American entertainment company Warner Brothers is charging online pirates $20 per episodes for illegal downloads of the 90s sitcom Friends. TorrentFreak posted an email sent by Warner Brothers to one such offender. The email provides the recipients with a link leading to a website where the fine may be paid. Upon payment, the accused is released of all charges, but not before agreeing to a cease and desist from the future distribution of all content copyrighted by Warner Brothers. The terse email is certainly now without teeth; the email specifically names the file downloaded, the IP address that downloaded it and when the incident occurred. It as well informs the recipient that their ISP service could be suspended if the matter is not settled, and warns them further that they could be liable for copyright infringement. With some grace, the email suggests where the user can go to find out how the content may be acquired legally. The email as well claims that the damage done to Warner Brothers via the illegal downloading of the content greatly exceeds the $20, though exactly what this true cost is (or how it was that Warner Brothers went about calculating it) is nowhere explained or substantiated.
This case should recall another recent incident where an LLC has begun billing people who downloaded (partially or in its entirety) the 2013 movie Dallas Buyers Club. There does, as TorrentFreak pointed out, seem to be something of a difference between the two; the show Friends is at this point well over a decade terminated, and the episode nominated in the email Torrent Freak posted is two decades old. On the other hand, Dallas Buyers Club is still comparatively recent, and still stands to profit from the market.
All this suggests an alarming trend; it would appear that the media giants have finally learned that if they want to stop piracy they must begin targeting the individual pirates, and not the websites that those users may be using to facilitate their piracy.
Is Warner Brothers right in putting forth these fines? Is it still correct to do so when the copyrighted material has aged as much as it has?