17 August 2021CopyrightMuireann Bolger

Film studios sue ISP Grande over BitTorrent piracy

A consortium of film companies has sued Texan internet services provider (ISP) Grande Communications, demanding that it block users from using BitTorrent services to pirate movies.

Two dozen companies are claiming that the ISP failed to take “meaningful action” against its users who allegedly pirated and shared movies including “Dallas Buyers Club”, “Angel Has Fallen”, “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Vile and Evil”, “Rambo: Last Blood” and “Hellboy”.

The plaintiffs include production companies Millennium Media, Voltage Pictures and several others.

DMCA crackdown

Before the lawsuit, the plaintiffs filed more than 5,800 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) notices to Grande, arguing that its subscribers were using the service to infringe on their works. The companies said they had provided specific internet protocol (IP) addresses and port numbers to help Grande identify the alleged infringers.

According to the complaint, Grande failed to take action in response to the notices, often failing to forward the notices to the subscribers.

“[The] defendant persistently turned a blind eye to the massive infringement of the plaintiffs’ works occurring over its network,” the filing said.

“The defendant allowed the illegal activity because it was popular with subscribers and acted as a draw to attract and retain new and existing subscribers,” it added.

The companies claimed that Grande knew that terminating repeat infringers would result in fewer new subscribers.

For failing to take meaningful action in response to the DMCA requests, Grande could be held liable as a contributory infringer and ordered to pay statutory damages for each movie infringed.

The complaint demands that Grande immediately terminate repeat infringers from its service, block its users from accessing piracy websites listed in the Notorious Foreign Markets report, and disclose the identity of its infringing users.

ISP liability

Grande has been listed alongside its sister company RCN Corporation as a “haven” for serial infringers in a high-profile lawsuit brought by record labels including Universal Music, Sony, and Capitol Records.

Some have spoken out against rights owners who hold ISPs liable for their user’s activities. In May, Cox Communications urged the federal appeals court to overturn a $1 billion damages award that held the ISP liable for music piracy.

Cox told the court: “ISPs will have to boot entire households or businesses off the internet—cutting their lifelines, their livelihoods, and their social connections—based on a few isolated and potentially inaccurate allegations.”

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More on this story

13 December 2017   The company behind the BitTorrent peer-to-peer file-sharing protocol was handed a win by the EU General Court after it refused an application to annul a contested decision.
16 March 2016   Netherlands anti-piracy group BREIN has obtained permission from the Authority for Personal Data to collect IP addresses of pirating BitTorrent users.
13 July 2022   Contact details for dozens of BitTorrent users will be shared with a film rightsholder.