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Back in November 2012, I wrote an article about CEG-TEK’s CopyrightSettlements.com web site “crashes” where following a failed settlement transaction (purposeful or not), accused infringers received letters essentially saying, “[B]ecause you have decided not to settle, we will be moving forward against you in a copyright infringement lawsuit. Please pay us $3,500 or else we will sue you.” These letters were apparently sent from Copyright Enforcement Group (CEG-TEK), a software brainchild of Ira Siegel.

Now it appears that CEG-TEK is “stepping up” their game again, and more letters are being sent out, but this time from CEG-TEK’s local counsel, Marvin Cable. What is particularly concerning is that this letter appears to be sent out to:

1) ANYONE WHO CALLED IN TO CEG-TEK, BUT DID NOT SETTLE (they are scouring the CALLER-ID RECORDS and matching them with publicly available contact information), and

2) ANYONE WHO ENTERED THEIR CONTACT INFORMATION ON THEIR WEBSITE (e.g., to process their credit card payment), but the website “crashed,”

3) ANYONE WHO LEFT “BREADCRUMBS” WHEN INTERACTING WITH THEM, BUT DID NOT SETTLE.

NOTE: I have personally heard reports of 1) and 2), but 3) is a catchall for items I have not yet heard about, but expect that they are doing.

In sum, as I suspected when the Six Strikes System was put into place, with the big ISPs no longer forwarding their “$200 per title” settlement letters, their settlement stream of cash has started to run dry. As such, their production studio clients are forcing them to do whatever they can to “monetize” their clients IP (here, scrubbing the voicemail records, the caller ID records, and website tracking records, and putting names to those traces left by accused internet users), or else sue. In order to keep these clients, we see examples of letters such as this one:

Just to be clear, for a long time, when people ask “Should I settle or ignore CEG-TEK’s DMCA letters? What are my chances of being sued if I ignore?” I have been telling people that they could do either, and I laid out the factors to consider.  I am still of this opinion, namely that 1) Neither Ira Siegel, Terik Hashmi, Marvin Cable, or Mike Meier have sued anyone in MANY MONTHS (since July, 2012 to be exact), and 2) the purpose of their CopyrightSettlements.com website was to convince production companies that it is easier for them to sign on with CEG-TEK and run a settlement “IP monetization” campaign, rather than to sue everyone in a copyright infringement lawsuit.  I assume they are still trying to salvage this system, especially with the renewed efforts to find those who have not settled.

And as always, if you haven’t read my previous articles on the topic, I am still getting reports of website transactions not working (website “crashes,” failed transactions), and so once again, be smart and protect your contact information. Know that when you visit a website, unless you are using Tor or you subscribe to a private VPN, you share with that website your IP address, and when you call Copyright Enforcement Group’s phone number to inquire about your matter, you leak your phone number which can easily be cross-referenced back to you.

In other words, be careful with your information, and the “breadcrumbs” you leave when you conduct your daily life.  These breadcrumbs can be traced back to you, and next thing you know, you’ll be on the phone with me asking how to defend a copyright infringement lawsuit filed against you and 200 other Doe Defendants.

A number of interested readers have wondered what my opinion was about Monday’s sanctions hearing against Prenda Law Inc., Brett Gibbs, John Steele, Paul Hansmeier, and the others [Case Cite: Ingenuity 13 LLC v. John Doe, Case No. 2:12-cv-08333, in the California District Court (Case Documents "Recap'd" here)]. Quite frankly, I read the #Prenda Twitter stream throughout the day just as many of you did.

Up front, there were some pretty good articles on the event, and as far as I am concerned, there is nothing substantive that I can add to what has already been written. I advise anyone affected by the AF Holdings, LLC cases (or any of Prenda Law Inc.’s so-called “trusts”) to read the following articles:

IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE:

In sum, it is my opinion that whatever the result, there was a lesson taught — that copyright trolls are not “above the law,” so to speak. As far as the effect of Monday’s hearing, we will not know the effect until we read Judge Wright’s order (which we do not expect to see for a few days). However, as for the applicability, the ruling will apply nationwide, and no doubt every court which hears their cases will probably receive a copy of the order.

There is a lot of mention of “trusts” when it comes to the Steele|Hansmeier organization.  I have a “love-hate” relationships with trusts. They form a wonderful legal alter-ego function when it comes to protecting assets and benefiting third party beneficiaries. However, in scenarios like this, I believe they are tools to break the law and hide from responsibility. The problem here is that I’m not so sure Steele and Co. could pull off having a trust without it being broken by the courts.

From what I have read, it is my opinion that there is too much involvement in the trust by all parties, and putting it simply, keeping the classic definition and rules of a trust, I’m not sure they’ve done it in a way which could withstand scrutiny. For example, I’m not sure who the grantor is, who the grantee (receiver of assets) is, and for which beneficiary or purpose was the trust formed. Are there any documents relating to the formation of the trust?  Are there any filings anywhere relating to the trust?  Also, who is the trustee who is in charge of directing and managing the funds of the trust? I would be worried of the parties mishandling the movement of the funds (the trust assets), and this is where they may get busted for playing the trust game… not to mention that I hear that nobody has filed taxes on this income and all the members are U.S. citizens? I can’t believe no taxes have been filed or paid, because if not, the IRS would be after them for tax evasion (and I have heard nothing of the sort happening).

As far as the Hansmeier deposition that nobody gets paid and that every lawyer gratuitously works for free without receiving an income, I call BS on that statement. It appears to me that he is playing semantics with the term “income” according to the tax code, and he can get in trouble the way he has maybe misused the term. No lawyer, as wonderful as any of them might be, would work for “no income.” Even Brett Gibbs. I assume there is some foreign trust account set up for each of them into which funds get deposited on a regular basis. And, those “offshore trusts” need to pay taxes just like any other legal entity.

My sadness from Monday’s events stem from the fact that Steel/Hansmeier/Duffy clan staying out of court was a very smart move. By staying as far away from the court as possible, Judge Wright was unable to swear them in, and he was unable to take their [what would likely have been incriminating] testimony. If he sanctions them, if he orders a bench order for their arrest (not likely), or if he does something to them, from a distance [and out of jail], they can easily appeal any order the judge makes, essentially eviscerating any legal authority Judge Wright may show.

I mentioned to a few other lawyers how queasy attorneys get when a judge speaks strong words. However, we all have been watching these cases for almost THREE YEARS NOW (come June), and I have never seen a judge do any damage to a copyright troll. Even Evan Stone, the prolific copyright troll out of Dallas, Texas — for sending subpoenas out before the judge gave authorization to do so, he was only sanctioned $10,000 (essentially one day’s income for Steele, according to Alan Cooper’s testimony, or three of Evan Stone’s settlements).

At the end of the day, unless the result of this hearing is a state bar disciplinary hearing (or more seriously, a criminal investigation if there was indeed “fraud” in the legal sense), and unless some lawyers lose their licenses, there will be no deterrance from Prenda Law Inc. (or any other copyright troll) thinking twice about their actions, and copyright trolling lawsuits will grow exponentially until enough people cry out, “this must be stopped!”

UPDATE (3/14/2013):

SJD reports that Judge Wright has ordered the Steele|Hansmeier gang to appear on 3/29/2013 based on “their pecuniary interest and active, albeit clandestine participation in these cases” (emphasis added).  He continues that “Not only does [their motion not to appear] lack merit, its eleventh-hour filing exemplifies gamesmanship”  (emphasis added).  Wow.  Further, the judge expanded his inquiry to impose sanctions not only to the original masterminds of these lawsuits, but to the so-called entities who are supposed to be separate and apart from their operation (they’re not).  He called Livewire Holdings LLC, and 6881 Forensics, LLC to be present at the hearing.  Now if these entities will be represented by the same Steele / Hansmeier / Duffy / Lutz characters (Hansmeier’s deposition already pegged paralegal Lutz as the CEOs of a number of these entities), this will look very bad for them.

NOTE: A commenter referred to this article (or me) as a “buzzkill,” and that got a good laugh out of me.  If you knew how much my reporting on these blogs represented how dull I sometimes am in real life, the humor of that comment is pretty on-point.  On this note, however, if you read Judge Wright’s order carefully, again, he’s only threatening sanctions.  Even if he imposes $1 million dollars in sanctions, I cannot imagine Steele and the others would pay it.  After all, they technically don’t “own” that money that is in the various trusts (#sarcasm).

Also see:

Congratulations to the Cashman Law Firm, PLLC clients who have been dismissed from the BASEPROTECT UG, LTD. v. JOHN DOES 1-X (Case No. 2:11-cv-03621) and the CENTURY MEDIA, LTD. v. SWARM AND JOHN DOES 1-944 (Case No. 2:12-cv-03868) cases in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.

The politics leading to the dismissal of these cases is quite simple. Each of these cases lagged on for almost TWO YEARS with little progress being made against the hundreds of John Doe Defendants implicated in the lawsuits. After 178 documents were filed with the court in the Baseprotect case (whether they be motions to dismiss defendants who have settled, motions to quash, or administrative motions and/or hearing notes), eventually the case got stale.

On 2/26, Judge Joseph Dickson issued an ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE (which is usually indicative of a soon-to-be-dead case) as to why the court should not SEVER AND DISMISS all defendants except for John Doe 1.

In other words, Judge Dickson figured out that the John Doe Defendants in this case — the alleged co-defendants of the “same” bittorrent swarm — had download dates which were spaced so far apart that it was very unlikely that each of the hundreds of defendants participated in the “same swarm and the same time.” In other words, joinder was obviously deficient and the judge was about to break apart the case into a few hundred pieces telling plaintiff attorney Jay McDaniel that he better pay the $350 filing fee for each of the John Doe Defendants and file separate actions, or else he’s dismissing everyone except for John Doe #1.  The judge set the hearing date for 4/1.

In sum, McDaniel decided to cut his losses (which if you look at just how many people settled, you would conclude that this case was very profitable for him since its original filing on 6/23/2011), and without even waiting to attend the 4/1 hearing, he dismissed the case in its entirety.

Oh, and while he was at it, he also dismissed the Century Media, Ltd. case that same day.

Once again, congratulations to all who have been dismissed from these cases.

With all the drama going on in the Prenda Law Inc. defamation cases (most recently, they have sent a subpoena to WordPress asking for every IP address who visited SJD or DTD’s website since 2011), I wanted to make sure the other lawsuits didn’t take advantage of this diversion.

Thinking about the Malibu Media, LLC single “John Doe” lawsuits article I wrote about last night, I wondered what would happen if the defendants were actually “named” and served (their attorneys historically have named and served defendants, so it is a possible outcome with these lawsuits as well).  I remembered earlier in the day, I was discussing issues affecting the “other” copyright trolls (the stock photo and Linda Ellis copyright troll letters) with an individual fighting that side of the copyright infringement “IP monetization / enforcement” issue (as you know, there is a whole other side to the copyright infringement “extortion letter” issue that we do not even discuss on our blogs), and someone mentioned to me the “double-tap” joinder strategy (phrase coined by DieTrollDie) relating to an article I wrote about last year.  I was wondering how interesting it would be to force Malibu to disclose all of the other bittorrent swarm participants and join them in under the federal joinder rules as co-defendants if they ever did go so far as to name one of my clients as a “named” defendant.

Obviously nobody wants to drag anyone into any lawsuit, but as a strategy — even months later — I still think the “double tap” is still a very good strategy, and at the very least, it is certainly fun to think about.

So revisiting the strategy, I visited my own blog and re-read the article from back in October. While reading, I noticed the “Like” button and instinctively clicked it (social engineering). Moments later, I received the following e-mail from WordPress.

double-tap joinder strategy for named defendants

double-tap joinder strategy for named defendants

LOL.  Sorry if you thought I was going somewhere with this post. ;)

Malibu Media, LLC has been one of the worst offenders in these copyright trolling cases. Instead of waiting for a full download to be complete, it has been reported to me that IMMEDIATELY UPON CLICKING ON THE BITTORRENT LINK (or in other words, as soon as an internet user “joins” the bittorrent swarm, EVEN IF NOT A BYTE OF DATA HAS BEEN DOWNLOADED), ***WHAM!*** Downloaders are tagged and are sued for copyright infringement.

To make matters worse, Malbu Media, LLC is known to sue based on what is called a “Siterip” (essentially meaning that someone ripped a large set of videos from their http://www.x-art.com paid website, and posted a huge number of them into one bittorrent file). We won’t ask 1) if they’ve known about the Siterips, why they have not filed DMCA takedown notices for those Siterips, and 2) whether they were involved in the “leaking” of the various siterips (in my opinion, it is too convenient to have “Siterip #1… Siterip #2… Sitrip #12…”). In sum, clicking on the wrong torrent file link with Malibu Media, LLC as your plaintiff production company can get you sued for 25+ titles, or “hits” as they like to call them.

Now what makes these cases particularly offensive is that unlike the traditional copyright trolls who will only ask for $3,400 and settle for whatever they can get, Malibu Media, LLC will likely ask for at least a $10,000 settlement from each defendant. You see this by looking at the case names below that there appears to be only ONE defendant in each case. The reason for this is that their attorneys will tell the defendant that he’s the only one in the case, and that they’ll amend the complaint, “name” him as a defendant, and serve him with process if he doesn’t settle.

While I am against the concept of suing downloaders for the piracy of a film, I want to note that filing ONE LAWSUIT FOR ONE DEFENDANT is the proper way to do these lawsuits (and the courts will be much more forgiving based on the many filing fees paid to the court, especially since the court will not need to deal with rote procedural issues that have plagued these cases since their inception [e.g., improper jurisdiction, improper joinder]). In sum, in a case such as this one, a defendant must answer for himself the simple questions of 1) can I fight this (the answer is likely yes considering the “snapshot” methods in which they track the IP addresses relating to the downloads, along with the likely-present issues of late copyright filing dates), and 2) how would I like to proceed based on what I know about their evidence against me (based on my own network router setup and/or downloading habits)? X-art films have a very specific style and theme to them, and they attract a very specific genre of married men, one step up from those who enjoy classy soft porn. On top of this, the Keith Lipscomb IP enforcement company representing Malibu Media, LLC as their client does research on most defendants (note their mention below as “Dr. John Doe” in one of their cases to signal to the defendant that they know he has financial resources to pay a large settlement). For these reasons, it is often a simple question of EVIDENCE in determining whether to move forward with what is usually a very good defense, or whether to use that evidence we gather in your favor while attempting to negotiate a deeply discounted settlement on your behalf.

Up front, the local counsel you will read about below — Mary Schultz, Paul Nicoletti, Jon Hoppe, Leemore Kushner, Jason Kotzker, and Patrick Cerillo — are merely paid to file and fight these cases according to the instruction of Keith Lipscomb. They are merely cogs in Lipscomb’s IP enforcement machine, and in my opinion, there is no reason for anyone to be talking to them since they likely do not have authority to do anything but gather evidence, argue the cases and move them forward.

MARCH 2013 – 19 NEW CASES

Illinois Central District Court
Mary Katherine Schulz of Schulz Law Firm, PC

Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-01096)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-01099)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-01100)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-01101)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-01102)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:13-cv-02058)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:13-cv-02059)

Wisconsin Eastern District Court
Mary Katherine Schulz of Schulz Law Firm, PC

Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:13-cv-00226)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:13-cv-00236)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:13-cv-00238)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:13-cv-00239)

Indiana Northern District Court
Paul Nicoletti of Nicoletti & Associates PLLC

Malibu Media LLC v. Joe Doe (Case No. 2:13-cv-00085)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 3:13-cv-00162)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 3:13-cv-00163)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 3:13-cv-00164)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 3:13-cv-00165)

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

Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-00268)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-00269)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-00270)

FEBRUARY 2013 – 103 NEW CASES

New Jersey District Court
Patrick J. Cerillo – Attorney at Law

Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:13-cv-01179)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe subscriber assigned IP address 68.32.191.163 (Case No. 2:13-cv-01176)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe subscriber assigned IP address 69.142.2.132 (Case No. 2:13-cv-01178)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:13-cv-01180)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:13-cv-00214)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 3:13-cv-01159)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe subscriber assigned IP address 108.35.11.132 (Case No. 2:13-cv-01104)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe subscriber assigned IP address 173.70.130.138 ( 2:13-cv-01106)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:13-cv-01105)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:13-cv-00971)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe subscriber assigned IP address 173.54.255.28 (Case No. 2:13-cv-00972)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:13-cv-00973)

Wisconsin Eastern District Court
Mary Katherine Schulz of Schulz Law Firm, PC

Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:13-cv-00217)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:13-cv-00213)

California Southern District Court
Leemore L Kushner of Kushner Law Group

Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 3:13-cv-00433)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 3:13-cv-00434)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 3:13-cv-00435)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 3:13-cv-00436)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 3:13-cv-00437)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 3:13-cv-00438)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 3:13-cv-00440)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 3:13-cv-00442)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 3:13-cv-00443)

Florida Middle District Court
M. Keith Lipscomb (a.k.a. Michael K. Lipscomb) of Lipscomb Eisenberg & Baker PL

Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 8:13-cv-00467)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 8:13-cv-00468)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 8:13-cv-00469)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 8:13-cv-00470)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 8:13-cv-00471)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 8:13-cv-00472)

Florida Southern District Court
M. Keith Lipscomb (a.k.a. Michael K. Lipscomb) of Lipscomb Eisenberg & Baker PL

Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 9:13-cv-80178)

Colorado District Court
Jason Aaron Kotzker of Kotzker Law Group

Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe subscriber assigned IP address 97.121.170.141 (Case No. 1:13-cv-00428)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe subscriber assigned IP address 69.29.143.104 (Case No. 1:13-cv-00424)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe subscriber assigned IP address 71.218.22.157 (Case No. 1:13-cv-00426)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe subscriber assigned IP address 75.171.198.44 (Case No. 1:13-cv-00427)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe subscriber assigned IP address 97.121.170.141 (Case No. 1:13-cv-00428)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe subscriber assigned IP address 69.29.143.104 (Case No. 1:13-cv-00424)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe subscriber assigned IP address 63.225.246.31 (Case No. 1:13-cv-00423)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe subscriber assigned IP address 71.212.197.251 (Case No. 1:13-cv-00425)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe subscriber assigned IP address 71.218.22.157 (Case No. 1:13-cv-00426)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe subscriber assigned IP address 75.171.198.44 (Case No. 1:13-cv-00427)

Maryland District Court
Jon A. Hoppe of Maddox Hoppe Hoofnagle & Hafey LLC

Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-00352)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-00353)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-00354)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-00356)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-00357)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-00358)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-00359)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-00363)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-00366)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 8:13-cv-00350)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 8:13-cv-00351)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 8:13-cv-00355)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 8:13-cv-00360)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 8:13-cv-00361)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 8:13-cv-00362)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 8:13-cv-00364)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 8:13-cv-00365)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 8:13-cv-00506)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 8:13-cv-00507)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 8:13-cv-00508)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 8:13-cv-00509)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 8:13-cv-00510)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 8:13-cv-00511)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 8:13-cv-00517)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 8:13-cv-00518)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-00512)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-00513)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-00514)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-00515)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-00516)

Illinois Central District Court
Mary Katherine Schulz of Schulz Law Firm, PC

Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-01072)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-01073)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:13-cv-02043)

Illinois Northern District Court
Mary Katherine Schulz of Schulz Law Firm, PC

Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-00863)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-00878)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-00880)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-00883)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-00884)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-00885)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-00888)
Malibu Media, LLC v. Dr John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-00891)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-00913)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-00915)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-00934)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-00935)

Michigan Western District Court
Paul Nicoletti of Nicoletti & Associates PLLC

Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-00158)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-00162)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-00163)

Indiana Southern District Court
Paul Nicoletti of Nicoletti & Associates PLLC

Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-00201)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-00203)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-00204)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-00206)

Indiana Northern District Court
Paul Nicoletti of Nicoletti & Associates PLLC

Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:13-cv-00055)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 3:13-cv-00071)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 3:13-cv-00072)

Colorado District Court
Jason A. Kotzker of Kotzker Law Group
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe subscriber assigned IP address 174.51.234.104 (Case No. 1:13-cv-00307)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe subscriber assigned IP address 174.51.250.8 (Case No. 1:13-cv-00308)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe subscriber assigned IP address 24.8.161.234 (Case No. 1:13-cv-00309)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe subscriber assigned IP address 24.8.34.85 (Case No. 1:13-cv-00310)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-00311)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe subscriber assigned IP address 67.176.40.151 (Case No. 1:13-cv-00316)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe subscriber assigned IP address 75.71.30.155 (Case No. 1:13-cv-00317)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe subscriber assigned IP address 98.245.154.142(Case No. 1:13-cv-00318)

P.S. – For those of us who follow these cases as enthusiasts, did you notice that there was no mention of Chris Fiore in this long list of cases? Perhaps he still has his hands full with the bellwether case.

“Oh what a tangled web we weave, When first we practise to deceive!”
– Sir Walter Scott, Marmion: Canto VI. (1771 – 1832)

My greatest effort in this blog is not to decide what to write about, but what NOT to write about. I’ve been very aware of John Steele’s issues in Minnesota (where he made an appearance for one of his cases, and was served by Paul Godfread’s process server on the Alan Cooper identity theft issue). I’ve also been aware of the issues as to whether AF Holdings, Guava, (and we won’t mention Ingenuity 13, or the older MCGIP lawsuits) are in fact entities or whether there is an bit of sham involved in their formation and/or the enforcement of the intellectual property they appear to hold. I have also noticed the clear trend from the smarter lawsuits where Steele moved from suing hundreds of John Doe Defendants to him suing smaller numbers of John Does (20-75) in smaller “under-the-radar” lawsuits, and then finally to the “John Doe” individual lawsuits, some of which ended up with named defendants who were not served, others where the defendants were actually served, and finally others where a defendant and his attorney agreed to allow Prenda to add hundreds of unrelated defendants to the lawsuits as potential co-conspirators.

Then when even the individual lawsuits looked to no longer be fruitful for him, I noticed the move from copyright enforcement to absurd tactics, some of which involved having Mark Lutz pose as a representative for a production company.  I noticed when Prenda had their own local counsel (Joseph Perea) shift titles to avoid unauthorized practice of law issues (e.g., in Florida), and I noticed when local counsel Brett Gibbs ended up as “of counsel” for Prenda Law Inc., only to later disavow association from the firm when federal Judge Otis Wright mentioned the word “jail.” These absurd tactics have gone even farther, most recently with the creation of the Livewire Holdings, Inc. entity (see, Part I; Part II) using fake pictures on their website for their so-called “partners,” and reports that Mark Lutz (Prenda Law Inc.’s former paralegal, now pictured as “partner” in the Livewire Holdings, Inc. site) is back at it, calling dismissed defendants using a fake name.  I almost fell off my chair when I read local counsel Brett Gibbs’ most recent declaration [under oath] that [he has been informed that] Mark Lutz was the CEO for AF Holdings, LLC (p.4, paragraph 7), and that he was also the CEO for Ingenuity 13, LLC (p.4, paragraph 8).  Really?!?

All of this drama (including the Minnesota lawsuit and the so-called fake Alan Cooper issue) are topics I have purposefully chosen NOT to write about for the sole reason that they do not help my clients or potential clients understand the issues surrounding the copyright infringement lawsuits they face when they receive a subpoena notice from their ISP in the mail.

Behind the scenes, as owner of the Cashman Law Firm, PLLC, I and my staff have spent literally months building up local counsel networks and researching each federal court’s rules to properly defend clients who are named as defendants in their copyright infringement lawsuits. I personally warned a number of copyright trolls that if they named my clients, myself and the attorneys I work with would find a way to make defending these cases affordable. So you can understand why I was amused when the principals at Prenda Law Inc. shifted from what looked to be a trend towards individual lawsuits against former John Doe Defendants to their more recent “world domination” shenanigans which led to widespread questions as to the identity of the “real” AF Holdings, LLC Alan Cooper, which of the copyright troll entities are real and which are shams, and then once caught, which led to the finger-pointing which began between their local counsel and other defense counsel, and then ultimately to the finger-pointing towards the principals at Prenda Law Inc. I’m happy that their lawsuits have gone nowhere these recent months, but personally I feel that their focus has shifted to “doubling down” on what appear to be outright lies rather than representing their clients to stop the piracy of their copyrighted films.  I often stop myself from asking, “wasn’t that the whole purpose of this grand charade?”  At least the war I thought I was fighting was to defend internet users from being subjected to copyright extortion-like lawsuits for the downloading or viewing of copyrighted movies and videos.

For these reasons, I really have nothing to say or comment because what Prenda Law Inc. / formerly, Steele|Hansmeier PLLC/ or more recently, the Anti-Piracy Law Group / John Steele / Paul Duffy / Brett Gibbs / former paralegal Mark Lutz (and their local counsel, many still disgruntled) have been doing and their antics have little-to-nothing to do with the so-called “rampant piracy” and the copyright infringement I thought they were here to stop.

So now John Steele and the entities he supposedly has nothing to do with are suing Paul Godfread, the real Alan Cooper (as opposed to the one they have not yet produced), along with all of the anti-copyright troll internet population, probably most notably, Sophisticated Jane Doe (http://www.fightcopyrighttrolls.com), Die Troll Die (http://www.dietrolldie.com), and probably a handful of others who have been hugely helpful to our law firm over the years through their reporting on Twitter. I could easily be part of this group of anti-copyright troll “Does” from all the posts I have written on his cases.

The problem with the “sue everyone for defamation” approach is 1) the elements of defamation are simply not there (as Forbes Magazine might report, John Steele is clearly a “public person” who has cast himself forth as being one of the foremost and first copyright trolls), 2) his lawsuits likely invoke the anti-SLAPP laws because they appear to have been filed to “create chilling effects and to stifle speech,” and most importantly, 3) people like Sophisticated Jane Doe, Die Troll Die, and the others blog and tweet anonymously. Thus, even if they figured out which IP addresses did the posting or the tweeting, the IP address will likely point to a private VPN service who have no ability to even know who these anonymous bloggers are.

In closing, there is not much to say about these lawsuits. Techdirt wrote about them here.  ArsTechnica wrote about them here.  Sophisticated Jane Doe wrote about them here. Copyright Clerk wrote about them here. Jordan Rushie wrote about them here. No doubt there will be many more articles, and no doubt there will be much more drama. However, as far as these lawsuits affect his copyright infringement and “hacker” lawsuits (the purpose for which I write this blog), I cannot see them affecting his lawsuits positively, and if anything, this was a misstep for Steele and his affiliates.


UPDATE (3/9/2013): DENIED.  Automattic, Inc. letter to Prenda Law Inc. (on behalf of WordPress.com sites) rejects Prenda’s attempts to ascertain the IP addresses of the anti-troll community citing five (5) deficiencies in their subpoena.  Other notable reasons for non-compliance with the subpoena include: 1) rights under the First Amendment to anonymous speech; 2) right to privacy; 3) subpoena (“outrageously”) overly broad; 4) subpoena seeks information that is not likely to lead to discoverable information.

As you can see, I am taking some time educating individuals involved in the Copyright Enforcement Group (CEG-TEK) / Ira Siegel DMCA letters being sent to thousands of individuals across the U.S. by their http://www.CopyrightSettlements.com system.

As a recap, anyone involved in receiving such a letter should read the following three articles I have written on their tactics:
1. Why CEG-TEK’s DMCA settlement system will FAIL (2/22/2013)

2. When CEG-TEK’s DMCA notices contain duplicate titles. Purposeful luring of defendants or not? (11/26/2012)

3. The trouble with Copyright Enforcement Group (CEG-TEK)’s DMCA scare letters. (11/2/2012)

Now, as far as the topic of this blog entry, the question people often ask is “what are the risks that CEG-TEK or Ira Siegel will sue me if I don’t settle?”  

While the easy answer is that so far it appears as if they are NOT suing (remember, they are soliciting their clients under the premise that they’ll make more money by making use of their DMCA settlement system rather than by suing), that answer needs to be elaborated.  I hope you will forgive me saving time in answering this way, but I have laid out my answer below in the form of an e-mail I sent to one of the individuals who called me for assistance.

LETTER SENT TO CLIENT:

It is good to hear from you. Just to reiterate, the “case” numbers are not actual lawsuits (at least not yet). If you did not settle by their due dates, their threat is that they would file a lawsuit against you [likely for only one of the titles; knowing them, in order to maximize their return, they would reserve the other titles for separate lawsuits]. Also, my opinion is that the lawsuit would be filed in the Northern District of California (where Ira Siegel is), or the Southern District of New York (where Mike Meier is). Even though you live here in [LOCATION REDACTED] and [COURT REDACTED] would be the proper location for a lawsuit, by filing in the wrong location, they know by doing so they would push you to settle rather than hire an attorney (someone like me) to fight the jurisdiction issue on your behalf.

So far as we discussed, their lawsuits are few and far in between. In fact, up until a week or so ago, I was ambivalent whether a client ignores the letter or settles it (see below article link for what has changed). If you want to see what they are doing lawsuit-wise, you’ll find them by looking for the words “Digital Sin” or any of their other clients on the http://www.rfcexpress.com website. Alternatively, you can search for “Mike Meier” since he seems to be their top guy as far as skill in suing defendants aside from Ira Siegel himself.

It is my opinion that they are not in the habit of suing at this point, which means they are trying to “milk” the settlements for all they are worth. However, they do have three (3) years from the alleged date of infringement to sue, so if you didn’t settle, you’ll be looking over your shoulder waiting for them to have a bad day when they decide to press the button and sue everyone.

I wrote an article yesterday on my http://torrentlawyer.wordpress.com website which should answer your questions as to the factors influencing the odds of whether they’ll be suing defendants in the near future, or whether they would wait the full three-years to sue everyone at once.

Once again, it drives me nuts when attorneys try to scare defendants into settling their cases.  With these DMCA “scare” letters, I am merely stating the obvious paths CEG-TEK and their attorneys can take.

For me, I think Ira Siegel and the Copyright Enforcement Group (CEG-TEK) would like to avoid suing defendants.  It didn’t seem that profitable for them the first time around, and it took incredible resources to maintain their copyright infringement lawsuits prior to the creation of their out-of-court turn-key settlement system. Then again, they are IP enforcement companies who are serving the needs of their production company clients (the copyright holders), and if the clients pay them to use their CopyrightSettlements.com system and send DMCA letters to the ISPs, they send the letters.  If the clients instruct them to sue, they sue. It is my understanding that they dislike the other copyright trolls, and that they compete for business (e.g., the production companies). Thus, if their settlement system dries up as I believe it inevitably will, they will do anything not to lose their clients to the likes of Lipscomb, Steele, or the other less credible trolls out there.

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