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Kai Ryssdal: Remember when everybody was sharing music online and not paying for it. And how the music industry started suing to get people to stop doing that? Independent filmmakers remember, too. The producers of the Oscar-winning movie "The Hurt Locker," and their lawyers, say they have identified thousands of people who grabbed the film illegally from peer-to-peer sites online. They're not suing right off the bat, though. They're giving people a chance to come clean. At a price.
Marketplace's Eve Troeh reports.
EVE TROEH: The Oscar effect on "The Hurt Locker's" sales was explosive. The day after the awards it was the most-bought movie on iTunes. It topped Amazon's On-Demand service. And DVD sales spiked.
By the way, I borrowed that clip from the Hurt Locker trailer on YouTube. Dozens of comments posted below the video direct you to sites where you can download the movie for free.
Thomas Dunlap is a lawyer with the U.S. Copyright Group. He's representing the film's producers. He says more people bought "The Hurt Locker" after the Oscars. But more people stole it, too.
Thomas Dunlap: Assume just for argument's that you could add half-a-million sales because of an Oscar. If that's how many torrents there were, then that's how many sales were lost.
Dunlap's firm has subpoenaed Internet Service Providers. It wants information on tens of thousands of people who may have downloaded "The Hurt Locker" illegally. It plans to send letters that say the firm will sue if the downloaders don't settle out of court.
Robert Thompson teaches film at Syracuse University. He says no big movie companies have filed a suit like this, but he says he's not surprised indie filmmakers are first.
ROBERT THOMPSON: An independent filmmaker might have a lot more at stake than a studio that's releasing an enormous summer blockbuster.
"The Hurt Locker" is the most high-profile client for the U.S. Copyright Group. The firm has already filed suit on behalf of a handful of other titles and convinced several people to pay.
Lawyer Thomas Dunlap wouldn't say how much money "Hurt Locker" producers want from each downloader. But he said it's less than $15,000.
I'm Eve Troeh for Marketplace.