US judge OKs biggest file-sharing suit ever

A US Federal judge is flying in the face of precedent by allowing the US Copyright Group to demand ISPs hand over the details associated with Internet connections which have been used to download or share the film The Expendables.

If the case goes ahead, it will be the single largest case of its kind in legal history, according to Wired.

The US Copyright Group is a bit like the UK's failed one-man-band ACS Law in that it champions a morally questionable practice of 'speculative invoicing'. In short, it accuses the owner of an Internet connection of downloading some pretty questionable material - in many cases hard-core porn - and offers them the opportunity to pay large sums of money to make the whole mess go away.

The fact that company reckons people will shell out up to $3,000 in order to hide the fact that they were willing to watch ageing action hero career revitalising, bank-account-filling twaddle like The Expendables is open to debate.

The US Copyright Act allows fines of up to $150,000 per infringement, and it's a fair bet that the USCG will ask for this full amount in all 23,000 cases should they come to court.

The whole case could, however, simply be a legal dead end, as recent cases have ruled that IP addresses alone are not enough to identify who committed the alleged offence.

Either way, the US federal legal system seriously needs to get its house in order over this issue, as it is rapidly becoming clear that different judges looking at the same situation are coming to remarkably different conclusions.