The Expendables battle pirates - in court - as judge blocks stolen copies of film

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 August, 2014, 10:02pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 August, 2014, 10:02pm

Citing lost box office sales that are "impossible to calculate", a US federal judge has issued an order to stop the operators of several websites from distributing stolen copies of the upcoming film The Expendables 3.

The film, distributed by Lions Gate Films, is to be released on Friday, but a pirated DVD-quality copy had been downloaded more than 2.2 million times as of August 1.

In granting a preliminary injunction to Lions Gate, US District Court Judge Margaret Morrow said in Los Angeles last Friday that the defendants "deprived both Lions Gate and many others of revenue that will be impossible to calculate because there is no way of knowing how many people would have paid to see the film" if it weren't for the copyright infringement.

Lions Gate sued the operators of six websites that did not respond to requests to remove the film. The operators are listed as John Does in the complaint, as their identities are not yet known.

The sites include Limetorrents, which the complaint said used the peer-to-peer file-sharing protocol BitTorrent to distribute the film. Other entities allowed people to download or watch the film directly.

The judge also ordered an asset freeze on all accounts associated with the sites.

The film is part of a lucrative franchise, with the first two installments grossing more than US$575 million worldwide. They feature action stars including Sylvester Stallone, Mel Gibson and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Lions Gate said in court filings that all the pirated copies of the film originated from a single digital file that had been stolen.

The company said it learned of the piracy on July 24, and that within days the film was available on hundreds of websites.

By Monday, Limetorrents appeared no longer to be posting links to the film. It did not respond to a request for comment.