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Archive for the ‘Voltage Pictures Inc.’ Category

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Again, Doug Riddell.

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

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

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

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

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

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DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA — Everyone knows by now that DC is not a friendly jurisdiction to be sued in. Like Washington D.C., the judges do not follow one another, and each judge does what he or she feels should be policy. Two examples — Judge Beryl Howell, a copyright lobbyist turned federal judge, and Judge Bates — friendly towards downloaders (but subsequently removed by other judges from the Hard Drive Productions, Inc. case).  As far as I am concerned, this court is wrought with as much politics as Washington D.C. is in general.

So let’s go through some case updates, sorted by plaintiff attorney.

I) DUNLAP GRUBB & WEAVER, PLLC

Imperial Enterprises v. Does 1-3,545 (Case No. 1:11-cv-00529) [at one point it was Imperial Enterprises, Inc. v. Does 1-3,145] — dead. On 9/26, Judge Reggie Walton ordered the plaintiffs to name and serve or dismiss defendants or dismiss them [according to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure ("F.R.C.P."), Rule 4(m)] by 12/20/2011. Instead of naming defendants, Dunlap Grubb & Weaver, PLLC (who sends out settlement demand letters under the name “Media Law Group” or “MLG”) decided to dismiss all defendants. Case dismissed; congratulations to all Cashman Law Firm, PLLC defendants (and all others) who were Doe Defendants in this case. See order here.

Voltage Pictures, Inc. v. Does 1-24,582
, a.k.a., “the Hurt Locker case” (Case No. 1:10-cv-00873) [at one point it was Voltage Pictures, Inc. v. Does 1-5,000]dead. This one was actually funny. On 11/4, Judge Beryl Howell got tired of this case being on her docket. So she gave Dunlap Grubb & Weaver, PLLC (“DGW”) until 12/5 (extended to 12/12) to name and serve defendants or to dismiss them (again, the judge invoked F.R.C.P. Rule 4(m) to wipe what became a stale case off her docket).  However, DGW missed the deadline, and instead of having the judge dismiss the case, they dismissed it themselves to save themselves the embarrassment of having yet another case dismissed for them failing to move forward against defendants.

Regarding this plaintiff attorney, I received word that they were gearing up to sue individual defendants in their home states. This is nothing new as they have already started “naming” defendants for their older dismissed cases. More recently, I received word that they are hiring local attorneys and following the Patrick Collins, Inc. model of stating to dismissed defendants, “we have hired XYZ attorney in your state — unless you settle with us, we will name you in a lawsuit in your state.” The problem here is I have reason to believe they’ll follow up with the lawsuits.

There are some other “conspiracy” issues regarding this plaintiff, namely that they sent subpoena letters demanding names and contact information for various John Doe Defendants *AFTER* dismissing their IP addresses and releasing them from the case. This was written up by Torrentfreak.com, and you can read up about it here.  (NOTE: After the ISPs refused to hand over subscriber information, they added the IP address back into the lawsuit — something I don’t think they were allowed to do — but these Doe Defendants have since been dismissed as well and now they are receiving “scare” letters now as we speak.)

II) STEELE | HANSMEIER, PLLC (NOW PRENDA LAW INC.)

As we know, a few months back, Steele Hansmeier, PLLC (now Prenda Law Inc.) ventured into the DC District doing some “forum shopping” with their Hard Drive Productions, Inc. v. Does 1-1,495 (Case No. 1:11-cv-01741) and their AF Holdings, Inc. v. Does 1-1,140 (Case No. 1:11-cv-01274) cases — having been essentially locked out of their own Illinois jurisdiction, they were looking for a few favorable rulings based on DC’s “plaintiff-friendly” reputation in the bittorrent cases of the past year (they have since found a happier home filing suits in the Florida / Miami Dade state courts). In these cases was the first appearance of Paul Duffy who has since taken over Steele’s position in the firm (yes, it appears as if he is out).

AF Holdings, LLC v. Does 1-1,140 (Case No. 1:11-cv-01274) has survived scrutiny without a hiccup as Prenda has been “pretending” to search and see which defendants lived in DC. To make their searches appear valid, they immediately started dismissing a bunch of defendants a few at a time (“NOTICE of Voluntary Dismissal re Does 1-8,” “…Does 9-15,” “…Does 16-35,” “…Does 36-65″ — what I do not understand is, “Hasn’t Judge Reggie Walton figured out their game yet?” After all, it appears to me as if none of the defendants [so far] live in DC. And, they filed the complaint in JULY 2011! Did it REALLY take them 5 MONTHS to figure out that the first 65 defendants did not live in DC? I could have done this in just a few minutes using known geolocation tools). In short, Judge Reggie Walton is allowing this to move forward for now, but he is not stupid. My prediction is that he is going to bust this case using FRCP 4(m) any time now.

Hard Drive Productions, Inc. v. Does 1-1,495 (Case No. 1:11-cv-01741) is the case that is filled with controversy. It was in this case where Judge Bates figured out that most of the defendants did not live within the jurisdiction of the DC court. He invited Doe Defendants to file motions to quash and promised that he would keep their information sealed and private. My first inclination when I saw this was “watch out! — DC does not keep sealed documents as private — as soon as they deny the motions to quash, they expose the defendants’ information when denying the motions.”  Then a few days later, as we wrote about here, whether for political reasons or from pressure from the other judges, Judge Bates was removed from the Hard Drive Productions, Inc. v. Does case and he was replaced by Judge Facciola, someone who in my estimation was not friendly towards bittorrent defendants. For weeks, we saw nothing from him — no indication as to whether he would honor Judge Bates’ offer to submit motions to quash anonymously, or whether he would summarily deny them. I suspected he would deny them in line with DC’s past strong stance AGAINST motions to quash.

Well, I am sad to share that Judge Facciola ended up being exactly who I thought he was. In his 12/21 ruling, he reversed everything Judge Bates was trying to do when he wrote in his order that “I will not consider any motion unless it is publicly filed.” In other words, unless you use your real information in your motion to quash (e.g., your real name, address, phone number, etc. — the exact information the plaintiff attorneys are looking for in order to start sending you “scare” letters and calling you with the effect of scaring you into a settlement), Facciola’s court will not consider your sealed motions to quash as Bates promised they would.  It need not be said that when you file a motion to quash, everybody can see it as the filing is a public document. However, Judge Facciola does not care about your privacy interests, nor does he care if plaintiff attorneys receive your private information, because according to him, “[i]ndividuals who subscribe to the internet through ISPs simply have no expectation of privacy in their subscriber information.” (emphasis added) I wonder when the last time an ISP allowed a subscriber to open an account without the subscriber’s personal information.

In sum, expect this case to move forward like all the others. We appear to have a copyright-troll friendly judge here, so please prepare yourselves to have your private information handed out to your plaintiff attorneys by your ISPs; until now, I expect that they haven’t done so. I would love to give you good news here, but so far there is no indication this is going away any time soon — at least not until Prenda Law Inc. gets its payday.

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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).

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[UPDATE: I just found out that Judge Howell wrote almost identical opinions in the Voltage Pictures, LLC v. Does 1-5,000 (1:10-cv-00873-BAH) case and the Call Of The Wild Movie, LLC v. Does 1-331 (1:10-cv-00455-BAH) case to the opinion she wrote in the Maverick Entertainment Group v. Does 1-2,115 case, as described below.]

No doubt there will be many questions about the new order in the now Maverick Entertainment Group v. Does 1-2,115 case (1:10-cv-00569-BAH) — same case, new number of defendants from the recent dismissals. In addition, there is new news in the West Coast Productions v. Does 1-5,829 case (1:10-cv-00057-CKK).

First, the Maverick Entertainment Group news. Today, Judge Howell mentioned in her order that no jurisdiction nor any joinder arguments will be entertained by the court until defendants are named in the case. This twenty-six page ruling is essentially the same as her previous ruling, but this time she explicitly said that once defendants are named, they will have these defenses, and chances are they will be meritorious. To use her words, “[t]he putative defendants’ argument that they are improperly joined may be meritorious should they be named as defendants in this action.” (emphasis added, p.11)

*Surprisingly missing from her opinion was the elephant in the room — the settlement demand letters.* Judge Howell goes on to say, “…the putative defendants are not subject to the plaintiff’s subpoenas, and therefore do not face any ‘annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense’ from the plaintiff’s discovery request (as per Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(c)(1)).” I cannot possibly believe Judge Howell does not know that the plaintiff attorneys are demanding settlements from defendants.

They say justice is blind, but not stupid. Perhaps a few of us attorneys and our clients should send Judge Howell a sampling of the settlement letters our clients have received over the past few months.

Next topic, the West Coast Productions case. In short, yesterday, Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ordered that certain defendants should be named and served with process by May 16th, 2011 or they should be dismissed. My guess is that that they will dismiss these defendants so that the case will remain alive.

In addition, the judge ordered that by June 1st, 2011, the plaintiffs need to give the court an accounting as to which of the defendants have been dismissed; which of the John Does have been disclosed by the various ISPs, and which they are still waiting for; and, which John Does cannot be named because the ISPs no longer have their contact information (e.g., likely because they purged the records after six months according to each ISP’s IP retention policy).

Last, but not least [and this is the juicy part], the judge ordered that by June 20th, the plaintiffs should either name their defendants or dismiss them. She is doing this by way of FRCP Rule 4(m), which is the way Judge Shadur dismissed the CP Productions, Inc v. Does case in the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois just a few months ago.

In short, it seems as if the DC court is getting tired of these cases. Judge Beryl Howell (the former copyright lobbyist) is sticking to her guns and not dismissing these cases and she is turning a blind eye to what the plaintiff attorneys are doing. Yet, possibly due to political pressure, she has softened her approach and has conceded that as soon as plaintiffs start naming defendants, she may start severing and dismissing them for lack of jurisdiction and/or improper joinder. [She also gave one strong evidentiary hint as to the weaknesses of these cases, but we will deal with that in another article if and when it becomes relevant.] Similarly, in this same court, Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly seems to also be tiring of these cases. Instead of playing chicken with the plaintiffs in a “don’t name or else” stance as Judge Howell has done, Judge Kollar-Kotelly seems to be going the route of Illinois Judge Shadur in using FRCP Rule 4(m) to dispose of the case.

This is all good news. I am happy to share it with you.

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In a flick of the wrist and a slight of hand letter to the court, plaintiffs Dunlapp, Grubb, & Weaver (“DGW”) have possibly dismissed more accused John Doe defendants than ever before in the history of these bittorrent lawsuits. In a letter to the court titled a “Consolidated Status Report Pursuant To The Court’s Direction of 3/1/2011,” the plaintiff attorneys have dismissed* almost every defendant in almost every one of their mass copyright infringement lawsuits.

*I will explain below what I mean by dismissed, because I am not using the term in its conventional use. A more proper term for what they have done is that they have “dumped” these defendants rather than having them dismissed and released from the lawsuit.

The cases in which John Doe defendants have been affected are:

Call of the Wild Movie, LLC v. Does 1-1,062 (1:10-cv-004455-BAH)
Maverick Entertainment Group, Inc. v. Does 1-4,350 (1:10-cv-00569-BAH)
Voltage Pictures, LLC v. Does 1-5,000 (1:10-cv-00873-BAH), and
Donkeyball Movie, LLC v. Does 1-171 (1:10-cv-01520-BAH).

- NOTE: the “BAH” at the end of the case names is a recent change in the case names. When checking your case to determine whether this applies to you, just look at the 1:10-cv-”XXXXX” number and compare it to the case number you received from your ISP to determine whether this is your case.

This is a huge victory to our clients and those of the 10,000+ defendants that have been dismissed. No doubt we will be sending letters of congratulations to our clients in these cases in the coming days.

Now a little about these cases. These were what I like to call the initial “monster” cases, filed by DGW. They were the cases where thousands of John Doe defendants were sued, regardless of whether the courts had jurisdiction or not. These cases were also filed prior to the 6,000 Larry Flint Productions (LFP Internet Group, LLC) cases in the US District Court for the Northern District of Texas and other cases (e.g., Far Cry) were severed and dismissed for improperly joining defendants in one John Doe lawsuit. In addition, these cases were more famously known as “the Hurt Locker” case, “The Call of the Wild” case, among other more famous titles.

As you can read by the filing, the plaintiff attorneys have determined that there is nobody to name in these cases, and thus they have determined to dump the defendant pool as a whole and rethink their strategy.

If you are a former defendant in this case, firstly we congratulate you. This is a big victory. However, with every victory comes a bit of bitterness. Here, the plaintiffs have determined on their own to not proceed with the current pool of defendants, which means that they have a few years from the alleged date of infringement to sue these defendants individually or as smaller groups in their home states.

On top of this, this is not an explicit dismissal, as a voluntary dismissal of all defendants would be. Here, the plaintiff attorneys have simply mentioned that they are not going to “name” defendants (see our article here to understand what it means to be “named”). In addition, it is not an order of severance by the judge dismissing all defendants. It is simply a “heads up” letting the court know they won’t be going after the various defendants.

This is good, with three caveats:

Firstly. Their note only refers to defendants where the ISP has handed their subscriber information over to the plaintiff attorneys. Defendants whose information has not yet been shared (e.g., my more recent clients in the past few weeks) are likely not included in this declaration of theirs because the ISPs have not yet given over their information to the plaintiff attorneys.

Secondly. The plaintiff attorneys can still sue all of these defendants in the US District Courts for the district where the defendants live. (You can read more about the likelihood of them doing this in this article.)

Thirdly. These cases are still alive! After filing this memo, the plaintiff attorneys proceeded to file a memo why a number of motions to quash the subpoena should be denied. They also filed an opposition motion asking the judge to deny these motions to quash. So the cases themselves are still alive and for the time being, well.

In closing. To those John Doe defendants and the Cashman Law Firm, PLLC clients who have been sitting around for months, feel free to breathe easy for now. I will continue monitoring these cases for changes, but you should feel comfortable considering yourselves dismissed. The numbers are certainly on your side and while the risk of being sued individually is always present, the likelihood of hearing from the plaintiff attorneys ever again is very low.

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Considering the recent articles online leaked by the attorneys of the Hurt Locker and the Far Cry cases in that they plan on filing against dismissed defendants in their home states, I have been asked whether my opinion regarding the eventual outcome of the cases still in existence has been altered by what is, in my opinion, a public relations media blitz in response to the fall of the Larry Flynt Productions (LFP Internet Group, LLC) lawsuits and similar related suits in the Texas and West Virginia courts.

In short, the mass John Doe copyright download cases have been falling like dominoes — one after the other — and there are too many of them to note. However, as a reaction to these failed cases, there have been a number of “scare” articles leaked to the internet claiming outright lies such as “we were successful in obtaining hundred-thousand dollar judgments against multiple torrent users last year.” This is simply not true. I check the records and filings of many (if not most) of the copyright lawsuits on a regular basis. I have seen many cases get dismissed; I have seen many cases get severed leaving only one John Doe defendant — but I have never seen a judgment against an individual John Doe torrent downloader from these lawsuits.

Of course I must point out that there are a few example cases made by the Recording Industry Association of America (“RIAA”) which I wrote about a few months ago where one woman was handed a $1.5 million dollar judgment for seeding (sharing) over twenty .mp3 music files. In addition, there were the Napster, Grokster, and related cases which lost a few years back. However, as for media companies getting judgments against individual John Doe defendants in these mass copyright infringement lawsuits? I have not seen even one.

However, as per the plaintiff attorneys in these copyright cases, it has always been their position that they intend to go after individuals in their home states. However, if you read my most recent article (towards the bottom), you will see the obstacles they face in going after every one of the individuals dismissed in their previous lawsuits. I have quoted the relevant portion below.

“Now what does this mean for our firm’s clients? In short, all defendants were dismissed and severed. What this means is that if the plaintiff attorneys wish to continue the lawsuit, they will have to file against each of the six thousand defendants individually. They will need to draft complaints specific to each defendant alleging infringement of their client’s copyrights — each one is extremely time consuming. They will have to get admitted (pro hac vice) in the local court in which each defendant lives, or they will have to find local counsel in each state each defendant lives and they will have to hire that local counsel to file the paperwork on their behalf. They will have to learn and follow the local court rules, they will have to pay the filing fees for each defendant (~$350) they sue, and they will have to properly serve each defendant.

Then us attorneys will begin defending the cases, and we will begin conducting discovery and making them attend depositions, answer interrogatories, and prove their case. I would think this would be difficult for them to do with just a few defendants. I can imagine this would be nearly impossible to do with 6,000+ defendants.

But, I’m sure if asked, they will probably post some news article expressing their determination to go after each and every defendant, and I wish them well.” (Emphasis added.)

As a side note the defendants in the above quoted article were not severed, they were outright dismissed. This has ramifications for the plaintiff attorneys and it will affect how they are able to proceed in suing defendants individually.

Lastly, regarding the blitz of articles many of you have been referring to (on arstechnica, on digitalmediawire, etc. — example here) — if you read the news articles carefully, there is no indication that a new wave of individual lawsuits are being filed. (Obviously taking note of a few “test the water” cases, one example described here). These articles, along with their source article on CNET News state that the owner of Dunlap, Grubb & Weaver is “driving to the court right now…” Very exciting and newsworthy, but no proof of a new and pervasive business model of filing against individual defendants.

I have no doubt that in the coming months, we will transition from fighting procedure (no jurisdiction, improper joinder) to fighting actual evidentiary issues, but we are FAR from being there yet. John Steele is still messing around with trying to move forward with a reverse class action suit (article here), and if he succeeds, I’m sure the other law firms and media companies will copy his methodology and will first try their hand at John Steele’s new business model before scaling down what was (and for the time being, still is) their profitable mass copyright lawsuit business model to going after individual defendants. This current business model of joining hundreds, if not thousands of internet downloaders into one lawsuit is failing in the courts because of inherent procedural defects, but the model itself is not yet a failure. From what I hear, there is a huge settlement rate (e.g., I heard that 90% of defendants get scared into settling before even talking to a lawyer), and so for as long as they can continue to scare defendants into settling, their business model will remain a success.

I cannot see, however, the profitability of going after an individual for any other reason than to attempt to secure a few example cases in their favor. I have no doubt that even if they were successful in suing individual downloaders (an outcome which I doubt would be the case if the defendants hired competent attorneys to fight their case rather than going pro se), the media companies would never collect a penny from the defendants because in all likelihood, any defendant hit with a $150,000 judgment will immediately be hiring a taxi to drive them to the nearest bankruptcy court, followed by dinner at an expensive restaurant.

In short, beware of what you read online. Check your information from all sites against the simple facts, filings, and pleadings of the case which are publicly available to those who want to do their homework.

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[7/22/2011 UPDATE: As services such as PACER, RECAP The Law, and RFC Express have become widely available, tracking cases and viewing filings online have become available for everyone to do.  Thus, I am no longer uploading case documents to the bittorrent networks.]

It has been disturbing to me that a number of websites have been misreporting the success rates of motions to quash in copyright violation cases. I’ve seen more than a few make references to “David versus Goliath” when it comes to the massive copyright enforcement law firms trying to make examples of one or more attorneys who assist their clients in filing motions to quash subpoenas served on their internet service providers. These web sites talk about the successes achieved in “clogging” the court system with filings, with the intent that the court will be unable to function — and they put all the blame on the plaintiff lawfirms who have been filing complaints naming hundreds and often thousands of defendants at a time.

I decided to correct the record and share my understanding how MOTIONS TO QUASH have not been working. After receiving around fifty pieces of hate mail being called all sorts of names, one level-headed reader asked if I would be willing to “prove it” by showing that people have not been achieving success with their motion filings.

When I suggested sharing with them the very case dockets for the Hurt Locker lawsuit and the Far Cry lawsuit, one very brilliant 2600 user suggested that I upload a torrent with the case dockets and the individual filings. Since there is nothing illegal about making proper use of a torrent, and since the filings I’d be putting together are public documents and are already available online on various web sites, I thought, “why not?”

So, I put together and seeded a torrent containing most of the 143 pleadings of the Far Cry lawsuit and almost all of the pleadings in the Hurt Locker lawsuit (surprisingly there were far fewer of them), and I published them on bittorrent sites such as KickAssTorrents.com, BTJunkie.com, Monova.com, and MiniNova.com (now one of the “legitimate” sources of bittorrent downloads). I even made mention of which pleadings included the motions for sanctions against attorney Graham Syfert, a Jacksonville attorney who sold self-help forms and I included the new class action lawsuit in Massachusetts where the copyright enforcement plaintiff and the originator of so many thousands of internet users evening woes is named as a defendant in a very awe inspiring lawsuit that caused a jaw-dropping effect when I read their complaint.

All this can be found in the following torrent links:
http://btjunkie.org/torrent/Cashman-Law-Firm-Hurt-Locker-Far-Cry-Copyright-Infringement-Lawsuit-Dockets-as-of-11-29-2010/4432fb4442c1b62918eec591b31594220f8766ce84f1

and

http://www.kickasstorrents.com/cashman-law-firm-hurt-locker-far-cry-copyright-infringement-lawsuit-dockets-as-of-11-29-2010-t4758231.html

There is something ironic about a “legal” torrent which is indeed legal both in its contents and in its legality. I cannot help but to smile thinking about how a torrent listing pleadings from well-known copyright infringement lawsuits is being seeded over the internet by torrent, and it is listed on sites known for containing illegal copyright-infringing torrents. There is justice in the world.

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Mark your calendars, December 6th is the date when the fate of many accused internet downloaders can change for the better or for the worse.

So far, over sixteen thousand internet users have received letters from their internet service providers accusing them of illegally using the torrent peer-to-peer (p2p) / bittorrent protocol to download copyrighted movies such as the Hurt Locker, Far Cry, and a number of others. None of them have been named in the lawsuit so far. That will all change on December 6th, 2010, which is the deadline the United States District Judge Rosemary M. Collyer set in the Far Cry case for the DGW plaintiff attorneys to either name the defendants over whom they believe the court has jurisdiction, or dismiss. This is good for a number of my clients who are unnamed defendants in this case.

With all the defenses against copyright infringement, e.g., “it wasn’t me,” “my roommate used my internet connection,” “my wireless connection was unsecured,” “I don’t know how to download via torrent,” etc., it is funny that in the end, the issue of who wins is PERSONAL JURISDICTION; law school civil procedure 101. This should be a lesson to all you 1L law students out there snoring away in your “CivPro” class — the topics you are learning can be applied to something cool as lawsuits against those who illegally download movies over the internet.

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I have been closely monitoring the procedural side of a number of these copyright violation cases where thousands of internet users have been accused of illegally downloading various movies using the bittorrent protocol.

A number of these internet users have hired the Cashman Law Firm, PLLC to represent them through the “negotiation and settlement phase” of the lawsuit. I put this phase in quotes because in truth what has been happening is that the plaintiff attorneys and the underlying media companies have performed what I consider a “slight of hand” with the legal system by naming each of these defendants in the lawsuit by their IP address or by being one of 1-5000 John Does. For the most part, as of today the plaintiffs have not named any defendants in these cases. Instead, they have issued subpoenas to the internet service providers (the ISPs) forcing them to hand over their subscribers’ information. The plaintiffs claim this is so they can do “discovery.”

What is actually happening is that outside of the legal system, regardless of whether it is the Hurt Locker lawsuit, the Far Cry lawsuit, or any of the other smaller lawsuits, the attorneys have been harassing the subscribers and taunting them using scare tactics to persuade them to pay thousands of dollars each to make them go away. In my opinion, this is an abuse of the legal process, and I would like to see an attorney general order this activity stopped. Nevertheless, this is what is happening.

On the motion to quash front, a number of people have asked me why I have not been advising a “march into court” approach. So far, attorneys and individuals filing motions to quash have not been successful. Just two days ago, the attorneys in the Voltage Pictures, LLC v. Does 1-5,000 filed a motion asking the court to sanction an attorney who created forms which internet users purchased and filed with the court.

While I just spent close to an hour e-mailing the attorney against whom sanctions were requested and suggesting ways as to how to properly defend himself against their accusations, the fact that the law firm went after the defense attorney trying to help people out of this situation is notable, but it is not useful to you, the reader.

What is telling is that in their motion (Case 1:10-cv-00873-RMU, Document 19, filed 11/22/2010, pages 4-6), the plaintiffs state that motions to quash, motions to dismiss, and motions for protective orders ARE COMPLETELY INAPPLICABLE BECAUSE DEFENDANTS ARE NOT YET NAMED OR SUED AS DEFENDANTS IN THE LAWSUIT. The plaintiffs continue (on page 5) and say, “The subpoenas are issued to the ISPs, and the Doe Defendants do not have to do anything in responding to the subpoenas [because they have not yet been named in the lawsuit].” (Emphasis added.)

I must point out that I disagree with the plaintiffs here because in my understanding, being named in a lawsuit (regardless of whether the defendant is named as an IP address or as a Doe Defendant) causes undue harm to the defendant even prior to being named as a defendant. The reason I say this is that each Doe Defendant is sent a threatening letter from their ISPs accusing them of illegal activity. Each Doe is put on notice that he or she has been named in a lawsuit and thus anticipates being sued. Each Doe Defendant is advised to retain an attorney and is told that he or she can be criminally and/or civilly liable for violation of the federal copyright laws. Each Doe Defendant is then ACTIVELY solicited and threatened by the attorney plaintiffs to “pay up or face a real lawsuit” where a judgment can cost a family their home, all their savings, their freedom, and possibly force them into bankruptcy. In my opinion, to say that a plaintiff at this point has no right to file such a motion, and that such a motion is not yet applicable until the defendant is actually named in the lawsuit is simply irresponsible lawyering.

But so far, I have not seen the motions to quash be an effective tool against the media companies looking to enforce their copyrights. I have not seen the judges letting defendants off the hook for simply sending in letters and/or form responses asserting what in my opinion are proper jurisdictional arguments.

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…I’ve been hearing through the grapevine that the Hurt Locker copyright prosecution team has begun their next wave of lawsuits.  Internet users will be shortly receiving a subpoena from their attorneys accusing them of downloading this movie.

Nothing to do yet, at this point, the prosecution only wants your information so that they can contact you to elicit a settlement to deprive you of your hard-earned cash without a trial.  Again remember — they haven’t named you in their lawsuit, nor is the settlement they are proposing a settlement to a lawsuit they have filed against you.  They are trying to circumvent that step in the legal process and skip to where you pay them to go away.  Has anyone heard another term for this sort of activity?  It starts with an e.

Through the Cashman Law Firm, PLLC, we are telling these thugs to back off and to follow the law.  We are also sending letters to various political operatives attempting to get them to change the law with regard to the way it is being applied (or misused) to charge users of committing crimes without filing suit in a court of law.  There is no such thing as an extrajudicial hearing, and the concept of “innocent until proven guilty” has not changed.

Regardless of whether you obtain an attorney to defend your copyright infringement case (and there are MANY reasons for doing so), remember that the burden of proof is on them to prove their case before you bring one iota of evidence.  At this point, some unrepresented parties are answering their questions and giving them forensic data to their computer and their hard drives to prove they are not guilty of that particular crime.  Forensic computer experts have caught the scent of this game as well and have started up’ing their prices.

Again, at this point, they have only contacted your ISP asking for your  information.  While it is to your benefit to hire an attorney so that you are not “low hanging fruit,” so to speak, remember that there is nothing to defend against and provide evidence for because YOU HAVE NOT BEEN NAMED AS A DEFENDANT AND THUS YOU HAVE NOT YET BEEN SUED.

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