Getting caught watching an Adam Sandler movie would be embarrassing enough, but imagine actually getting sued over it. That’s the potentially uncomfortable situation for a number of high-speed Internet subscribers, including alleged users of Popcorn Time, the BitTorrent client that allows people to instantly stream pirated movies and TV shows on computers and mobile devices.
In a copyright-infringement lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court Sunday, 11 Comcast Cable subscribers in Oregon are being accused of illegally watching “The Cobbler,” the critically maligned comedy starring Adam Sandler as a shoe repairman who gains the power to assume the appearance of other people by wearing their shoes. The suit is the latest in a recent spate of infringement lawsuits involving the film.
Cobbler Nevada LLC, which purports to oversee the copyright for “The Cobbler," claims the 11 unnamed defendants used Popcorn Time file-sharing software to help themselves to free viewings of the recent box-office misfire. The company claims to have located the users through their IP addresses and said it intends to seek initial discovery to subpoena Comcast records to identify them. All of the customers live in and around the Portland area.
Cobbler Nevada received a copyright certification for “The Cobbler” in October 2014, according to court documents. Records show the company has been aggressively filing infringement lawsuits over the last few months.
Lawyers for Cobbler Nevada say the film has been the subject of “significant piracy and has been illegally downloaded and distributed countless times worldwide, with over 10,000 confirmed instances of infringing activity traced to Oregon.”
“Faced with extensive piracy, Cobbler Nevada is forced to defend its right through this action,” the lawsuit states.
The tactic of filing copyright lawsuits in an effort to subpoena Internet providers for the names of their subscribers is not an uncommon one. Rights holders for the Oscar-winning film “Dallas Buyers Club” have employed this strategy extensively in the last year, often, critics say, in the absence of any proof of infringement. (Voltage Pictures, a production company based in Los Angeles, was involved with both movies.) The goal, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, is to obtain the names of subscribers and demand a settlement.
A spokesperson for Comcast was not immediately available to comment.
“The Cobbler” was a box-office flop when it was released in March. The Independent reported the film brought in a paltry $24,000 in its opening weekend, making it Sandler’s lowest-grossing film to date.
Dubbed the “Netflix for pirates,” Popcorn Time has distinguished itself among BitTorrent clients with its user-friendly, professional-looking interface. The platform was shut down in 2014 but promptly re-emerged with the help of anonymous developers.