TV & Film Piracy

Voltage Pictures Sues Comcast for Users’ Movie Piracy

Los Angeles-based Voltage Pictures, in addition to their affiliates and film copyright owners, has filed a lawsuit against Comcast in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania’s U.S. District Court for movie piracy. Previously, Voltage has invited controversy by targeting individual users for copyright violations, but they’re now going after the country’s largest broadband provider.

Copyright owners for works such as I Feel Pretty and The Dallas Buyers Club claim that Comcast has gotten infringement notices numbering in the hundreds of thousands, yet has failed to take any significant action to address the problem.

Two other providers, Verizon and AT&T, have also been sued for letting copyright infringement flourish on their platforms.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), drafted in the 1980s, was designed to protect the fledgling internet by letting networks police their own online content. Under the act’s “safe harbor” provision, they are not responsible for what users post. The lawsuit argues that the “safe harbor” doesn’t apply here, since this freedom from liability is only if the company adopts and implements a policy that punishes subscribers that repeatedly infringe copyright. While Comcast has a policy in place, the suit contends that they have not followed it.

The company’s policy only counts DMCA notices for each customer’s account monthly, rather than the total number of notifications. Additionally, they were not required to close any accounts at all, regardless of the number of DMCA notices that were received.

Data providers, hired by the case’s plaintiffs, identified the IP addresses of Comcast users that accessed the BitTorrent protocol for pirating films. Although these individuals were the ones who committed the violations, the suit states that Comcast was complicit, as they supplied the platform.

Piracy continues to be an enormous problem for the entertainment business, despite the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) attempt to create legislation, first proposed in 2011. The DMCA continues to be at the center of contentious copyright battles. This lawsuit by Voltage Pictures is asking for statutory damages and costs, in addition to demanding that Comcast implements a company policy that terminates accounts that engage in repeated copyright infringements.   

Deadline – September 15, 2022 – Jill Goldsmith

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