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Archive for the ‘Dunlap Grubb & Weaver PLLC’ Category

Congratulations to the Cashman Law Firm, PLLC clients and former defendants who were dismissed from the Nu Image, Inc. v. Does 1-3,932 (Case No. 2:11-cv-00545) case in the Middle District of Florida.

We’ve known that this case has been “dead” since December, when the court denied the plaintiff’s request for an extension of time to name and serve defendants. I was surprised that they did not instantly dismiss the case months ago, but it lagged on with almost no activity.

I suppose the timing of this case is fortuitous for those following the Prenda Law Inc. scandals, because the judge in this case is US District Judge John E. Steele, having no relation to John Steele of Prenda Law Inc.

A few months ago, I referred to this case as an “abandoned, dead floating ship.” Even then I had no idea that the timing of the death of this case by Judge John Steele would coincide so nicely with Judge Wright’s hearing just the day beforehand.

For those that want to know what actually happened here, the politics were very simple. Copyright troll attorney Jeffrey Weaver of Dunlap, Grubb, & Weaver, PLLC (now “Dunlap Weaver, PLLC sans former partner Grubb”) took this case after his main attorney Nicholas Kurtz left the firm leaving the oldest copyright troll without teeth to go after defendants. Nu Image, Inc. came in wanting to sue, and so Jeffrey Weaver took the case. Almost 300 documents, 79 weeks, and 2 days later, the case is dead.

Congratulations again to all 3,932 defendants who have been dismissed from the case.

Link to the dismissal order.

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As a follow-up to the “Sunshine State: No longer a “Happy” place for copyright trolls” article I wrote on Tuesday, I was surprised to see that one of Dunlap Weaver, PLLC’s cases — this one having 3,932 John Doe Defendants — survived UNSCATHED. It blows my mind that this case is still alive!

Nu Image, Inc. v. Does 1-3,932 (Case No. 2:11-cv-00545) in the Middle District of Florida was filed back in September, 2011, and our Cashman Law Firm, PLLC has been tracking the case since its inception. Jeffrey Weaver of Dunlap Grubb & Weaver, PLLC (“DGW”) filed this lawsuit after his lead attorney, Nicholas Kurtz left the firm to do who-knows-what.  Having a copyright troll / mass bittorrent extortion outfit with no lead attorney to fight the cases must have been a disaster for the firm, and so DGW partner Jeffrey Weaver took the case.

Now, over two years and 293 docket entries later (yes, watching this docket will max out your PACER payment every time you load the page), the case hangs in limbo.  On December 26th, 2012, Judge Sheri Polster Chappell denied Nu Image, Inc. more time to name and serve defendants.  We would think this would be the death nail for the case, but for some reason, the judge has not yet dismissed it.  (I can only assume this means that she is giving Weaver one last chance to prove that he is not a copyright troll, meaning that he actually has an interest in protecting his client Nu Image’s interests and going after the accused defendants.)  I have seen this firm name defendants before (even out of spite or vengeance when a certain attorney insulted them publicly [no, that wasn't me that time]), so while I wouldn’t be surprised if they pull out an “Ace” and name hundreds of defendants, I really don’t think this will happen for the following reason:

DUNLAP WEAVER, PLLC is lacking local counsel across the country.  While many of us attorneys have been building our local counsel networks across the U.S. (both on the defense side and on the plaintiff copyright trolls’ side), this law firm appears to have been stagnant, perhaps suffering from a bad economy and a failed copyright trolling business model.  They were the first, the biggest, and the oldest copyright trolls, but when they fired a number of paralegals who [unbeknownst to the partners at Dunlap Grubb & Weaver, PLLC] were doing most of the “scare” work and settlement negotiations for them, and when their lead attorney jumped ship, I expect they received an unexpected dip in their settlement rates (more like a fall-off-a-cliff wake-up call).

As a result of lacking a significant local counsel network of attorneys, they cannot sue the 3,000+ defendants in their home states.  And, of the 3,000+ defendants, very few of them live in Florida.  Thus, they are no doubt experiencing some legal logistical issues.  This doesn’t mean that they cannot go after defendants.  It simply means that they haven’t gotten their act together to do so, and that they may never get organized in time to do so.

As a funny side note, I wanted to point out that “John Steele” is the U.S. District Judge for this case.  Not the same John Steele that we know from Prenda Law Inc., but another John Steele.

In sum, I am watching this case carefully because I would like to see it go bust like the others.  I am dumbfounded why this case wasn’t killed with the others.

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A number of copyright trolls hit a snag when the judges in both the Middle District of Florida (FLMD) and the Northern District of Florida (FLND) froze a whole slew of cases, consolidated some, and severed many others. This is just a simple indication that 1) federal judges in Florida are talking to one another, and 2) Florida has caught on to the copyright trolls’ extortion scheme.

In the Northern District of Florida, the mass bittorrent lawsuit West Coast Productions, Inc. v. Does 1-581 (Case No. 5:12-cv-00277) was “smoked,” resulting in all defendants [except one] being severed and dismissed from the case. Judge Smoak not only denied plaintiff attorney Jeffrey Weaver of Dunlap Weaver, PLLC (think, “Dunlap, Grubb, & Weaver, PLLC” from the olden days) an extension of time to name and serve defendants (as if he would have if he was given the chance) but he also killed Weaver’s lawsuit by severing out all the defendants. Now obviously Jeffrey Weaver can always re-file against individual John Does in their home states, but so far [with few exceptions] I have not seen individual lawsuits from these plaintiff attorneys.

However, here is the problem with the West Coast Productions, Inc. severed case. We know it is severed. You now know it is severed. However, your ISP does not know, and as far as they are concerned, they are still under an order signed by Judge Smoak on 9/4/2012 forcing them to produce the names, addresses, phone numbers, and e-mails of the 581 accused defendants. And, based on my conversations with defendants in this case over the past few days, these deadlines are coming up right around the corner.

I would assume that eventually the ISPs would pick up on the dismissal after enough notice, but I want to remind defendants to make sure to give notice to your ISP not to produce your information. This is something you can do on your own, but if you want an attorney to do it for you, I have already taken care of this for my own clients. Remember, your ISP gets paid by the plaintiff attorneys for each name they hand over, so they have a financial interest in producing the names “accidentally,” unless you give them notice. And, Jeffrey Weaver (your plaintiff attorney) will gladly pay your ISP for their accident because he wants nothing more than to get your names so that he can ask for $3,500 from each one of you. For this reason, be smart and follow-up with this, whether you use me to send the letter and documentation to your ISP for you, or whether you do it on your own.

As if the severance is not enough exciting news, in the Middle District of Florida, PRETTY MUCH EVERY CASE HAS BEEN EITHER FROZEN, SEVERED, OR DISMISSED.  Hoo yah!

I am happy to share that many of these cases were frozen in their tracks BEFORE THE JUDGES GAVE ORDERS PERMITTING THE PLAINTIFFS TO RECEIVE SUBPOENAS.  In other words, the ISPs were never subpoenaed, and you — the thousands of John Doe Defendants — never received ANYTHING in the mail!  Here are just a few examples of various cases:

West Coast Productions, Inc. v. Does 1-448 (3:12-cv-01277) — STAYED
West Coast Productions, Inc. v. Does 1-675 (3:12-cv-00964) — STAYED

Night of the Templar, LLC v. Does 1-23 (6:12-cv-01777) — SHOW CAUSE WHY SANCTIONS SHOULD NOT BE AWARDED.
Night of the Templar, LLC v. Does 1-92 (6:12-cv-01778) — SHOW CAUSE WHY SANCTIONS SHOULD NOT BE AWARDED.
Night of the Templar, LLC v. Does 1-98 (8:12-cv-02645) — SEVERED AND DISMISSED.

Bait Productions Pty Ltd. cases — CONSOLIDATED; ALL CASES ASSIGNED TO JUDGE COVINGTON AND GIVEN NEW CASE NUMBER (6:12-cv-01779).  This applies to the following cases:

Bait Productions Pty Ltd. v. Does 1-81 (6:12-cv-01779)
Bait Productions Pty Ltd. v. Does 1-96 (6:12-cv-01780)
Bait Productions Pty Ltd. v. Does 1-40 (5:12-cv-00644)
Bait Productions Pty Ltd. v. Does 1-36 (5:12-cv-00645)
Bait Productions Pty Ltd. v. Does 1-82 (8:12-cv-02643)
Bait Productions Pty. Ltd. v. Does 1-95 (8:12-cv-02642)
Bait Productions Pty. Ltd. v. John Does 1-26 (2:12-cv-00628)
Bait Productions Pty. Ltd. v. Does 1-78 (3:12-cv-01274)
Bait Productions Pty. Ltd. v. Does 1-44 (2:12-cv-00629)
Bait Productions Pty. Ltd. v. Does 1-71 (3:12-cv-01252)
Bait Productions Pty. Ltd. v. Does 1-31 (6:12-cv-01721)
Bait Productions Pty. Ltd. v. Does 1-73 (8:12-cv-02554)
Bait Productions Pty. Ltd. v. Does 1-41 (8:12-cv-02555)
Bait Productions Pty. Ltd. v. Does 1-52 (8:12-cv-02556)
Bait Productions Pty. Ltd. v. Does 1-66 (3:12-cv-01204)
Bait Productions Pty. Ltd. v. Does 1-73… and so on.

According to @copyrightclerk, “Bait Productions ha[d] 25 active cases in the Middle District of Florida against a total of 1,536 defendants.” Her write up on the consolidation of Bait Productions cases can be found here.

In sum, while Florida might be “the sunny state,” it appears as if a deep cold front has come in and given the flu to the trolls.  I saw a number of Florida cases from other plaintiffs as well that have been frozen, killed, stayed, or severed and dismissed.  It took them over two years, but I am happy they have finally caught on.

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I would think that when someone creates and copyrights a film, the purpose of creating that film is to attract viewers to purchase tickets to view that film either in the theaters, or by selling DVDs of that film.

It boggles my mind that more and more, I am seeing B-rated film companies release garbage films that nobody would watch, and instead of promoting their film to attract viewers, somehow those films are “leaked” onto the internet, only to see the production companies then sue internet users for $150K for each internet user who downloaded their films.

Earlier this week, my kids were watching Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood on PBS, where Fred Rogers was quite a bit older than I remember him being when I was younger. To show them the “Mr. Rogers” I remembered, I searched around and found an older version where his hair was black and he was quite a bit younger.   The video was obviously copyrighted, but it was also uploaded and online for all to see.  Was I wrong for playing this video for my kids?  Or, should I have contacted the Rogers’ Foundation and acquired a license to purchase a copy of this video [noting that there is likely nowhere to purchase this black-and-white video]?

My point is that the copyright laws as they apply to individuals needs to be changed.  Production companies should make quality videos THAT SELL TICKETS (and DVDs) rather than trying to cash in on the end user that happened to view that video online without permission.  As I mention in my policy letter to lawmakers, if a production company really wanted to police their own copyrights, they are already given a legal remedy, and that remedy is to file a DMCA takedown notice with the website owner — and the unlicensed (“pirated”) video is quickly and effectively taken down by the website owner, or else the website owner can be found liable for copyright infringement himself.

If the Rogers Foundation wanted to stop me and my kids from viewing a 1968 version of Mr. Rogers, then they could have easily sent a one-page takedown request to YouTube.com where that and many other similar videos are hosted.  There is no reason for them to come after me, my kids, or any of the other thousand viewers, unless stopping “piracy” for copyright trolls is not the their real intent.

Back to the lawsuits and the new copyright trolls I am discussing in this article.  One new copyright troll is Canal Street Films, Inc. (link) who is suing 117 John Doe Defendants in two lawsuits in Washington for the download of their “Scary or Die (2012)” horror film.  The attorney suing is David Allen Lowe of Lowe Gram Jones, PLLC (link). The lawsuits are:

CASE FILED BY DAVID LOWE IN THE WASHINGTON EASTERN DISTRICT COURT:
Canal Street Films Inc v. Does 1 – 13  (Case No. 2:13-cv-03001)

CASE FILED BY DAVID LOWE IN THE WASHINGTON WESTERN DISTRICT COURT:
Canal Street Films, Inc. v. Does 1-104 (Case No. 2:13-cv-00007)

010613 Scary or Die

Also suing in the Washington Western District Court are new copyright trolls Kintop Pictures, Inc. and their attorney, Richard J. Symmes of the Frontier Law Group.  It appears that each lawsuit was for the download of the title, “Tucker & Dale v. Evil (2010)” film (link).  The strange thing about these six cases is that they were all filed at the same time in December 2012, and with ZERO explanation, just a few days ago, they were ALL DISMISSED.  I wonder if this copyright troll or their attorney grew a conscience, or whether they just needed to get their copyright paperwork in order before they reared their ugly head and started suing defendants again.  Nevertheless, because they sued internet users directly using the “bittorrent swarm joinder theory,” I am listing their cases in this site.

CASES FILED BY RICHARD SYMMES IN THE WASHINGTON WESTERN DISTRICT COURT:

Kintop Pictures v. Does 1-78 (Case No. 2:12-cv-02162) [DISMISSED]
Kintop Pictures v. Does 1-26 (Case No. 2:12-cv-02159) [DISMISSED]
Kintop Pictures v. Does 1-37 (Case No. 2:12-cv-02161) [DISMISSED]
Kintop Pictures v. Does 1-40 (Case No. 2:12-cv-02163) [DISMISSED]
Kintop Pictures v. Does 1-79 (Case No. 2:12-cv-02164) [DISMISSED]
Kintop Pictures v. Does 1-70 (Case No. 2:12-cv-02165) [DISMISSED]

Then in the Missouri Eastern District Court, Paul Lesko is still at it filing copyright infringement lawsuits on behalf of his new clients, PHE, Inc. and Purzel Video GMBH, both for the download of pornography titles.  The lawsuits are:

CASES FILED BY PAUL LESKO IN THE MISSOURI EASTERN DISTRICT COURT:
Purzel Video GMBH v. Does 1-91 (Case No. 4:12-cv-02292)
PHE, Inc. v. Does 1-96                      (Case No. 4:12-cv-02296)

On a side note, I hear that there was some controversy as to whether Lesko was pressured by the president of his alma mater to stop representing porn companies in copyright infringement actions, but apparently the attempts fell on deaf ears.  On 12/11/2012, Lesko filed a lawsuit in the Missouri Eastern District Court on behalf of his new client, “Purzel Video GMBH” for the download of their porn video, “Chubby Teens 1.”  Then on 12/12/2012, he filed another lawsuit on behalf of PHE, Inc. (the “Adam & Eve” adult sex toy company) for the download of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer XXX: A Parody.”  I wrote about PHE, Inc. here in my “Nice try, PHE, Inc. – a failed copyright troll” article.  In short, Lesko is still at it.

Lastly, in my own neck of the woods, I saw two cases filed against 400+ defendants by new copyright troll Studio West Productions, Inc.  The lawsuit is for the download of the film, “In the Name of the King: Two Worlds (2011)” (link), and even though the copyright troll attorney is John W. Raggio of the Raggio Law Firm, P.C. in Dallas (5 hours away from the court), after some research, it occurred to me that Raggio is merely local counsel to Dunlap Grubb & Weaver, PLLC (now, Dunlap Weaver, PLLC).  I am frankly surprised that they are still suing defendants, as they are one of the older copyright trolls out there, but they lost most of their litigation power when their attorney Nicholas Kurtz and a number of their paralegals left the firm after an internal shake-up early last year.

CASES FILED BY JOHN RAGGIO (A.K.A. DUNLAP WEAVER, PLLC) IN THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS:
Studio West Productions Inc. v. Does 1-237 (Case No. 4:12-cv-03690)
Studio West Productions Inc. v. Does 1-205 (Case No. 4:12-cv-03691)

All I have to say about these two cases is that they are in my back yard, so I will be happy to be there at the hearings and report things as they evolve.

As for all the other cases out there, I am still watching out for them, and if I see anything of interest, I will be happy to share what I find.  Obviously if anyone has any updates or questions about these cases, you know where to find me.

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I am looking at these new cases, and I want each new John Doe defendant to understand that these new cases that I am about to discuss are child’s play. Most of the new attorneys in these cases are newer copycat trolls who are hopping on the success of the bigger copyright trolls we read about daily in the blogs.

While the purpose of this blog is to discuss copyright cases and attorneys who sue John Doe Defendants en masse, I want to point out that this is no reflection on whether or not the attorneys are nice people.  At least one attorney here (Richard Fee) is described to me as being a nice guy, and in the comments section you’ll read about a particular attorney and his sidekick complaining about why I am making a new copyright troll feel ashamed about being a copyright troll.  My response:  Just because an attorney is a copyright troll doesn’t mean he or she is not a nice guy.  Kevin Harrison is a nice guy.  Doug McIntyre is a nice guy, and to many people’s surprise, Mike Meier is a nice guy too.

Depending on who you ask, I’m a nice guy too.  That being said, as soon as these attorneys decide to start filing copyright infringement lawsuits and they start suing defendants rather than focusing on taking down the infringing content which in my opinion is the remedy given to copyright holders by Congress via the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), I leave my “nice guy” hat at the door and discuss the cases and their attorneys for what they are — copyright trolls.

Here are a few new cases to give you a taste (pardon the cynicism):

In the Florida Middle District Court:
Bait Productions Pty. Ltd. v. Does 1-73 (Case No. 8:12-cv-02554)
Bait Productions Pty. Ltd. v. Does 1-41 (Case No. 8:12-cv-02555)
Bait Productions Pty. Ltd. v. Does 1-52 (Case No. 8:12-cv-02556)

Richard Fee of Fee & Jeffries PA (attorney for Bait Productions Pty. Ltd.) — you filed each of these on the same day.  Don’t you think the courts will see that you are copyright trolling and that they will consolidate and dismiss your cases?

Now let’s go to the Georgia Southern District Court: [NEW COURT]
R & D Film 1, LLC v. Does 1-80 (Case No. 4:12-cv-00281)
R & D Film 1, LLC v. John Does 1-26 (Case No. 4:12-cv-00282)
R & D Film 1, LLC v. John Does 1-37 (Case No. 4:12-cv-00283)
R & D Film 1, LLC v. Does 1-45 (Case No. 4:12-cv-00284)

Nathan Belzer (attorney for R & D Film 1, LLC)… Really? Are you really defending your R & D Film 1, LLC client’s interest in stopping piracy? Or in making a quick buck by suing downloaders? Do you even know about R&D Film 1’s other cases? Or did you just take the client thinking that you’ll make a few bucks?

Night of the Templar, LLC v. John Does 1-34 (Case No. 4:12-cv-00285)

Same attorney as above. Nathan Belzer.  I like the name of the plaintiff.

What about the Ohio Northern District Court: [NEW COURT]
Safety Point Productions, LLC et al v. Does 97-177 (Case No. 1:12-cv-02831)

Umm.. what happened to 1-96? Also, the “et al.” in this case includes Voltage Pictures, LLC. Douglas Riddell Jr. (new guy), did you think you would fool us? We have seen Voltage Pictures, LLC cases many times before in D.C.  Do you think you’ll be more successful than Dunlap Grubb & Weaver, PLLC was with this SAME PLAINTIFF?

R & D Film 1, LLC v. Does 142-162 (Case No. 1:12-cv-02832)

Again, the funny Doe numbering by Riddell. This Douglas Riddell guy is funny. I’m going to enjoy his cases.

Safety Point Productions, LLC et al v. Does 1-96 (Case No. 1:12-cv-02820)

Finally, Douglas Riddell Jr. learns how to count from “1.” Again, Voltage Pictures, LLC is a plaintiff in this case.

And,
R & D Film 1, LLC v. Does 1-141 (Case No. 1:12-cv-02822)

Again, Doug Riddell.

Now, let’s go to Illinois Northern District Court:
R & D Film 1, LLC v. Does 1-37 (Case No. 1:12-cv-09036)
R & D Film 1, LLC v. Does 1-92 (Case No. 1:12-cv-09039)
R & D Film 1, LLC v. Does 1-103 (Case No. 1:12-cv-09041)
R & D Film 1, LLC v. Does 1-66 (Case No. 1:12-cv-09043)

Todd Parkhurst (of Michael A. Hierl of Huges Socol Piers Resnick & Dym Ltd.) must be dym-witted to think that they would succeed with a copyright troll case in the Northern District of Illinois. John Steele killed copyright trolling for this federal district long ago — Todd, did you ask yourself when R&D Film 1, LLC contacted you WHY THEY CONTACTED YOU AND NOT JOHN STEELE (OF PRENDA LAW INC.)? For a copyright troll, Steele would have been a better choice.

Hmmm… Also in Ohio Northern District Court:
Safety Point Productions, LLC et al v. Does 1-14 (Case No. 1:12-cv-02812)

Did you notice how R&D Film 1, LLC and Safety Point Productions, LLC cases are each filed by the SAME SET OF ATTORNEYS IN EACH DISTRICT? I smell a new IP monetization company behind the scenes.

That’s it for tonight. Back to work on some real cases. If I’ve offended anyone, I’m not sorry — new attorneys shouldn’t be taking on copyright trolling cases.  If you are really interested in stopping piracy of your copyrighted content, then there are better ways to police your client’s copyrights than to let the infringement continue and then sue the downloaders.  Try a DMCA take down letter one day.  You might find that it works.

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I was floored when I saw this.  A proactive John Doe Defendant (Dan Krebs) wrote Judge Facciola asking him why he ordered copyright trolls in the Patrick Collins, Inc. v. Does 1-72 (Case No. 1:11-cv-00058) case not to contact Doe Defendants until they are named and served, but in the Hard Drive Productions, Inc. v. Does 1-1,495 (Case No. 1:11-cv-01741) case, the judge continues to allow John Steele and his Prenda Law Inc. gang to do whatever they want with the Doe Defendants (and consequently, Steele is sending out “scare” letters to the unnamed defendants).

While the lack of consistency between rulings from Judge Facciola is not surprising, I cannot help but to think of the words, “bias, corruption, and perhaps cronyism” when I think of his treatment of these bittorrent cases.

What floored me, however, was the “F’you” order he issued in response to Dan’s letter to the court.  In short, he stated,

“The Court notes that it will not answer this correspondence since an extra-judicial comment about matters pending before it is inappropriate.”

Or, in other words, “F’You.  Don’t tell me what I can and can’t do in my own court.  This is MY WORLD, MY PLAYGROUND, and I will play however I want to!”

My opinion:  Kudos to you, Dan.  Your letter was proactive, and you called out the judge on his inconsistent rulings.  It is my opinion that all judges should have watchdogs like you to force them to adhere to their own precedents.

Attached is Dan’s Letter sent to the court.

And, attached is Judge Facciola’s response.

[NOTE: Scribd is experiencing issues right now. Will update links later.]

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I am getting phone calls about “scare” letters that plaintiff attorneys Dunlap Grubb & Weaver, PLLC have been sending out using the name “Media Law Group” on their letterhead.  Again, this is Dunlap Grubb & Weaver, PLLC (particularly in this case, Ellis Bennett).

There is no overly exciting news here — the case for which these letters are now being sent out is “Third World Media, LLC v. Does 1-4,536” (Case No. 1:11-cv-00059) filed on 1/10/2011 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.  The number of the Doe Defendants has changed, as the case name used to be “Third World Media, LLC v. Does 1-4,171.”  Quite frankly, this is just another “me too” production company trying to make a few bucks shaking down people who allegedly downloaded their adult films.

What is noteworthy in this case is how it was literally ignored by Judge Richard Roberts for almost 10 months before it was thrown over his shoulder on 11/15/2011 to Magistrate Judge Deborah Robinson for her to deal with it.  During this time, Judge Roberts never replied to any of the motions, and he completely ignored the plaintiff attorney’s request to serve subpoenas on the ISPs in order to gain access to the John Doe Defendant’s contact information.

However, as soon as Judge Robinson took over the case, no doubt champagne bottles were brought out and the bubbly started flowing.  “Cheers!” probably came from the halls of Dunlap Grubb & Weaver, PLLC’s office.  Why? They found themselves a patsy judge.

Immediately after receiving the case, Judge Robinson not only rubber-stamped the order essentially handing 4,000 subscribers into the hands of Dunlap Grubb & Weaver, PLLC (one of the original copyright trolls from the mega cases of 2010 and 2011), but she gave them more leeway than I have ever seen a judge give a copyright troll.  I have seen orders giving plaintiffs 120 days (in accordance with Rule 4(m) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which gives a plaintiffs 120 days to name and serve or dismiss [John Doe] defendants), however, in her order, she gave them 270 DAYS!

Quite frankly, I’m not one to call a judge corrupt, or to claim that a judge is in the pocket of one party or another, but giving a copyright troll 270 days (where the rules allow for a MAXIMUM of 120 days) seems fishy to me.

But then, it doesn’t stop there.  Immediately after her 11/29/2011 order giving the plaintiff attorneys carte blanche for the next 9 MONTHS (FYI, that’s until the end of August, 2012), on 12/6/2011 the plaintiff attorneys amended their complaint adding new defendants (consequently adding 110 pages of IP addresses to the docket).

The funny thing, however, is that none of us have heard a PEEP from defendants, which indicates to me that the ISPs they targeted have given them a hard time and have not released the contact information of the accused Doe Defendants… until now.

As of this week, a number of defendants have started calling our office about this case.  Apparently the ISPs have begun complying with the subpoenas.  Let the games begin!

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As a response to the “You Have Been Shopped” article written by DieTrollDie on forum shopping, I do have some insight to add to this.  In short, there are not two Millennium TGA lawsuits in this forum shopping scandal, but three (if you are counting the “motion to compel” lawsuit in DC which is the key to understanding exactly what is going on — this is the missing link which provides the insight I am sharing).

MILLENNIUM TGA I: In short, on 12/7/2012, Millennium TGA v. Does 1-939 (Case No. 1:11-cv-02176) (hereinafter, “Millennium TGA I”) was filed in DC.  It was assigned to Judge Robert Wilkins, the DC judge who killed the “Expendables” bittorrent lawsuit — this was the Nu Image, Inc. v. Does 1-23,799 lawsuit by Dunlap Grubb & Weaver, PLLC which quickly expanded from 6,500 into 23,222 John Doe Defendants before the judge shut down the case.  It took Prenda Law Inc. a week to figure out that their judge was THE Judge Wilkins, and they quickly and voluntarily dismissed the case.

MILLENNIUM TGA II: Four days later, Prenda Law Inc. used their local counsel Doug McIntyre (the same local counsel who was almost fired because he took on the West Coast Productions, Inc. client [remember them in DC and in W.VA with their attorney Kenneth Ford who is now in jail?] in his West Coast Productions, Inc. v. Does 1-351 (Case No. 4:12-cv-00504) case which he filed without telling Prenda Law Inc. about it) and on 12/20/2012, Doug McIntyre filed the Millennium TGA, Inc. v. John Doe (Case No. 4:11-cv-04501) case here in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas.  This case involves pretty much identical parties, facts and claims as were alleged in the MILLENNIUM TGA I case in DC.  I suppose they thought nobody would notice their overt forum shopping, especially since they changed the name of their lawsuit.

Everything went smoothly for the plaintiff attorneys in the MILLENNIUM TGA II case in Texas …until Prenda Law Inc. served a subpoena on Comcast, who said “no.”

This is where the story gets interesting.  On 2/29/2012, Comcast objected to the subpoena by stating that 1) the court lacked personal jurisdiction over most of the IP addresses listed in the subpoena; 2) there were serious joinder issues in the lawsuit; and 3) the plaintiff was engaging in “a blatant attempt to FORUM SHOP” since they already dismissed MILLENNIUM TGA I to avoid being in front of Judge Wilkins in DC.

MILLENNIUM TGA III: As a result, Prenda Law Inc. (Millennium TGA, Inc.’s attorneys) filed a lawsuit against Comcast (it was actually a “motion to compel”) in the MILLENNIUM TGA, INC. v. JOHN DOE (Case no. 1:12-mc-00150) case in DC.

It was in this lawsuit that John Steele “surfaced” from pretending (think, “Prenda”) that he was not associated with Prenda Law Inc. since Paul Duffy allegedly took over the firm.  It is also my understanding that Prenda Law Inc. didn’t realize that John Seiver was the attorney behind the scenes on this case, and what they might not have known was that John Seiver has wreaked havoc on bittorrent cases as long as two years ago with the Digiprotect cases in New York.  Perhaps even Prenda Law Inc.’s predecessor firm Steele|Hansmeier, PLLC was not yet in existence when this happened, and John Steele was still running his divorce practice a la the Steele Law Firm, PLLC.  Either way, I suspect that they filed the motion to compel Comcast to comply with the subpoena in order to bully them, and they didn’t realize that Comcast (through John Seiver) would fight back.

Now advancing forward a bit on the timeline, Magistrate Judge Alan Kay ignored pretty much every point that Comcast brought up and he issued an order on 4/18/2012 ordering Comcast to comply with the subpoena for the MILLENNIUM TGA II Texas case.  They were ordered to reveal 351 of the subscriber identities to Prenda Law Inc.  This is, however, where it gets interesting.

John Seiver, obviously realizing that Magistrate Judge Kay made a dumb ruling, essentially called him a moron in appealing his order.  As an attorney, I would hold my tongue myself here in writing this article, especially because I am interested in seeing John Seiver and Comcast prevail, and I know that sometimes a judge can rule his court by ego rather than adhering to the law, but Magistrate Judge Kay’s ruling against Comcast was so dumb I could not contain myself.

In short, according to Comcast’s appeal, 1) the judge erred by failing to consider any of the legitimate defenses that Comcast raised on behalf of its subscribers. 2) The judge erred by failing to address the fundamental issue of whether any of the unnamed Does would be subject to personal jurisdiction (either in Texas, or in DC per the motion to compel).  3) The judge erred by failing to address the possible misjoinder of the one John Doe defendant (and the many co-conspirators) in the Texas case.  4) The judge erred by failing to realize that “conspiracy” is not a sufficient crime to allow massive discovery on the John Doe Defendants, and 5) Magistrate Judge Kay was not the proper judge to accept this case — according to DC’s own local rules (Local Rule 40.5), the case should have been immediately reassigned to Judge Robert Wilkins, the judge who was previously assigned to the MILLENNIUM TGA I case, since MILLENNIUM TGA I and MILLENNIUM TGA II had identical claims.  As of this evening, I am still waiting to hear a ruling on this appeal.

Now for those of you still in Prenda Law Inc.’s MILLENNIUM TGA II (Millennium TGA, Inc. v. John Doe (Case No. 4:11-cv-04501)) case here in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, if you are a Comcast subscriber, as you can see, there are unresolved questions in the MILLENNIUM TGA III DC case, and your status is uncertain.  Thus, my contribution to the FORUM SHOPPING article by DieTrollDie today is that the DC MILLENNIUM TGA III case holds the key to understanding what is currently going on in the MILLENNIUM TGA II case here in Texas.  Now as for everyone else (e.g., non-Comcast clients who are in the MILLENNIUM TGA II Texas case), understand now that the MILLENNIUM TGA III [motion to compel] DC case directly impacts your Texas case.  Obviously this is something we are watching for our clients.

If you are interested in reading this entertaining appeal by Comcast in order to understand the entire story and its implications, I have attached a copy of Comcast’s motion below.

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Today I received a bunch of what are commonly known as “scare” letters from Prenda Law Inc.  What is interesting is that all the letters I received were for the AF Holdings, LLC v. Does 1-1,140 (Case No. 1:11-cv-01274) case. While at first I thought the timing to an order by Judge Facciola was too much of a coincidence (read on), it turns out that something is going on with this case which has gotten the law firm sending out letters.  In my experience this usually coincides with a dismissal.

When I looked into it, I found what appeared to be my answer in a judge’s order in the West Coast Productions, Inc. v. Does 1-1,434 (Case No. 1:11-cv-00055) case filed in the District of Columbia District Court, where the judge refused to allow Dunlap Grubb & Weaver, PLLC to add new accused IP addresses to the case and then get the subscribers’ contact information from their ISPs.  Even better, for the FIRST TIME, this DC judge ruled in line with the other district courts that a defendant who does not live in the District of Columbia cannot be sued in the DC court because the DC court lacks jurisdiction over those defendants.  The exciting piece of this news is that DC has been notorious for allowing cases to proceed against thousands of John Does who lived outside of DC.  Any motions to quash summarily fail.

Even better, the judge who made this order was Judge Facciola, the judge in the controversial Hard Drive Productions, Inc. v. Does 1-1,495 (Case No. 1:11-cv-01741) case.

No doubt this has gotten the Steeles, the Hansmeiers, and the Duffys nervous because their cases are in the District of Columbia.  As far as I am concerned, this order — even though the West Coast Productions, Inc. order has nothing to do with Prenda Law Inc., I suspect it will be a death nail in all three cases – West Coast Productions, AF Holdings, and Hard Drive Productions.

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I’ve been bumping into more clients than ever who did not retain counsel and have now been “named” as a defendant in their bittorrent case (e.g., they were one of many John Doe Defendants, and now they have been served with paperwork and are now a defendant in their case).  The purpose of this post is to very explicitly state what you are up against at this point (this is for attorneys [unfamiliar with these cases] defending clients as well, as many of you also call me with the same questions as named defendants) and to give you your options.  Here are a few examples of named defendants:

Patrick Collins, Inc. v. John Doe 6, Ching Y., et al. (Arizona U.S. District Court; Case No. 2:11-cv-01602 [or 11-cv-1602]) (1/7/2012)

K-Beech, Inc. v. George H., Shana S., Richard S., Brian T., and Catherine V. (Arizona U.S. District Court; Case No. 2:11-cv-01604 [11-CV-1604]) (originally, K-Beech, Inc. v. John Does 1-54) (12/19/2011).

and K-Beech Inc. v. Derek L.K-Beech Inc. v. Paul F.K-Beech Inc. v. Carl P.; K-Beech Inc. v. Cesar V.; K-Beech Inc. v. Joseph G.; K-Beech Inc. v. Scott S.; K-Beech Inc. v. Hanna B., etc. (each in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania)

In short, my opinion thus far has been that these so-called lawsuits each are pieces of one larger “extortion scheme” where the plaintiff attorneys have acquired your name and contact information (whether through early discovery in a federal court, or a lawsuit in a state court such as Miami Dade, FL, Maricopa County, AZ, or even St. Clair County, IL).  Then they called you and sent you what I described as “scare” letters telling you that if you did not settle by a certain date, they would name you as a defendant (either individually or as a smaller group of Does) in your home state’s federal court.  For whatever reason, you did not hire an attorney and you became what I referred to as “low hanging fruit,” meaning that you became an easy target because by not hiring an attorney, you told them that you are not taking their case seriously and that you probably did not educate yourself about what they could do to you.

Not realizing that the plaintiff attorneys are using the courts and the legal system to further their extortion scheme, you did not realize that these so-called “copyright trolls” could actually follow-up and “name” you as a defendant in your lawsuit.  As far as I’m concerned, it costs them essentially nothing to do this.  They have already sued you as a “Doe” Defendant, and by doing this they have already paid the filing fee.  The complaints are all essentially copies of one another so the paperwork is already written (and if there is a no-name local attorney involved, he has probably been given templates by the Lipscomb & Eisenberg, Prenda Law Inc., or other firm behind the scenes (e.g., if it is a Patrick Collins, Inc. or K-Beech, Inc. case), so naming a defendant is a piece of cake.  The hard part of finding a local attorney in many cases has already been done, and so it is just a matter of “naming” you as a defendant in the lawsuit.  Even Dunlap Grubb & Weaver, PLLC (parading as Media Law Group) has started to hire local counsel and sue dismissed defendants from their many cases from last year.

Many people have asked me whether at this point they can “hide” from the process server so that they are not properly “served.”  Many have also told me “I don’t live at that address anymore,” “I’ve since moved so they’ll never find me,” or “my ISP doesn’t have my correct [NAME SPELLING/ADDRESS/PHONE NUMBER/E-MAIL {pick one}].”  My answer to each one of these is to point out that you are not fighting a traffic ticket… This is a copyright infringement lawsuit in federal court. Whether or not you are guilty, these cases have the ability to broke you (and to potentially seize your assets and force you into bankruptcy).  It borderline offends me when people stick to their “I’m not guilty, they can’t do anything to me” viewpoint because this is simply not true.  The so-called copyright trolls have the power and force of the law to haul you into court and force you to spend tens of thousands of dollars to defend yourself or face a default judgement (essentially a finding of “guilty” because you did not timely file an answer once you were named).

If you are named as a defendant and you avoid service of process (“being served”), there are other ways to serve you.  Depending on the jurisdiction, they can post a notice at your last known address, they can publish a notice in the newspaper… the judge may even allow them to serve you by sending an e-mail to your last known e-mail address.  Don’t think that you are the first person to attempt to outsmart the legal system.  People have tried all these before (and some have even fled the country), and this is why every attorney now learns about the ins and outs of service of process in their first year of law school.

So once you are named as a defendant, depending on your circumstances, the general rule is that you have twenty (20) days to file an answer in federal court.  An “answer” essentially is a denial of their claims, along with all your counterclaims and defenses (remember, if you don’t plead it in your answer, you lose the ability to argue it later).  Fail to file your answer in time and you’ve already lost your case and will be facing a default judgement.  On this note, NEVER rely on a default judgement being $750 plus attorney fees & costs.  I know you have seen those few judgments (e.g., DC’s Call of the Wild Movie, LLC v. Does case) where named defendants didn’t respond and they only got hit with the minimum $750 statutory judgement (but then again, Judge Alsup in N.D. California hit two defendants with $30,000 default judgments each for not filing an answer).  Judgements can be $750, $30,000, $150,000, and based on the sole discretion of the judge, any number in between.  I would never risk my financial future on hoping a judge had a good day.  In short, if you are named and served, you must file an answer with the court.

This is the point where many defendants are when they  contact me.  They believe that they will “fight the good fight” and they will “take these f^%@&!! to court!”  What they don’t realize is that lawsuits cost money and time to fight, and that suddenly it becomes my job to manage their expectations and to explain to them that depositions take time.  Drafting and filing documents take time.  Hearings take time.  And do defendants want a barebones defense? or do they want me to give the plaintiffs hell as well?  This takes more time.  We CAN depose them, take interrogetories, and I’ve always said that with one winning case, we can bring down their whole extortion scheme.  But this all takes…time.  And time costs you money.  So be smart before you declare war on those who have sued you.  There are smarter ways to handle these cases, and so make sure your attorney knows your particular copyright troll, their capabilities, where they will crack, and where they will give in before you decide to step into the courtroom.

Now that you are named (and it took SEVEN PARAGRAPHS to get to this point), realize that your power of negotiating a settlement is severely limited at this point because the plaintiff attorneys have ABSOLUTELY NO REASON TO ACCEPT A SETTLEMENT AT THIS POINT.  I expect they are hoping that you do not hire an attorney and that you try to do this on your own, because if you mess up, they’ve just created a valid judgement against you which they can have the court enforce against you.  Now if you have retained counsel, maybe they *would* decide to settle because as you’re about to see, we’re about to cost them a lot of money.

After we file the answer on your behalf, because their so-called evidence is insufficient to prove that you (and not someone else in your household, or someone using your internet connection living within a 3/4 mile radius [depending on the strength of your router]) downloaded their client’s copyrighted video(s), they will need to hire a digital forensics expert. This is a costly step for them – you do not pay a penny for this — so that they can make a mirror image of your computer(s)’ hard drives and go through them with the equivalent of a microscope to see whether they can find a hint of the file(s) you are accused of downloading.

Assuming they do not find anything incriminating, they will pull you in for a deposition under oath where they will ask you many hours of questions (with me at your side; again, think time) about your bittorrent use, your internet habits and activity, your schedule on the date of the alleged infringement, and anything else they need to establish that it was more likely than not you who did the download.

Again, assuming you are not guilty and assuming you did not say anything incriminating in your deposition, we would likely file for what is known as a summary judgement, essentially telling the judge, “Judge, they looked at my client’s computer(s). They questioned my client. They did not find anything and they have no evidence to move forward. Please dismiss.” Assuming we win, we will ask the court for attorney fees and costs to reimburse you for everything you have paid me. However, remember again, you just spent six months of your life fighting this. Had you contacted me before you were swept into this path of litigation, we could have avoided having you go through this in the first place.

Remember, as much as each of these steps will take time to fight on your behalf (and I’m happy to do this for each one of you), I always tell people that it is important to be practical and smart.  Your plaintiff attorneys are looking at this like a business, and so should you.  I have no doubt they want to spend as little as possible to make the most amount of money from you that they can collect.  As giddy as they may be from getting a $150,000 judgement from you if they took you to trial, chances are they will never see a penny of it.  I have no doubt this is why not one of these bittorrent cases has ever gone to trial.  Your plaintiff attorneys know this, as this was the lesson we learned from the MPAA and RIAA lawsuits from a few years back (where they did bring defendants to trial) — that it is more expensive to get a few large judgments than it is to get many smaller settlements.  If I have not said this loud enough, let me say this explicitly.  Everyone (even each of your copyright trolls and their clients) has a cracking point and a monetary goal (yes, even after naming a defendant).  Your attorney should know 1) how far they are willing to go, 2) how far they have gone before, 3) at what point(s) they would consider a settlement and for how much at each point, and 4) how equipped they are to move forward in case you do decide to  use our firm’s services.   Without an attorney, you’re on your own and they have no reason not to trample all over you and demand as much as they can.  With an attorney, we are too much of a liability (one word from our client and we have no choice but to move forward with litigation) for them not to consider settling (contrary to what they’ll tell you) because we cost them time.

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