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Archive for the ‘Patrick Collins’ 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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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.

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2/4/2013 UPDATE: CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL CASHMAN LAW FIRM, PLLC CLIENTS WHO HAVE BEEN DISMISSED FROM THIS CASE!

To glance back at the Patrick Collins, Inc. v. Does 1-75 (Case No. 3:11-cv-00389) case in the Southern District of Texas case that we have been tracking almost daily since August, 2011, I wanted to give a quick snippet that I think this case is about to go bust.

Lionel Martin (is he even still doing these cases?) is the plaintiff’s local counsel for this lawsuit. Late last year, the judge ordered that plaintiff Patrick Collins, Inc. has taken too long with this case, and that they decide whether they will proceed against each defendant or not. Their deadline to decide (by the way) is today.

Now obviously things can go terribly wrong in this case, and if so, we would see a whole SLEW of filings naming a number of the 75 defendants in the next twenty-four hours.  More likely, we’ll hear radio silence from the plaintiff attorney, and the case will be dismissed.  I’ll let you know as soon as I hear anything further.

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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 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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For those bittorrent users accused of copyright infringement in Arizona, there is a new rule which you can use in your defense.

Traditionally, in order to properly sue multiple bittorrent users together in one lawsuit, they need only to participate in the “same transaction or occurrence.”  In other words, they need to do the same “crime” at the same time.  Not so in California, and NOW, not so in Arizona.  [For the California citation, see Document 26 in the Hard Drive Productions, Inc. v. Does 1-188 (Case No. 3:11-cv-01566) case in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.]

In bittorrent language, when you connect to a bittorrent swarm and download copyrighted media, all of you participating in that bittorrent swarm would be sued together.  This is one of the most recent kinds of lawsuits by the more skilled plaintiff attorneys — instead of Plaintiff v. John Does 1-123 (or however many John Doe Defendants there are lumped together [and separated by the state in which they reside] in this lawsuit), smarter plaintiffs are suing participants of the swarm itself (e.g., Plaintiff v. Swarm of Nov. 3rd, 2011 [and participants thereof]).  No longer in in Arizona.

NEW RULE: Now in Arizona, in order to be sued with other John Doe Defendants, you must have either UPLOADED TO or DOWNLOADED FROM each one of the other defendants.  If not, the defendants are not properly joined and defendants can be severed and dismissed from the case for improper joinder.

TODAY in the Patrick Collins, Inc. v. John Does 1-54 (Case No. 2:11-cv-01602) case in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona, in U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow’s own words:

Plaintiff alleges that the two remaining Defendants “participat[ed] in the BitTorrent swarm with other infringers” but does not claim that John Doe 6 provided data to the former John Doe 12 or vice versa. (Doc. 26 ¶ 56). …

… Plaintiff alleges no facts that these two particular Defendants shared data with each other, and provides data instead that they were logged on to BitTorrent weeks apart. “The bare fact that a Doe clicked on a command to participate in the BitTorrent Protocol does not mean that they were part of the downloading by unknown hundreds or thousands of individuals across the country or across the world.” Hard Drive Prods., Inc. v. Does 1–188, 11 No. CV-11-01566, 2011 WL 3740473, at *13 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 23, 2011)

(emphasis added).

Personal Note: While this ruling is not immediately relevant if you do not live in Arizona, it is still good news because it indicates that judges are starting to understand how rules (here, the rules of “joinder”) apply in the bittorrent context.  No doubt, this order will be recognized and used in other cases in other jurisdictions as being persuasive as to how a judge should understand who can be sued together with whom.  Soon it will no longer be permitted for an enterprising plaintiff (e.g., “copyright troll”) to sue tens or hundreds of defendants in one lawsuit, lumping them together by the state in which they live (this lumping-together-by-state was the result of the dismissals last year over personal jurisdiction issues).  I look forward to other judges in other states soon to adopt this ruling.  It is a well thought-out understanding of the joinder issue.

I have pasted the link to the order below for your enjoyment.

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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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There seems to be a new production company who has decided that it is a better business model for them to start suing internet users (e.g., copyright trolling) rather than selling their cheap flicks on the internet one by one. The company name is Malibu Media, LLC, and while the actual “film” allegedly downloaded probably varies from case-to-case, it appears as if “Tiffany Teenagers in Love” seems to be the primary title they are using in their lawsuits.

What surprises me is that while this is a new “troll” (using the term loosely,) the local counsel they are using suggests to me that the same entity [behind the Patrick Collins, Inc., K-Beech, Inc., NuCorp, Inc., Raw Films, Ltd., Zero Tolerance, etc. cases] is also behind this case. In other words, this is simply a new client climbing on the bandwagon looking to cash in on the ongoing mass extortion scheme. The rules, however, have not changed.

Pasted below is a list of the cases, separated by the court in which the case was filed in, and who the local counsel is. I have dealt with each one of these guys before, so as far as I am concerned, this is just one more troll to add to the list of companies who are suing defendants.  I have included the newer filings of Raw Films, Ltd. to show that these are the same attorneys.

California Central District Court – Adam M. Silverstein of Cavalluzzi & Cavalluzzi

Malibu Media LLC v. John Does 1-10 (Case no. 2:12-cv-01647)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Does 1-10 (Case no. 2:12-cv-01675)
Raw Films, Ltd. v. John Does 1-10 (Case no. 2:12-cv-01653)

Virginia Eastern District Court – David / Wayne O’Bryan of O’Bryan Law Firm

Malibu Media, LLC v. John Does 1-26 (Case no. 1:12-cv-00160)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Does 1-26 (Case no. 1:12-cv-00161)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Does 1-15 (Case no. 1:12-cv-00163)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Does 1-27 (Case no. 1:12-cv-00165)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Does 1-08 (Case no. 1:12-cv-00166)

California Southern District Court – Adam M. Silverstein of Cavalluzzi & Cavalluzzi

Malibu Media, LLC. v. John Does 1-13 (Case no. 3:12-cv-00358)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Does 1-25 (Case no. 3:12-cv-00362)
Malibu Media, LLC. v. John Does 1-15 (Case no. 3:12-cv-00369)
Raw Films, Ltd. v. John Does 1-11 (Case no. 3:12-cv-00368)

Colorado District Court – Jason Aaron Kotzker of Kotzker Law Group

Malibu Media, LLC v. John Does 1-29 (Case no. 1:12-cv-00397)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Does 1-16 (Case no. 1:12-cv-00399)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Does 1-30 (Case no. 1:12-cv-00402)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Does 1-10 (Case no. 1:12-cv-00405)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Does 1-27 (Case no. 1:12-cv-00406)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Does 1-18 (Case no. 1:12-cv-00407)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Does 1-15 (Case no. 1:12-cv-00408)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Does 1-27 (Case no. 1:12-cv-00409)

District Of Columbia District Court – Jon A. Hoppe of Maddox Hoppe Hoofnagle & Hafey LLC

Malibu Media LLC v. John Does 1-5 (Case no. 1:12-cv-00233)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Does 1-16 (Case no. 1:12-cv-00235)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Does 1-11 (Case no. 1:12-cv-00237)
Raw Films, Ltd. v. John Does 1-3 (Case no. 1:12-cv-00234)
Raw Films, Ltd. v. John Does 1-19 (Case no. 1:12-cv-00236)

Pennsylvania Eastern District Court – Christopher P. Fiore of Fiore & Barber LLC

Malibu Media LLC v. John Does 1-15 (Case no. 2:12-cv-00664)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Does 1-17 (Case no. 2:12-cv-00665)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Does 1-10 (Case no. 2:12-cv-00666)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Does 1-11 (Case no. 2:12-cv-00667)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Does 1-22 (Case no. 2:12-cv-00668)

On a personal note (obviously not legal advice, as each plaintiff above handles cases differently, and each person’s situation is different): We have seen these attorneys before in other cases. If you receive a copy of a subpoena from your ISP indicating that you have been implicated as a John Doe Defendant in any one of these cases, you’ll probably be instructed in the letter to file a motion to quash. As you know from my MANY articles on this blog, you know my opinion that such motions have been a waste of time for defendants (e.g., plaintiff attorney will claim that because you are not yet “named” as a defendant, you have no “standing” to file such a motion, etc., etc., etc.). More likely than not, you will not receive a letter from your ISP, and one of their creditor-like “bulldogs” will begin calling you and threatening to name you as a defendant unless you settled your case against them. They will make up odd numbers on the spot as to how much their “client” will settle for, but remember, these guys and gals (who often do not even sound sober and are probably sitting in a cubicle somewhere reading you a script) are not attorneys and likely do not have authority to settle your case. If you have spoken to me, you know my opinion is that 1) they shouldn’t even be calling you in the first place, and 2) you should not be discussing your case with them.

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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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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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