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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.

houstonlawy3r:

I am horrified by reading Sophisticated Jane Doe (SJD)’s story about the Copyright Law Enforcement Agency. Quite frankly, I was already of the opinion that some of the copyright trolls needed to be disbarred and some needed some jail time for the fraudulent activities they appear to have taken part in, and this was when they were filing CIVIL COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT lawsuits in federal court. Reading this story, I am offended by the activities of this group, and no doubt the FBI and other law enforcement agencies will take note of their actions. In my opinion, this kind of activity raises to the levels of Ransomware and other flat-out illegal activities, and I have no doubt they will be shut down by law enforcement agencies just as fast as I am typing this comment.

For these reasons, I am not writing my own separate article on this topic, but I am merely re-posting SJD’s article below.

Originally posted on Fight Copyright Trolls:

2/22/2013 Update: this fraud is seemingly grounded shortly after it took off (scroll to the bottom of the post).

Over the last couple of days, I started receiving disturbing reports about a new copyright extortion outfit, “Internet Copyright Law Enforcement Agency.” The con artists behind this “company” have been mass-sending demand letters threatening that those who won’t pay $495 by a certain date, “will be fingerprinted, photographed, and held in jail until you are arraigned in court.”

Internet Copyright Law Enforcement Agency

 

According to confidential reports, the IP addresses and file titles (this scam deals with music, not films) are not made-up (to the extent of the reliability of collection methods, of course). Therefore, either the crooks indeed work with an IP monitoring company or use home-brewed methods (can be as simple as running an out-of-box Bittorent client and analyzing logs). Collusion between former owners of the file sharing sites and…

View original 1,739 more words

This is a rather tricky article to write, especially since I am setting some copyright trolls apart from others, and I am unsure whether this is a good idea or not.

It is my opinion that the “Six Strikes” System which has recently gone into effect will ultimately kill Copyright Enforcement Group’s (CEG-TEK)’s “CopyrightSettlements.com” settlement system. In short, their selling point of attracting new copyright holders (the production companies) with the promise of big profits through volume settlements (from you, the internet users) by the sending of DMCA scare letters directly to internet subscribers via their ISPs will fail. I am concerned that the production companies / copyright holders might decide to start once again suing defendants in copyright infringement lawsuits.

Copyright trolls take two forms — the “copyright troll” lawyer, and the production company who embraces the concept of extorting settlements from so-called “infringers” rather than selling their copyrighted product on the marketplace.  There is one entity often missing from our blog’s focus on lawyers and their clients — the “IP enforcement company” (“IP” = intellectual property) who is working behind the scenes to 1) acquire clients for their firm, 2) track the peer-to-peer / bittorrent downloads and torrent swarms, 3) hire and maintain one or more attorneys capable of suing, and 4) converting their tracking efforts into CASH [in terms of $$$ settlements from accused downloaders].

This explains why whether you are sued by Patrick Collins, K-Beech, or Malibu Media, you’ll be contacted by someone on the Lipscomb & Eisenberg law firm’s collection team. Similarly, if the production company is Digital Sin, Zero Tolerance, Girls Gone Wild, etc., then your IP enforcement company is the Copyright Enforcement Group (CEG-TEK) and you will be sent DMCA letters suggesting that you settle their claims against you or else they may sue you (so far, this has not been the rule, but the exception). Yet, if your plaintiff is AF Holdings, Hard Drive Productions, Openmind Solutions, or any of the others connected with Prenda Law Inc. or the new Anti-Piracy Law Group, your IP enforcement company is one of John Steele’s entities. In other words, every copyright troll plaintiff is a client of a particular IP enforcement company, and that IP enforcement company has one or more lawyers on their team (or more often then not, as with John Steele and Ira Siegel — very different entities) — the lawyers themselves appear to own an ownership interest in the IP enforcement companies they run and work on behalf of.

It is my understanding that an enterprising attorney (or members of his IP enforcement company’s sales team) will often attend annual pornography conventions, and they will rub shoulders with production companies who end up being the copyright holders in these lawsuits.

The traditional IP enforcement companies (Lipscomb, Steele, etc.) will tell them, “I am aware of your company’s piracy problem, and I have a solution. Look at all our data as to the piracy of your videos.  Our team of experts can track the piracy of your copyrighted content, and our team of “expert” lawyers will sue defendants on your behalf. Instead of defending themselves, the accused internet user will be shamed with a lawsuit and will settle with us for thousands of dollars (average asking price: $3,400), we’ll take our commission, and we’ll both be millionaires. And, we’ll cut down on piracy in the process.

CEG-TEK (the Copyright Enforcement Group) and Ira Siegel has a different approach, and I believe the Six Strikes System will be the achilles heel of their “out-of-court pre-lawsuit settlement” approach.

The Copyright Enforcement Group was essentially formed because Ira Siegel didn’t like the idea of suing defendants and having all of his settlement activities monitored by a federal judge who can ask him uncomfortable questions about his activities. Rather, he has been paying ISPs to send out “DMCA” settlement letters (invoking and in my opinion, misusing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act) in order to scare defendants into settling cases before they are filed in federal court. Settlements average $200 per accused title, but I have seen a few $500 per-title settlements as well.

It is my understanding that the way CEG-TEK acquires new clients — their “unique selling proposition,” if you will — is that they tell production companies, “we can track and sue the downloaders if we want — we have attorneys in a number of states who can sue defendants, and possibly get a $3,400 settlement from a few of them [once in a while]. However, if you come on board with us, we will send DMCA settlement letters out to the internet user directly via his ISP, and that letter will point them to our Copyright Settlements (www.copyrightsettlements.com) website where they can enter their unique username and password and privately pay their settlement fee. The settlement fee will be $200 and not $3,400, but the quantity of users who will pay us our small fee and move on will be significantly higher than those who will settle a federal copyright infringement lawsuit. We’ll all make millions!”

The reason I think CEG-TEK’s business model of sending DMCA letters will ultimately fail is because the Six Strikes System has undermined CEG-TEK’s abilities to contact so many internet users. In short, instead of sending the DMCA letters directly to the ISP subscribers as Charter and a number of smaller ISPs do, the big ISPs have banded together and formed something called the “Six Strikes System” which essentially gives six warnings to their subscribers before giving copyright holders access to their subscriber’s contact information for the purposes of suing for copyright infringement or sending DMCA threat letters as CEG-TEK does every day.

In other words, anyone who has Comcast, Time Warner, Verizon, etc. as their ISP will no longer receive CEG-TEK’s DMCA letters. Instead, they receive a notice such as “we have received a complaint of copyright infringement from your account; stop this activity.” But with ISP members of the Six Strikes Program, CEG-TEK’s DMCA LETTERS ARE NO LONGER FORWARDED OVER TO THE SUBSCRIBERS! What this means is that let’s say 75% of the market share of internet users (I’m using this number merely as a hypothetical) will no longer go online and settle CEG-TEK’s claims against them. Or in other words, the http://www.CopyrightSettlements.com website as of a week or so ago [the plan went into effect roughly a week or so ago] will have experienced a 75% drop in settlements.

Knowing the production companies who signed on with CEG-TEK with the sole purpose of making millions in settlements from these DMCA letters, I suspect that they are starting to get upset and impatient because CEG-TEK’s promise of directing would-be defendants to their website is no longer the money-making machine they thought it would be. As a result, I am concerned that the production companies who signed on with CEG-TEK might start opt for suing defendants once again en masse.

PERSONAL NOTE: I obviously don’t want to scare anyone because I am very far from screaming “the sky is falling.” We have been defending clients in countless cases filed in federal courts across the U.S., and in recent months, there has been a clear change in the level of education of the judges and their feelings towards “copyright troll” plaintiffs. Possibly with the help of our POLICY LETTER (or simply our phone calls and faxes to a judge’s chambers when one is assigned to a copyright infringement case).  Judges are now educated as to the copyright trolling problem, and it is much more difficult to go after defendants because our collective arguments (such as, “an IP address is not a person,” and “just because you can prove an IP address snapshot was involved in a download does not mean that copyright infringement occurred,” etc.) are starting to take plant themselves deeply in the federal court system. In other words, if they start suing, we are very prepared, and they are almost a year-and-a-half behind.

Many things just happened in the Central District of California which no doubt will affect many (if not all of the Ingenuity 13 LLC cases, along with all of the Guava cases, and the AF Holdings LLC) cases. In short, California is no longer a troll-friendly place to sue defendants for copyright infringement.

Looking at Judge Otis Wright’s order yesterday in the Ingenuity 13 LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:12-cv-08333) case in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, we learn many new things about “the law of bittorrent use.” I’ll go over these in separate headers.

RULE 1. IN ORDER TO SUE A DEFENDANT FOR COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT, YOU MUST PROVE THAT THE DEFENDANT DOWNLOADED THE ENTIRE COPYRIGHTED VIDEO.

I’ve always dumbed copyright infringement down into two elements: 1) “Access” to the copyrighted file, and 2) “SUBSTANTIAL SIMILARITY” to the copyrighted work.

Here according to the judge, a plaintiff catching a downloader in the act of downloading a file is no evidence that the file was actually downloaded. According to yesterday’s ruling, even a downloader downloading a viewable portion (e.g., a few second snippet of a copyrighted video) would still NOT be guilty of copyright infringement until the amount of the file downloaded rises to a “substantial similarity” to the original copyrighted work. In traditional copyright law, this means that copyright infringement happens when the downloaded file becomes substantially a “copy” of the entire original work.

Us lawyers have been bouncing around ideas as to what we think a judge might rule constitutes copyright infringement with regard to internet downloading and bittorrent use, and so we have been playing with the possibility that maybe having a viewable portion of the file downloaded might be sufficient, but NO. Sticking to black-and-white copyright law, the “substantial similarity” element applies in copyright law to bittorrent downloads as well (at least now in California federal courts), and according to this ruling, a plaintiff needs to demonstrate that the entire copyrighted video (not a fragment, a snippet, or a snapshot) was downloaded. This would absolve roughly 99% of accused downloaders across the U.S. who started to download a file, decided not to complete the download, and who got sued anyway.

RULE 2. A “SNAPSHOT OBSERVATION” OF AN IP ADDRESS ENGAGED IN DOWNLOADING AT THAT MOMENT IS INSUFFICIENT PROOF OF COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT

Here, all the evidence a copyright troll plaintiff has on a suspected defendant is that at a particular date and time (a “timestamp”), that particular IP address was engaged in the downloading of a particular copyrighted file.

Here, a “snapshot” of an IP address correlated with evidence from the subscriber’s internet service provider (“ISP”) [that it was the subscriber who was leased that IP address during the date and time the alleged activity took place] is insufficient proof that the download actually took place. The defendant could have merely entered the swarm and could be in queue to download his first byte of data. The defendant could be 10% done with the download and could have in his possession an unviewable fragment of the copyrighted video — hardly enough to rise to the level of “SUBSTANTIAL SIMILARITY” that is required in order to find a defendant guilty of copyright infringement. And, yet at the same time, that same snapshot could refer to a defendant having a download which is 99% complete.  A snapshot of an IP address in a bittorrent swarm is simply not conclusive that the downloader infringed the copyright.

The analogy the judge gives is taking a “snapshot” of a child reaching for a candy bar. In order to find someone guilty of copyright infringement, a plaintiff needs to prove that it is “more likely than not” that activity rising to the level of copyright infringement occurred. A snapshot places the defendant at the “scene of the crime.” It does not convict him for the unlawful act itself, and usually this is all the evidence a plaintiff copyright troll compiles when tracking a bittorrent swarm.

RULE 3. BEFORE SUING A DEFENDANT FOR COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT, YOU MUST DO A “REASONABLE INVESTIGATION” TO DETERMINE THAT IT WAS THE NAMED DEFENDANT WHO DID THE DOWNLOAD, AND NOT SOMEONE ELSE WITH ACCESS TO HIS INTERNET CONNECTION.

We have known for a while that the Prenda Law Inc. model of naming defendants is 1) find out who lives in the household, 2) name the prepubescent male member of the family as the defendant. I am sad to say that the Malibu Media, LLC and the Lipscomb cases appear to be following the same trend with their exculpatory letter “scare” strategy.  I am very happy to see a judge object to this tactic.

I want to point out that EVERY LAWSUIT ACROSS THE U.S. where the copyright troll (plaintiff) has named the ISP subscriber as the defendant with no further investigation suffers from this same flaw. We have been saying for months that being an ISP subscriber (and coincidentally the one implicated as the defendant in these cases) does not mean that you were the one who did the download (nor were you responsible for all activities that took place on your internet connection).

The judge described steps a plaintiff could take to rule out the possibility that it was not someone other than the defendant who did the download. For example, the plaintiff could drive up to the defendant’s house and see if there is wireless access (to eliminate the defense that it was a neighbor); they could track multiple instances of downloading and correlate them with times and dates the defendant was home; etc. etc. etc.

There is so much more on this topic that I could discuss that in my opinion could kill every copyright troll lawsuit out there. In sum, merely citing that an IP address assigned to the alleged infringer was engaged in an unlawful act does not mean that it was the ISP subscriber (the one paying the bills) who was engaged in that unlawful act. Failing to take that extra step of “putting the ISP subscriber at the keyboard at the time of the download” (or offering evidence to prove that it was the ISP subscriber himself who did the download, and not a neighbor or someone else in his household) would be fatal to any lawsuit.

IN SUM, this was a great decision, and I look forward to it being adopted by federal courts across the country. But, before everyone starts calling and assuming that this is “the law,” I want to point out that in 99% of the states across the U.S., what exactly constitutes copyright infringement when it comes to internet downloading via peer-to-peer networks is still largely undefined.

As of yesterday, this order is now considered “the law” or more accurately “case law” which is binding in the California federal courts. However, as to the federal courts of other states, this ruling is merely “persuasive” (which effectively means “suggestive”). A judge of any other state can read this ruling and agree, or disagree. Obviously my hope is that judges in other states will read this opinion and adopt the ruling in their own cases, but it is not “the law” until 1) Congress passes a statute which the Senate ratifies, and the President signs it into law, or 2) judges in each state rule in accordance with this opinion, making this “case law” one state at a time.

For more on this topic, Sophisticated Jane Doe wrote a great write-up on this case in her “Judge Otis Wright is fed up with Brett Gibbs’ and Prenda’s frauds, hints at incarceration” article. Anyone associated with the AF Holdings, LLC cases (or any of the others filed by Prenda Law Inc. [or their new “Anti-Piracy Law Group” entity]) should take notice of this ruling, and should file in their own cases what is known as a “JUDICIAL NOTICE” informing each judge of this order.

Lastly, no doubt Brett Gibbs might be in some serious legal trouble, and he might even face jail time for his actions in these cases for fraud upon the court. But, I hope the court recognizes that Brett Gibbs (as destructive as he has been to thousands of families over the past 2+ years) is merely local counsel to the larger “Prenda Law Inc.” entity who is run by players such as John Steele and his partners in his former Steele|Hansmeier PLLC firm.

houstonlawy3r:

I am posting the following article entitled “Lipscomb Fishing Co., or “Exculpatory Evidence Request” to my website because many individuals are sending me inquiries and e-mails which in my opinion this article answers wonderfully. In short, with any of Lipscomb’s lawsuits, you do need a lawyer. However, to allay some of your fears with regard to the so-called “exculpatory evidence requests” that you are receiving, I think this article will be helpful. Obviously not legal advice.

Originally posted on DieTrollDie:

KLFC128 Feb 13 – Update

I have been getting a few request for ideas on how to respond to the exculpatory evidence request letters lately.  As previously stated, there is NO legal requirement to reply to the request.

Saying that, I’m of the opinion it could be good to respond on your own terms.  As I have previously cautioned everyone – don’t make any false statements if you do respond.  Also do not provide the Troll any of the information he is asking for.  The type of response I’m suggesting is an adapted Richard Pryor Response.  Take a look at the example and tell me what you think.  If you decide to make such a response, please edit the letter to fit your situation.  So if you have a Linux OS that comes with BitTorrent installed, please remove that corresponding part from the letter.    DearTroll

DieTrollDie :)

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Keith…

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