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Movie Studio Sues Individual Popcorn Time Users For Infringement 144

An anonymous reader writes with another story about Popcorn Time, after yesterday's report that two Danes were arrested for sharing information about how to use it. From the article at BGR: Often described as 'Netflix for pirates,' Popcorn Time users are now being targeted for infringement. The makers of a film called The Cobbler recently initiated a lawsuit against 11 Popcorn Time users in Oregon for copying and distributing the aforementioned film without authorization. The Cobbler, in case you're unfamiliar, stars Adam Sandler and was released in early 2015 to tepid reviews. "Tepid" is putting it nicely.
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Movie Studio Sues Individual Popcorn Time Users For Infringement

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  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Thursday August 20, 2015 @11:53AM (#50354573) Homepage

    stars Adam Sandler

    You sadistic bastards...as if an Adam Sandler film isnt a punishment unto itself.

  • The New Napster (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wiggles ( 30088 ) on Thursday August 20, 2015 @11:57AM (#50354639)

    How is this Popcorn Time app any different than Napster? Easy and professional looking it may be - legal, it isn't, and right or wrong, the users are liable. The news here isn't that the users got busted, it's why it took so long.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      On a purely legal basis, it's no different at all, it's still piracy.

      But it IS different.

      Napster was a method of sharing on a 1 to 1 basis, you find my listing, download directly from me. You are downloading a copy of whatever mp3 it is.

      Popcorn time uses bittorrent as the backend, meaning they provide the application, that's it. People in the torrent swarms are the ones committing piracy. Popcorn time makes it pretty simple and easy and looks much like netflix.

      The key difference is you are streaming. Wi

      • I have an argument that says it isn't illegal: I live in a jurisdiction that doesn't recognize the legitimacy of copyright law.
      • by TWX ( 665546 )
        question... What if I own a copy of the movie that I'm streaming? Like, I can produce the disc and the jacket and those little "Proof of Purchase" cutouts located inside of the jacket?
        • Doesn't make a difference. It's a torrent so you're illegally distributing the movie at the same time that you're watching it. The distribution part is what is likely to get you in trouble anyway, lawyers usually don't care about people who are just downloading.

      • The key difference is you are streaming. Without jumping through some hoops, if you stream a popcorntime movie, you don't have a digital copy after you are done

        You mean the checkbox that says "Clear tmp folder after closing app?"

        Technically if you don't close the client you have a copy of the film even if you don't jump through any hoops.

    • The news here isn't that the users got busted, it's why it took so long.

      That's why it's good news. Before they never dared or face public backlash and clog up all the courts with cases. Now that they're "going there", the system can start to break down. Thank goodness (sorry for the poor sods who get caught in the crossfire but the government will show up with guns, not has-been Adam Sandler's lawyers) because copyright is for a non-digital era.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Remember how in the '90s they wanted to build censorship technology into everything to stop the porn industry?

        They wanted to stop porn because it was offensive, or degrading to women, or because it was being viewed by children.

        They could have simply enforced the part of the copyright law that says obscenity can't be copyrighted.

        But they didn't. Why? Because stopping the porn industry wasn't the point. Censorship was.

        • by TWX ( 665546 )

          They could have simply enforced the part of the copyright law that says obscenity can't be copyrighted.

          Are you saying that Adam Sandler movies wouldn't be copyrighted then?

      • by Junta ( 36770 )

        copyright is for a non-digital era.

        If anything it is more important in a 'digital era'. The whole point of copyright is to try to protect intellectual 'property' because it's been relatively more trivial to replicate the essence of your work compared to real physical goods. In the 'digital era', the contributing factors to wanting copyright are even stronger as it becomes even more trivial.

        Arguments can be made about how you get people to produce this content in an ideal versus a real world, or how long copyright should ask to balance rewa

        • by suutar ( 1860506 )

          True, it is more important that copyright be applied _well_. Previously, the barrier to copying was not the copyright, but the process of copying; that kept the amount of copying low enough that it wasn't a big problem but it was still possible to ignore silly-bad copyright rules. Now copying has gotten easy, so it's a problem. The attempt to fix it in ways that enforce the silly-bad copyright rules is a different problem. What we need is solid enforcement of sane rules, but that requires having sane rules

          • by Junta ( 36770 )

            I agree. There are outlandish things that are forbidden. For example, the DMCA means my ripping of my own personal DVD and Blu Ray discs to HDD is not lawful, which is absurd. Sure string me up for sharing the result of that effort or selling the original while keeping my copy, but that transfer from media to disk itself should absolutely be legal.

            However in the case of popcorn time, I don't really see the violation being some silly thing (though claims of how much 'harm' is done in judicial terms can b

            • There are outlandish things that are forbidden. For example, the DMCA means my ripping of my own personal DVD and Blu Ray discs to HDD is not lawful, which is absurd.

              i love how people use things like this to reject copyright laws all together. NO ONE is bashing in your front door and tazing you because you made a copy of a DVD you purchased. in fact, how about referencing one single instance where that has happened. no?

              Popcorn time I've never used, but the principle of the thing doesn't appeal either, I want to actually have my library at hand at any given time.

              PT is just a torrent client. the movies are downloaded to your computer (or mobile device). all the "streaming" mode does is download the blocks in-order, and download up to a certain amount of them before it starts playing.

              • by Junta ( 36770 )

                i love how people use things like this to reject copyright laws all together. NO ONE is bashing in your front door and tazing you because you made a copy of a DVD you purchased.

                I did not reject copyright laws altogether. I complained that something that should be legal is not. The argument that no one is *bothering* to prosecute is not a defense of a law existing that could be used to prosecute. If there is a situation that should be legal, the law should be changed to allow that. That doesn't mean 'no copyright', it means that DMCA should be repealed (the things enabled by the DMCA were *already* illegal, DMCA just tries to get ahead of things to prevent even attempting, whic

                • The argument that no one is *bothering* to prosecute is not a defense of a law existing that could be used to prosecute.

                  no, but if you are spending your time worrying about it, you have too much time on your hands.

                  it's also illegal to go 1MPH over the speed limit. are you worried about that?

          • by iceaxe ( 18903 )

            I think the basic issue is that we are still treating individual electronic copies of a work as if they had inherent measurable value. The data on some medium never had any measurable value. The measurable value was inherent in the following: the production of the work, the physical medium itself, the imprinting of the medium with the data, the distribution of the medium, and marketing effort. The value of many of these have now been reduced or effectively eliminated for the type of works under discussion.

            W

    • by Anonymous Coward

      It's not any different from Napster.
      If you want to make a truly different and disrupting deployment...

      The solution to the copyright/patent mess is to keep on sharing
      till their business model is completely destroyed.

      Start by ripping and sharing all the physical media you own.
      And do it over anonymous overlay networks such as I2P and Phantom.
      That way you can share 24x7x365 without fear of the MAFIAA.
      No one needs to feed the machine (with at least $9.50 to the machine and
      $0.50 to the artist) and you can Bitcoin

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I don't recall anywhere in copyright law where you get a lesser punishment because you violated the copyright of something crappy.

    And if they streamed that movie instead of paying a measly couple of dollars to view it legitimately, they deserve to pay up.

    However, where we are going wrong is by not defining reasonable statutory damages. I think $100 per illegally streamed hour of content is a reasonable penalty to pay. We should have a process whereby the copyright owner can serve you notice for statutory

    • Deserve is a funny thing. The Christians think we all deserve to go to eternal torment. Some people think we deserve to have everything about us repaired, even including our thought processes.

      Also, I fail to see how much of anything is reasonable when it comes to modern copyright law and much of copyright's history as well.
      • The law is pretty clear and since the laws are defined by the many representatives we elected it's not like it's a unfair.

        Right or wrong it's not fictive and it spells out that copyright infringement is punishable by law.

        • I don't see how rigged selections for final candidates to office is fair.

          Less than half of voting age Americans voted for these people in power, but they don't count the votes not cast as a count against the person elected actually taking office. There are voting methods [bing.com] that more accurately reflect the will of the people and then there's the problem of only having one day to vote. People have obligations that interfere with having one day to vote. Make it a week to collect votes or something.

          And as for
          • I don't see how rigged selections for final candidates to office is fair.

            That stems from conspiracy theories. I'm not going to argue that there's influence in many cases and obviously that differs from country to country. And even if there were some rigged elections, how many weren't rigged that offered what democracy is truly about.

            Less than half of voting age Americans voted for these people in power

            Which is why it's important for people to vote. If you want the 30% of the population to pick your destiny than it's how it's going to be.

            then there's the problem of only having one day to vote

            I don't know where you live but where I live you can vote up to 30 days ahead if for any reason you believe you

            • I'm a little confused about your distinction between real and unreal. The fact that a book of fiction exists is real, it's contents as far as we know didn't happen to real people. Laws don't happen to people, they are just tools that people create in order to get something they want done to happen or something they don't want done to stop. As long as you can figure out situations in which a law won't be enforced, you are okay most of the time in breaking it, and if you find enough like-minded people you may
              • I'm a little confused about your distinction between real and unreal

                When I first used unreal it was saying that laws aren't "unreal". They are written and available for people to follow or break.

                You can't cast a vote for none of the above, and until you can do that it's a waste of time to vote, if you don't believe in or trust both candidates.

                At then end of the day a group of people needs to be in charge because you cannot have 300 million people voting on every issue. The good thing about democracy is that nobody gets a final say, instead a group of people with each their own say gets to vote for or against.

                We are far from the days where kings slaughtered people because they didn't agree. The current system has it's iss

        • by suutar ( 1860506 )

          "generated by elected representatives" != "fair". It comes closer than some systems, but history has shown quite a few clear examples where they're not the same.

          • I'd say that the current system is the best we've come up with in human history. Is there room to improve, yes but I wouldn't be took quick to call it fair or unfair.

        • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

          Actually, the law is pretty unclear because this sort of "crime" gets split up between commercial use and personal use and value.

          The value part gets tricky because the content owners never want to talk about how valuable something is. They never want to admit what the actual damages were.

          Its just fine if corporations get a break if they maim or kill someone but tolerating any sort of petty theft from the proles just won't be accepted.

          Tort reform for the rich, crime and punishment for the poor.

          • The good thing about law is that there's people involved and that brings some level of humanity to the whole process. If we make it black and white that's when we really get screwed by the process.

    • by tekrat ( 242117 ) on Thursday August 20, 2015 @12:35PM (#50355037) Homepage Journal

      When a big Bank breaks the law, they are fined a tiny percentage of the money they made breaking the law. If a Bank makes $500 million illegally, their fine comes out to something like $20 million.

      If corporations are people, it should work the other way as well. Therefore, if someone downloads a movie they would have otherwise paid $14 to see in a theater, the fine should be about 2 bucks.

      The only reason fines are so huge for file sharers is because every company thinks that whatever crap it is that they "own" (i.e. "intellectual property") is always worth millions or billions, but it's not. Hell, CEOs probably take a dump in the executive crapper and think it's worth billions.

      I recently had a fire, and lost plenty of property, both real and intellectual. Do you think the insurance company compensated me for millions or billions?

      Why are things held to one standard for large corporations, while ignoring people? Why are rights several curtailed for actual people? Why is property move valuable than life?

      • When a big Bank breaks the law, they are fined a tiny percentage of the money they made breaking the law. If a Bank makes $500 million illegally, their fine comes out to something like $20 million.

        If corporations are people, it should work the other way as well. Therefore, if someone downloads a movie they would have otherwise paid $14 to see in a theater, the fine should be about 2 bucks.

        That makes perfect sense. And by the same logic, if someone uploads or shares a movie that a distributor would have paid between $10-20 million for the rights to distribute, the fine should be about $50-150k.

        It's important to remember that people aren't being sued for downloading, they're being sued for uploading. And distribution rights are expensive. Apple doesn't pay Warner Brothers $1, once, in exchange for being able to distribute some new song. AMC Theaters doesn't give New Line Cinemas a simple $14 for the rights to show Straight Outta Compton on a thousand screens for the next three months.

        Remember back when Michael Jackson bought the distribution rights to the Beatles' catalog for several million? It worked out to around $20-30k per song... which happens to be right about the same amount Jammie Thomas and Joel Tenenbaum had to pay for their infringement.

        • That makes perfect sense. And by the same logic, if someone uploads or shares a movie that a distributor would have paid between $10-20 million for the rights to distribute, the fine should be about $50-150k.

          It's important to remember that people aren't being sued for downloading, they're being sued for uploading. And distribution rights are expensive. Apple doesn't pay Warner Brothers $1, once, in exchange for being able to distribute some new song. AMC Theaters doesn't give New Line Cinemas a simple $14 for the rights to show Straight Outta Compton on a thousand screens for the next three months.

          Remember back when Michael Jackson bought the distribution rights to the Beatles' catalog for several million? It worked out to around $20-30k per song... which happens to be right about the same amount Jammie Thomas and Joel Tenenbaum had to pay for their infringement.

          I'm not sure if you don't understand the underlying economics of the movie industry, or if you don't understand how popcorn time works - or both. Companies don't pay a lump sum for "distribution rights". Using AMC Theatres as you did, the studio would be paid per ticket sold to see the show (basically the entire ticket price, with the venue making income on concession sales). So if a ticket is $8, and 10 people attend the movie, AMC pays New Line $80. If 1,000,000 people attend, AMC pays $8,000,000. Your t

      • The studios are desperate to see mass copyright infringement disappear. When it was 1 in 1000 people using these services it wasn't so much an issue but now 1 in 3 people I know own a TV box that uses XBMC or Popcorn Time or other services. That's revenue they'll never see because it's too easy to avoid paying because for most it doesn't feel like its illegal (Ignorance is bliss).

        The reality is that in court they will settle for much less as previous cases listed here have shown. In Canada software piracy f

      • I guess the bank thing is going to be brought in every discussion of jail times or fines, huh?

      • When a big Bank breaks the law, they are fined a tiny percentage of the money they made breaking the law. If a Bank makes $500 million illegally, their fine comes out to something like $20 million.
        Show one example of what you illogically think.
  • by Nyder ( 754090 ) on Thursday August 20, 2015 @12:05PM (#50354743) Journal

    I don't know about anyone else, but Popcorn Time seems like a trap to me. Make a program that using bit torrent to share the movies between it's users. Let it run for a few years. Start testing the waters will a small lawsuit against a few users. If that succeeds, then use the info you gathered over the last few years to bring a lot of lawsuits against a lot of people.

    • by Zak3056 ( 69287 )

      I don't know about anyone else, but Popcorn Time seems like a trap to me. Make a program that using bit torrent to share the movies between it's users. Let it run for a few years. Start testing the waters will a small lawsuit against a few users. If that succeeds, then use the info you gathered over the last few years to bring a lot of lawsuits against a lot of people.

      Laches[1] and, probably, estoppel would apply, the former because the studio waited years to bring a claim despite having the knowledge of an issue for that whole time, and did nothing to prevent it, and estoppel because it's hard to argue that your movie is being pirated when you yourself are the one distributing it across bittorrent.

      [1] - Laches may not apply, as the Supreme Court recently eviscerated it with regard to copyright law. That decision did not, however, touch on file sharing, and the reasonin

      • I'm not familiar enough with the Supreme court case with regard to Laches to make a very nuanced legal argument. (IANAL, et cetera). However, I'm not surprised as it seems very similar to "bait cars" that police departments use to catch car thieves. In many large organizations people arrive at 09:00 and leave at 5:00pm or so. Car thieves would know that they could come to the parking lot around 10:30, steal a car, and nobody would be the wiser until the end of the work day. So police departments would
        • by Zak3056 ( 69287 )

          An excellent argument on your part, and your point is well taken.

          That said, I'll counter with the idea that your analogy (as all analogies are) is flawed. A more appropriate analogy would be the police leaving the bait car, with the keys in the ignition, the engine running, and a giant sign on it saying, "free car." I think there's a very important distinction between creating the opportunity for a theft to occur (as the police are) and actively encouraging it as a studio or their agent using a honeypot w

  • by sconeu ( 64226 ) on Thursday August 20, 2015 @12:06PM (#50354753) Homepage Journal

    Anyone who deliberately downloads an Adam Sandler movie is obviously insane.

    • Yes, but then so is the movie company for making an Adam Sandler movie in the first place.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Actually they are quite sane; his movies cost around ~80mil to make and pull in 100mil and up. Despite the morality of making his movies, financially they are a very sound investment.

        http://www.quora.com/Why-does-Sony-Pictures-keep-making-Adam-Sandler-films

        • by cant_get_a_good_nick ( 172131 ) on Thursday August 20, 2015 @12:38PM (#50355063)

          Not this one. It's had 5 figure box office take it's first weekend. Low 5 figures. I never even heard of the Cobbler other than the bad reviews and lack of ticket sales. I never heard of Men Women and Children til I googled this. Pixels radically underperformed. I'd rather see the Pixels short on youtube over and over than the Sandler movie.

          Cobbler did inspire a great quote tho:

          So I just saw 'The Cobbler' and all I can assume is that Adam Sandler got tired of everyone saying 'Little Nicky' was his worst movie.

          — Stephen Whitty (@StephenWhitty) March 3, 2015

        • by sims 2 ( 994794 )

          Reminds me of the time I discovered that lemonade tycoon would let you sell empty cups.

          They didn't sell very well but it was profitable enough that you could buy anything in the game in under the 1 hour trial.

        • Except opening weekend for this movie pulled in a massive $24,000

    • Even if I'm downloading it to torture the captives in my basement?

      Oh wait...

  • by Hydrian ( 183536 ) on Thursday August 20, 2015 @12:07PM (#50354755) Homepage

    1. Release shitty movie.
    2.Somebody illegally downloads it to see how bad it is. (because no movie theater will show it)
    3. Sue the downloader!
    4. Profit!

    • by cdrudge ( 68377 )

      The rights to the move are owned by Voltage Pictures. They've been going after downloaders since The Hurt Locker came out and for multiple movies since. It's hardly a "New Business Model".

      Plus, even if they get the statutory maximums they are still going to be well short of what the film cost to make and distribute. It had a estimated budget of $10m and box office/VOD receipts of $24k.

    • The Producers 2.

  • It is infringement of our free speech rights. If we don't push back much harder, we are doomed to watching The Rockford Files the rest of our lives

  • Hey - the movie tanked - how can we recoup some of our costs? I know! Let's sue some file sharers!!
  • Something reeks of desperation ...
  • Funny how this comes on the heels of a high profile event involving Popcorn time.
    I'm not a betting man, but if I were, I'd put $20 on the complainants not knowing about Popcorn Time until ars' recent article.
  • by cant_get_a_good_nick ( 172131 ) on Thursday August 20, 2015 @12:41PM (#50355091)

    So there's this, and them blindly going after anything named Pixels any place and specifically on Youtube. Sandler's movies are doing bad enough recently, Do you really want him hated for over-aggressive Rights/Restrictions management? Whatever you think of the piracy around Metallica, their popularity really fell off the map once they lost their fans from what some felt was over-aggressive policing.

    • sandler's films haven't been funny sense the 90s he had one funny angle he beat to death when he relisted that dead horse was in fact dead he literately just flounders on screen for 2 hrs using other washed up actors. but they seem to keep giving him money for more movies.
      • by amiga3D ( 567632 )

        Doing anything else would require creativity and that's mostly non-existent in hollyweird anymore.

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  • How many times have we each thought "they should pay me for having watched that piece of crap"? Maybe it's time to try that out.
  • Its Voltage Pictures and they are known to go after illegal downloaders. I for one refuse to see any movie with their name on it. All they make is crap movies anyway.
  • Why is it relevant that it's a shitty movie? That seems like a reason NOT to download it.

    I get it, someone will say it's not worth $1 to rent it from Red Box, so the studio isn't out anything. There's no lost sale. But if it's not worth the money to rent it, how is it worth your time to watch it?

  • I never knew about Popcorn Time...now--thanks to your marketing--I do.
  • I learned about Popcorn Time from the CEO of Netflix when he claimed they were one of their biggest competitors [theverge.com].This software is designed from the ground up to distribute illegal copies of movies and TV shows. How are the owners of the Popcorn Time software not being held accountable? It's pretty blatant they're in it for the piracy, they even link you to VPN services that are compatible with their product for fucks sake. I have no words to describe the feeling I have for the idiots who actually wanted to s
    • by amiga3D ( 567632 )

      I can't imagine wasting the bandwidth to see an Adam Sandler movie. I could always go outside and watch the grass grow, it's more entertaining by far.

  • How can anyone, anywhere support big media? You are the problem if you do.
  • Threaten to sue people for downloading the most embarrassing shit you can imagine (i.e. freaky porn or an Adam Sandler movie) and then send them a letter offering to settle for a few thousand dollars to keep their name out of the publicly accessible legal filings.

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