With worldwide box-office grosses totalling $274 million since its premiere in August of last year, The Expendables can be classified as a modest blockbuster. The film also did well on file-sharing networks such as BitTorrent, but thus far without any direct revenues. In an attempt to cash in on these unauthorized downloads, the makers of the film stood by an earlier warning and sued 6,500 BitTorrent users in the United States.
In the last 12 months filmmakers and licensees have sued well over 100,000 alleged file-sharers in the United States alone. The purpose of these lawsuits is to obtain the personal details of the alleged downloaders, and use this information to negotiate a settlement offer ranging from a few hundred to a few thousands dollars.
This scheme was pioneered in the US by the law firm Dunlap, Grubb & Weaver, aka the U.S. Copyright Group (USCG), but recently it has been replicated by several other lawyers across the country. A few days ago, USCG filed a round of new lawsuits on behalf of another major client, Nu Image, the studio behind the action flick The Expendables.
After The Hurt Locker, The Expendables is the first major film release associated with this type of legal action. It is also one of the largest mass P2P lawsuits that was ever started, with a total of 6,500 unidentified defendants (Does). All defendants are suspected of having shared The Expendables on BitTorrent in recent months.
The complaint, filed by Dunlap, Grubb & Weaver at the District Court of Columbia, further appears to be copied from previous cases. It starts off with describing how BitTorrent works, and goes on to explain how the defendants have used this technology to distribute The Expendables without permission of the copyright holder.