'Queen of the Desert' Producers File Copyright Lawsuit Against Internet Pirates

In the latest push by Hollywood to clamp down on pirating, the production company behind the period film (starring James Franco, Nicole Kidman and Robert Pattinson) identifies seven IP addresses that distributed the movie via file-sharing site BitTorrent.
Courtesy of Berlin International Film Festival
'Queen of the Desert'

Producers of Queen of the Desert are suing a handful of unnamed BitTorrent users in Oregon for copyright infringement, claiming they are pirating the film before its release and contributing to an underground industry that costs Hollywood more than $80 billion per year.

The star-studded period piece that tells the story of British archeologist and spy Gertrude Bell is set to be released in the U.S. in early 2016. But the film has already been viewed illegally countless times worldwide and thousands of times in Oregon, according to the complaint filed Wednesday by attorney Carl D. Crowell on behalf of QOTD Film Investment Ltd., an affiliate of Benaroya Pictures.

The suit calls the defendants “prolific proponents of the BitTorrent distribution system” and promises to seek initial discovery to subpoena records from Internet provider Comcast to identify them.

“The defendants’ IP addresses have been observed as associated with the peer-to-peer exchange of a large number of copyrighted titles through the BitTorrent network with over 6,000 acts of distribution of content in violation of U.S. copyright law associated with these IP addresses alone, as such the defendants’ conduct is clearly willful and persistent,” wrote Crowell.

BitTorrent has been the ire of Hollywood for years because it allows people to upload and share large files quickly with users across the globe. The service isn’t inherently illegal, but paves the way for unauthorized free access to copyrighted films, television shows and music. This suit is the latest in a long-standing fight to protect the entertainment industry from online intellectual property theft.

The complaint dispels the notion that file-sharing is a victimless crime and says peer-to-peer services like BitTorrent are a business and individual digital pirates profit from their actions. It also might cut into the box-office receipts for the film that stars James Franco, Nicole Kidman and Robert Pattinson.

"Many parties, and possibly defendants have been compensated for their participation in expanding the availability of pirated content to others through BitTorrent networks, including plaintiff’s movie, even if only through being granted greater access to other pirated content,” the suit asserts.

Plaintiffs are seeking statutory damages and asking the court to demand the defendants stop distributing Queen of the Desert and destroy their copies of the picture, and to bar them from future file-sharing in violation of U.S. copyright law.