll’s Far Cry, for instance, is on the list. The lawsuits have been filed by the US Copyright Group with encouragement from the Independent Film Alliance. The US Copyright Group is a DC-based venture which exists mainly to make money. They sound kind of like a hedge fund or some other greed-based venture which makes money while producing nothing of value and creating general misery. They’re like tow truck drives with a college education. Did you download Uwe Boll’s latest piece of crap? You’re about to get towed.

At least they’re up front about it. Gone is the usual bullshit about trying to protect the industry. These guys are pretty plainly just out to use the legal system as an excuse to gain unearned wealth. They say, “We're creating a revenue stream and monetizing the equivalent of an alternative distribution channel.” No, you’re dragging people to court for attempting to support otherwise unwatched, independent cinema.

The lawsuit (a sample can be seen here) claims that the movies were downloaded via BitTorrent and that though they have no evidence the person also shared the film themselves, the nature of the technology is such that anyone who downloads anything also automatically uploads and shares it too. I’m no BitTorrent expert, but that sounds like kind of a big assumption. Correct me if I’m wrong here tech nerds, but it’s not a one to one ratio where one download automatically equals one upload, is it?

Actually if they’re serious about creating a “revenue stream” then the should figure out a way to avoid suing file sharers altogether and focus solely on suing people who only download. It’s to their benefit that these file sharers keep right on sharing, creating a product which draws in more downloaders, whom they in turn sue. Now that’s the kind of scam to get involved in.

Meanwhile to get the names of the 50,000 people doing the downloading, the US Copyright Group is attempting to strongarm ISP’s into handing over their data. They, of course, can’t possibly understand why a company wouldn’t want to betray it’s customers by handing over personal information to a random group of lawyers motivated purely by personal profit. Actually, don’t give your ISP too much credit. Their motivations aren’t all that pure. THR says your ISP is more than happy to betray you, for a price. Apparently Internet Service Providers are charging $32 to $60 for each IP address account requested. They want in on the cash-bonanza too.

I’m not a pirate, I’ve never downloaded a movie, and I probably never will. In general, as someone who loves movies, I think it’s kind of a bad idea. But no matter what you think of piracy, what these people are doing is worse. Far worse. This is a high-tech version of a mob scam, it’s like Al Capone shaking down drycleaners for protection money, only this time it’s legal. Even if you don’t download, they’re biting into your wallet by wasting the time of your tax funded court system with massive lawsuits designed chiefly to line their own pockets. Sure maybe the content creators will get a cut, but it’s the lawyers who really win in these things. Your taxpayer money is helping people who had nothing to do with the movies in question, people who contribute nothing to society on any level, get rich. We’re all being scammed.

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