Digital Legal

Century Media reportedly suing 7500 file-sharers

By | Published on Thursday 20 September 2012

Century Media

It’s emerged that metal label Century Media, last on the digital music news pages for pulling its content from Spotify (it returned to the streaming service in July), has filed file-sharing litigation targeting some 7500 file-sharers with the courts in New Jersey. The accused allegedly illegally shared copies of Lacuna Coil’s ‘Dark Adrenaline’ or Iced Earth’s ‘Dystopia’. This was actually revealed by a local newspaper in New Jersey back in August, but has only just been picked up by the music press, ourselves included.

As is customary in file-sharing litigation, such action requires two stages of action: one lawsuit to gain an injunction forcing internet service providers to reveal the identities of web-users accessing the net at specific IP addresses, and then a second to actually sue the individuals for copyright infringement.

Though it’s thought the strategy of Century Media’s legal rep in the US, who is also representing some other copyright owners, is to then approach the accused and attempt to negotiate out-of-court settlements, thus gathering damages for the label, and covering his own fees.

Some judges have criticised this practice in the past, especially where it’s believed that rights owners have no intention of ever enforcing their rights fully through the courts, but rather assume that the majority of identified file-sharers will pay up when sent a threatening legal letter, even if the case against them might not fully stack up in court.

Requests for statements from both Century Media’s US and European offices did not receive responses. However, a spokesman for the label’s US office told Metal Insider they weren’t aware of the legal action, but would consult the company’s German HQ – though the lawyer pursuing the cases, Jay McDaniel, is quoted by as saying: “What’s critical to these cases, and what many people don’t understand, is that it’s the distribution that is the evil influence. It’s the distribution that does the real damage and harm, not just to the client but to the culture industries and to creative endeavours in general”.

Although copyright infringement lawsuits against individual file-sharers have fallen out of the spotlight since trade bodies representing the major labels, in particular the Recording Industry Association Of America, decreed they were an ineffective way of combating online piracy, such litigation is still routinely pursued in courts around the world by smaller rights owners, in particular porn companies.

In the UK, the last sizable music firm to threaten such action was Ministry Of Sound, though it backed down on those threats when the work of hapless legal firm ACS:Law – which breached data protection rules by accidentally publishing the information of all the file-sharers it was targeting – came to wider attention, even though Ministry wasn’t linked to ACS in any way directly.

More recent file-sharing litigation of this kind has led to some new issues being considered by judges. In particular that tricky issue of what to do if an accused file-sharer has an unprotected wi-fi connection and claims others did the actual file-sharing over his or her network, given, with a few exceptions, courts generally don’t like implying into law a legal obligation to password protect wi-fi hubs.

Another interesting issue raised in the Century lawsuit is whether all members of a BitTorrent ‘swarm’ (a network of users which use BitTorrent technology to link together, enabling faster file-sharing) can be held liable for copyright infringement conducted via that swarm, even if there is no evidence of unlicensed copying linked to some of their actual IP address.