Seeing The Hurt Locker in the theater: $10. Buying The Hurt Locker on DVD: $25. Renting The Hurt Locker from Redbox: $1. Illegally downloading or sharing The Hurt Locker: up to $2,900–to settle with the Oscar-winning film’s producer.
Thomas Dunlap, partner at Dunlap, Grubb & Weaver in Virginia, is taking action against those who have been illegally downloading and sharing indie films, including The Hurt Locker. “[Here’s] the problem that we saw, with The Hurt Locker as an example,” Dunlap told Super Lawyers. “Say there were sales of 10,000 DVDs but 50,000 [illegal] downloads. You can see the huge difference that piracy makes in that kind of scenario.”
Dunlap, an active National Guardsman who we featured in our 2009 Virginia issue, has filed copyright infringement lawsuits on behalf of at least a dozen independent film studios in the past year, including The Hurt Locker producer, Voltage Pictures. Earlier this year his firm filed a suit against 5,000 people–that list has since grown–for pirating the 2009 Best Picture winner, and settlements have gone as high as $2,900.
“Independent films–in some cases where they have no box office sales–are literally losing 50, 60, 70, 80 percent or more of their revenue to people who are watching it for free,” Dunlap says. “We understand the concept that people are enjoying the film, so they’re downloading it, that’s great. [But] the independent film studios can’t make their next film or even pay the actors because they live from project to project by the grace of others without getting compensated, without people paying to watch their films. So that’s a lot of what this is going to remedy.”
Dunlap says he sees illegal downloads go down once a studio becomes a client. “At least theoretically, those people who are not downloading and still want to watch the film will pay the dollar to get it from a box outside the supermarket or add it to their Netflix queue or Blockbuster queue or whatever they use.”
And filmmakers will no longer be hurt.