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22,000 'freetards' escape Hurt Locker piracy suit

Voltage still hopes to zap hundreds more downloaders

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The world's largest P2P legal imbroglio has been downgraded, with 90 per cent of the alleged file sharers caught up in the Hurt Locker downloading case dismissed.

The Oscar-winning war film’s producers Voltage Pictures instigated legal action last year against 14,583 netizens for allegedly illegally downloading the movie. The unprecedented class action against users snowballed to 24,583.

The suit is now down to a little more than 2,300 defendants. The rest were “voluntarily dismissed without prejudice”, but it is unclear how many of those settled out of court. Voltage is still pursuing the case but has yet to positively identify most of the defendants as it needs to work with ISPs to link IP addresses with the suspected freetards.

The DC District Court has been flooded with letters claiming innocence.

Take the bosses of a resort in Michigan: "We object to the suit given the fact that we operate a timeshare resort that is 46 units all of which have a Wi-Fi connection using our IP address. We have numerous users at various times and are unable to monitor or control what they are doing on the computer in their room. I can assure you that the movie was not downloaded from any of the five computers that we use in our office on a daily basis."

According to recent filings, “in circumstances where a Doe [unidentified] defendant has not filed the motion and only sent it to the ISP, most ISPs withhold the identifying information so that the Doe defendant can then file the motion with the court. Further, plaintiff’s counsel has been informed by the ISPs that numerous Doe defendants have recently re-filed their motions or have filed motions for reconsideration of the Court’s prior rulings".

The upshot is that Voltage now realises that trying to nail 24,000 torrent slurpers is tricky: it is seeking more time from the court to identify and serve the remaining 2,300 defendants.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has asserted that “an IP address doesn't automatically identify a criminal suspect”. The EFF’s Marcia Hofmann said “sometimes a router's IP address might correspond fairly well to a specific user — for example, a person who lives alone and has a password-protected wireless network. But in many situations, an IP address isn't personally identifying at all.” ®

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