As it now stands, according to the site, some 68 cases are still active, involving 70,914 individual alleged downloaders.
One studio called Liberty Media is an industry leader in lawsuit in copyright collections. Rather than identifying and tracking down individual violators, the company is calling for users of the HotFile site to voluntarily turn themselves in to take advantage of a limited-time "amnesty program."
If downloaders confess during a two-week period beginning Feb 8, fork over $1,000 and promise not to do it again, they will be granted "amnesty" by the company and not be sued. (The maximum penalty in copyright lawsuits allowed by law is $150,000 per downloaded movie.)
Liberty Media even named PayPal in the suit, calling on the online payment company to freeze HotFile's payments account.
For example, are you violating the many end user license agreements, or EULAs, that you have agreed to and which give you permission to license the software you think you own? Have you read the EULAs? Have you ever read a single EULA?
If companies can automate the discovery of violations of any kind, and add your name to a mass lawsuit, followed by the offer to settle for a few hundred bucks, we could see an explosion in the use of mass copyright infringement lawsuits for software and other kinds of products or content.
The tactic may be especially tempting for a company facing a life-threatening loss of revenue. If you're going to go out of business anyway, you might as well sue your users.
In any event, an era of computer-enhanced mass copyright infringement lawsuits is upon us, and, while it's of direct immediate concern to BitTorrent users, it's something we should all be concerned about in the long run.