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I have been fighting with myself trying to determine whether to write this article for a problem with Warner Brothers’ $20 settlement demand letters that they are sending out to accused downloaders of their content. Yet I suspect that this is just the beginning of something larger — I fear that the MPAA might be jumping on board the “DMCA settlement letter” scheme or even worse, starting to sue defendants again en masse for copyright infringement.

Under a company named “Rightscorp, Inc.,” (Website: http://www.DigitalRightsCorp.com) Christopher Sabec is sending out “DMCA Letters” almost copying CEG-TEK’s letters accusing the internet user of copyright infringement and offering to settle the claims for a mere $20.

RightsCorp is representing, however, mega corporations such as Warner Brothers Entertainment Inc. (“Warner Bros.”) on their ABC Family teen shows such as “Pretty Little Liars” (file: “Pretty.Little.Liars.S03E05.HDTV.x264-LOL.mp4″) among other TV shows geared at teenagers who are quite savvy on the internet. The expectation is that not all of the episodes are available on their http://abcfamily.go.com website, and so naturally kids will migrate to the internet and Bittorrent to download the earlier episodes taken down from their websites.

What is bothering me, however, is that the release on their https://secure.digitalrightscorp.com/settle website (pasted below) releases the accused defendant from their claim of copyright infringement for a mere $20, but it has the defendant ADMITTING GUILT to the infringement. Thus, in legal terms, an accused internet user who pays the $20 may be released from liability for THAT instance of infringement, but the next time they catch that user downloading, they can not only sue for the full $150,000 (or ask for TENS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS as a settlement), but in court, they would use the prior settlement as EVIDENCE OF GUILT that the accused defendant habitually downloads copyrighted videos and TV shows.

To be clear: EVERY settlement agreement for copyright infringement should have language stating that the accused defendant is not admitting guilt, or else the act of settling a copyright infringement claim can be construed as an “admission” of guilt in a court. Specifically, the language (e.g., taken from CEG-TEK’s settlements) would say something like “this Liability Release represents a compromise and that nothing herein is to be construed as an admission of liability on the part of RELEASEE.” This language appears to be purposefully ABSENT from the RightsCorp Settlement Agreements.

For this reason, it is difficult for me to suggest hiring a third party / attorney and paying one of us to anonymously settle a $20 matter, BUT it is my opinion that the RightsCorp settlements are simply dangerous to your legal rights.  Yet the flip side is that Warner Bros. is a MPAA member, and they have unlimited pockets to sue a defendant (they have in the past, and they could again in the future), and that not settling could later result in a second claim against you for a lot more money (it is not unlike them to ask for $20,000 as a settlement for one title).

My ThoughtsI am not sure I would want the MPAA (or any of its members) to have my client’s contact information with what is essentially an “I did it, I’m sorry, I won’t do it again, here’s $20″ settlement agreement.  And, if I settled a claim, I would probably do so anonymously and respectfully.  

I would not want to instigate a “David vs. Goliath” fight with Warner Brothers or the MPAA on behalf of my client (who would likely end up being the HARD-WORKING PARENTS of the kid who did the download).  In a court battle, we would have the uneven legal situation [yet again] where the plaintiff copyright troll has unlimited financial and legal resources and the defendant has limited means to even hire an attorney to represent them.

The MPAA has been lying dormant these past three years while the porn companies and their copyright trolls fight out the issues in the various federal courts across the U.S. My suspicion is that they are getting ready to dip their toes back into the water and start suing internet users again. I am suspicious that perhaps this $20 scheme is just their way to start getting names and contact information to gear up to sue “repeat offenders” who have already settled one of their claims. And for $20, it appears to me that this will be an easy way to lure defendants into giving over their contact information to be solicited later for something else.

Here is a sample copy of their release (noting that the “no admission of guilt” language is missing):

WB Sample Settlement Agreement
Liability Release & Settlement Receipt

IMPORTANT: Please retain this document for your records. It releases you from liability for the below mentioned infringement and serves as official notice of settlement.

Reference # TC-4ab****************************

Title Pr*******************

Filename Pr********************

Timestamp 2013-06***********

Infringement Source Torrent

Infringers IP Address 61*************

Infringers Port 4****

In consideration of the settlement payment made and the representations and agreements made in this Release & Settlement, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. (“WB”) for itself, for its past, present and future directors, shareholders, members, managers, officers, employees, agents, attorneys, representatives, partners, trustees, beneficiaries, family members, heirs, subsidiaries and affiliates, and for its and their predecessors, successors and assigns (collectively the “Releasor”);

Hereby finally, unconditionally, irrevocably and absolutely releases, acquits, remises and forever discharges robert steele, 3100 donald douglas loop n santa monica CA, 90405 and such person’s family members and heirs (collectively the “Releasee”);

From any and all manner of actions, suits, debts, sums of money, interest owed, charges, damages, judgments, executions, obligations, costs, expenses, fees (including attorneys’ fees and court costs), claims, demands, causes of action and liabilities, that arise under the United States Copyright Act, in each case whether known or unknown, absolute or contingent, matured or unmatured, presently existing or hereafter discovered, at law, in equity or otherwise, that the Releasor may now have or that might subsequently accrue against the Releasee arising out of or connected with the specific Infringement of copyrighted material(s) referenced above;

Provided however, that this release shall not, and shall not be deemed to, constitute a release with respect to any other past, present or future infringements by Releasee other than the specific Infringement of copyrighted material(s) referenced above.

Robert Steele agrees not to infringe any of WB’s filmed entertainment (including but not limited to films, videos, video games, animation and television programs), whether now in existence or later created, that is owned or controlled by WB. In furtherance of this agreement, Robert Steele agrees to immediately and permanently cease the unauthorized copying and/or distribution (including, but not limited to, downloading, uploading, filesharing, file “swapping,” or other similar activities) of WB filmed entertainment, including, but not limited to, those items listed in this correspondence.

Settlement Date 2013-06**********

Transaction Id 102**************

Settlement Amount ***

If you have any questions about this release, please contact rsteele@digitalrightscorp.com

6/21 UPDATE: I have been seeing lawsuits filed by Warner Bros Home Entertainment Inc. v. “named defendant” et al. I have provided a screenshot below from the http://www.rfcexpress.com website. After a quick investigation, these lawsuits are NOT RELATED to what I am referring to in this article.  Yet, it is still concerning that Warner Bros. is taking such an enthusiastic interest in the federal court system for copyright infringement lawsuits.
062113 Warner Bros Lawsuits

I try my hardest to separate out the “photo” copyright trolls from the “bittorrent” copyright trolls when writing articles on this blog, as they are a separate category of trolls with their own rules.

In sum, “photo” copyright trolls search the web for images that are used on websites, often by bloggers, without permission or license from the owner of that photograph. Essentially, a blogger writes (for example) about the topic of “red pepper” vegetables. To make their blog entry more visually appealing, they search Google Images for “red pepper,” copy the first image they see, and they paste it on the top of their blog.

Most bloggers stay away from pictures that have a watermark on it, or from images which have a copyright logo marked on it. The problem is that 99% of the pictures out there have no copyright marking, and are not sold anywhere. Unsuspecting bloggers use these photos or random pictures on their blogs, and unbenownst to them, the owner (or a third party who purchases the rights to the photo with the intention of suing bloggers) begins asserting their copyright interests in the photo. Many accused bloggers who I have spoken to have expressed that they didn’t think they needed a license for a photo for non-commercial activities, and now they are facing threats of a lawsuit for using an image on their website.

Where the waters get muddied is that now Copyright Enforcement Group (a.k.a., “CEG-TEK”, “CEG TEK”, and more recently, “CEG”) is sending out the same DMCA letters that they ordinarily send to my bittorrent clients, but now they are in the “photo trolling” business. Their letters assert that a particular website used a copyrighted photo without a license, and the copyright holder is now asserting his rights for the “theft” that happened to his intellectual property rights. Thus, they are asking for $500 per photo, which in my opinion is obscene considering all their other letters ask for $200 per video shared via bittorrent.

On a personal note, hitting website users with a threat of a lawsuit over an image pulled from a Google image search is simply obscene. I would certainly understand such a letter if the image had a watermark pointing the user to a website where they can purchase rights to the photo without the watermark, or if there was a copyright mark on the image. Yet these photos have none of these, and they are literally trolling old websites and blogs looking for photos which were copied from other websites.

What makes this so obscene is that the photo copyright owners are asserting the same copyright infringement claims as do the copyright holders for the bittorrent cases we deal with daily. Along with the same copyright claims come the same shock of having the law provide statutory damages of $150,000 to the copyright holder who can prove the infringement. $150,000 for a movie download in my mind is an obscene and disproportionate punishment for the “crime” of downloading a copyrighted title. Even moreso for a photo. AND, even moreso for an unmarked and unwatermarked photo freely available on a Google image search.

Now here are the details as they are unfolding. So far, it appears as if the “photo” copyright troll entity asserting the copyrights is a company called “AKM Images / GSI Media.” The letter CEG-TEK is sending out provides a screenshot image of the blog containing the photo (and in a number of cases, the blog is no longer in existence and is only shown in the internet archives on the “Way Back Machine” on http://archive.org). It appears as if even CEG-TEK was unsure if they wanted to go into this area, because many of the screenshots are said to be from last year (2012). And, the so-called DMCA letters are not sent by ISPs, but appear to be forwarded by the website admins who host the various blogs.

6/13 UPDATE: There is some talk about the copyrighted images being posted on the website owner’s website or blog by a third party RSS aggregator. In sum, the accused blogger or website owner in many cases didn’t even post the images themselves, yet they are still asked by CEG to pay $500 to avoid a lawsuit.

ID-100157775Image courtesy of @artur84 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Much of the bittorrent world is saddened by the leaked news reports of the recent “Bellwether” case in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (Malibu Media v. John Does, Case No. 5:12-cv-02088) where at least one defendant is reported to be facing close to $112,500 in damages plus attorney fees for the peer-to-peer downloads he is said to have taken part in. The plaintiff attorneys, along with Keith Lipscomb and others who have a vested interest in seeing bittorrent cases against internet users succeed are drinking champagne and celebrating their victory.

It is both my professional belief and my personal conviction that copyright trolling lawsuits are wrong, and while there is nothing illegal in suing a defendant for copyright infringement, doing so in my opinion is unlawful and morally corrupt. These lawsuits are nothing more than a STAGE SHOW to permit a behind the scenes SHAKEDOWN of accused interent users, whether or not they actually participated in the accused infringement. For G-d’s sake, the “guilty” so-called “criminal” defendant merely clicked on a link, and downloaded a title that was openly shared with thousands of other downloaders. To hit that defendant with a shock lawsuit where they face $150,000 statutory damages for a video that could have been purchased for a few bucks is a disproportionate punishment for the “crime” of downloading copyrighted films. Rather, instead of suing downloaders and letting the piracy continue, why not just end the piracy problem by issuing a DMCA take down notice to the bittorrent tracker? The alternative of sitting in bittorrent swarms and employing tracking software to track the IP addresses of who is downloading to me just seems like an abusive step to what would otherwise be a simple problem of making the torrent files go away so that unsuspecting downloaders couldn’t click on the links.

It is my conviction that copyright infringement lawsuits are wrong because it is simply immoral to shake down EVERY John Doe Defendant (yes, each one) with the threat of having to defend a lawsuit in federal court unless they cough up tens of thousands of dollars for downloads that the John Doe Defendant often did not even take part in. I have personally seen copyright trolls such as Malibu Media, LLC take large sums of money from defendants who did not do the download, but who were pressured into settling simply to avoid being named in a lawsuit. It is no secret that defending a case is sometimes significantly more expensive than settling a case.

Yet even with the pending resolution of this lawsuit, accused defendants across the U.S. in their own lawsuits should understand that this ruling will not be binding on other federal courts in other federal districts. Each federal court makes their own rules as to what constitutes copyright infringement, and what evidence is required to prove a defendant guilty when the so-called infringement happens via a bittorrent download. This is our job as attorneys — to know which districts have rules in favor of bittorrent users, and to know which districts have ruled in favor of the copyright holders. No doubt, the Eastern District of Pennsylvania will now become a favored spot to sue internet users accross the U.S. for copyright infringement.

Lastly, on a personal note, this case does not change the way a lawyer handles copyright infringement cases. At least in our Cashman Law Firm, PLLC, there is no silver-bullet approach — some defendants choose to settle, and many do not. Considerations as always involve 1) whether the download actually happened and the circumstances surrounding the accused activities, 2) the accused defendant’s willingness to fight and defend a copyright infringement lawsuit, 3) the accused defendant’s aversion to risk of having their name become public knowledge in a court proceeding, and 4) the accused defendant’s financial ability to take each of the various pathways we suggest.

In sum, not all guilty defendants settle, and not all non-guilty defendants fight.  It is simply a calculation and a risk assessment that is based on the client’s desires, the federal district in which the lawsuit is filed (taking into consideration past bittorrent cases filed in that jurisdiction), the judge who assigned to the case (taking into consideration his past rulings), and the plaintiff attorney (or more frequently, the local counsel’s) proclivity towards naming, serving, and taking defendants to trial balanced with their willingness to negotiate an amicable settlement should we decide to go that route.

Bittorrent cases [in their current form] have now been around for three (3) years, and now we have a verdict where a case has been taken to trial — by Malibu Media, LLC surprisingly enough.  When we started, there were no cases taken to trial, and now there is one.  Before the appearance in 2010 of the bittorrent cases, all we had to go on were the old Napster and Grokster cases, combined with the various lawsuits filed by the RIAA / MPAA and miscellaneous copyright infringement files dealing with the internet. Up until now we have been developing case law surrounding peer-to-peer downloads as each case matures. Now we are starting to get some clarity as to the law surrounding bittorrent use.

Malibu Media, LLC has been filing lawsuits across the U.S. with a fervor with one change — most of them appear to be “Single John Doe” lawsuits against defendants whom they believe have deep pockets.

In other words, it appears that Malibu is looking at the geolocation data of the various IP addresses of the so-called downloaders, and they are going after defendants who live in towns which have high value residential homes. I know this because based on the individuals who call our office, a disproportionate number of them have commented that they have multi-million dollar estates, and they were wondering whether it was ethical to target high value individuals in their copyright infringement lawsuits.

To make matters worse, Malibu Media, LLC appears to have incentivized their local counsel with financial rewards for bringing in higher settlements. In the olden days, I could have called one of their contacts directly, and within a few phone calls, I knew what kind of settlement a defendant could get based on how many “titles” or alleged instances of infringement they were accused of downloading. From there, the client and I would decide whether it made more financial sense to fight the case by waiting to be named and filing an answer in court, or whether it made more financial sense to settle the case. Malibu has complicated this process in order to provide the appearance of legitimacy for the courts. Now, they are having their local counsel negotiate the settlements themselves. This would be okay, but it is my experience that local counsel are asking for higher numbers than I know Malibu would have settled for just a few months ago. “The old settlement numbers you used to have with Malibu are no longer in effect,” one local counsel told me as she pushed for higher numbers. “We are doing this ourselves now.”

To make matters worse, when Malibu Media, LLC identifies a downloader by his IP address, they track that IP address and monitor that defendant to see what other bittorrent files that defendant is downloading (wiretap?). They continue to monitor that defendant downloading non-Malibu Media titles such as “The Walking Dead,” “Homeland,” “Breaking Bad,” often creating a list multiple pages long of “other” infringing activities that defendant has taken part in. Their logic is that because a particular defendant downloaded those other titles, he is a “serial downloader” and thus it is more likely that he downloaded their titles as well. A number of us attorneys have explained to their local counsels’ deaf ears that just because a particular IP address downloaded a number of bittorrent titles does not mean that the accused defendant is that downloader. However, even the best attorney’s understanding of the law can be clouded when money influences that attorney’s understanding of it.

On a positive note, in just a few weeks, we have seen judges rule that the “other” BitTorrent activity listed in their complaints [for works not owned by Malibu Media] is inadmissible under the Federal Rules of Evidence (“FRE”), specifically Rule 404 on “Character Evidence.” The reason for this is because “Evidence of a person’s character or character trait is not admissible to prove that on a particular occasion the person acted in accordance with the character or trait.” In other words, proving that a particular defendant is a “serial downloader” is not admissible to prove that on a particular date and time, that defendant downloaded Malibu Media’s copyrighted titles. Shame on Malibu attorneys for not knowing this.

Further, judges have ruled that introducing evidence of “other” downloads is not relevant and is actually prejudicial to the defendant, and thus that so-called evidence is not admissible to prove that the defendant downloaded Malibu Media, LLC’s titles. As one example, Judge Stephen Crocker has frozen all of Malibu Media, LLC’s cases in the Western District of Wisconsin for this very purpose (link).

In sum, messing up on the Federal Rules of Evidence and doing so on each of their “Single Doe” upper-class cases was a big mistake which they might not be able to undo.  And also on a positive note, because they have filed so many “Single Doe” cases across the country, judges across the U.S. are looking deeper into their tactics and their evidence of infringement.  See @Ddragon229’s article on the FCT website, “Winds of change begin to blow on Malibu Media” for details on the character evidence issue.

Despite this, Malibu Media, LLC continues to file lawsuits across the U.S. in alarming numbers, and in each case, they continue to file this prejudicial information of “other” downloads as their “Exhibit C” in each case. A snippet of cases filed in just the last few weeks is pasted below:

Cases filed by Chris Fiore in the Pennsylvania Eastern District:
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:13-cv-02858)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:13-cv-02859)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:13-cv-02867)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:13-cv-02868)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:13-cv-02854-JP)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:13-cv-02855-MMB)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:13-cv-02856-JD)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:13-cv-02857-SD)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No.2:13-cv-02863-PD)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:13-cv-02864-HB)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:13-cv-02765-MSG)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:13-cv-02766-MSG)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:13-cv-02767-WY)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:13-cv-02768-PD
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:13-cv-02769-RB)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:13-cv-02770-CMR)

Cases filed by Mary Schulz of Schulz Law PC in the Illinois Northern District:
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-03726)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-03699)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-03700)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-03703)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-03704)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-03705)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-03706)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-03707)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-03710)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-03711)

Cased filed by Paul J. Nicoletti of Nicoletti & Associates PLLC inn the Michigan Eastern District:
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe subscriber assigned IP address 71.238.205.92 (Case No. 4:13-cv-12231-MAG-MAR)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe subscriber assigned IP address 68.42.185.159 (Case No. 2:13-cv-12210-RHC-MJH)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe subscriber assigned IP address 68.43.4.96 (Case No. 2:13-cv-12213-SFC-DRG)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe subscriber assigned IP address 68.43.84.236 (Case No. 2:13-cv-12214-AJT-MKM)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe subscriber assigned IP address 68.60.140.87 (Case No. 2:13-cv-12216-PDB-RSW)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe subscriber assigned IP address 68.62.41.133 (Case No. 2:13-cv-12217-VAR-RSW)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe subscriber assigned IP address 69.14.181.108 (Case No. 2:13-cv-12218-NGE-DRG)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe subscriber assigned IP address 69.246.89.172 (Case No. 2:13-cv-12220-AJT-DRG)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe subscriber assigned IP address 67.149.158.6 (Case No. 2:13-cv-12197-GAD-PJK)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe subscriber assigned IP address 67.149.89.224 (Case No. 2:13-cv-12198-PDB-MKM)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe subscriber assigned IP address 68.40.123.7 (Case No. 2:13-cv-12200-GER-MKM)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe subscriber assigned IP address 68.40.46.12 (Case No. 2:13-cv-12201-DPH-DRG)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe subscriber assigned IP address 68.43.35.2 (Case No. 2:13-cv-12202-PDB-DRG)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe subscriber assigned IP address 68.41.170.197 (Case No. 2:13-cv-12204-GAD-RSW)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe subscriber assigned IP address 68.41.19.221 (Case No. 2:13-cv-12206-DPH-LJM)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe subscriber assigned IP address 68.41.86.4 (Case No. 2:13-cv-12208-MOB-RSW)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe subscriber assigned IP address 68.42.172.154 (Case No. 2:13-cv-12209-SJM-MKM)

Cases filed by Paul J. Nicoletti of Nicoletti & Associates PLLC in the Indiana Northern District:
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe 12 (Case No. 1:13-cv-00166-PPS-RBC)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe 5 (Case No. 1:13-cv-00164-PPS-RBC)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe 9 (Case No. 1:13-cv-00165-PPS-RBC)

PERSONAL NOTE: Even with all these cases, I have only listed 46 cases having 46 defendants. With the hundreds of filings, it becomes impossible to track and report on each case. The more I look at each of these cases, the more I feel as if they have succeeded in preventing attorneys like myself from tracking and reporting on each of their hundreds of cases. Obviously I am still here, and I am still reporting on these cases. My list of cases to track has just gotten a bit larger.

houstonlawy3r:

Sometimes there are no words other than silence to best express the thoughts I have about Judge Wright’s order essentially referring John Steele and the Prenda Law Inc. gang to the IRS’ Criminal Investigation Division (CID) for all the settlements on which no taxes were paid. There is one police agency that a criminal organization does not want to be contacted by, and that is the CID.

The $81K in sanctions essentially funds the lead attorneys who spent time on this case. And, the referral to the bar associations means that the principals at Prenda Law Inc. may no longer have their law licenses shortly.

In sum, there is not much for me to comment here, except to be silent, because the judge’s order itself says all it needs to. Copyright trolling may seem profitable for the attorneys filing the lawsuits, but no money can compensate for the loss of freedom that one experiences when what was once a multi-million dollar law practice lands the principles in prison for tax evasion. This should be a lesson to all other copyright trolls out there. Judge yourselves accordingly.

Originally posted on Fight Copyright Trolls:

We have been waiting for this moment for a long time. Congratulations to everyone involved, especially Morgan and Nick.

Media coverage

View original 382 more words

houstonlawy3r:

For those of you interested in the “chemistry” behind the bittorrent lawsuits and the “SHA1 hash numbers” affiliated with each title allegedly downloaded in each copyright infringement case, Die Troll Die has written up a very simple to understand article on the topic.

His analysis relates specifically to the The Thompsons Film, LLC v. Does 1-155 (Case No. 6:13-cv-00469) and similar cases, however the application of the SHA1 hash number analysis is relevant to any bittorrent lawsuit.

Originally posted on DieTrollDie:

While answering a question for a Doe, I decided to dig a little deeper into the various “Thompsons” cases filed throughout the US.  I apologize for missing an ‘interesting‘ aspect in case The Thompsons Film, LLC, v. Does 1-155, 6:13-cv-00469.   complaint_00469(OR)  The SHA1 hash number I listed was ONLY ONE of THREE hash files in the IP address listing.  I was a bit shocked, as this type of activity is very old-school copyright troll, as well as stupid in my opinion.  John Steele (Steele-Hansmeier/Prenda Law) liked to do this with his early cases.  We had another Troll try this a while back in Louisiana over a year ago – Multiple Hash Files.

TMovieHash1

The reason I call it stupid is because it shows that some of the BitTorrent activity is not related and thus some of the Does are improperly joined with the others Does. …

View original 442 more words

The Divide - New Copyright Trolls
For those involved in the R & D Film 1, LLC  cases across the US, I wanted to give you a heads up as to the “state of affairs” of those cases.

I have been watching R & D Film 1, LLC (a.k.a., “R&D Film 1“) since they began suing defendants for downloading the copyrighted title “The Divide.” [Whether they themselves have made ANY ATTEMPTS to take down the offending torrents using tools provided to them in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is not the topic of this article.] 

R&D Film 1 lawsuits showed up in July, 2012, and now 37 weeks later, I am surprised they are still alive.

DRAMA IN THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI

The R & D Film 1, LLC v. Does 1-35 (Case No. 4:12-cv-01743) case has shaken a few people up, because it is unclear which defendants were dismissed, and which were named and served.

In January, Judge Jean Hamilton invoked Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 4(m), which gave R & D Film 1, LLC 120 days to name and serve defendants. As you know, this is a tool judges have at their disposal to dispose of cases which get stale — they are not forced to dismiss stale cases. This deadline according to the judge’s calculations passed on 3/29/2013, but according to the plaintiff attorney’s calculations, it passed on 4/9/2013.

On 4/11/2013, the judge issued an “Order to Show Cause” why this lawsuit should not be dismissed, plaintiff attorney Joel Samuels responded, “but judge, we DID name and serve certain defendants,” and then Samuels dismissed everyone else [Does 1,6,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,30, and 35] without prejudice. Obviously we haven’t seen the list of who was “named and served,” but I must believe that Samuels wasn’t lying to the judge. That would be a bad idea.

So this case is still in play, and our firm is watching it carefully because what happens in one R & D Film 1, LLC case affects their other cases. Of note in Missouri — these cases are beginning to age, and I suspect more judges will be imposing FRCP Rule 4(m). Already, in EACH OF THE CASES, the other plaintiff attorney Matthew Cutler has filed a “Request for an extension of time to name and serve defendants,” which have been granted by the respective judges. In his next round of requests, they may not be so forgiving.

CASES FILED BY MATTHEW L. CUTLER OF HERNESS & DICKEY IN THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI:
R & D Film 1, LLC v. Does 1-33 (Case No. 4:12-cv-01741)
R & D Film 1, LLC v. Does 1-39 (Case No. 4:12-cv-01742)
R & D Film 1, LLC v. Does 1-35 (Case No. 4:12-cv-01743)
R & D Film 1, LLC v. Does 1-14 (Case No. 4:12-cv-01754)

WESTERN DISTRICT OF WASHINGTON: NO DRAMA.

As you know, on January 8th, 2013, Richard Symmes sued a total of 315 John Doe Defendants in Washington. I wrote about it here in my “(WAWD) R&D Film 1, LLC hires Richard Symmes to file against 315 Defendants” article.

In the R & D Film 1, LLC cases in the Western District of Washington, the story is the same for all the cases. Judge Lasnik has taken over all the cases, and he has allowed R&D Film 1 to serve the ISPs with subpoenas. At this point I have no indication as to whether Judge Lasnik is actively copyright-troll friendly or whether he is simply unifying the proceedings and allowing all cases to proceed.

Interestingly enough, all the defendants appear to be Comcast subscribers, and notwithstanding the Six Strikes System (not to confuse Ira Siegel/CEG-TEK’s “CopyrightSettlements.com” system and the lawsuits of the copyright trolls), Comcast is forwarding the subpoenas to their subscribers. The problem is that all defendants here are IN WASHINGTON (meaning, jurisdiction is fine), so everyone calling me is asking about a motion to quash, but quashing is not the answer since they live in the state in which they were sued.

CASES FILED BY RICHARD SYMMES IN THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF WASHINGTON
(ALL ALIVE AND WELL):

R & D Film 1 LLC v. Does 1-46 (Case No. 2:13-cv-00050)
R & D Film 1 LLC v. Does 1-45 (Case No. 2:13-cv-00051)
R & D Film 1 LLC v. Does 1-41 (Case No. 2:13-cv-00052)
R & D Film 1 LLC v. Does 1-22 (Case No. 2:13-cv-00053)
R & D Film 1 LLC v. Does 1-51 (Case No. 2:13-cv-00054)
R & D Film 1 LLC v. Does 1-50 (Case No. 2:13-cv-00055)
R & D Film 1 LLC v. Does 1-44 (Case No. 2:13-cv-00056)
R & D Film 1 LLC v. Does 1-16 (Case No. 2:13-cv-00057)

ILLINOIS NORTHERN DISTRICT — “IN AND OUT” LIKE A BANDIT:

In the Northern District of Illinois, R&D Film 1 plaintiff attorneys Michael Hierl and Todd Parkhurt are literally “making away like bandits” with their quick “in-and-out” strategy in the courtroom.

As soon as either of these lawyers get the subscriber information from the ISP, they hit the John Doe Defendants, and they hit them hard, soliciting a number of settlements. As soon as they reach a certain pre-determined number of settlements, they immediately dismiss the case and get out of the court as quickly as possible. No judge oversight — they are “in and out” like a flash before any judge notices what they’ve done.

This is the same pattern for EVERY ONE OF THEIR CASES.  I have left my notes next to their cases (below) because I thought the pattern was telling of their strategy.

CASES FILED BY TODD S. PARKHURST & MICHAEL A. HIERL OF HUGHES SOCOL PIERS RESNICK & DYM LTD. IN THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS:
R & D Film 1, LLC v. Does 1-52 (Case No. 1:12-cv-05810) closed 4/4
R & D Film 1, LLC v. Does 1-20 (Case No. 1:12-cv-05817) closed 4/11
R & D Film 1, LLC v. Does 1-57 (Case No. 1:12-cv-05821) closed 4/17
R & D Film 1, LLC v. Does 1-62 (Case No. 1:12-cv-05822) closed 4/10
R & D Film 1, LLC v. Does 1-36 (Case No. 1:12-cv-05823) closed 4/18
R & D Film 1, LLC v. Does 1-88 (Case No. 1:12-cv-05825) not yet dismissed; last hearing was supposed to happen on 1/23. didn’t.
R & D Film 1, LLC v. Does 1-29 (Case No. 1:12-cv-05827) closed 4/17
R & D Film 1, LLC v. Does 1-20 (Case No. 1:12-cv-05828) closed 4/18

R&D Film 1, LLC v. Does 1-37 (Case No. 1:12-cv-09036) Still alive; Judge Matthew Kennelly denying motions to quash. Status hearing held and continued to 6/4/2013
R&D Film 1, LLC v. Does 1-92 (Case No. 1:12-cv-09039) Still alive; Status hearing held on 3/19/2013 and continued to 4/23/2013.
R&D Film 1, LLC v. Does 1-103 (Case No. 1:12-cv-09041) closed 3/20
R&D Film 1, LLC v. Does 1-66 (Case No. 1:12-cv-09043) Still alive; ORDER granting motion for leave to take discovery prior to Rule 26(f) conference.

NEW JERSEY DISTRICT — ALL CASES “DEAD”

New Jersey is where copyright troll cases die a quick death. If you remember, all of the Century Media, Ltd., Baseprotect UG, Ltd. cases, along with all of Jay McDaniel’s bittorrent cases were in NJ and they are now dead.

All the New Jersey R&D Film 1, LLC Cases were assigned to Judge Noel L. Hillman and referred to Magistrate Judge Ann Marie Donio. They have dealt all cases (below) a swift death by requiring that local counsel Stamatios Stamoulis explain to the court why each of these cases should not be SEVERED AND DISMISSED for improper joinder.

Essentially, these cases will fail because New Jersey does not buy into the “bittorrent swarm” theory that every downloader was part of the “same transaction or occurrence” as is required by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

CASES FILED BY STAMATIOS STAMOULIS IN THE NEW JERSEY DISTRICT:
R & D Film 1, LLC v. John Does 1-28 (Case No. 1:13-cv-00482)
R & D Film 1, LLC v. John Does 1-103 (Case No. 1:13-cv-00483)
R & D Film 1, LLC v. John Does 1-104 (Case No. 1:13-cv-00484)
R & D Film 1, LLC v. John Does 1-105 (Case No. 1:13-cv-00485)
R & D Film 1, LLC v. John Does 1-31 (Case No. 1:13-cv-00486)
R & D Film 1, LLC v. John Does 1-28 (Case No. 1:13-cv-00487)

NOTE: NJ’s Dragon Quest Productions LLC v. John Does 1-100 (Case No. 1:12-cv-06611) will be affected (and likely killed) as a result of this as well.

In sum, it’s a battle ground, and R & D Films 1, LLC (sometimes spelled R&D Films 1, LLC in the case filings) is fighting to gain as many settlements as is possible. The fact that an Eastern District of Missouri attorney told the court that he named and served defendants indicates to me that R&D Film 1 is willing (maybe) to pay their attorneys to take this fight to the discovery level, if the copyright troll attorney is up for the challenge. Some clearly are not.

PERSONAL NOTE: I am waiting to see whether people were actually named and served (or not); I assume the lawyer’s statement is true because a lawyer would never lie to a court, would they? (#Prenda)

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