“The Hurt Locker” returns fire

In a recent post, we discussed a lawsuit filed against the makers of The Hurt Locker shortly before it won six Academy Awards by an Iraq War veteran who alleged the film was based on his life story.  Now, after considerable critical success, but a lacklustre performance at the US box office (US$16.4 million), the producers of the film have filed a copyright action on 24 May 2010 against 5,000 people who allegedly shared the movie on the internet.

The Hurt Locker was leaked on the internet five months before its release in the US and the producers assert this contributed to the film’s poor performance at the US box office.  While the list of defendants has not been released, it is anticipated the number could grow as lawyers for the production company, Voltage Pictures, seek the names of those who downloaded the film from internet service providers.

Voltage Pictures is a small independent company and is not backed by the Motion Picture Association of America, which often deploys resources to prevent online leaking of its films.  However, the involvement of antipiracy firm, the US Copyright Group, which has filed actions for various other movies, may enable Voltage Pictures to pursue the alleged infringers.

The pursuit of thousands of people for copyright infringement will require considerable litigation capital and, as evidenced by the Recording Industry Association of America’s effort to stem music piracy, success is far from guaranteed and risks considerable public backlash.

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