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Illegal movie and TV show downloads are way up as people stuck at home look for entertainment

Updated: Apr. 29, 2020 at 5:30 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Orders to keep people at home have had all sorts of ripple effects.

More people are delivering takeout. Gas use is way down.

And illegal downloads of videos, well, they’re skyrocketing.

Kona attorney Kerry Culpepper represents production companies and has filed civil lawsuits against more than 1,000 Hawaii residents who have pirated movies in recent years.

“In the end it’ll cost you more than just renting the movie from Redbox or subscribing to Netflix,” Culpepper said.

That includes even if you’re bored because you’re staying at home.

Data investigation company GuardaLey Ltd. has reported a sharp increase in illegal video downloads this month while stay-at-home orders were in place.

Piracy behavior
Piracy behavior(GuardaLey Ltd.)

Culpepper’s current lawsuits were filed ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country, and center around the downloading of “Rambo 5: Last Blood” and “Angel has Fallen” while both were still in theaters.

He says it is commonly done using free, movie-streaming apps. Some lawsuits name the app, Popcorn Time. When a person downloads a movie it also allows other app users access.

"Not only have you made a copy of the movie, but while you are using it, you are also sending copies of it to other people,” Culpepper said. He wants people to know that copyright infringement can be a federal crime, but all his cases have been resolved at the civil level with violators paying anywhere from $200 to $150,000, depending on the amount of downloads.

“People are at home, they’ve gone through Netflix, they’ve gone through Hulu and they don’t want to watch the old stuff they want to see the new stuff.” said attorney Victor Bakke, who represented violators Culpepper has sued.

Bakke said none of his clients has gone to trial because the potential penalties are too high.

“If you get a letter from your internet service provider, whether it’s the telephone company or the cable company, you need to take it seriously and immediately call a lawyer because that’s the first step of you being sued,” Bakke said. In that situation, a lawsuit has already been filed and the letter is notifying you that your service provider is going to turn over your information to the movie production company.

“That letter from the cable company is, we’re going to tell these people who you are if you don’t talk to a lawyer and handle it yourself. The phone company will not defend you. The cable company will not defend.”

Culpepper says he has not filed any new lawsuits during the COVID-19 shutdown, but warns the data is still being stored on devices and the production companies could go after those illegally downloading after this is over.

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