Film studio Lionsgate has filed a federal lawsuit against "John Does 1-10" following the online leak of an advanced copy of "Expendables 3," due out later this month.
High-quality copies of the film available at several torrent-sharing websites have all been linked back to the same original file. The company first discovered the pirated digital copy on July 24th, reports The Hollywood Reporter. Since then, the file has been downloaded more than a million times.
What does Lionsgate's lawsuit allege, and how do you sue someone if you don't know who they are?
Lawsuit Seeks Damages, Injunctions
According to the company's lawsuit, filed this week in a California federal court, several different websites are offering downloadable or streaming versions of "Expendables 3," which won't be officially released until August 15th. The complaint states that the company has attempted to contact the administrators of these websites, but to no avail.
Along with damages for violations of The Copyright Act, Lionsgate's lawsuit also seeks injunctive relief against the operators of the websites. The suit asks the court to not only to prohibit further distribution of the illicit copies of the film but also to prohibit the defendants from "operating any of the websites" and to require banks or payment processors serving the defendant's websites to "cease transferring or disposing of any money or other of Defendants' assets, cease allowing such funds to be transferred or withdrawn."
Suing 'Doe' Defendants
In suits where the identities of some or all of the defendants are yet to be ascertained, suing a so-called "Doe" defendant acts as a placeholder. This has become common practice in lawsuits involving file-sharing, where the identities of users and websites administrators may not be easily determined.
In some cases, it may not even be possible to identify the users of file-sharing websites, given the increasing use of VPN networks and the ambiguity inherent in tracing IP addresses.
In this case, Lionsgate certainly hopes to uncover the identities of the website administrators named in the lawsuit. Maybe they should send in the Expendables?