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Archive for the ‘Texas (TX)’ Category

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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So… I was in the Southern District of Texas court this afternoon, and I thought that I would stop by and sit in on the Sunlust Pictures, LLC v. Does 1-75 (Case No. 4:12-cv-00695) case management hearing.

Prenda Law Inc.’s local counsel was a no show.

Using the court’s speaker phone, the clerk called Douglas Clemons, Prenda’s answer to Doug McIntyre’s withdrawal as local counsel from all of their cases.

RECEPTIONIST: “Manfred Sternberg & Associates, how may I help you?”

CLERK: “We are looking for Douglas Clemons.  He has a hearing scheduled with Judge Ellison.”

RECEPTIONIST: “With who?”

CLERK: “Judge Ellison.”

RECEPTIONIST: “Let me see if he is here… No, he is not in the office.  I don’t even see anything on his calendar for today.  I’m going to transfer you to his cell phone. [click. dial tone.]“

In other words, Doug Clemons, local counsel to Prenda Law Inc. didn’t even know he had a hearing this afternoon.  This baffles me — I’ve known about it for weeks.  I expect that he has some explaining to do.

As far as the Sunlust Pictures, LLC v. Does 1-75 case is concerned, the hearing from today will probably be rescheduled with no consequences to the plaintiffs or to Prenda Law Inc.’s local counsel.  That being said, I do want to point out that the John Doe Defendants in this case likely have nothing to worry about — well, at least the Comcast Cable Communications subscribers.

Comcast refused to comply with the subpoena issued to them to release the names of the accused defendants, and Prenda sued Comcast in DC in a “motion to compel” case entitled “Sunlust Pictures, LLC v. Comcast Cable Communications, LLC” (Case No. 12-mc-00383).  They have done this before.  The judge denied Prenda’s motion, and thus Comcast will not be complying with the subpoena which essentially means that any Sunlust Pictures, LLC clients here in the Texas lawsuits are home free.  Your plaintiff attorneys will not know who you are.

As for non-Comcast defendants, there will be another case management hearing.  It’s probably a good idea to mount a proactive defense and at least let yourselves be heard.  Judge Ellison is a fair judge, and he will listen to you regardless of whether you are represented by an attorney or not.

I think more generally that it is probably a good idea for Doe Defendants across the country to start showing up to these hearings.  If you don’t have an attorney, wear a tie and a jacket, and say hello to the judge and the clerk.  If you do not have an attorney representing you, then represent yourselves.  I don’t think one local counsel who doesn’t have his heart invested in these cases can stand up to many of you, especially when you are passionately against these kinds of lawsuits.

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I sometimes feel like a duck in a pond — everything seems calm on the surface, but under the water, I am directing local counsel with a fury. No doubt copyright trolls operate the same way (John Steele did it, and quite frankly, this is the only way a multi-jurisdictional law practice can properly operate).

The problem happens, however, when one of your local counsel drowns. What do you do — do you let them take the fall? Or do you do whatever it takes to support them even when your cherished law firm name is not on their court filings?

I am sad to share that my nemesis of sorts, Doug McIntyre, has drowned, and his copyright troll employer appears to have let him take the fall.

Doug McIntyre was the name that appeared on a number of Prenda Law Inc.’s cases — names such as Millennium TGA, Inc., Bubble Gum Productions, LLC, Pacific Century Int’l, Ltd., and Sunlust Pictures, LLC (to name a few). What I thought was commendable was that for reasons we cannot discuss (think, “There is no honor among thieves. Copyright troll thieves”), Doug went ahead and started taking on his own clients — West Coast Productions, Inc., Combat Zone Corp. — and started to mold himself into a copyright troll rather than local counsel for someone else. I actually thought it was commendable that he was going off on his own and was standing on his own two feet rather than being a patsy for some other troll.

But then the KHOU Channel 11 News did a story on Doug McIntyre (as documented by DieTrollDie here), and reporter Scott Noll pinned Doug McIntyre as the mastermind copyright troll for First Time Videos, LLC and many of Prenda Law Inc.’s clients. Prenda Law Inc. said NOTHING and let him take the fall.

On a personal note, even though Doug and I are enemies on paper, I couldn’t help but to feel bad for him because he was merely local counsel filing motions for his employer, John Steele, the master copyright troll himself. And yet, Doug’s reputation here in Houston is tarnished as being the fall guy for someone else. As Captain Duck, I want to reiterate here that I would not let any of my local counsel in any state take the fall, and that all blame would always rest with my firm, the Cashman Law Firm, PLLC.

That being said, I’m sorry to say that as of yesterday, it appears to me as if Doug McIntyre has withdrawn as counsel from all of Prenda Law Inc.’s cases, and like other copyright trolls (e.g., Kevin Harrison), he appears to have left the game.

MCINTYRE’S TEXAS SOUTHERN DISTRICT CASES:
Bubble Gum Productions, LLC v. Does 1 – 60 (TXSD; 4:12-cv-00262) — WITHDRAWN
Millennium TGA, Inc. v. Doe (TXSD; 4:11-cv-04501) — WITHDRAWN
Pacific Century International Ltd. v. Does 1-20 (TXSD; 4:12-cv-00698) — WITHDRAWN

As Doug’s replacement, Prenda hired a new “Doug,” Doug Clemons, who has “significant Federal Court experience which he gained from flood insurance litigation.” Aside from the joke that he has relevant litigation in torrent litigation (my apologies for the dry humor), this new “Doug” has ZERO experience in copyright law. While I would ordinarily say “this will be fun” (as I do anytime I see a new copyright troll), quite frankly, even with this new patsy at the helm, I’m still fighting John Steele in these cases because in my humble opinion, Steele is the one filing the motions in the cases anyway. Thus, I expect to see more of the same.

In sum, welcome Doug Clemons, Prenda Law Inc.’s new patsy here in the Southern District of Texas (and let’s hope you have the originality to fight your own cases), and my condolences to Doug McIntyre, the local counsel who took the fall for Prenda Law Inc. I obviously say all of this with a bit of reservation, because you shouldn’t have taken the copyright troll cases in the first place, as Doug Clemons and his Manfred Sternberg & Associates, PC law firm are about to learn the hard way.

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This morning I woke up to news that the Third World Media, LLC v. Does 1-4,171 (DC; Case No. 1:11-cv-00059) plaintiff voluntarily dismissed all 4,000+ defendants. “That was disappointing,” I thought. What a waste of a case.

What got me thinking is that it was NOT the DC court (or their copyright-troll-friendly rulings) which prompted this dismissal, as I have a lot to say about Judge Facciola and his recent slew of rulings in a number of copyright infringement cases (more on that in another blog entry).  As far as I am concerned, this dismissal had other reasons which caused it.

Now obviously I’m very happy when a case like this goes bust, but it didn’t go bust. The plaintiff (and their copyright troll attorneys at Dunlap Grubb & Weaver, PLLC) simply lost interest and dismissed the case. I’ve been seeing this a few times over the past two weeks, specifically here in Texas with copyright troll Doug McIntryre dismissing his West Coast Productions, Inc. v. Does 1-351 (Case No. 4:12-cv-00504) case here in the Southern District of Texas — some copyright trolls are simply losing interest in their cases and giving up and dismissing all defendants.

Now I can obviously give an educated guess as to why this is. Local attorneys who work for copyright trolls don’t get paid by the copyright trolls.  As much as I villianize the local attorneys here on the blogs, local attorneys who file lawsuits on behalf of copyright trolls usually get cheated by their copyright troll bosses. I have heard many stories of clearly oblivious local attorneys making statements such as “well, nobody is settling my cases,” when I regretfully know the opposite is true. I once read a motion by a prolific copyright troll who wrote, “there is no honor among thieves” (referring to the bittorrent users who he was suing in his cases). Quite frankly, it is my opinion that this is probably the case between the copyright “trolls” themselves.

Then again, I have heard stories that the copyright trolls themselves often have trouble with the production companies (their clients, the porn companies) who have retained them to sue John Doe Defendants in the various lawsuits. I have often heard stories that behind each of the lawsuits is a imbecilic man with a short temper and a small brain who screams and yells at the copyright trolls to sue everybody on the planet. The problem is that these clients don’t want to pay the legal bills or commissions that they legitimately owe to the copyright trolls, as if they expect them to work for free.  Again, “there is no honor among thieves.”

And then again, (I have to note this,) I believe that there are instances where the copyright troll lawyers cheat their clients as well, binding them to settlement agreements and accepting money from defendants for infringements of their copyrighted works WITHOUT EVER TELLING THEIR CLIENT that this money was received.  The strategy: Sue on behalf of one production company, accuse the defendant of also infringing another production company’s copyrighted works, collect settlements for both infringements.  So I believe it goes both ways.  Production companies (clients) cheat their attorneys out of commissions and fees, and the attorneys accept settlements and never tell the production companies about it.  Again, “there is no honor among thieves.”

In short, while I do not know the politics of why a plaintiff attorney drops a case without explanation such as what you see here, it is my expectation that the reason for both of these cases is that there is conflict between the copyright troll attorneys, and the production companies in which they represent. Whether it is that the copyright troll attorneys are asking for too much money from the production companies (greed), or whether it is that the production companies who are not paying the copyright trolls, I don’t know or care. As far as I am concerned, my clients are being dismissed from the cases against them, and conflict between copyright troll attorneys who sue defendants and their clients can only be good for the world.

Side thought: As far as the copyright trolls cheating the local attorneys who they hire to file lawsuits on their behalf? While it frustrates me when I hear stories about the copyright troll bosses cheating their local counsel, part of me also thinks that there is also justice in the world. At the end of the day, these local counsel made a conscious decision to try to profit off of extorting thousands of dollars from each internet user (legal or not, we’ll see), and even if an internet user did download the title(s) he or she was accused of, there is no reason for them to pay thousands of dollars (often their life savings, or more accurately, their parents’ life savings) for what often ends up being a porn video where they could have purchased the DVD title for $34.99.  Obviously the distinction here is “actual damages” ($34.99) versus “statutory damages” (up to $150,000 for each infringement), and quite frankly, it is the copyright law that is broken [or that is being misapplied to downloaders], and not the lawsuits themselves which are inherently blind, or at least they are supposed to be — purposefully ignoring bias from certain DC judges.  That being said, only a piece of work would capitalize on this misapplication of the law and extort thousands of dollars from a defendant.  I really think the courts (and the law) needs to make a distinction as to who is a “pirate” and who is really just an innocent infringer.

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Congratulations to the Texas Millennium TGA, Inc. defendants who (with the assistance of their Comcast ISP) will never have their information shared with Prenda Law Inc., Doug McIntyre (Prenda’s local counsel), or Millennium TGA, Inc. Essentially, you have won your case because the copyright trolls will never know who you are (without great effort).

In short, as we discussed back in our “Forum Shopping” article on 5/16, Millennium TGA, Inc. made the mistake of suing the same “John Doe” defendants in Texas as they did two weeks before in DC. This wasn’t a mistake — the judge that was assigned to their DC case (referred to as “MILLENNIUM TGA I“) — Judge Wilkins — was known to be unfriendly to copyright trolls. As soon as Prenda Law Inc. figured this out, they dismissed MILLENNIUM TGA I, and using their local attorney Doug McIntyre in Texas, they filed “MILLENNIUM TGA II” [Millennium TGA, Inc. v. John Doe (Case No. 4:11-cv-04501)] here in the Southern District of Texas.  When the Texas judge gave the okay for Prenda to demand the names of the subscribers from their ISPs, Comcast recognized the similarities of the John Doe Defendants to the DC case just dismissed, and they refused to comply with the rubber stampped subpoena given to Millennium TGA, Inc. by the Texas judge. Millennium TGA, Inc. (through Prenda Law Inc., their attorneys) filed a lawsuit against Comcast in DC (MILLENNIUM TGA, INC. v. JOHN DOE (Case no. 1:12-mc-00150), also referred to as “MILLENNIUM III“) asking the court to force Comcast to comply with the Texas judge’s subpoena and hand over the names, addresses, and contact information for the subscribers implicated in the MILLENNIUM TGA II Texas case.

Then, after an adverse ruling by the DC court which [in its order by Judge Alan Kay, order now overturned] forced Comcast to comply with the subpoena, John Seiver (Comcast’s attorney) wrote an amazing appeal which resulted in the DC case being transferred back to Judge Wilkins — the enemy of the copyright trolls. We wrote about this in our “Comcast wins battle against Millennium TGA & Prenda. Subscribers lose.” article on 5/29.

Now, almost one month later, I am happy to share that Judge Wilkins issued the order we have been looking for all along. In his ruling this Monday, he DENIED Millennium TGA, Inc.’s motion to compel Comcast to comply with the subpoenas (and hand out the subscribers’ information). In other words, congratulations to the Cashman Law Firm, PLLC clients who have been entangled in this mess — your plaintiff attorneys Prenda Law Inc. and their local counsel Doug McIntyre will likely NEVER know who you are. In addition, congratulations on your victory in your Texas case, because without knowing who you are, they cannot name you as a defendant, and they cannot move forward against you. Score!

Food For Thought Moving Forward:
Okay, here is the silver lining. For those of you who do not have Comcast as your ISP, your Texas case is moving forward as usual. Similarly, for those of you who do not live in Texas, Judge Wilkins has ordered that Comcast turn over to Prenda Law Inc. ONLY the CITY AND STATE which is linked to your accused IP address. That way, if Prenda wishes to file a follow-up lawsuit against you, they can sue you in your home state’s federal court… or not. Here is my thinking.

Remember the “two-strike rule” in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (“FRCP”) Rule 41?? — a dismissal in the Texas court in a number of John Does’ cases would be the second dismissal [which is deemed to be "on the merits."] This could preclude your copyright trolls from filing suit against you a THIRD time in your home state’s federal court. See DieTrollDie’s “Two Strikes and You’re “Out!” – FRCP 41 & Copyright Trolls” article, and for more discussion on the topic, see Sophisticated Jane Doe’s “A Trolling Lawsuit Ends With Style” article here.

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It is always nice when one judge reaches into another judge’s docket and removes a case from his docket.

While I cannot tell if this is exactly what happened here, all I can say is that Comcast essentially just won their “forum shopping” case against Prenda Law Inc. relating to their Millennium TGA, Inc. v. John Doe (Case No. 4:11-cv-04501) case in the Southern District of Texas (a.k.a. “MILLENNIUM II”). BUT before you go off celebrating, Comcast is STILL under an obligation to hand out your information. Watch out!

To recap, if you remember from my “Forum Shopping” article on 5/16, Millennium TGA, Inc. sued 939 John Doe Defendants in DC (“MILLENNIUM TGA I”). When they learned that Judge Robert Wilkins (who killed a prolific bittorrent case) was assigned to the “MILLENNIUM TGA I” case in DC, the Prenda Law Inc. attorneys for Millennium TGA, Inc. dismissed the case and then re-filed it in the Southern District of Texas (Case No. 4:11-cv-04501) (“MILLENNIUM TGA II”) suing essentially the same John Doe Defendants as they did in the “MILLENNIUM TGA I” case in DC which they voluntarily dismissed when they learned that Judge Robert Wilkins was the judge assigned to that case.  The Texas judge rubber-stamped their request to serve the ISPs with subpoenas to obtain the contact information of the 939 John Doe Defendants, and Prenda Law Inc. sent out the subpoenas to the ISPs. Comcast (one of the ISPs) saw the obvious forum shopping (actually, “judge shopping”) issue (among others) and refused to comply with the subpoenas. Prenda Law Inc. sued Comcast in DC (what I called “MILLENNIUM TGA III” in my 5/16 article).

In the MILLENNIUM TGA III case in DC (which is essentially Prenda Law Inc. suing Comcast in order to force them to comply), Magistrate Judge Kay ruled against Comcast telling them that they must comply. Comcast appealed, BUT THE JUDGE’S ORDER FORCING COMCAST TO COMPLY IS STILL VALID AND IS STILL IN EFFECT! So what exactly is going on?? What happened today??

On 3/26, Comcast noticed that Prenda Law Inc. violated the court’s “judge shopping” rules (LCvR 40.5(a)(4)) by not reporting that its new case [assigned to Magistrate Judge Kay] was substantially related to the “MILLENNIUM TGA I” case that it voluntarily dismissed when it was before Judge Wilkins.

According to the DC local rules, to prevent contrary rulings by different judges for the same issues, if two lawsuits are substantially related (here, they are essentially identical), all subsequently filed cases get assigned to the original judge.

Knowing this, on 3/26, Comcast filed a “Request For Judge Reassignment” which was ignored until this morning.

As of this morning, District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle took the case away from Magistrate Judge Kay and reassigned it to Judge Robert Wilkins — the judge it should have gone to originally. Woohoo! Comcast’s victory is palatable at this point, because we can almost predict with certainty that he will rule in Comcast’s favor and will allow them NOT to comply with the subpoenas in the Texas MILLENNIUM TGA II case.

The problem is that all you see on the docket is a granting of the 3/26 motion for reassignment. Comcast appealed Magistrate Judge Kay’s terrible ruling against it, and Prenda Law Inc. filed a response to which Comcast responded to, but THERE WAS NEVER A RULING ON THEIR APPEAL which means that JUDGE KAY’S ORDER IS STILL IN EFFECT! COMCAST IS STILL UNDER AN OBLIGATION TO COMPLY WITH THE SUBPOENAS!

So in short, I have no doubt that Judge Wilkins will side with Comcast. However, I just don’t know if he has enough time to stop what he is doing (judges don’t only spend their days only reading these pornography-based bittorrent cases) and write an order 1) granting Comcast’s appeal and overturning Magistrate Judge Kay’s order [which is still in effect], and 2) granting Comcast’s motion for an extension of time to comply with the subpoena (which for many people, the deadline is today).

So while Comcast has essentially won the battle, they have not yet won the war. Comcast is still under the obligation to comply with the subpoenas.

MY OPINION:
…On a personal note, I feel that it is important that Comcast subscribers take note of the CONFLICT OF INTEREST that is apparent even in cases such as this one.  Comcast has been blindly complying with Prenda Law Inc.’s subpoena requests for almost TWO YEARS now.  They have opened up their own “Subpoena Compliance” division and have hired new staff (twelve new full-time employees, if my memory serves me correct) just to comply with these subpoena requests. They have entered into private agreements where Prenda pays them a certain sum of money for each IP address lookup (~$45 per IP address, give or take), and thus COMCAST RECEIVES A FINANCIAL BENEFIT FROM COMPLYING WITH THE SUBPOENAS.  On top of that, while I have spoken to John Seiver and I believe he is a very skilled attorney (remember the work he did in bringing down the Digiprotect case almost two years ago?), I cannot help but to be suspicious that this whole lawsuit is a PUBLIC RELATIONS STUNT solely to boost the image of Comcast.  After all, I must ask you — where were they until now? Have they filed ONE motion to quash on behalf of their subscribers? Why not? After all, with all the thousands of failed motions to quash filings attempted by their subscribers, Comcast could have SUCCESSFULLY filed motions to quash on behalf of its subscribers [they had standing in each case to object, and judges were dumbfounded why they never got involved], but they never did. Why not?

I also would like to mention that Comcast was one of the first ISPs to sign on to the MPAA/RIAA’s “six strikes” program (now on hold) which will no doubt be wreaking havoc on their subscribers in the near future.  So while I applaud John Seiver and Comcast for fighting and [what will likely be] WINNING the case against Millennium TGA, Inc. and Prenda Law Inc., I still need to ask myself on behalf of my clients, where were they until now? And, “will they still “accidentally” comply and collect their fee?” I would like to remind you that this has happened before.

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5/17/2012 NOTE: I want to make sure the blog continues to be a source of accurate information, and so while I have no doubt that the forum shopping I speak of in this blog happens (especially with copyright trolls filing lawsuits all over the place, sometimes implicating the same defendant in different cases (as is what happened with the Millennium TGA, Inc. Texas case), it was brought to my attention that Jason Kotzker filed cases in the Southern District of New York before receiving the adverse ruling in the Eastern District. For this reason, I am changing the blog article to reflect this fact.

I received a few inquiries in the past day or so about evidence that has surfaced that Prenda Law Inc. is involved in what is known as “forum shopping.”  Forum shopping in the context of our bittorrent cases is essentially where a plaintiff attorney (“copyright troll”) receives an adverse ruling from a judge in a particular federal district. “No problem,” the troll thinks. “There are many other federal districts in the country, some of which where the judges have not heard about our pornography bittorrent lawsuits. We’ll file there instead.” (See John Steele’s war of words with Sophisticated Jane Doe in the comments section of this article, specifically page 2.)  So the troll re-files its lawsuit, sometimes shamelessly doing a “cut and paste” job, implicating literally the same IP addresses they implicated in lawsuits they filed and dismissed in other jurisdictions. More about Prenda Law Inc. and forum shopping here.

The problem is that Prenda Law Inc. isn’t the only one doing this — many, if not all of the copyright trolls are doing the same thing, and just because “other people are doing it” doesn’t make it any more ethical.

This issue becomes relevant is when a local attorney receives an adverse ruling essentially shutting down bittorrent lawsuits in a particular jurisdiction. So far, as you know, you and we have been quite successful in educating judges as to the issues in the bittorrent cases [which has resulted in many case severances and dismissals], and the more judges learn about the copyright trolls’ tactics, the quicker they’ll shut down one or more of a plaintiff attorney’s lawsuits. The question becomes — and this is where forum shopping becomes relevant – IF A JURISDICTION SHUTS DOWN A COPYRIGHT TROLL’S CASES, IN WHICH COURT DO THEY RE-FILE THE LAWSUIT?  After all, the plaintiff attorneys are under the instructions from their clients (here, the production companies) to “sue this list of IP addresses who downloaded our stuff.”  If a court in a particular jurisdiction will no longer entertain such lawsuits — and each John Doe Defendant is potentially worth THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS IN SETTLEMENTS — where do the plaintiff attorneys sue these defendants?  Right or wrong, EVEN IF THEY SUE THEM IN THE WRONG COURT, MANY DEFENDANTS STILL WILL SETTLE.  Thus temptation for the copyright troll to “stick them into another lawsuit” is no doubt too great — “after all, who tracks this stuff?”  Hence, this is where forum shopping becomes an issue.

As just one example of a court shutting down a bittorrent case making it difficult to file in that federal court again (let’s see if I am proved wrong), it was brought to my attention yesterday that Jason Kotzker filed a handful of new cases — 8 in total — which he filed in the U.S. District Court for the SOUTHERN DISTRICT of New York (FYI, this is where Mike Meier is having trouble with his cases consolidated by Judge Forrest). These cases are:

Newly filed in the New York SOUTHERN District Court – Jason Aaron Kotzker of the Kotzker Law Group
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Does 1-11 (Case No. 7:12-cv-03810 – Judge Ramos)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Does 1-8 (Case No. 7:12-cv-03812 – Judge Seibel)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Does 1-16 (Case No. 7:12-cv-03818 – Judge Ramos)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Does 1-17 (Case No. 7:12-cv-03820 – Judge Karas)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Does 1-21 (Case No. 7:12-cv-03821 – Judge Ramos)
Malibu Media, Inc. v. John Does 1-7 (Case No. 7:12-cv-03823 – Judge Karas)

The funny part about this is if you remember my “Malibu Media, LLC – Friend of Foe? Foe.” article posted on March 23rd, 2012, you’ll immediately notice that Jason Kotzker was filing in the EASTERN DISTRICT of New York. However, no more. If you remember reading (and it does become difficult after a while to keep tabs on all of this) Sophisticated Jane Doe’s article on May 2nd, 2012 entitled, “New York judge blasts trolls’ practices, recommends banning mass bittorrent lawsuits in the district,” it should make perfect sense why Jason Kotzker is no longer filing in that court.

In all fairness, Jason wrote me and noted that he was filing in the Southern District of New York before this adverse ruling, and he is correct (I have listed a few of these cases below).  That being said, I don’t think we’ll be seeing any more filings from him in the U.S. District Court for the EASTERN District of New York any time soon, lest he file and land the same judge who hits him with sanctions for filing a frivolous lawsuit.

New York Southern District Court – Jason Aaron Kotzker of the Kotzker Law Group
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Does 1-5 (Case No. 1:12-cv-02950 – Judge Oetken)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Does 1-5 (Case No. 1:12-cv-02951 – Judge Griesa)
Malibu Media, Inc. v. John Does 1-7 (Case No. 1:12-cv-02952 – Judge Cote)
Malibu Media, Inc. v. John Does 1-4 (Case No. 1:12-cv-02953 – Judge Crotty)
Malibu Media, Inc. v. John Does 1-5 (Case No. 1:12-cv-02954 – Judge Buchwald)
Malibu Media, Inc. v. John Does 1-4 (Case No. 1:12-cv-02955 – Judge Engelmayer)
Malibu Media, Inc. v. John Does 1-4 (Case No. 1:12-cv-02960 – Judge Buchwald)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Does 1-4 (Case No. 1:12-cv-02961 – Unassigned)
Malibu Media, Inc. v. John Does 1-4 (Case No 1:12-cv-02962 – Judge Baer)

Looking at even this list of cases all filed in the SOUTHERN DISTRICT of New York at the same time, you have to ask yourself — why did Jason Kotzker break these cases into “John Does 1-4″ cases, when he could have easily filed the lawsuit as Malibu Media, LLC v. John Does 1-42?  Are you telling me that breaking this case into 9 SEPARATE CASES resulting in 7 SEPARATE JUDGES [whereas 2 are known to rule against copyright trolls] is not forum shopping?!?  Are you kidding me??

Here is my solution.  We have learned from past experience, judges need to be educated on the issues, and sometimes from non-parties, sometimes from us attorneys whispering into their ears, and sometimes through mainstream channels via the EFF, the ACLU, through their use of amicus briefs. For this reason, I would like to see more people sending letters to the chambers of Judge Ramos [Phone: (914) 390-4290], to the chambers of Judge Karas [Phone: (914) 390-4145], and to the chambers of Judge Seibel [Phone: (914) 390-4271] and the others letting them know exactly what is going on.  Tell them what cases have been filed, and tell them which other judges have the other cases.  Speak about jurisdiction.  Speak about joinder.  Speak about the phone calls you have received from the plaintiff attorney’s so-called “collection” agents.  Now obviously calling up and ranting won’t get you anywhere.  However, calling up each Judge’s chambers and asking for their fax number, and then sending over a well written letter to the judge can certainly get some results.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Someone asked me to comment on Judge Godbey’s order in the Mick Haig Productions, e.K., v. Does 1-670 (Case No. 3:10-cv-1900-N) in the US District Court for the Northern District of Texas sanctioning Evan Stone $10,000 for sending subpoenas to ISPs before getting permission from the court.

As eloquently quoted on EFF.org’s Deeplinks Blog,

“To summarize the staggering chutzpah involved in this case: Stone asked the Court to authorize sending subpoenas to the ISPs. The Court said “not yet.” Stone sent the subpoenas anyway. The Court appointed the Ad Litems to argue whether Stone could send the subpoenas. Stone argued that the Court should allow him to – even though he had already done so – and eventually dismissed the case ostensibly because the Court was taking too long to make a decision. All the while, Stone was receiving identifying information and communicating with some Does, likely about settlement. The Court rarely has encountered a more textbook example of conduct deserving of sanctions.” (Order, p.12)

I actually heard about this from other plaintiff attorneys as it was happening, and I am not surprised that it happened. One thing that a plaintiff attorney needs to be when suing thousands of defendants each in dozens of cases is ORGANIZED. Not only do they need to keep track of the various hearings and deadlines (this isn’t so complicated to do) to keep up the appearance that they actually intend to move forward in their cases, but remember most of these so-called “copyright trolls” are concurrently running a huge marketing campaign — the main goal of their entire marketing scheme — trying to scare people into settling for thousands of dollars under the threat of “naming” them as a defendant in their lawsuit (or in a follow-up lawsuit in the defendant’s home court).

So the judge essentially said “no” (or, “not yet”), Stone went ahead anyway and sent the subpoenas, and then apparently sent settlement letters to the Does as the ISPs complied with the subpoenas. Really in my opinion this sounds like mindless disorganization rather than malice. This is what happens when an attorney tries to sue too many people at the same time; they simply get sloppy. As we know, many of these plaintiff attorney firms are merely “a guy in a room,” and Evan Stone has been reported as being “a guy in two rooms, one empty, one full of files.” (See Dallas Observer’s Evan Stone’s Battle Against Porn Pirates article, 4/21/2011). Am I surprised he slipped up? Not really. Was this really an intentional act? Maybe.

Now as far as the sanctions goes, I am unimpressed by the $10,000 sanction amount. This seems like pennies to an attorney who is bringing in $2,500 per settlement at what he claims is a 45% settlement rate. (see Order, footnote 7) Ten thousand dollars is merely the equivalent of FOUR settlements. With the hundreds of letters that went out, even if he is lying about the settlement rate, don’t you think he made at MANY TIMES that amount? Think about it. There is nothing punitive about this order.

Assume Evan Stone merely sent out 100 letters and had only a 20% success rate at $2,500 per settlement. This alone amounts to $50,000. The Mick Haig Productions case had *670* defendants. In short, while $10,000 may be a lot to a starving attorney, my opinion is that the sanctions wouldn’t even cover the IRS’ federal income taxes Mick Haig Productions would pay on the settlements they received from this misstep.

So again, I must shrug my shoulders. This was going to happen eventually to someone. It makes sense that it happened to Evan Stone. The other plaintiff attorneys don’t even like him, and they try to distinguish themselves from him. Maybe next time this happens, the sanctions will be $100,000 rather than $10,000. As far as I am concerned, $10,000 will not serve to be any deterrence at all. Not to Evan Stone; not to any of the other plaintiff attorneys who are laughing at him now as we speak.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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