Nate Anderson has been keeping an eye on the activities of copyright troll firm Leesburg, Virginia-based Dunlap, Grubb, & Weaver, whose efforts make the RIAA look like “amateurs”.
As Anderson notes :
The model couldn’t be simpler: find an indie filmmaker; convince the production company to let you sue individual “John Does” for no charge; send out subpoenas to reveal each Doe’s identity; demand that each person pay $1,500 to $2,500 to make the lawsuit go away; set up a website to accept checks and credit cards; split the revenue with the filmmaker.
14,583 Does have now been sued in federal court, with lawyers from Dunlap, Grubb & Weaver handling each case. The number is extraordinary; even after years of lawsuits, the RIAA campaign against file-swappers targeted 18,000 people (you can see the bump caused by RIAA lawsuits in the chart below between 2003 and 2008).
The sheer volume suggests that these cases aren’t designed for prosecution—and they don’t need to be. As the RIAA lawsuits showed us, most people will settle. Data from the recording industry lawsuits, revealed in a court case, showed that 11,000 of the 18,000 Does settled immediately or had their cases dropped by the labels. Seven thousand either refused to settle or never responded to the settlement letter, but after the RIAA subpoenaed their identities and filed “named” lawsuits against them, nearly every one settled.
After years of litigation, the number of people who have pursued a trial all the way to a verdict can be counted on one hand.
The legal campaign has the potential to earn real money. Copies of the settlement letters and settlement contracts seen by Ars Technica show that Dunlap, Grubb, & Weaver generally asks for $1,500 to $2,500, threatening to sue for $150,000 if no settlement payment is forthcoming. Assuming that 90 percent of the current targets settle for $1,500, this means that the lawyers, studios, and P2P detection company would split $19.7 million.
Once the infrastructure has been set up, this sort of system is simple to replicate, since it’s built largely on sending out letters and collecting cash. If the lawyers can continue signing up indie film clients at the current rate, they could be on their way to filing nearly 30,000 lawsuits by year’s end, which would double the potential cash on the table.
Anderson notes that Dunlap, Grubb, & Weaver insist that they will seek the maximun $150,000 award, and defendants will incur high costs if they don’t settle. He details futile attempts by defendants to quash the cases.
While Verizon and Comcast are going along, a possibly more successful quash motion has been filed by Time Warner, saying they just don’t have the resources to keep up with the demand for user identification requests.
Lastly he details one particular case where the defendant denies any P2P activity and is preparing to go thru the courts.