|Movie Companies Drag Phone Store into Piracy ‘Recommendation’ Lawsuit|
Two movie studios have added Verizon retailer Victra to a piracy lawsuit. The filmmakers previously accused an employee of recommending the 'pirate' application Showbox to a customer and now state that Victra is vicariously liable for contributory copyright infringement, demanding damages in federal court.
The makers of the films ‘Mechanic: Resurrection’ and ‘A Family Man’ are not new to filing copyright infringement lawsuits.
They previously went after alleged BitTorrent pirates, ordering them to pay significant settlement fees or face legal repercussions. This so-called “copyright troll” approach worked well, but in Hawaii, they have expanded their reach.
In a complaint filed in May at the US District Court of Hawaii, ME2 Productions and Headhunter accused local resident Taylor Wolf, who works at the Verizon-branded phone store Victra, of promoting Showbox and its infringing uses to a customer.
Showbox is a movie and TV-show streaming application that’s particularly popular among mobile Android users. The app is capable of streaming torrents and works on a wide variety of devices. The app can be used to pirate too, and that’s what the employee allegedly promoted.
This approach was already unique by itself, but in an amended complaint filed this week, the filmmakers go a step further.
Allegedly, other Victra employees encouraged Wolf to promote the Showbox app to drive up sales. This prompted the movie companies to add AKA Wireless and ABC Phones, which do business as Victra in Hawaii, according to the complaint.
“Upon information and belief, other employees of VICTRA informed First Defendant Wolf of Show Box and encouraged her to distribute and promote Show Box to customers in order to drive sales of telecommunication equipment, thus giving financial benefit to Second and Third Defendants,” the complaint reads.
This means that, in addition to suing the employee for contributory copyright infringement, the Victra store itself is also bing held vicariously liable for alleged copyright infringement.
“The Second and Third Defendants are vicariously liable for the contributory copyright infringement of First Defendant Wolf, as First Defendant Wolf was acting within the scope of her employment when she committed the wrongful conduct..,” the complaint reads.
The Victra defendants had the right and the power to directly control the activities of the employee and received a direct financial benefit from the infringing activities, the filmmakers allege.
It’s quite an unusual approach, to say the least.
While the complaint didn’t mention how Wolf was identified, it’s likely the filmmakers first went after the customer in a traditional BitTorrent lawsuit, who then informed them about the Showbox recommendation.
After the movie studios found out that other employees were involved, the phone store was added to the lawsuit as well. That, conveniently, increases the chance for the movie studios to recoup their damages…
A copy of the amended complaint is available here (pdf).