In recent years file-sharers around the world have been targeted with lawsuits by copyright holders seeking financial compensation.
These so-called “copyright trolling” efforts have become a common occurrence in the United States as well, with producers of adult content as most active participants.
A few days ago, however, a new name started to appear in the court dockets. In a series of complaints filed at federal courts in Connecticut, Nevada, and Pennsylvania, World Wrestling Entertainment is going after anonymous BitTorrent users.
The lawsuits are filed by daughter company WWE Studios Finance which is connected to the filmmaking activities of the organization. WWE has produced several movies in recent years including the recent “Eliminators” title featuring wrestling superstar Wade Barrett.
Like many other films, pirated copies are widely circulating online, and the wrestling organization is now targeting dozens suspected BitTorrent users for making it available. The number of defendants varies per lawsuit, ranging from eight to several dozens.
“Defendants willfully infringed upon WWE’s Work by participating in the unlawful and unauthorized acquisition, reproduction and distribution of copies of the Work by downloading
and subsequently sharing the Work through the use of the BitTorrent Protocol,” WWE write in the Connecticut complaint (pdf).
“Defendants engaged in this sharing even though the Work contained explicit language warning viewers that unlawful reproduction and distribution without WWE’S permission is unlawful,” WWE adds.
The alleged copyright infringements lead to a loss of income for the producers, WWE argues, and it’s ultimately hurting local theaters, venues, and the greater state economy as well.
The complaints in question only list IP-addresses and no names. WWE recognizes that the account holder itself may not be the infringer and states that it will conduct additional discovery to make sure that the right persons are targeted.
These alleged infringers then face actual or statutory damages which, in theory, can go up to $150,000. That is unless they settle out of court, which is what usually happens in such cases.
It might not always go that far though, as some courts don’t want more file-sharing defendants to be joined in one lawsuit. Indeed, shortly after WWE Studios Finance submitted their complaint in Connecticut, the Court ordered the company to explain why their case shouldn’t be dismissed for lack of proper joinder.