Legal extortion by lawyers?

courtroom by srqpix

The RIAA? Amateurs. Here’s how you sue 14,000+ P2P users
[Via Ars Technica]

The big music labels and movie studios have stepped back from the lawsuit business. The MPAA’s abortive campaign against individual file-swappers ended years ago, while the RIAA’s more widely publicized (and criticized) years-long campaign against P2P swappers ended over a year ago.

So why have P2P lawsuits against individuals spiked dramatically in 2010? It’s all thanks to the US Copyright Group, a set of lawyers who have turned P2P prosecution into revenue generation in order to “SAVE CINEMA.” 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.

[More]

Threaten to sue 10,000 people or so. Even file the paperwork, because in this country you do not have to file suit individually, you can add thousands to a single suit. Threaten to sue for over $100,000 but say you will take $2000. Make it easy for them to pay to make you go away.

Previous stats indicate that 90% or so will settle, since they could easily spend over $2000 if it goes to trial. That gives them a cool $18 million just for sending some threatening letters out.

Now they may never expect the cases to go to trial. There is no way it would be economic for them to prepare for 5000 defendants. In fact, if a few of the defendants banded together and got a good lawyer, they might easily stop this madness.

Maybe not. while this may be legal, it is really just a shakedown. Even if someone is innocent, it may be cheaper to settle. Of course, by playing hardball, you could be more trouble than you are worth and they could drop you. After all, every letter they need to send to you, every time the really have to appear in court, every time they have to act as real lawyers, is costing them real money.