LOS ANGELES (CN) – Websites sharing a high-quality pirate copy of Lions Gate’s upcoming action movie “Expendables 3” must stop doing so, a federal judge ruled.
“Expendables 3” opens Friday in U.S. theaters, but Lions Gate claimed in a July 31 complaint that the film starring Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Arnold Schwarzenegger and others was downloaded more than 2.1 million times after it was leaked online.
Citing its exclusive right to distribute the next installment of the popular action franchise, the studio noted that the last movie in the series, “Expendables 2,” made more than $575 million worldwide.
Its complaint against Joe Does 1-10, the operators of various BitTorrent websites, alleged direct copyright infringement, contributory federal copyright infringement and vicarious federal copyright infringement.
U.S. Judge Margaret Morrow noted in an injunction order Friday that Lions Gate hired an outside vendor called MarkMonitor as part of its anti-piracy efforts to issue take-down notices to websites that leaked unauthorized copies of the film.
Someone secured a single high-quality digital file of “Expendables 3” using “fraudulent or otherwise unlawful means,” the court’s findings of fact and conclusions of law states.
Just days after “Expendables 3” was stolen, illegal copies of the film were made available for download on hundreds of websites, the judge said.
Two hundred and forty-seven thousand illegal downloads of the film were made on peer-to-peer networks nationwide, and the movie has been streamed “hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of times worldwide outside peer-to-peer networks,” the court’s order states.
Morrow said MarkMonitor responded by issuing thousands of take-down requests. Even though most sites agreed to remove the pirated film, however, the defendants in the case ignored the request, the judge said.
Among the BitTorrent sites named as defendants are limetorrents.com, billionuploads.com, hulkfile.eu, played.to, swankshare.com and dotsemper.com.
The sites allegedly allow users to download the movie for free. BitTorrent is a protocol that lets users share digital files over peer-to-peer sharing networks.
Morrow noted that people who download the film for free may not go to the theater to see it, or rent it when the movie is released on home video.
Finding that the defendants had directly infringed on Lions Gate’s license, the judge said that the pirated version hurts the studio’s publicity and marketing campaign for the film.
While the theaters face harm from lost tickets sales, Lions Gate is damaged by lost royalties from the licenses it grants to the theaters, the judge added.
“Defendants have also interfered with Lions Gate’s relationships with its business partners, damaged Lions Gate’s goodwill among consumers by preventing Lions Gate from exercising control over the presentation of the film, and deprived both Lions Gate and many others of revenue that will be impossible to calculate because there is no way of knowing how many people would have paid to see the film but for defendants’ infringement,” Morrow wrote.
Finding that Lions Gate is suffering an “irreparable harm,” Morrow also froze the defendants’ assets.
“Such an asset freeze is appropriate in this case to preserve Lions Gate’s right to such recovery against defendants, who are trafficking in the stolen film and may secret assets to insulate them from judgment,” Morrow wrote.
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