If You Watched ‘Hurt Locker’ Online Illegally, the Filmmakers Probably Won’t Be Able to Find You

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When Hollywood complains about illegal file-sharing of their films, they're usually concerned with something like "Thor" or "Harry Potter," but you could argue that smaller films (though far less visible) might actually be more affected by services like BitTorrent. After all, it's not like art-house movies are protected by big companies that bankrolled the production; usually it's just the scrappy work of aggressive producers and money-people who have scraped together the necessary financing. So if their film gets affected at the box office because of file-sharing, there's no safety net.

This brings us to the case of the indie Oscar success "The Hurt Locker." The filmmakers sued about 25,000 folks who watched the movie online illegally, but their case ain't lookin' so good at the moment.

Early this month, it was reported that Voltage Pictures had to drop about 21,000 names -- approximately 90 percent of the total defendants -- from their lawsuit. That still leaves about 2,300 people, but what Voltage is learning is that it's about impossible to hunt down these folks:

[T]he company has yet to positively identify most of the defendants due to the fact that it must work with Internet service providers to link IP addresses with allegedly infringing parties.

And since many of the anonymous defendants are filing motions of their own with the ISPs, identifying all the defendants is taking more than the allotted 120 days that Voltage Pictures has to serve them with papers.

Basically, if you watched "The Hurt Locker" illegally, the chances are pretty good that Voltage won't be able to figure out who you are. And don't worry, your ISP doesn't much feel like cooperating, so they won't be turning over your information, either.

While it's slightly scary to think that studios might at some point be able to start chasing after ISPs to track you down, we have to admit that we're somewhat sympathetic to Voltage's case. Hey, it is illegal to watch movies through file-sharing services, no matter how big or small (or good or bad) the movie is. Still, it seems like Voltage has gone about this all wrong, trying to go after as many people as they can. As a result, it makes the company look too big and clumsy to keep up with the speed and anonymity of online users. But this problem doesn't end with "The Hurt Locker." With streaming becoming more and more the future of home viewing, studios are going to have to be progressively more careful about how they protect their work from falling into the hands of bootleggers. In the meantime, if you really want to watch "The Hurt Locker" right now, the below clip is short, but at least it's totally legal.

20,000+ defendants dismissed from massive "Hurt Locker" torrent lawsuit [MediaBeat/VentureBeat via Vulture]