CENTURY MEDIA FILES LAWSUITS AGAINST MORE THAN SEVEN-THOUSAND ILLEGAL DOWNLOADERS
Earlier this year, eighty people who illegally downloaded All Shall Perish’s This is Where it Ends almost got sued, until the band, who had no knowledge of the prosecutory action before it was reported in the media, came to their rescue and called off the dogs. Now more than seven-thousand Lacuna Coil and Iced Earth file sharers have to hope they’ll be just as lucky.
According to NorthJersey.com, a Hackensack-based attorney named Jay R. McDaniel who represents, amongst other companies, Century Media, “has filed 17 suits… in U.S. District Court in Newark, alleging copyright infringement by more than 14,000 file swappers.” Those suits include 3,136 people who illegally downloaded Lacuna Coil’s Dark Adrenaline and 4,327 people who illegally downloaded Iced Earth’s Dystopia.
As of this writing, these are “John Doe suits,” which means the illegal downloaders (who, it’s worth noting, are not only from New Jersey, despite the Jersey-centric nature of the story) are identified only by their IP addresses… for now. The court will soon decide whether or not McDaniel can “subpoena various Internet service providers to obtain the names and home addresses of the alleged infringers.” Should they not wish to engage in a legal battle, said infringers may be able to settle the claim for a few thousand dollars each, which would most presumably make these the most expensive albums they’ve ever purchased. If they choose to go to court against Century and lose, they could pay “statutory damages of up to $150,000 per defendant and copyrighted work infringed, or actual damages caused by lost sales, price erosion and a diminution of the value of their copyrights.”
But wait! The story gets even more interesting! According to the article, McDaniel is attempting “a new approach” with these suits, one in which the suits “name not only the John Doe parties as defendants, but also a specific swarm” — a collection of BitTorrent users — “that was allegedly detected on various dates sharing a specific copy of a pirated work.” Two separate judges in two separate suits have already dismissed Century’s request for a preliminary injunction, citing the fact that wireless routers make it more difficult to determine whether or not an IP address’ holder is actually the person who illegally downloaded the albums. Put another way: the court wants to make sure that no one gets sued for a crime that their neighbor who steals their internet committed.
I know a lot of people are gonna freak out about this and be all, “CENTURY MEDIA ARE SUING THEIR FANS!”, and, on the most superficial level, those people will be correct — Century Media are suing music fans. That being said, Century Media are suing music fans who did something illegal, so it’s hard to argue that they’re in the wrong here. I don’t know if lawsuits like this will actually do anything to deter future potential torrent users (although I imagine they would if suits like these became much more common), and there’s always the issue of public backlash to consider (although the whole Metallica/Napster debacle doesn’t seem to have done much to hurt Metallica’s career in the long run… and it’s worth noting that at present, we have no idea whether or not these bands are even aware of the lawsuits or if it’s all being done without their knowledge, as was the case with All Shall Perish). And it’s always kind of hard to argue that illegally downloaded albums actually represent lost sales, because there’s the possibility that people who won’t pay for the album illegally also wouldn’t pay for the album legally; in other words, that they’ll take the new Lacuna Coil record for free or not all. But that doesn’t change the fact that, in the strictest sense of the law, the “correct” thing to do in that situation would be not to take the record at all.
Some of you will no doubt be pissed that I’m coming down on the side of “The Man” — but I do think this is a complicated issue that can’t simply be boiled down to sentiments of “Fuck records labels.” And I say that as someone who freely admits he has illegally downloaded music and movies in the past. Sorry. Just because I’ve done it doesn’t make it okay, y’know?
Weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section below. More news on this story as it develops.