Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Digital Sin’ Category

Back in November 2012, I wrote an article about CEG-TEK’s CopyrightSettlements.com web site “crashes” where following a failed settlement transaction (purposeful or not), accused infringers received letters essentially saying, “[B]ecause you have decided not to settle, we will be moving forward against you in a copyright infringement lawsuit. Please pay us $3,500 or else we will sue you.” These letters were apparently sent from Copyright Enforcement Group (CEG-TEK), a software brainchild of Ira Siegel.

Now it appears that CEG-TEK is “stepping up” their game again, and more letters are being sent out, but this time from CEG-TEK’s local counsel, Marvin Cable. What is particularly concerning is that this letter appears to be sent out to:

1) ANYONE WHO CALLED IN TO CEG-TEK, BUT DID NOT SETTLE (they are scouring the CALLER-ID RECORDS and matching them with publicly available contact information), and

2) ANYONE WHO ENTERED THEIR CONTACT INFORMATION ON THEIR WEBSITE (e.g., to process their credit card payment), but the website “crashed,”

3) ANYONE WHO LEFT “BREADCRUMBS” WHEN INTERACTING WITH THEM, BUT DID NOT SETTLE.

NOTE: I have personally heard reports of 1) and 2), but 3) is a catchall for items I have not yet heard about, but expect that they are doing.

In sum, as I suspected when the Six Strikes System was put into place, with the big ISPs no longer forwarding their “$200 per title” settlement letters, their settlement stream of cash has started to run dry. As such, their production studio clients are forcing them to do whatever they can to “monetize” their clients IP (here, scrubbing the voicemail records, the caller ID records, and website tracking records, and putting names to those traces left by accused internet users), or else sue. In order to keep these clients, we see examples of letters such as this one:

 

Just to be clear, for a long time, when people ask “Should I settle or ignore CEG-TEK’s DMCA letters? What are my chances of being sued if I ignore?” I have been telling people that they could do either, and I laid out the factors to consider.  I am still of this opinion, namely that 1) Neither Ira Siegel, Terik Hashmi, Marvin Cable, or Mike Meier have sued anyone in MANY MONTHS (since July, 2012 to be exact), and 2) the purpose of their CopyrightSettlements.com website was to convince production companies that it is easier for them to sign on with CEG-TEK and run a settlement “IP monetization” campaign, rather than to sue everyone in a copyright infringement lawsuit.  I assume they are still trying to salvage this system, especially with the renewed efforts to find those who have not settled.

And as always, if you haven’t read my previous articles on the topic, I am still getting reports of website transactions not working (website “crashes,” failed transactions), and so once again, be smart and protect your contact information. Know that when you visit a website, unless you are using Tor or you subscribe to a private VPN, you share with that website your IP address, and when you call Copyright Enforcement Group’s phone number to inquire about your matter, you leak your phone number which can easily be cross-referenced back to you.

In other words, be careful with your information, and the “breadcrumbs” you leave when you conduct your daily life.  These breadcrumbs can be traced back to you, and next thing you know, you’ll be on the phone with me asking how to defend a copyright infringement lawsuit filed against you and 200 other Doe Defendants.

Read Full Post »

This is a rather tricky article to write, especially since I am setting some copyright trolls apart from others, and I am unsure whether this is a good idea or not.

It is my opinion that the “Six Strikes” System which has recently gone into effect will ultimately kill Copyright Enforcement Group’s (CEG-TEK)’s “CopyrightSettlements.com” settlement system. In short, their selling point of attracting new copyright holders (the production companies) with the promise of big profits through volume settlements (from you, the internet users) by the sending of DMCA scare letters directly to internet subscribers via their ISPs will fail. I am concerned that the production companies / copyright holders might decide to start once again suing defendants in copyright infringement lawsuits.

Copyright trolls take two forms — the “copyright troll” lawyer, and the production company who embraces the concept of extorting settlements from so-called “infringers” rather than selling their copyrighted product on the marketplace.  There is one entity often missing from our blog’s focus on lawyers and their clients — the “IP enforcement company” (“IP” = intellectual property) who is working behind the scenes to 1) acquire clients for their firm, 2) track the peer-to-peer / bittorrent downloads and torrent swarms, 3) hire and maintain one or more attorneys capable of suing, and 4) converting their tracking efforts into CASH [in terms of $$$ settlements from accused downloaders].

This explains why whether you are sued by Patrick Collins, K-Beech, or Malibu Media, you’ll be contacted by someone on the Lipscomb & Eisenberg law firm’s collection team. Similarly, if the production company is Digital Sin, Zero Tolerance, Girls Gone Wild, etc., then your IP enforcement company is the Copyright Enforcement Group (CEG-TEK) and you will be sent DMCA letters suggesting that you settle their claims against you or else they may sue you (so far, this has not been the rule, but the exception). Yet, if your plaintiff is AF Holdings, Hard Drive Productions, Openmind Solutions, or any of the others connected with Prenda Law Inc. or the new Anti-Piracy Law Group, your IP enforcement company is one of John Steele’s entities. In other words, every copyright troll plaintiff is a client of a particular IP enforcement company, and that IP enforcement company has one or more lawyers on their team (or more often then not, as with John Steele and Ira Siegel — very different entities) — the lawyers themselves appear to own an ownership interest in the IP enforcement companies they run and work on behalf of.

It is my understanding that an enterprising attorney (or members of his IP enforcement company’s sales team) will often attend annual pornography conventions, and they will rub shoulders with production companies who end up being the copyright holders in these lawsuits.

The traditional IP enforcement companies (Lipscomb, Steele, etc.) will tell them, “I am aware of your company’s piracy problem, and I have a solution. Look at all our data as to the piracy of your videos.  Our team of experts can track the piracy of your copyrighted content, and our team of “expert” lawyers will sue defendants on your behalf. Instead of defending themselves, the accused internet user will be shamed with a lawsuit and will settle with us for thousands of dollars (average asking price: $3,400), we’ll take our commission, and we’ll both be millionaires. And, we’ll cut down on piracy in the process.

CEG-TEK (the Copyright Enforcement Group) and Ira Siegel has a different approach, and I believe the Six Strikes System will be the achilles heel of their “out-of-court pre-lawsuit settlement” approach.

The Copyright Enforcement Group was essentially formed because Ira Siegel didn’t like the idea of suing defendants and having all of his settlement activities monitored by a federal judge who can ask him uncomfortable questions about his activities. Rather, he has been paying ISPs to send out “DMCA” settlement letters (invoking and in my opinion, misusing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act) in order to scare defendants into settling cases before they are filed in federal court. Settlements average $200 per accused title, but I have seen a few $500 per-title settlements as well.

It is my understanding that the way CEG-TEK acquires new clients — their “unique selling proposition,” if you will — is that they tell production companies, “we can track and sue the downloaders if we want — we have attorneys in a number of states who can sue defendants, and possibly get a $3,400 settlement from a few of them [once in a while]. However, if you come on board with us, we will send DMCA settlement letters out to the internet user directly via his ISP, and that letter will point them to our Copyright Settlements (www.copyrightsettlements.com) website where they can enter their unique username and password and privately pay their settlement fee. The settlement fee will be $200 and not $3,400, but the quantity of users who will pay us our small fee and move on will be significantly higher than those who will settle a federal copyright infringement lawsuit. We’ll all make millions!”

The reason I think CEG-TEK’s business model of sending DMCA letters will ultimately fail is because the Six Strikes System has undermined CEG-TEK’s abilities to contact so many internet users. In short, instead of sending the DMCA letters directly to the ISP subscribers as Charter and a number of smaller ISPs do, the big ISPs have banded together and formed something called the “Six Strikes System” which essentially gives six warnings to their subscribers before giving copyright holders access to their subscriber’s contact information for the purposes of suing for copyright infringement or sending DMCA threat letters as CEG-TEK does every day.

In other words, anyone who has Comcast, Time Warner, Verizon, etc. as their ISP will no longer receive CEG-TEK’s DMCA letters. Instead, they receive a notice such as “we have received a complaint of copyright infringement from your account; stop this activity.” But with ISP members of the Six Strikes Program, CEG-TEK’s DMCA LETTERS ARE NO LONGER FORWARDED OVER TO THE SUBSCRIBERS! What this means is that let’s say 75% of the market share of internet users (I’m using this number merely as a hypothetical) will no longer go online and settle CEG-TEK’s claims against them. Or in other words, the http://www.CopyrightSettlements.com website as of a week or so ago [the plan went into effect roughly a week or so ago] will have experienced a 75% drop in settlements.

Knowing the production companies who signed on with CEG-TEK with the sole purpose of making millions in settlements from these DMCA letters, I suspect that they are starting to get upset and impatient because CEG-TEK’s promise of directing would-be defendants to their website is no longer the money-making machine they thought it would be. As a result, I am concerned that the production companies who signed on with CEG-TEK might start opt for suing defendants once again en masse.

PERSONAL NOTE: I obviously don’t want to scare anyone because I am very far from screaming “the sky is falling.” We have been defending clients in countless cases filed in federal courts across the U.S., and in recent months, there has been a clear change in the level of education of the judges and their feelings towards “copyright troll” plaintiffs. Possibly with the help of our POLICY LETTER (or simply our phone calls and faxes to a judge’s chambers when one is assigned to a copyright infringement case).  Judges are now educated as to the copyright trolling problem, and it is much more difficult to go after defendants because our collective arguments (such as, “an IP address is not a person,” and “just because you can prove an IP address snapshot was involved in a download does not mean that copyright infringement occurred,” etc.) are starting to take plant themselves deeply in the federal court system. In other words, if they start suing, we are very prepared, and they are almost a year-and-a-half behind.

Read Full Post »

Copyright Enforcement Group’s (“CEG-TEK Int’l”) DMCA letters have been sent out to thousands of would-be “John Doe” copyright infringement defendants to date for the alleged downloading of pornographic films. The problem is that they often ask for MULTIPLE SETTLEMENTS FOR THE SAME DOWNLOADED TITLE.

BACKGROUND: Just in case you did not read my first article on Ira Siegel’s / CEG-TEK’s DMCA Scare LettersI’m including these next two paragraphs to bring you up to speed.

Instead of CEG-TEK’s failed methods of suing hundreds of John Doe Defendants in one bittorrent lawsuit, CEG-TEK has concocted a turnkey method of scaring a would-be internet user into settling their case BEFORE THE PLAINTIFF EVEN FILES A LAWSUIT. Instead of a copyright troll paying a $350 filing fee and proving copyright infringement in front of a judge, and in lieu of hiring plaintiff attorneys to fight the ISPs in order to obtain the names, the addresses, and the phone numbers of would-be defendants (and noting that ISPs are no longer cooperating as easily as they used to), Ira Siegel and CEG-TEK have found a way using the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to have the ISP send letters to the alleged infringers, doing CEG-TEK’s dirty work for them.

The notice an ISP subscriber would receive would say something such as “Notice of Unauthorized Use of Registered Copyrights Owned by so-and-so,” followed by a Case #, a password, and CEG TEK International’s long and confusing “scare” letter threatening that if the defendant didn’t settle the claims against them online via their http://www.copyrightsettlements.com website (I am not including the link for obvious reasons of protecting your privacy; read my other article for details relating to IP address tracking, website failures, etc.), then Ira M. Siegel or one on CEG-TEK’s legal counsel would sue for violation of the U.S. Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 106.

The problem is that even though they are only asking for a settlement of $200 for each title [UPDATE: $500 per infringed title (prices per title for some production companies have gone up)], CEG-TEK IS NOT FILTERING OUT DUPLICATE DOWNLOAD ATTEMPTS.  So, a downloader who downloads a title such as Media Products, Inc. DBA Devil’s Film’s “It’s Okay! She’s my Step-Daughter” or Digital Sin Inc.’s “Fresh Outta Highschool” using bittorrent, and their bittorrent software attempts to connect to these files multiple times, -OR- if CEG-TEK monitors that you have downloaded various pieces of the same title multiple times (even when the IP address is the same), YOU WILL GET MULTIPLE LETTERS FROM YOUR ISP.

The problem I ask is — how does an accused downloader call up Ira Siegel — a KNOWN COPYRIGHT TROLL who has sued thousands of defendants for $150,000 per title, and who has sent out countless “scare” letters demanding thousands of dollars per title — how do you call up Ira Siegel and say, “yeah, I downloaded it,” ***ADMISSION OF GUILT*** “but I only did it once, not three times”???

Thinking with my jaded lawyer mind, part of me wonders whether CEG-TEK Int’l have purposefully left the duplicate titles on their DMCA notices to lure would-be defendants to call them up, admit guilt [that they have done the download, "but only once," and then CEG-TEK and Ira Siegel would have all the ammunition that they would need to sue that downloader in federal court.

Anyway, I don't need to say that an attorney (our firm or any other firm) could negotiate down the duplicate downloads without admitting guilt or incriminating you as you might do on your own if you called them yourself.

PERSONAL NOTE: I still hold the opinion that if they really have a claim against you than they should present their claim in the form of a lawsuit in federal court where a judge will make them prove their claims against you (and quite frankly, I am even more of the opinion that they should not be suing downloaders AT ALL [and that they should focus their efforts on taking down infringing content using the DMCA remedies given to them by the law]), but I also understand the economics involved with someone wanting to just make this go away at the early stages.

Once again, if you have not already done so, go back and read my initial article on CEG-TEK Int’l’s DMCA letters and what I think of them.

Read Full Post »

It is very easy to put up a banner claiming “MISSION ACCOMPLISHED — NO MORE BITTORRENT CASES IN SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK,” but reality is not that simple. A judge can give a ruling, and it can be a darned good ruling which is binding on all other judges in that federal district (similarly, that ruling is persuasive for judges in other federal districts). One such case is the case written up by Sophisticated Jane Doe in her “The Domino Effect: Trolls are not welcome in the Southern District of New York anymore” article posted just moments ago. I do not need to re-write this up — she did a wonderful job, and there is no reason to duplicate her efforts.

That being said, this case does merit some discussion. The name of the case is Digital Sins, Inc., v. John Does 1-245 (Case No. 1:11-cv-08170, or 11 Civ. 8170) [misspelled], filed in the U.S. District Court for the SOUTHERN DISTRICT of New York (remember our blog post about forum shopping there?). I am happy to share that the case is now SEVERED AND DISMISSED. Obviously, congratulations to the Cashman Law Firm, PLLC clients who were part of that case. This ruling is WONDERFUL for you.

As far as I am concerned, this ruling was the order I was waiting for back in March when I reported that all of copyright troll Mike Meier’s New York cases were consolidated by Judge Forrest. Similarly, you’ll see what I thought would happen in my “New York Judge consolidates and freezes SMALLER BITTORRENT CASES for plaintiff attorney” article earlier that month. Well in short, my opinion with hindsight was that all this was a dud, and Judge Forrest merely consolidated the cases to rein in Mike Meier so that she can control him and his cases so that they all had uniform outcomes. This was obviously a step in the right direction, but it did not dispose of the cases in their entirety. Perhaps because Judge Forrest had experience with copyright cases in the past, she thought she should be the one to preside over them. However, in my opinion, she just made them more orderly; she didn’t rule on the underlying issues plaguing each of Mike Meier’s cases.

Here comes Judge Colleen McMahon of the same Southern District as Judge Forrest, and she (like Judge Forrest) has my respect. In her ruling on Tuesday, she took the opportunity to take a John Doe ruling, and turn it into NEW LAW FOR NEW YORK COURTS (obviously I am referring to the federal courts). What impressed me was that not only was she aware of Judge Forrest’s activities, she changed the law by dissenting with them.

“Judges Forrest and Nathan, have decided to allow these actions to go forward on a theory that permissive joinder was proper.  I most respectfully disagree with their conclusion.” (p.4)

Further, she ruled that if Mike Meier wanted to sue these 244 defendants, he may do so in separate lawsuits, AND HE MUST PAY THE $350 FILING FEE FOR EACH LAWSUIT (that’s $85,400 in filing fees that Digital Sin, Inc. will have to pay if they want to go after the dismissed defendants).

“They are dismissed because the plaintiff has not paid the filing fee that is statutorily required to bring these 244 separate lawsuits.” (p.4)

What made this case blogworthy (and you’ll notice, I rarely post about the run-of-the-mill dismissals that happen every day in various jurisdictions when their rulings teach nothing new) was that Judge McMahon suggested TWO STRATEGIES to John Doe Defendants that she believes would successfully refute the plaintiff attorney’s geolocation evidence as proof that the court has personal jurisdiction over the accused IP addresses.

Firstly, she suggests that the John Doe defendants not living in the jurisdictional confines of the court simply file a SWORN DECLARATION that they live somewhere else.

“John Doe 148 could have overcome [the geolocation data evidence provided by the plaintiff] by averring [e.g., in a sworn decaration] that he was a citizen and resident of some state other than New York — even New Jersey or Connecticut, portions of which are located within the geographic area that is covered by the geolocation data.” (emphasis added, p.5)

Secondly, she said that since plaintiff attorneys are getting the personal jurisdiction right (e.g., filing lawsuits against Californians in California, against Texans in Texas, etc.), defendants could start asserting the “WRONG VENUE” argument (essentially saying, “Court, yes, I live in New York.  But I was sued in Long Island and I live in Buffalo.  It would be an extreme hardship for me to travel down to Long Island every time I need to show up for a hearing there to defend my case.”).  The actual verbiage suggested by the Court is that “…plaintiff has failed to plead facts rom which a reasonable trier of fact could conclude that this Court has personal jurisdiction over this John Doe, or that venue is properly laid in this district.”  (emphasis added).

Next, this ruling is VERY EXCITING because it puts handcuffs on Mike Meier should he wish to file against any of the severed and dismissed defendants in a follow-up case.  Those rules are:

1) When an ISP complies with a subpoena request, it may not share the telephone number or e-mail address of the subscriber with the plaintiff attorney.

2) Assuming the ISP does not file a motion to quash (it obviously may AND SHOULD do so on behalf of its subscribers [my opinion]), the ISP shall share the subscriber’s information WITH THE COURT ONLY (not directly to the plaintiff as is usually done), and the court will disclose the information to the plaintiff attorney.  (I’m not sure the benefit of this — they still get the contact information of the John Doe Defendants this way).

3) The plaintiff may use the information disclosed ONLY FOR THE PURPOSE OF LITIGATING THAT CASE (so the plaintiff may no longer use the threat of future litigation if they do not immediately settle to extort a settlement.  This was a tactic used by many plaintiff attorneys (most notoriously, Prenda Law Inc. who admitted that they dismissed the case so that they can go after the John Doe Defendants [extorting settlements] without the court’s involvement).

Lastly — and her timing is quite interesting as we just finished writing about forum shopping in bittorrent cases — she warned Mike Meier not to engage in “judge shopping.”

“Lest plaintiff’s counsel think he can simply put cases against the severed and dismissed John Doe defendants into the wheel for assignment to yet another judge, I remind him of Local Civil Rule 1.6(a) [which requires the plaintiff attorney to bring the existence of potentially related cases to the attention of the Court].” 

For your reading pleasure, I have pasted a copy of the order below.  For my own opinion on the topics discussed by the judge, I have pasted them below the judge’s order.

MY OPINION:  There is more here that I did not write about, namely that the judge believes that all the bittorrent cases currently being held by Judge Forrest and Judge Nathan should be assigned over to her so that she can dispose of them once and for all.  She also went into other judge’s rulings which duplicate content in other articles on the blog.  However, once again, we have another wonderful ruling.  However, moving forward, perhaps I am a bit jaded, but I don’t foresee Judge Forrest or Judge Nathan tomorrow assigning over all their bittorrent cases to this judge.  There is now a disagreement in the New York courts (as there are in many jurisdictions) as to how to handle these cases.  I would love to jump up and down, wave a banner and declare “MISSION ACCOMPLISHED — NO MORE BITTORRENT CASES IN SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK,” but quite frankly this is not reality.

More likely than not, plaintiff attorneys such as Mike Meier, Jason Kotzker, and any other copyright troll who wants to file in New York will continue to file there.  As you can see in my forum shopping article (which should more properly be called “Judge Shopping”), an attorney can in ONE DAY file  9 SEPARATE CASES and receive 7 SEPARATE JUDGES, as was the case with Kotzker’s recent filings.

In addition, while the SWORN DECLARATION argument and the VENUE arguments are both easy solutions to disprove the plaintiff’s prima facia case for personal jurisdiction (meaning, the bare minimum a court will require in order to accept the fact that it has personal jurisdiction over the defendants in the case), a John Doe Defendant hoping to hide his identity from the plaintiff attorney and quash a subpoena should not be excited by these solutions.  1) For the sworn declaration, they’ll necessarily be giving up their true location (they cannot lie that they live in Connecticut when they live in California), and we all know that Mike Meier is only ONE local attorney to a larger IP monetization group (“The Copyright Enforcement Group”) which has other attorneys in other states, and who continues to recruit new hungry would-be copyright trolls.  So even if they succeed in getting their case dismissed here, guess who will be filing against them in their home state’s federal court?  2) A John Doe Defendant who asserts the “correct state, wrong venue” argue just made a big blunder — he admitted that personal jurisdiction is proper in that state.  Rules for venue are based on a number of factors, NOT ONLY WHERE THE DEFENDANT LIVES.  Similarly, no doubt the plaintiff will respond in a wrongful venue argument in a motion to quash that “John Doe filed this motion to quash asserting wrongful venue (which by the way is not a valid ground to quash a subpoena; jurisdiction IS), but he is not a party to the action [yet] and thus he has no standing to file this motion to quash.”  Remember this?  Lastly and realistically, the proper time a defendant CAN AND SHOULD use this wrongful venue argument is in his ANSWER (which means he was already NAMED as a defendant in the case).  Too late.  There are better issues to kill a case at this point than complaining that the court is too much of a drive.

[DISCLAIMER: I've given many opinions here which is not to be taken as legal advice.  Each defendant has different needs and different circumstances, and for this reason, the legal advice I give for one of my clients may not be appropriate (or may even be harmful) to another client who's circumstances are different.  Also, obviously no attorney-client relationship is formed until you sign a retainer and become a client.]

Read Full Post »

*** UPDATE (3/13, 11:45am CST): I might need to backpedal a bit here. I received word from an attorney who had ears in yesterday’s hearing that Judge Forrest is not going to bust these cases as I thought she would. The reason for the consolidations is to treat them as one larger case so that the rulings in each of the cases will be consistent throughout his many cases. I am editing yesterday’s blog posts with cross-outs (example) and underlines (example) so you can see where I am changing the tone of the blog post from overly optimistic to slightly somber. I will obviously post about the judge’s order [UPDATE 3/14: HERE - see comments below for commentary] once it becomes available. ***

*** UPDATE (3/12): As we initially discussed last week, *new cases* have been handed over to Judge Forrest so that she can adjudicate the smaller bittorrent cases together. I have added them to the list below. They are not yet listed as part of the “consolidated” case list (in Case No. 1:11-cv-09705), but if you look at the case dockets for each case, the notations that Judge Forrest is now handling them should tip you off that these cases too are now in trouble are now under her scrutiny. ***

New Cases Now Handled By Judge Forrest:

Combat Zone Corp. v. Does 1-63 (Case No. 1:11-cv-09688)
Digital Sin, Inc. v. Does 1 – 179 (Case No. 1:11-cv-08172)
Media Products, Inc. v. Does 1-55 (Case No. 1:11-cv-09550)
Media Products, Inc. v. Does 1-36 (Case No. 1:12-cv-00129)
Media Products, Inc. v. Does 1-142 (Case No. 1:12-cv-01099)
Next Phase Distribution, Inc. v. Does 1-138 (Case No. 1:11-cv-09706)
Patrick Collins, Inc. v. Does 1-115 (Case No. 1:11-cv-09705)
SBO Pictures, Inc. v. Does 1-92 (Case No. 1:11-cv-07999)
SBO Pictures, Inc. v. Does 1-154 (Case No. 1:12-cv-01169)
Third Degree Films, Inc. v. Does 1-216 (Case No. 1:11-cv-09618)
Third Degree Films, Inc. v. Does 1-217 (Case No. 1:11-cv-07564)
Zero Tolerance Entertainment, Inc. v. Does 1-56 (Case No. 1:11-cv-09703)

This is obviously relatively good news for the roughly 1,200+ John Doe Defendants who can now breathe a bit more easily knowing that their plaintiff attorney’s cases are in trouble because 1) we now know that the judge is VERY aware of the MANY cases pending against the many Doe Defendants, and 2) rulings across the board will now be consistent — you will no longer have one judge letting one bittorrent case move forward, and another judge dismissing his bittorrent case for lack of joinder or improper jurisdiction. You can read about the judge’s order regarding the original consolidated cases in our “New York Judge consolidates and freezes SMALLER BITTORRENT CASES for plaintiff attorney” article. No doubt similar orders will in time be written for these additional cases.

On a related note, Judge Forrest is not the only New York District Judge who has figured out what is going on with these copyright infringement (“copyright troll”) cases.

Judge Colleen McMahon (no doubt these judges talk to each other about their cases) has issued an order in two cases (so far; response due 3/30) demanding that Mike Meier tell the court why his cases should not be dismissed due to the inherent joinder issues in his cases (e.g., how bittorrent users can be sued together under the theory that they committed the “same crime at the same time” theory [when according to the plaintiff's complaint, the bittorrent users committed the illegal act of downloading and/or seeding the copyrighted materials sometimes weeks if not months apart]).

What I enjoyed most in the order was that Judge McMahon accused Mike Meier of [essentially] CHEATING the court out of the $350 fees for each of the 138 defendants (e.g., theft from the court of $47,950) who, according to the judge’s opinion should have been sued in SEPARATE cases. In addition, she states that the “misjoinder has resulted in an undercounting of the number of cases filed in this court and a concomitant distortion of the size of the court’s docket.” To make matters laughable, in response to a request from Mike Meier regarding one of the cases, she wrote, “[u]ntil I have decided whether joinder of these 139 defendants is proper-which I very much doubt-there will be no discovery. Motion denied. Get to work on responding to any order to show cause.”

Cases involved:

Patrick Collins, Inc., d/b/a Elegant Angel v. John Does 1-139 (Case No. 1:12-cv-01098)
Media Products, Inc. v. Does 1-59 (Case No. 1:12-cv-00125)

I don’t know about you, but when a judge accuses you of stealing $47,950 from the court, wouldn’t you worry that your cases won’t win? I expect to see more of these in the coming days and weeks with his other cases. More significantly, I’d be surprised if I saw any more filings from Mike Meier in the Southern District of New York. The last thing a copyright troll wants is a judge as an enemy who aggressively goes after his cases.

Read Full Post »

Within the same breath of learning that Copyright Enforcement Group’s (“CEG”) attorney Mike Meier will be taking over Terik Hashmi’s Northern District of Florida bittorrent cases, in a twist of comedic tragedy for plaintiff attorney Mike Meier, I learned that FIVE of his Southern District of New York cases have been joined together, and “additional cases [perhaps all of his other bittorrent cases] may also be “deemed related” and transferred [to this judge] in the near term.” (emphasis added).

In other words, riddle me this:

Question: “How do you kill many small bittorrent cases, when each case only has just a handful of defendants?”

Answer: You BUNCH THEM TOGETHER into one case and you kill them all at the same time.

The following cases (so far) have now been joined (and are now consolidated under Case No. 1:11-cv-09705 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York):

THIRD DEGREE FILMS, INC. v. DOES 1 – 217 (1:11-cv-07564-JGK, or “11 Civ. 7564″);
DIGITAL SIN, INC. v. DOES 1 – 179 (1:11-cv-08172, or “11 Civ. 8172″);
MEDIA PRODUCTIONS, INC. v. DOES 1-55 (1:11-cv-09550, or “11 Civ. 9550″);
THIRD DEGREE FILMS, INC. v. DOES 1 – 216 (1:11-cv-09618, or “11 Civ. 9618″);
ZERO TOLERANCE ENTERTAINMENT, INC. v. DOES 1 – 56 (1:11-cv-09703, or “11 Civ. 9703″)

In District Judge Katherine B. Forrest’s order, she states:

“it is hereby ORDERED that the parties shall cease all discovery-related activity in the above-captioned cases until otherwise ordered by this Court.”

In other words, if your ISP has not yet handed out your information, I strongly suggest that you send them a copy of this order and stop them from handing out your information. If you are a defendant in this case, I would hold off until their next status conference before doing anything, which is scheduled for March 12th, 2012, 3pm.

Once again, other plaintiff attorneys should sit up and take notice.

As for Mike Meier, well, if his New York cases go bust, at least he now has Terik Hashmi’s cases to fight in Florida. At least they are merged together under Case No. 4:11-cv-00570 (FLND) and are under an order to show cause by March 9, 2012 why they should not be dismissed. With Mike Meier taking over Terik’s cases and a letter to the court throwing Terik under the bus, perhaps those Florida cases may survive.

In the meantime, it looks like Lady Justice has a sense of humor. Perhaps Mike’s cases got “infected” as soon as he agreed to take over Terik’s FL cases. At the very least, it’s poetic justice.

Read Full Post »

*I AM POSTING THIS ENTRY UNEDITED BECAUSE OF THE IMPORTANCE OF ITS CONTENT. I WILL EDIT, ADD LINKS, AND WILL CLEAN UP LATER*

If you were a plaintiff attorney suing thousands of defendants, what would you do if the judge figured out that you were not allowed to practice law?

Terik Hashmi, owner of the Transnational Law Group, LLC just received a note from U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle essentially freezing each and every one of his 28 cases filed against John Doe Defendants, at first glance because he was not licensed to practice law in the state where he lives.

In short, in order for an attorney to gain admission to practice as an attorney in a federal court, the court requires that you be licensed to practice law and be in good standing in the state in which you are licensed. Without delving too deeply into this, on Terik Hashmi’s letterhead, it says, “PRACTICE LIMITED TO FEDERAL COPYRIGHT PROTECTION AND ENFORCEMENT LAW,” which essentially says, “I’m not licensed in this state and this state’s bar, but I’m not practicing any state law,” which is usually a way out of being charged with the unauthorized practice of law (“UPL”), or practicing law without a license.

Looking a bit deeper, when Terik signs his name, he signs it as “Terik Hashmi, JD, LLM (OH, FL/ND)” suggesting that he is licensed in the State of Ohio and in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida (the court that issued this ruling).

Taking a look at the Ohio Bar’s website he appears to be licensed as an attorney and in good standing. Apparently he was sanctioned three (3) times during the years 2000-2001, 2002-2003, and 2004-2005 for failing to comply with the continuing legal education (“CLE”) requirements [he just had to pay fines for this], but other than these, I see nothing that indicates that he is not licensed as an attorney in Ohio.

The problem is that it would NOT be the unauthorized practice of law if he lived in ANOTHER STATE and he was filing cases in the Northern District of Florida Federal Court as he has been. However, because Mr. Hashmi RESIDES IN the State of Florida (meaning he appears to be running his law practice while being in the physical borders of Florida — hence the “limited to federal practice” notation on his letterhead), the judge is suggesting that he is in violation of the Florida State Bar unauthorized practice of law statutes (and probably as a result will be in violation of his Ohio state bar’s ethics rules as well).

For this reason, all of his 28 cases [for the time being] have been merged into Case No. 4:11-cv-00570 and are FROZEN. Lastly, quoting from the judge’s order, “Mr. Hashmi must show cause by March 9, 2012, why these cases should not be dismissed on the ground that he has no authority to practice law in Florida or in this court.”

What this means to you is that as things stand, “…Mr. Hashmi must not attempt to settle any of these cases, must not accept any payment in settlement of any of these cases, and must not take any other action in any of these cases.” In other words, for the time being, Terik Hashmi’s cases (listed below) are DEAD.

THIRD DEGREE FILMS, INC. v. DOES 1-259 (Case No. 4:11-cv-00570)
THIRD DEGREE FILMS, INC. v. DOES 1-375 (Case No. 4:11-cv-00572)
DIGITAL SIN, INC. v. DOES 1-208 (Case No. 4:11-cv-00583)
DIGITAL SIN, INC. v. DOES 1-145 (Case No. 4:11-cv-00584)
DIGITAL SIN, INC. v. DOES 1-167 (Case No. 4:11-cv-00586)
NEXT PHASE DISTRIBUTION, INC. v. DOES 1-126 (Case No. 4:12-cv-00006)
PATRICK COLLINS, INC. v. DOES 1-85 (Case No. 4:12-cv-00007)
ZERO TOLERANCE ENTERTAINMENT, INC. v. DOES 1-52 (Case No. 4:12-cv-00008)
MEDIA PRODUCTS, INC. v. DOES 1-34 (Case No. 4:12-cv-00024)
SBO PICTURES, INC. v. DOES 1-92 (Case No. 4:12-cv-00025)
SBO PICTURES, INC. v. DOES 1-97 (Case No. 4:12-cv-00026)
METRO INTERACTIVE, LLC v. DOES 1-56 (Case No. 4:12-cv-00043)
EVASIVE ANGLES ENTERTAINMENT v. DOES 1-97 (Case No. 1:11-cv-00241)
ELEGANT ANGEL, INC. v. DOES 1-87 (Case No. 1:11-cv-00243)
ELEGANT ANGEL, INC. v. DOES 1-115 (Case No. 1:11-cv-00245)
ELEGANT ANGEL, INC. v. DOES 1-85 (Case No. 1:11-cv-00246)
ELEGANT ANGEL, INC. v. DOES 1-77 (Case No. 1:11-cv-00247)
MEDIA PRODUCTS, INC. v. DOES 1-175 (Case No. 1:11-cv-00248)
DIGITAL SIN, INC. v. DOES 1-150 (Case No. 1:11-cv-00280)
DIGITAL SIN, INC. v. DOES 1-131 (Case No. 1:11-cv-00281)
EXQUISITE MULTIMEDIA, INC. v. DOES 1-178 (Case No. 1:12-cv-00002)
MEDIA PRODUCTS, INC. v. DOES 1-43 (Case No. 1:12-cv-00003)
NEXT PHASE DISTRIBUTION, INC. v. DOES 1-93 (Case No. 1:12-cv-00004)
PATRICK COLLINS, INC. v. DOES 1-159 (Case No. 1:12-cv-00018)
THIRD DEGREE FILMS, INC. v. DOES 1-195 (Case No. 1:12-cv-00019)
MEDIA PRODUCTS, INC. v. DOES 1-168 (Case No. 1:12-cv-00020)
SBO PICTURES, INC. v. DOES 1-98 (Case No. 1:12-cv-00021)

On a personal note, do I really think this is the end of these cases? No, and this is merely because I am still floored that these cases are still around almost TWO YEARS no after they first started to appear. Plaintiff attorneys have come and gone, but the cases still appear to continue [for the most part] unhindered by the various Judges. Obviously many of them have smartened up the the mass extortion scheme being perpetrated on now a hundred or so thousand John Doe defendants, but the fact that the “Plaintiff v. John Doe 1-25″ or “Plaintiff v. John Doe 1-250″ cases are still around in the first place suggest that the attorney generals and the U.S. attorney generals are doing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to make these cases go away as they did with the Trevor Law Group automobile repair shop extortion scheme cases (look them up) a few years back in the Northern District of California.

Do I think Terik Hashmi is finished? Probably not. I am sure he’ll find a way to overcome this obstacle, but again, I say this only because I’m a bit dark and jaded from the fact that plaintiff attorneys still have their law licenses and are still filing lawsuits long after their cases have been shown to be what they are.

For now, we should enjoy our victory and not get overly confident that these cases cannot reappear in the near future. Congratulations to all.

Most importantly, THIS IS THE FIRST TIME A JUDGE HAS TAKEN DOWN ALL OF THE SMALLER “JOHN DOE” LAWSUITS AT ONCE. Other plaintiff attorneys should sit up and take notice.

Read Full Post »

As many of you have no doubt read on other blogs, some of the smaller cases have gone bust, others have been given permission to move forward.  At the risk of sounding repetitive, when you see a blog entry on this site, that means that something certainly relevant and of note happened in the bittorrent litigation world.

As far as I am concerned, the former Steele | Hansmeier, PLLC (now Prenda Law Inc.) firm has started to copy the Patrick Collins, Inc. / K-Beech, Inc. business model (the Lipscomb & Eisenberg / Miami Dade / Florida State lawsuit model) of suing defendants in Florida under that state’s Bill of Discovery statutes, getting the judge there to rubber stamp their request to obtain defendants’ contact information from the ISPs (often without notice to the defendants), and then cold calling defendants and threatening to sue in that defendant’s home state unless they settle.  Ira Siegel’s firm has done the same thing with their Mike Meier attorney pretending to defend accused defendants and then switching sides only to start suing in federal courts of various states.  Dunlap Grubb & Weaver, PLLC has been quiet, naming some defendants and then subsequently dismissing them (presumptively when they settle or the court severs and dismisses their case for improperly suing defendants together in one lawsuit), and their big monster cases of last year have been widdling down into non-existence (bye bye Voltage Pictures, Inc. v. Does 1-5,000, etc.).  That means nothing, because now they are playing the same game as everyone else — sending thousands of “scare” letters telling defendants that if they do not settle, they will not only increase the settlement cost, but that they will “name” that defendant in a federal court in their home state.  While this is obviously not the topic of this blog entry, 1) please do not be gullible and give into their demands just because they have made up some arbitrary date and settlement amount, and 2) please do not be cocky as to think that you can outsmart them and take care of this matter on your own.  Both of these approaches have caused much angst for Doe defendants who later realized what they paid for was a second settlement.

The topic of this blog entry is not Ira Siegel or his Copyright Enforcement Group, but it is Judge Maria-Elena James of the US District Court for the Northern District of California.  Prior to John Steele abandoning his cases in Illinois, the judges there started to shut them down as fast as he filed them.  I would posit that the failing of Steele’s business model of suing hundreds of out-of-state defendants in one lawsuit should have been a lesson to Ira Siegel who has not been paying attention, and now his cases are in trouble.  California’s Judge Maria Elena James — once a friend to Ira and his methods, has started to turn a fierce eye of judgement towards his cases.  It is for this reason that I suspect a bunch of his cases are about to go bust.

Until 12/1/2011, all seemed to be good for Ira Siegel.  Sure he suffered a few setbacks, dismissed a few cases, but these – New Sensations, Inc. v. Does 1-1,474 (3:11-cv-02770) and Patrick Collins, Inc. v. Does 1-2590 (Case No. 3:11-cv-02766) – his milk and honey — were moving forward flawlessly… until Judge James figured out that Ira Siegel was filing suits against thousands of defendants, extorting settlement agreements, and all this without naming even one defendant in any of his cases.  This angered her, and she ordered Siegel in both cases (identical orders) to disclose to the court all the details he could about all the Doe defendants, along with why she should not dismiss the case because he has failed to name and serve defendants within the 120 day limit given to him in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 4(m) (the reason a number of Dunlap Grubb & Weaver, PLLC’s (“DGW”) cases went bust in DC).  Essentially, this should have served as a warning sign that his case is about to be dismissed, but instead of fighting back or dismissing a smaller group of defendants (a tactic which DGW did in the West Coast Productions, Inc. v. Does case which kept their case alive for many months), Ira kept silent.

One week later, by 12/7/2011, Judge James utilized simple and free programs known as “geolocation tools” to isolate the location of where a random sample of the putative defendants lived.  When she saw that none of them lived in California, she filed an orders in both cases questioning Ira’s “good faith” in filing this case in the first place.  She also indicated that had she known then what she knows now, she would have never given the order to allow Ira to subpoena the ISPs to determine who the John Doe Defendants were.  As a result, she ordered Ira to run the geolocation tools himself and dismiss everybody who did not live in California (coming soon).  She also ORDERED that Ira Siegel MAY NO LONGER SEND ANY SETTLEMENT DEMAND LETTERS.  Even better, to any Doe Defendants to whom he sent letters, he must send them a second letter telling them that they do not need to comply with his demand letter.  Lastly, she nullified any settlement reached on or after the date of her order.  Ira asked her to change her order, and on 12/8, she denied his request.  Thus, to those of you who received settlement letters, expect to get a second letter explaining everything that I have written here.

While the scope of this article is to discuss the recent acts by Judge James, I wanted to point out that on Friday, the Digital Rights Foundation filed an amicus brief with the court urging them that Ira Siegel not only knew about these issues (e.g., filing against Doe defendants knowing the court had no personal jurisdiction over them), but essentially that what he has done amounts to fraud upon the court.

You could end reading the article here, but if you would like to know Ira’s most recent set of acts (and this might actually make you upset) — for some time, he has been hiring local attorneys and has only now started suing John Doe defendants in states OUTSIDE of California — something in the past he never did.  In short, he is copying what Patrick Collins, Inc. has done for months now, and what John Steele (now, Prenda Law, Inc.) are now doing — that is, he is suing smaller groups of defendants in their home states, most recently with his Digital Sin v. Does cases that he is having Mike Meier file on his behalf.  I hate to make the comparison to something sinister, but you stamp him down in one court, and he spreads his tentacles out to other courts.  Obviously there is more to come.  I expect more news starting on Wednesday, 12/14 (or perhaps on the day(s) following this should the judge learn that he has not complied with her orders).

Read Full Post »

With the larger cases from Dunlap Grubb & Weaver, PLLC heading off into the bittorrent litigation graveyard, the plaintiff attorneys have not yet learned their lesson about the dangers of filing John Doe lawsuits with thousands of Does sued together. Below are just a few cases filed by the same plaintiff attorneys — newer cases — which thus far have not achieved much traction. No doubt we’ll be seeing more of these in the coming months.

First and foremost, Ira Siegel’s new case, Digital Sin, Inc. v. Does 1-5,698 (Case No. 4:11-cv-04397-LB) filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California. Apparently it did not occur to his client that suing 5,698 defendants is the easiest way for a case to achieve scrutiny.

Also by Ira Siegel is his SRO Pictures, Inc v. Does 1-3036 (Case No. 5:11-cv-04220-PSG) case, his Discount Video Center, Inc. v. Does 1-5,041 (Case No. 5:11-cv-02694-PSG) case, his Zero Tolerance Entertainment, Inc. v. Does 1-2,943 (Case No. 3:11-cv-02767-EDL) case, each filed in the same California court as Digital Sin.

We are already hearing from Doe Defendants on Ira Siegel’s Third Degree Films, Inc. v. Does 1-3,577 (Case No. 4:11-cv-02768-LB) and most notorious, his Patrick Collins, Inc. v. Does 1-2590 (Case No. 3:11-cv-02766-MEJ) case, also in the same California court.

Next, filed by Thomas Dunlap himself (of Dunlap Grubb & Weaver, PLLC) is CineTel Films, Inc. dba Family of the Year Productions, LLC v. Does 1-1,052 (Case No. 8:11-cv-02438-JFM) filed in the US District Court for the District of Maryland. This one should be fun. This same plaintiff has had Dunlap sue in his home US District Court for the District of Columbia, the Cinetel Films Inc. et al v. Does 1-1,951 (Case No. 1:11-cv-01334-RLW) case. Same plaintiff, different jurisdiction. My guess is that Ellis Bennett or Nicholas Kurtz will be the on the paperwork for these since they have to date handled Dunlap Grubb & Weaver’s older cases.

In the District of Columbia (where most of Dunlap Grubb & Weaver’s cases are filed,) to everyone’s surprise is the AF Holdings, LLC v. Does 1-1,140 (Case No. 1:11-cv-01274-RBW) case, apparently using Timothy Anderson of Anderson & Associates, PC as the local counsel. The funny thing about this one is that AF Holdings, LLC is John Steele of Steele Hansmeier PLLC’s clients (where Steele Hansmeier has sued a bunch of AF Holdings, LLC v. Does smaller cases across the country already), so this Tim Anderson guy is probably another one of Steele’s local counsel puppets (sorry Tim).

Then, there is Evan Stone’s FUNimation Entertainment v. Does 1-1,427 (Case No. 2:11-cv-00269-DF) filed in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. I haven’t heard much about this case yet, but Evan Stone is the attorney who was the plaintiff attorney over the LFP Internet Group, LLC v. Does [LFP a.k.a. "Larry Flint Productions"] lawsuit that had over 6,000 defendants in total dismissed last year. Maybe he’s back in the game with a case that won’t be immediately dismissed.

Last, but not least, there is a set of triplet lawsuits filed by an unknown McDaniel Law Firm plaintiff (probably a copycat attorney who has watched these bittorrent cases develop and now has decided to try his hand and sue) in the US District Court for the District of New Jersey. Both of them go by the same name, Baseprotect UG, Ltd. v. John Does 1-X (Case No. 2:11-cv-03621, Case No. 2:11-cv-02021, and Case No. 2:10-cv-06806 respectively). The deceptive part is that the “Does 1-X” title appears to suggest that there are just a few defendants, so the case is hoped to stay under the radar. Nope. In one case, I believe there are over 300+ John Doe defendants implicated, and in the other case, I believe there are over 1,500 John Doe defendants. Funny enough, I hear that Baseprotect does not even own the Polish copyrights they assert, and that they have merely questionably acquired a limited right to sue on these copyrights. This will be fun to watch.

So in short, with the demise of the famous DC cases (Maverick Entertainment, Call of the Wild, and now West Coast Productions, Inc.), there are a whole new generation of cases who hope to achieve exactly the same purpose as their predecessors. Make a profit before getting dismissed into oblivion.

Read Full Post »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 109 other followers