If you buy questionable CDs, saw Sylvester Stallone’s recent action flick via illegal means, or have ever dropped too much tokens on skee-ball (or allowed your kids to), you might relate to some recent national legal activity.
First, Wired reported about California legislation already passed by two state Senate committees to allow law enforcement to enter optical-disc plants and seize disc-stamping equipment, and pirated movie and music discs without a court warrant.
The Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America are supporting the constitutionally suspect measure, which also allows fines of up to $250,000. The legislation, which is up for a vote in another Senate committee next week, comes as the federal government is also cracking down on pirated goods.
But in this day of independent record and video stores becoming as rare as The Beatles’ “Yesterday and Today” LP with the banned baby doll cover, you need not go to the brick-and-mortar store to find pirated goods. They’re all accessible on your computer via BitTorrents, and usually free.
Well, at least 23,000 people may be paying for what they accessed.
That’s because Wired also reported that a federal judge has agreed to allow the U.S. Copyright Group to subpoena Internet service providers — including Comcast and Road Runner — to find out the identity of everybody who illegally downloaded the 2010 Stallone romp “The Expendables.”
And it’s not an isolated incident. According to the report:
[M]ore than 140,000 BitTorrent downloaders are being targeted in dozens of lawsuits across the country … . [M]any lawyers are mimicking the Copyright Group’s legal strategy, which includes offering online settlement payments, in hopes of making quick cash. The litigation can be so lucrative — with settlements around $3,000 per infringement — that two companies are both claiming ownership to a low-budget movie called “Nude Nuns with Big Guns,” and both firms are suing the same downloaders.
Not all federal judges, are agreeing to allow a massive number of subpoenas in a single case, but many are. The U.S. Copyright Act allows damages of up to $150,000 per infringement, and the cases all demand the maximum.
Finally, a San Diego mother is suing Chuck E. Cheese’s for $5 million. She claims that kids who go to there are at risk of developing serious gambling habits in their quest to win tickets redeemable for
dollar-store trinkets prizes.
Plaintiff’s attorney Eric Binink told the San Diego Union Tribune that the lawsuit’s real purpose is to prevent the company from keeping the machines in its game rooms.
“We don’t think that children should be exposed to casino-style gambling devices at an arcade,” Benink said, adding that the games take only a few seconds to play and some of them feature a roulette-style wheel.
The plaintiff also contends that the games are based on chance rather than skill, but at least one defender of Mr. Cheese, Scott Bullock at The Escapist, says any claim that a game like skee-ball doesn’t require skill is “clearly absurd.”
That being said, Bullock noted, as someone who was lured into the mouse’s lair as a kid:
I seem to recall spending a lot of time at the flashy-light roulette wheel, pumping in tokens and muttering, “C’mon … daddy needs a new alien pencil-topper!”