Warner Bros Entertainment has sued Innovative Artists Talent and Literary Agency for infringing its copyright and violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Warner Bros brought the action against Innovative Artists because in 2015 the talent agency allegedly set up an “illegal digital distribution platform”, which was then accessed by people outside of the agency. The suit states that two WB films — “Creed” and “In the Heart of the Sea” — appeared online in December 2015, after the studio distributed screeners.

Beginning in late 2015, Innovative Artists set up and operated an illegal digital distribution platform that copied movies and then distributed copies and streamed public performances of those movies to numerous people inside and outside of the agency. According to the suit, Innovative Artists would routinely rip DVD screeners intended for clients and upload them to a shared Google Drive account. Numerous people inside and outside the company had access to the films on the account, including managers, friends and relatives. On one occasion, the agency gave an assistant who worked at another company access to the account in exchange for a screener that was not already in the database. Warner Bros. says it discovered the practice after unauthorized copies of Creed and In the Heart of the Sea appeared online shortly after Academy screeners were sent out. Watermarks on the screeners traced pirated copies back to an Innovative Artists client. Instead of forwarding the screeners directly to its client, Innovative Artists used illegal ripping software to bypass the technical measures that prevent access to and copying of the content on DVDs, Innovative Artists then copied the movies to its digital distribution platform, where those copies became available for immediate downloading and streaming along with infringing copies of many other copyrighted movies.

Innovative Artists issued a statement apologizing to Warner Bros, Innovative Artists has fully cooperated with Warner Bros. from the first moment Warner Bros. informed Innovative that two award screener movies had been found on an Internet bit torrent site in December 2015. Innovative immediately permitted Warner Bros. to enter its offices, interview its employees, review its databases, and fully investigate the issues. As Warner Bros. well-knows, Innovative management immediately shut down all access to award screeners in December 2015 and Innovative immediately ceased any further activity that is the subject of the complaint. Warner Bros. is well aware, from its past experience with other industry entities; the sharing of award screeners is commonplace within the Hollywood community. Innovative was surprised, given its full cooperation with Warner Bros. investigation, that the complaint was filed without any communication from Warner Bros. without any prior contact with Innovative to resolve the claims. Notwithstanding that fact, Innovative is sorry for the improper sharing of the screener movies and will seek to resolve this matter with Warner Bros. on fair and reasonable terms as soon as possible. Innovative will have no further comment on this matter.

For copyright infringement, Warner Bros. seeks actual or statutory damages, up to the maximum of $150,000 for willful infringement.

Keywords: Copyright infringement, Warner Bros Entertainment, piracy, torrent, screeners, illegal distributuions.