Owners of copyright in entertainment content have for some time now been faced with a significant challenge in stamping out infringement by recourse to the courts. It may be difficult to sue more than a small fraction of the number of copyright infringers out there and publicising successful suits to deter other infringers can be difficult. That’s why alternative tactics may be more effective, like requiring internet service providers to terminate the connections of infringers, or scaring them with headline-grabbing damages awards ($US1.92 million for downloading and sharing 24 songs, and $US675,000 for downloading and sharing 30 songs, among others).
The recent $250,000 settlement with a BitTorrent user by media conglomerate Liberty Media was at first glance just another example. The fact that the user had illegally copied Liberty Media’s adult movies was embarrassing for him, but seemed ultimately irrelevant. Or was it actually the first clue to Liberty Media’s unique copyright enforcement strategy?
The fine print provided that the user could “reduce the amount payable” if he “ceases any further content theft” and “makes regular payments toward the judgment”. This has led to speculation that the parties actually agreed a much lower settlement and the $250,000 was purely a headline-grabber.
Liberty Media’s next moves must have added fuel to that speculation. They sued file-hosting service Hotfile for hosting infringing copies of Liberty Media’s movies on behalf of Hotfile’s customers. That is likely to be an uphill battle as Hotfile was probably unaware of the infringement: the absence of intention usually significantly reduces the damages award. Liberty Media may have an even more difficult fight in their copyright infringement suit against Paypal, premised solely on the fact that Paypal collected money on Hotfile’s behalf.
All of which is attracting a big cyber-audience for Liberty Media’s coup d’état: an amnesty for infringers announced by its subsidiary Corbin Fisher, an adult studio and distributor. Customers who have downloaded any Corbin Fisher material have 14 days ending 8 February 2011 to hand it over. In return, they promise that those customers won’t be part of their “wave of lawsuits” later this month.
There’s a catch: customers wishing to take advantage of the amnesty also have to hand over one thousand dollars.
Infringers are unlikely to find that deal attractive. So Corbin Fisher has an inventive deal-sweetener: one year’s complimentary membership to their two premier adult websites as a special thank you. That’s not bad value, provided you were interested in membership in the first place. A yearly subscription to those websites would normally be about $900. One hundred dollars on top of that to avoid an expensive lawsuit may not be a bad deal for infringers.