Lionsgate Reaches Across the Globe to Punish 'Expendables 3' Leak

Company attorneys are trying to give notice of a copyright lawsuit to defendants living far, far away.
AP Images/Invision

Six months after Lionsgate got a shock when The Expendables 3 leaked online in advance of its theatrical debut, the film company continues its battle to punish those who distributed the Sylvester Stallone action film without license and against warnings.

The lawsuit was originally brought against "John Does 1-10," the anonymous operators of several torrent sites. A judge quickly granted a restraining order, and some of the offending torrent sites removed the film to the best of their ability, but other sites shrugged off the takedown notices.

Last month, Lionsgate quietly amended the lawsuit to add the names of those believed responsible for the torrent sites that had allegedly hosted or linked to an Expendables 3 file. In doing so, the lawsuit suddenly become an international affair. Among the new defendants were Muhammad Javed Ashraf (Pakistan, limetorrents), Ahmed Saleh (Egypt, hulkfile), Amiel Elbar (Israel, billionuploads), Tom Messchendorp (Spain, dotsemper) and Lucas Lim (Singapore, swankshare).

Apparently, Lionsgate is serious about holding these individuals responsible for alleged acts of direct and contributory infringement because on Wednesday, the plaintiff asked the judge for permission to serve defendants with process via email. Attorneys representing Lionsgate say there's nothing in the Hague Convention prohibiting this method, and while Germany is said to have once unsuccessfully challenged process by fax, the plaintiff says that Pakistan, Israel and Spain have thrown up no objection to deeming email to be a "postal channel" under the international treaty.

Piracy on The Expendables 3 has been credited as one factor in why the film underperformed expectations. The previous film in the series grossed $85 million domestic while last year's film only took in $39 million. On the other hand, it's hard to establish piracy as the causal reason why Expendables 3 bombed. While being a film in a different genre with a different intended audience, Sony's Annie was leaked by hackers in November in advance of its theatrical release and yet managed to score a respectable $83 million in revenue despite a drubbing by critics.

Lionsgate is demanding actual damages as part of the buffet of relief. Collecting on possible default judgments, though, is a tough chore and a different story. The company is also demanding that the torrent sites be put on "locked" status by registry operators.

Twitter: @eriqgardner