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Lionsgate Sues Over 'Expendables 3' Leak (Exclusive)

The studio says it learned on July 24 that a copy of the action film had been stolen.

Lionsgate is taking legal action against the anonymous individuals who shared online an advance copy of The Expendables 3, starring Sylvester Stallone.

On Thursday, the film company filed a lawsuit in California federal court against "John Does 1-10."

Read the Complaint Here

Lionsgate reports learning on July 24 that a digital file containing a high-quality reproduction of the film had been stolen and uploaded to the Internet. The Expendables 3 has reportedly crossed more than a million downloads already. All of the copies circulating online are said in the lawsuit to be traced to the original stolen digital file.

The lawsuit targets the operators behind limetorrents.com, billionuploads.com, hulfile.eu, played.to, swantshare.com and dotsemper.com and uses language that's similar to past mass "Doe" complaints against torrent users.

According to the lawsuit, "By downloading one of these 'torrent' files associated with the Stolen Film from limetorrents.com, users join a 'swarm' where they download parts of the Stolen Film from many different users and also upload to other users parts of the Stolen Film they have already received, until eventually they have reproduced the entire Stolen Film on their own hard drives and in most cases have also uploaded all or a substantial part of the Stolen Film to others."

Lionsgate sent demand letters to operators of the torrent sites. For instance, the studio contacted hulkfile every day between July 26 and July 31 — an indication of just how seriously concerned the studio is to see its movie leak in advance of a Aug. 15 release. The operators of the sites didn't respond to demand letters, says the lawsuit.

The plaintiff is demanding a temporary restraining order and injunctions that prohibit the anonymous operators of the sites from hosting, linking to, distributing, reproducing, performing, selling or making available copies of Expendables 3. The film company also wants to stop the defendants from taking action that "induces, causes or materially contributes to" direct copyright infringement of its work.

But the demands go much further: The requested injunction also seeks to have the defendants prohibited from "operating any of the websites" and ordered to "take all steps necessary to recall and recover all copies of the Stolen Film or any portion thereof that they have distributed." Additionally, Lionsgate is looking to prevent defendants from transferring their assets and circumventing the court orders. The plaintiff wants registry operators to place the domain names on "locked" status.

Additionally, the ISPs that are providing hosting and cloud storage as well as the banks and financial institutions servicing the torrent sites are also under the eye of the film company. Subpoenas could be issued soon.

Lionsgate is being represented by Dennis Wilson at Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton.

Expendables 3 is produced by Nu Image, which notably was one of the first companies to go after torrent users. Three years ago, Nu Image targeted 23,322 alleged online pirates of the original The Expendables, but ran into problems when a federal judge in Washington, D.C., questioned jurisdiction. In 2012, the company later brought other copyright infringement lawsuits over the film around the country, but has been fairly quiet on the piracy hunt since then.

The identity, and motivation of, the individual who first uploaded Expendables 3 hasn't been revealed.

The Hollywood Reporter, August 1, 2014 (Eriq Gardner)

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