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As we near the end of 2013, I expect to see “2013 Year in Review” articles. I decline to write my own here, but it has been a very busy, work-intensive year. I would compare it to using nothing but strength and muscle to push metal against a spinning wheel with the result of seeing sparks flying.

Prenda is dead. Or, is it. Lawyers spent most of the year enjoying the exposure of Prenda Law, Inc.’s failings (or more accurately, “fallings”) where their scams and schemes became unraveled over and over again for all to see. Judges called them on their bluff, brought the principals into court, and ordered them to pay large sums of money. Yet, what was actually paid (and what will actually be paid) is still hidden from our eyes. My guess is that they’ll pay something, but compared to the millions they raked in since 2010, it will only be a tiny fraction of their windfall profits.

It is my opinion that what undid them was greed. Had they continued to sue defendants en masse, and had they continued to “name and serve” defendants and move forward with the lawsuits in good faith (if there ever was good faith), they may still be in business. Thankfully, where there is “rolling in dough,” there is also born greed and corruption. AF Holdings was born, the “Alan Cooper” alter-ego was invented, papers were forged, settlement money was sent offshore to various entities, honeypots were discovered (where it was discovered that Prenda Law Inc. was seeding the pornography they later sued on), and so-called paralegals became the named “owners” of the entities who were suing to enforce their copyrights. If all this (and getting caught) was not enough, they threw their own local counsel attorneys “under the bus,” they sued the internet and bloggers for defamation, and they started a war with the internet service providers (ISPs) and Cable Companies, a fight they could not have won. Why they went after the ISPs, nobody will know, but in my opinion, this was their mistake.

But this article is not only about Prenda, or the Steele|Hansmeier gang, or the Mark Lutz characters of the world (or their many life-altering experiences over the year), but it is also about what has been happening outside the federal courts (“out-of-court”).

A year ago, I wrote a few articles about Copyright Enforcement Group (CEG-TEK), a brainchild of Ira Siegel. After his experiences in the Northern District of California, followed by the experiences of his local counsel Mike Meier, Marvin Cable, and for a time, Terik Hashmi, their cases went silent in the federal courts. No new cases were filed, and for a time, all we saw were dismissals of our law firm’s clients.  Then, tens of thousands of so-called “DMCA Letters” began pouring out from various ISPs directing accused internet users to their copyrightsettlements.com website (no link, this is on purpose) to entangle themselves in their settlement system.

There was a moment where I thought the “Six Strikes System” would kill CEG-TEK’s business model because the ISPs would no longer forward their “pay us now or else we will sue you” scare letters, and by depriving the copyright enforcement companies of their ability to contact accused internet downloaders in their homes and out-of-court (without the supervision of a federal judge), this would cause CEG-TEK and their ilk to go out of business, but this was a disappointment.

The “Six Strikes System” ended up being a dud. It only applied to a few of the “elite” ISPs, and those ISPs used the Six Strikes System to demand large sums of money from the copyright owners and sent the notices to their subscribers anyway, but only a truncated version of CEG-TEK’S “scare” letter. Comcast, case in point. I watched as a fight broke out between Comcast and CEG-TEK, where Comcast only forwarded a snippet of CEG-TEK’s letter, but still directed users to their CopyrightSettlements.com website so that the settlements can continue. Then in other letters, they botched the CEG-TEK settlement link alltogether, and then, did not include the link [in their letters] at all. (And, just for “me too” news as of today, “Johnny-come-late” to the game, RightsCorpis reported by Torrentfreak to have experienced the same thing).

In sum, the Six Strikes System did not kill CEG-TEK as I thought it would, nor did it hurt the “copyright trolls” or stop them from filing lawsuits. CEG-TEK merely found other ISPs and universities to cooperate with them by forwarding their settlement demand letters to the ISP’s subscribers, and CEG-TEK’s collection attempts have continued unhindered.

Lastly, there has been little slowdown to the copyright infringement lawsuits. As I predicted a few years back (link), the lawsuits merely got smaller and more focused (link). The days of suing 5000 “John Doe” defendants bunched together in one federal lawsuit are over. Similarly, the smaller lawsuits having just a handful of defendants [where the lawsuits are filed in the states in which the defendants live] are also over. Now, the lawsuits are so small and focused that it is common to have only one defendant in a lawsuit, and this has made it impossible for our firm to watch, read, and report on every case that is filed in every jurisdiction.  Then again, it has made it more expensive for the copyright trolls, and (ugh) more scary for the carefully targeted defendant.

In sum, it has been a year of grinding and a year of watching the effects of previous years of work change, alter, and shape the bittorrent lawsuits to the form in which they are today. Congress and lawmakers have been useless in making this copyright trolling phenomenon disappear, as have been the attorney generals and the various state bar ethics boards, who [with some very notable exceptions] have been sitting on their hands. I do not think the copyright troll problem has been solved in any way. Rather, the plaintiff attorneys have gotten smarter, smaller, and more focused.  As a result, they have flown below the radar of those who have the power to stop them. And, while the lawsuits continue, former copyright troll attorneys (Ira Siegel / CEG-TEK) have continued their efforts, just outside of the court’s ability to monitor, sanction, and control their out-of-court settlement activities. And, I need not say this, but many new copyright trolls have popped up based on the lack of legal supervision, and I am concerned to say that I do not see this going away any time soon.

John Steele and his Prenda Law Inc. gang are down. CEG-TEK is thriving. Old copyright trolls such as Lipscomb & Eisenberg, along with their many local counsel across the US [and their lawsuits] are thriving. Other no-name “baby” copyright trolls are growing up and have learned to navigate the broken federal court system. And most important of all, more and more people are getting entangled into their legal spiderweb of extortion, settlement demands, and lawsuits, both in and out of court. This is grim, I know.

But there are still voices out there — SJD’s Fight Copyright Trolls website, DieTrollDie‘s website, along with organizations such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) who, [while they have been rightly so enveloped with dealing with privacy issues, government corruption, secret FISA courts, and fighting NSA police-state-like snooping techniques] are still very helpful in the copyright troll lawsuits with their countless efforts to make the problem go away once and for all.

So please allow me to be the first to wish everyone Happy Holidays, a safe winter, and a Happy New Year.

Warm regards,
Rob Cashman

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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

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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:

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“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.

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Don’t get excited.  Prenda Law Inc. appears to be dead… just like Steele|Hansmeier, PLLC was dead last year (November 18th, 2011), and just like Steele Law Firm, PLLC was dead the year before…  Their new name will be called the Anti-Piracy Law Group.”

I would joke around and say that these guys don’t want to file their tax returns so every year they shut down their entity and open up a new one.  Joking aside, it is my opinion that the reason they keep changing their name is to evade the courts’ recognition of their copyright trolling business strategy because the tough lesson they have learned is that their firm’s bad name follows their lawsuits.

If you receive a notice from your internet service provider (ISP) containing a subpoena for copyright infringement, or if you receive a “scare” letter directly from the Anti-Piracy Law Group or one of their local counsel, do not be scared.  It is still the same John Steele / Paul Duffy Illinois racket foisting the same copyright trolling scam on us taxpayers.  As Sophisticated Jane Doe put it in her article, this is merely an example of a snake changing its skin… yet again.

While John Steele’s “WeFightPiracy.com” website is still up, their “Prenda Law Inc.” entity according to the Illinois Secretary of State’s page is “NOT IN GOOD STANDING.”  I too don’t think this will change.  To get a glance at their new website which is looking for a home (note, “www.antipiracylawgroup.com” has already been registered by someone else), you can visit what the new site will likely look like at http://wefightpiracy.org.previewdns.com/about-us/.

There is really not much else to say, except that I hear people are getting “scare” letters in the mail with the “Anti-Piracy Law Group” name on the letterhead.  If you are one of these recipients, just know that the game has not changed.  Everything is EXACTLY the same as it was when it was Prenda Law Inc., just as it was when it was Steele Hansmeier, PLLC, just as it was when it was Steele Law Firm, PLLC.  No changes.  No criminal charges.  No disbarments… yet.

ON A PERSONAL NOTE:  Their new “Anti-Piracy Law Group” name is quite official sounding.  I wonder if next year they’ll have the gall to call themselves the U.S. Copyright Group (oh yeah, that’s been done already by other copyright trolls), because choosing scary-sounding names and changing them as soon as the courts catch on to their scam seems to be their modus operandi these days.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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This morning, the following appeared on the Hard Drive Productions, Inc. v. Does 1-1,495 (Case No. 1:11-cv-01741-JDB-JMF) DC docket:

10/18/2012 58 NOTICE of Voluntary Dismissal by HARD DRIVE PRODUCTIONS, INC. (Duffy, Paul) (Entered: 10/18/2012)

I want to point out that this is NOT a dismissal of the case. If you look at the dismissal document, you’ll see that only one IP address was released [-- someone paid Steele off and settled their case].

The status of the case is that Judge Facciola is still presiding over this case, and the last thing he did was DENY Prenda Law Inc.’s request to suppress EFF’s AMICUS BRIEF. Thus, EFF’s brief is still on the docket, and the brief should be read and considered by the judge (although knowing Judge Facciola, he’ll probably ignore it and let the case continue).

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Lightspeed Media Corp. has been one of the more aggressive copyright trolls over the past two years. They are intimately associated with John Steele and Prenda Law Inc., and have changed their lawsuits as the case law has changed over the years.

They started out as one of Prenda Law Inc.’s first bittorrent lawsuits in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, where they sued 100 John Doe Defendants in the Lightspeed Media Corporation v. Does 1-100 (Case No. 1:10-cv-05604), of which 99 WERE DISMISSED ON 12/21/2010, with the remaining one shortly afterwards.

Then Lightspeed Media Corp. amended their complaint to sue 1,000 defendants instead of 100 defendants, and as we wrote about in our “Judge Steeles The Life From A Second Torrent Case” article, the judge responded by SEVERING AND DISMISSING ALL DEFENDANTS but one.

Just when we thought this case was dead, John Steele filed an amended complaint on 4/11/2011 and brought the case back to life by suing one John Doe. The funny part, however, was that they continued to send “scare” letters to ALL THE SEVERED AND DISMISSED DEFENDANTS (even though they were no longer defendants in the case). The court picked up on this and berated Steele on 4/19/2011. A few months later, the zombie Lightspeed Media Corp. federal case was DEAD.

Then, Lightspeed and Steele came up with a novel idea — sue defendants across the U.S. for violation of federal hacker statutes, alleging that accused internet users accessed Lightspeed’s websites using stolen passwords (which “through no fault of their own” were “leaked” onto the internet). The twist was that their new lawsuit was filed in the corrupt ILLINOIS STATE COURT (even though the subject matter of the lawsuits belong in the federal courts). In the Lightspeed “Hacker” lawsuit, even if the accused John Doe Defendants used the passwords to access Lightspeed’s websites, THEY WOULD NOT VIOLATE THE FEDERAL STATUTES WHICH WERE ASSERTED AGAINST THEM IN THE COMPLAINT. This is the joke about the case — it simply has no merit, but the case persists. It befuttles me that the state court is still allowing subpoenas to be sent out (even though the Illinois SUPREME COURT has come in and voiced its opinion that this case is a fraud and that it should be shut down). Yet, it persists.

These same Hacker lawsuits were also filed in the Miami Dade, FL state courts (equal in integrity to the Chicago state courts) in the Lightspeed Media Corp. v. John Does (Case No. 12-05673 CA 05), and in the Maricopa County, AZ state court (Case No. CV2012-053230). There is a lot that is written about these cases, but because they are taking place in state courts (in which we do not have eyes), we have not been tracking these cases. Essentially, it is important to note that the lawsuits are filed against one Doe Defendant, but implicate HUNDREDS of Doe Defendants as co-conspirators.

Word is that a few weeks ago, Lightspeed Media Corp. has been sold to another company (perhaps to Prenda Law Inc.?), yet the lawsuits continue.

So as you see, Lightspeed Media Corp. is essentially a zombie company that keeps coming back asking internet users for more and more money. If you take a look on http://www.rfcexpress.com, you’ll see that there are a few cases on the books, but they are ALL DISMISSED. Yet, if you asked the internet world how many thousands of internet users are still getting calls or letters for Lightspeed, you’ll get a surprising answer.

FEDERAL CASES FILED ON BEHALF OF LIGHTSPEED MEDIA CORPORATION
Lightspeed Media Corporation v. Does 1-9 (CAND; 4:11-cv-02261) [DEAD]
Lightspeed Media Corporation v. Doe (ILND; 1:11-cv-00385) [DEAD]
Lightspeed Media Corporation v. Doe (ILND; 1:11-cv-00209) [DEAD]
Lightspeed Media Corporation v. Does 1-100 (then 1-1,000) (ILND; 1:10-cv-05604) [DEAD]

KNOWN STATE CASES FILED ON BEHALF OF LIGHTSPEED MEDIA CORPORATION
Lightspeed Media Corp. v. John Doe (Miami Dade, FL Case No. 12-05673 CA 05)
Lightspeed Media Corp. v. John Doe (St. Clair, IL Case No. 11-L-683)
Lightspeed Media Corp. v. World Timbers, Inc. & John Doe (Maricopa, AZ Case No. CV2012-053230)

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At what point does an attorney stop being a copyright troll?

Anyone who knows me knows that John Steele [one of the original trolls from 2010] and I are not the closest of friends. In our many conversations, I have told him quite frankly that I considered him an enemy, and I have told him [and the world] what I think about his lawsuits.  We have sparred over the years over the forums, over clients, over settlements, and to date, everyone knows what I think about his copyright trolling efforts — the “grand extortion scheme” him and his local counsel have foisted over countless victims.  Together, Steele’s law firm — whether it is under the name “Steele Law Firm, PLLC,” “Steele Hansmeier, PLLC,” “Prenda Law Inc.,” (or even more recently, “Joseph Perea, P.A.” [although I have no idea if Joseph Perea is acting on his own, or whether this is a "fake" company, and he is still working under Prenda Law Inc.]) — has inflicted painful damage over the retirement accounts and savings accounts of COUNTLESS people (many of whom had NOTHING to do with the downloading or the hacking they were accused of doing).

The big elephant in the room has always been “open wi-fi”. Yet guilty or not, people still pay up, and John Steele profits.

The concerning thing about John Steele is that even he refers to himself as a copyright troll, and he appears to be proud of it.  However, while the classic definition of a “troll” is an enterprising attorney who has taken advantage of the legal system (or a loophole or a weakness in it) for his client’s material benefit, I understand a “copyright troll” term in the bittorrent lawsuit context to more commonly mean “an attorney or a company who sues many internet users for the purpose of extorting multi-thousand dollar settlements from the accused, regardless of whether or not they are guilty, AND who has NO INTENTION OF MOVING FORWARD AGAINST ANY OF THOSE DEFENDANTS IN THE FORESEEABLE FUTURE.” In short, a copyright troll is someone who sues a lot of people and demands settlements through robocalls, “scare” letters, and threatening phone calls, but who has NO INTENT to move forward against those individuals should they decide not to settle.

The problem is that I’m not so sure that definition still holds, because John Steele, along with his threateningly growing number of local counsel across the U.S. are naming defendants.

RECAP: Initially, John Steele sued hundreds and thousands of defendants at a time, most of whom did not live in the state in which they were sued. Those were the older cases, most of which have all gone bust because the courts lacked PERSONAL JURISDICTION over the defendants. That was where we saw the “Congratulations to the Cashman Law Firm, PLLC clients who were SEVERED AND DISMISSED from [whatever] lawsuit” posts in 2010-early 2012. Then Steele smartened up. He (though his local attorneys) started filing SMALLER CASES where in many cases, the defendants lived in the states in which they were sued. Hence JURISDICTION WAS PROPER. However, even there, John Steele was still a copyright troll.

But, eventually people caught on that JOHN STEELE WAS NOT “NAMING” ANYONE AS A DEFENDANT, and no doubt his cases lost any credibility the might have had. Even judges started calling his cases a grand extortion scheme, and even in the news today, SOME JUDGES are shutting down his cases IMMEDIATELY before you — the accused bittorrent user — learned that you are sued. In other words, their initial “MOTION FOR EARLY DISCOVERY” to send subpoenas to the ISPs to learn the identities of the IP addresses / John Doe Defendants are here-and-there beind DENIED. But even here, John Steele is still a copyright troll.

Where John Steele loses the status of “copyright troll” is when he starts going after individual defendants in the courtroom. Once he files a First Time Videos, LLC v. James Swarez (a fictitional name), and James is now dragged into a lawsuit kicking and screaming and is forced to hire an attorney to file an “answer” with the court, and then James needs to give up his computer to some sleazy digital forensics experts hired by the attorneys (or he can hire his own), and he has to actually fight a real copyright case on the merits of whether or not he actually downloaded the copyrighted works he was accused of downloading in the lawsuit, well, at this point, John Steele is no longer a copyright troll, but rather, John Steele becomes merely a predatory attorney who is suing someone on behalf of his client for the violation of his client’s “copyright rights.”

Now the shift that is important to note is that in the olden days, John Steele did not name anybody. He never did, and for a while, many thought he never would (except perhaps one here or there just to prove to the courts or the world that he could and would name defendants).

However, the new strategy is that he *is* naming defendants. In fact, below is a list of defendants (for their own privacy [so that their names do not show up on search engines following this post -- because PACER court documents often don't get indexed on the search engines, but my posts do], I have edited out their last names, except for a few notorious cases) who have been named in their lawsuits (and this list is a crude list, some of which are state cases, and I even know of a few cases which are not on here):

DEFENDANTS NAMED IN ALABAMA
Lightspeed Media Corporation v. Dewey W., 05-CV-2012-900893 (Dewey W.)

DEFENDANTS NAMED IN ARIZONA
First Time Videos, LLC v. Gary P., 2:12-cv-01488-ROS (Gary P.)
Lightspeed Media Corporation v. Adam Sekora, CV2012-053194 (Adam Sekora)

DEFENDANTS NAMED IN CALIFORNIA
AF Holdings LLC v. John Doe, 2:11-cv-03076-LKK-KJN (Francisco R.)
AF Holdings LLC v. John Doe, 3:11-cv-05633-JSC (Vu C.)
AF Holdings, LLC v. John Doe, 3:12-cv-02049-EDL (Josh H.)
AF Holdings, LLC v. John Doe, 5:12-cv-02048-HRL (John B.)
Boy Racer Inc. v. John Doe, 4:11-cv-06634-DMR (Daniel C.)
Boy Racer, Inc. v. John Doe, 1:11-cv-01935-LJO-SKO (Anthony N.)
Boy Racer, Inc. v. John Doe, 3:11-cv-05628-JCS (Samuel T.)
Boy Racer, Inc. v. Philip W., 2:11-cv-03072-MCE-KJN (Philip W.)
Hard Drive Productions, Inc. v. John Doe, 2:11-cv-03074-KJM-CKD (Jeff G.)
Hard Drive Productions, Inc. v. John Doe, 2:11-cv-03075-JAM-JFM (Kenneth S.)
Hard Drive Productions, Inc. v. John Doe, 3:11-cv-05634-JCS (Seth Abrahams)
Hard Drive Productions, Inc. v. John Doe, 4:11-cv-03826-DMR (Soukha P.)
Hard Drive Productions, Inc. v. John Doe, 4:11-cv-05630-YGR (Liuxia Wong)
Hard Drive Productions, Inc. v. John Doe, 5:11-cv-05631-PSG (Isaac K.)
Lightspeed Media Corporation v. Reza S., 37-2012-00100384-CU-BC-CTL (Reza S.)
Millennium TGA, Inc. v. John Doe, 2:11-cv-03080-MCE-KJN (Joe V.)
Millennium TGA, Inc. v. John Doe, 3:12-cv-00792-MMA (Tyree P.)
Pink Lotus Entertainment, LLC v. John Doe and Steve P., 2:11-cv-03073-WBS-KJN (Steve P.)
Pink Lotus Entertainment, LLC v. John Doe, 2:11-cv-03077-JAM-KJN (Jason A.)
Lightspeed Media Corporation v. Myron H., 12-CV-0952 (Myron H.)

DEFENDANTS NAMED IN ILLINOIS
First Time Videos LLC v. John Doe, 1:11-cv-08334 (Arthur S.)
First Time Videos LLC v. John Doe, 1:11-cv-08335 (Arthur H.)
First Time Videos LLC v. John Doe, 1:11-cv-08336 (Christopher P.)
Hard Drive Productions, Inc. v. John Doe, 1:11-cv-08333 (Jason S.)
Hard Drive Productions, Inc. v. John Doe, 1:11-cv-08337 (Jamie P.)
Hard Drive Productions, Inc. v. John Doe, 1:11-cv-08339 (Gerald G.)
Hard Drive Productions, Inc. v. John Doe, 1:11-cv-08340 (Edward N.)
Hard Drive Productions, Inc. v. John Doe, 1:11-cv-08341 (Erik S.)
Hard Drive Productions, Inc. v. John Doe, 1:11-cv-08342 (Stilan P.)
Hard Drive Productions, Inc. v. John Doe, 1:11-cv-08343 (Hyung K.)
Hard Drive Productions, Inc. v. John Doe, 1:12-cv-01053-MMM-JAG (Matt R.)
Hard Drive Productions, Inc. v. John Doe, 1:12-cv-01104 (Robert R.)
Pink Lotus Entertainment, LLC v. John Doe, 1:11-cv-08338 (Klint C.)
Lightspeed Media Corporation v. Lucas S.,2012L000927 (Lucas S.)
Lightspeed Media Corporation v. Michael A., 2012L000530 (Michael A.)
Lightspeed Media Corporation v. Ronald T., 2012L000531 (Ronald T.)
Lightspeed Media Corporation v. Tom B., 2012L95 (Tom B.)

DEFENDANTS NAMED IN NEVADA
Lightspeed Media Corporation v. Adam G., CI12-2625 (Adam G.)

DEFENDANTS NAMED IN TEXAS
First Time Videos, LLC & AF Holdings, LLC v. John Doe, 4:12-cv-00535 (Tingwei & Chinatsu L.)
Lightspeed Media Corporation v. Austin C., C-133,846 (Austin C.)
Pacific Century International, LTD v. John Doe, 4:12-cv-00536 (Stephen C.)
Lightspeed Media Corporation v. W.T., Inc., CV2012-053230(W.T., Inc.)

In sum, as you can see, John Steele (through Prenda Law Inc. and his local counsel) are naming defendants, and one-by-one, they are hiring new counsel in a number of states to file against individuals. Now does this mean that John Steele is no longer a copyright troll? Maybe, maybe not. The point is that he is taking the “next step,” and he is forcing more and more individuals into litigation.  This is a concerning trend.

MY OPINION: Will he come after you? Quite frankly, with the tens of thousands of individuals he has sued, this small list is only a sliver of the huge pool of defendants who have been sued (NOT “NAMED”), who have been dismissed, and who are somewhere in between. The point though, is that while once upon a time John Steele did not name defendants, now he does.

On a personal note, I am saddened by writing this post, and as much as I always love to write the “we won!” articles (and THERE ARE SO MANY OF THOSE OUT THERE that don’t make it onto this blog), a defendant that calls my office needs to understand that there IS a risk that they might be named as a defendant at some point in the future. As we have said before, it is important that both current defendants AND DISMISSED DEFENDANTS should keep an eye out for Prenda Law Inc. filings in their state. The way they can do this is by going to the http://www.rfcexpress.com website, and watching what is going on in their state. Until a Prenda Law Inc. client (e.g., Hard Drive Productions, AF Holdings, First Time Videos, LLC) files against a John Doe or against a named defendant in a particular state, it is safe to assume they are not yet there and quite frankly, in my opinion, the risk of getting “named” is quite low. But then again, you need to be vigilant even after a dismissal, and for this reason, I have written this blog post.  This simply was not the case just a few months ago.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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