Production companies behind Dallas Buyers Club, Feel Beautiful And the enormous ISPs have been taken to court for facilitating mass piracy of their films.
Verizon Wireless, AT&T, and Comcast have been hit with copyright lawsuits accusing them of turning a blind eye to customers who illegally distribute and download pirated movies. Production companies are seeking to force internet providers to implement policies to terminate accounts held by repeat offenders and block certain piracy websites.
Three complaints filed during the month of September, the most recent one filed Tuesday in Pennsylvania federal court, come from Voltage Pictures, After Productions and Ammo Entertainment, among others. The production posters are represented by law firms Dovel & Luner and Culpepper IP.
The lawsuits allege that internet providers knowingly contributed to copyright infringement by their customers. Prosecutors say they have sent hundreds of thousands of notifications to Verizon, AT&T and Comcast about specific cases of abuse. They claim, for example, that they sent over 100,000 notices to Comcast regarding illegal downloading of I feel beautiful using its services. The lawsuit seeks to hold ISPs liable for the failure to investigate.
“Comcast has not taken meaningful action to prevent continued abuse by these Comcast users,” the complaint said. “Comcast has failed to terminate the accounts associated with these IP addresses or to take any meaningful action in response to these notices. Comcast has often failed to forward notices to Internet service customers or otherwise inform them about the notice or its contents.”
The lawsuit alleges that the ISPs, therefore, indirectly infringed the plaintiffs’ films because they had the right to terminate the accounts of customers who infringed copyright law.
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act, enacted in 1988, criminalizes services intended to circumvent procedures that control access to copyrighted works. Provides protection from liability for service providers.
But the production companies argue that internet providers have no safe haven under the law because it only protects companies if they adopt and implement policies that terminate accounts held by repeat offenders.
The lawsuit says that none of the internet providers maintain policies that force customers who frequently receive notifications of copyright infringement to be fired. Under AT&T policy, a Subscriber receiving multiple copyright alerts is merely a factor the Company uses in determining whether or not to terminate the Services. Comcast under its policy says it will take down repeat offenders but only counts the number of violations a customer receives in a month rather than the total number of violations. In comparison, Verizon’s policy makes it too onerous for production companies to notify them of copyright infringements and do nothing about piracy even when they are aware of the lawsuit.
The complaint states that “Verizon did not terminate customer accounts even if it received information about a significant number of repeated violations in those customer accounts.” “For example, Verizon Communications Inc. has allowed hundreds of violations to occur on certain accounts, despite receiving at least several violation notifications related to those accounts. Verizon users have reported receiving multiple violation notifications from Verizon without terminating their accounts.”
AT&T, Comcast and Verizon did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The Volt has a history of filing lawsuits to protect its intellectual property. In 2014, she filed a lawsuit against dozens of people who hacked Dallas Buyers Club, which was nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards last year. Many were forced to accept four-digit settlements. The company followed up with a lawsuit against Grande Communications, a Texas internet provider, last year for failing to handle illegal downloads.
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