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Archive for the ‘Media Products Inc.’ 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.

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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.

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*** 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.

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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.

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*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.

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