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I started writing this article because there is too much conflicting information floating around the web (likely from attorneys who are trying to use fear tactics to scare you into settling with their firm), and my point was that there are credible websites, such as “Fight Copyright Trolls,” “Die Troll Die,” and a few others who have been helping individuals understand that IGNORING A COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT CLAIM AGAINST YOU CAN OFTEN BE A VIABLE OPTION TO RESOLVE THE PROBLEM (WITHOUT SPENDING $$$$ ON A LAWYER), so beware of the attorneys who tell you that you will lose your home, your life savings, or any other fear-of-embarrassment-and-exposure-or-financial-ruin-based argument as to “why you should settle anonymously through them for cheap, or else you might lose everything.”

I circled back to this topic in the end, but this article ended up being a “buyer beware of attorney settlement factories” article, where an attorney or his team of lawyers is trying to lure you into being part of their high-volume settlement business.  In this article, I give you the red flags to look for to spot these attorneys, and I hope this helps clarify some of the conflicting information you get from speaking to different attorneys where one attorney pushes you to settle and where another (e.g., I) suggest that you just ignore it.

“SETTLEMENT FACTORIES” are what I call these law firms. These law firms hire multiple attorneys to track down, solicit, and lure accused defendants into hiring them “for a cheap and anonymous settlement.” From a business perspective, more attorneys for the business owner means the ability to make more phone calls to solicit more accused defendants [to process more settlements], and the ability to “capture” more clients for their law firm means more profits. And, rather than actually negotiate a good settlement for their client, they run what I refer to as a “volume business” where they pre-arrange a price with the copyright holder which is above the market (copyright troll profits). Then, instead of actually negotiating a settlement, they’ll hand over the names to the plaintiff attorney and get the high-priced mediocre settlement for their client.  In return, the copyright troll allows that so-called attorney to not have to negotiate the settlement for each client, since they have a “fixed settlement amount.”  As far as I am concerned, this means that the so-called defense attorneys are part of the copyright troll problem, in a “cottage industry” sort of fashion.

What compounds the problem is that negotiating the settlement is only HALF of the solution. The SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT itself must also be negotiated, particularly because the “boilerplate” settlement agreements contain ADMISSIONS OF GUILT and UNFRIENDLY LANGUAGE which does not properly release the client from liability, nor does it properly protect the client’s rights.

For me, where writing this article will become infuriating is that suddenly these attorneys and their “beefed up” staff of hired attorneys will now start advertising 1) that they spend the time to actively negotiate the best settlement for their client, and 2) that they take the careful time to negotiate the terms of the settlement agreement so that the accused John Doe Defendant will be released from liability and the negotiated terms will properly protect the client’s rights.

If I see this, all I could say is “caveat emptor,” do your own research on:

1) How long that attorney has been in practice [REMEMBER: “Copyright Troll” mass bittorrent lawsuits targeting multiple “John Doe” defendants have only been in existence only since 2010, so any attorney who claims he has been fighting copyright trolls for 20 years is obviously lying.],

2) Check the attorney’s blog to see the HISTORY of his articles — was he one of the first attorneys who fought these cases, or is he a new “me too” copycat attorney who is standing on the shoulders of giants? (after reading this, no doubt these attorney will now add “older” articles to make their website look older), and

3) Check the blog article itself for “SEO OPTIMIZED” content, or “KEYWORDS” placed into the article.  Ask yourself, “was the purpose of this article to provide me valuable information? or was the purpose of the article to bulk it up with keywords so that search engine spiders will reward the author with first page rankings on the search engines?

4) Last, but not least, check the EARLY ARTICLES of the blog to see whether the attorney actually tried to fight these cases and hash out the legal arguments, or whether they were merely reporting on the lawsuits already in existence to attract new business.  I call these attorneys “me too” attorneys, and you can usually spot them because all they do is report the cases.

NOTE: I write this article cringing a bit because I myself just added an e-mail form at the bottom of my articles so that people can contact me if they had a question. I also dislike trashing another attorney or law firm because that simply makes me look bad. I also have a secret, and that is that I was one of the first group of attorneys contacted by EFF to figure out the “John Doe” mass bittorrent lawsuits, and so I have an advantage over the “me too attorney” both legally and information-wise as to the history of these cases, who is who, and which copyright “troll” uses which strategy in fighting a case, and under what conditions will a copyright holder accept a settlement, and how far they will bend in their settlement price. I also spend a lot of time on what I call “situational awareness,” knowing not only the law, and not only the personality of the copyright holder AND the mannerisms of the local copyright attorney hired to sue defendants in a particular set of federal courts, but I also know when a judge is going to dismiss a case (based on his past rulings), and I know when the copyright holder’s local counsel is pressured because of activities that happened in other cases, or whether they are under pressure to resolve a case because they have already have asked for two extensions from the court and I know they will likely not receive a third extension because the judge has expressed an intent for the plaintiff to begin naming and serving defendants.  This is the difference between a copycat and an original.

I also say with no shame that in 2010, I and a small handful of attorneys were contacted by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (better known as EFF) to help understand and resolve the developing copyright troll problem back when ISPs began sending letters out to their subscribers informing them that their ISP would be handing out their contact information and their identity to the plaintiff attorney / copyright holders unless they filed objections (or, “motions to quash”) with the courts. Thus, I credit the EFF for even noticing the copyright troll problem and contacting us to figure out what to do about it.

Unfortunately (or, fortunately, however you see it), that initial list of 20 attorneys has grown to over 100+ names, and some attorneys have negotiated with EFF to list them as representing clients in multiple states, hence increasing their visibility in an ever-growing list of lawyers. These are usually the “settlement factories” I referenced above, and again, caveat emptor.

Let’s pretend, for a moment, that you did not like me or my use of pretrial strategies (often making use of federal procedure) to defend a client. Or, let’s pretend for a moment that I could not take you as a client (e.g., because my case load was full, or because I did not have time to speak to you about your matter). Because there were only a handful of us attorneys on the original EFF list who knew anything about these copyright infringement lawsuits, over the years, we have become friends and have helped each other out on many of the lawsuits in which we represented both John Doe Defendants and “named and served” defendants. Some of these attorneys are still around today, and some have moved on to other areas of law, or they have stopped taking clients because fighting mass bittorrent cases has become more burdensome than the effort was worth (especially when some copyright holders do not play fairly in discovery [think, Malibu Media, LLC]).

Finding “that special client who will pay my fees to fight this case to trial” for many attorneys has become an unrealized pipe dream, and is something us attorneys often discuss.  If you truly want to fight your case, I have nothing wrong with either me, or anyone else I trust representing you in your lawsuit (I will happily tout another attorney’s merits and advanced skillsets when speaking to clients). AND, I will happily refer you to someone if I find that one of my peers would better assist you.  I *DO NOT* believe in referral fees, nor do I “share the workload” with other attorneys (this is code word for “I referred you this client, so pay me a piece of the legal fees you receive and call it paying me for my “proportional efforts.”), something that is often done in my field which, in my opinion, needs to stop. This is also why I have upset a handful of non-copyright attorneys who know nothing about these cases who have called me with a client they would like to refer to me (coincidentally, asking to share in the fees, but not in the work).

So in hindsight, while I thought I’d be reintroducing “copyright troll” subpoenas and basic copyright infringement concepts to clear up some conflicting information found on the web, instead I am providing a clear warning to those who are being actively solicited by law firms. A law firm simply should not be calling you or contacting you to solicit your business.

There is a lot of conflicting information on the web about copyright trolls, and what to do when you receive a subpoena from your ISP, what to do when you receive what is often known as a “DMCA notice” (usually signed at the bottom by Ira M. Siegel) that you have violated a copyright holder’s rights [by what is often the download of a “B-rated” film or more shockingly, that you have been accused or caught downloading pornography through the use of bittorrent (and you thought you were private), and now you want to settle the claims against you anonymously, or you want to make this go away as quickly as possible].

All I could say is STOP AND CONSIDER YOUR OPTIONS, BECAUSE IGNORING A CLAIM OF COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT CAN OFTEN BE A GOOD IDEA (and, when I speak to clients, I do ask them questions about the claims against them, and IF THEY CAN IGNORE, I do suggest that they DO NOTHING.) Even in a lawsuit — DOING NOTHING MAY OFTEN BE YOUR BEST STRATEGIC MOVE, as counterintuitive as that might sound.

But when you are bombarded with attorneys and law firms who actively market their fear-based services by using “Google AdWords” (ethically or unethically “buying” more well known attorney’s names as keywords so that THEY show up at the top of a search when you search for another attorney after doing your own research on who to trust, yes, you know who you are), and those attorneys then have their “assistant” attorneys calling you and pushing you to anonymously settle the claims against you, think twice. Is this person trying to get you to be yet one more client in their “volume” business??

In every one of my calls, I discuss what I call the “ignore” option which in many people’s scenario is a viable option. In many cases, I even push a client towards the “ignore” side of things.

[NOTE: There are many political reasons I have for this, such as “not feeding the troll,” or “not funding their extortion-based scheme,” or simply because I have been trying to change the copyright laws to limit or hinder a copyright holder’s ability to accuse or sue an internet user for the violation of that copyright holder’s copyrights, but NONE OF THOSE REASONS ARE REASON WHY I SUGGEST SOMEONE I SPEAK TO IGNORES THE CLAIMS AGAINST THEM.]

Sometimes an individual’s circumstances allow them to ignore the lawsuit filed against them (or the copyright violation claimed against them in the DMCA notice) simply because of 1) the individual’s financial situation, 2) the location of their home, 3) the location of the plaintiff attorney, 4) whether that copyright holder authorizes his attorneys [and pays their fee] to “name and serve” defendants and move forward with trial, 5) for strategy purposes, e.g., the psychological impact of having one or more John Doe Defendants ignore the claims against them (while other defendants rush to settle in fear of being named and served), or 6) simply because ignoring is the better option in that person’s situation.

But my point, MY POINT, ***MY POINT*** IS CAVEAT EMPTOR. If the attorney you are speaking to is running your case as a volume business, or he is pushing you towards a “quick anonymous settlement” without showing you the merits of either 1) IGNORING, or 2) if in a lawsuit, defending the claims against you, beware, beware, beware.

The EFF list of attorneys who handle “mass bittorrent John Doe lawsuits for copyright infringement violations” has grown to over 100+ attorneys, and I have never even heard of some of these attorneys (which means that they are not defending cases, but rather, are running a volume-based settlement factory). I also see a number of names where I know for a fact that some of the attorneys listed in various states are NOT LICENSED to practice law in that state (neither on the state level, nor on the federal level) — this is a clear sign of being a volume-based settlement factory. I also know from my own experience defending clients that some of the attorney names on this list have switched sides and are now suing defendants.

…Just do your research, ok? And when a lawyer calls you, and then calls you again (and again), please ask yourself why they are following up with you.

I am not licensed to practice law in Canada, and my knowledge (as far as I am able to share) is limited to U.S. Copyright Law, and the states in which I am licensed.

That being said, I have received more than just a few inquiries from those of you who have received “DMCA Copyright Infringement Notices” from your ISPs in Canada and Australia, and I thought it was time to clarify which ISPs appear to be “working” with Ira Siegel (CEG-TEK), and what their capabilities appear to be.

HOW CAN CEG-TEK SEND OUT LETTERS TO CANADIAN CITIZENS, AND WHICH CANADIAN ISPs APPEAR TO BE WORKING WITH CEG-TEK?

So far, infringement notices began to be sent out to Canadians under a loophole which allowed U.S. copyright holders to send infringement notices to Canadian subscribers.  While many have received these notices, it appears to me that CEG-TEK is focusing on the following ISPs:

Bell Canada
Rogers Communications (a.k.a. Rogers Cable)

Shaw Communications Inc. (a.k.a. Shaw Cablesystems G.P., or “sjrb.ca”)
ACN Canada
Electronic Box Inc.
TELUS Communications Company
Start Communications (a.k.a. “start.ca”)
TekSavvy Solutions Inc.

Now obviously there are others out there, but these seem to be where the focus of the letters seem to be going out.  Also, remember that CEG-TEK spends a large amount of time recruiting ISPs to sign on to their “cause” to eliminate piracy.  I remember how happy they were when in the U.S., they got COX Communications to start working with them.  No doubt, they are working to recruit more and more ISPs every day, and these few ISPs seem to be the Canadian ISPs that CEG-TEK appears to be regularly using to send out the DMCA settlement demand letters.

WHAT DO THE CANADIAN ISPs [WHO WORK WITH CEG-TEK] APPEAR TO BE PROVIDING THEM?

Originally, I expected that because of the Canadian loophole, that CEG-TEK was sending these “blind,” meaning, not knowing who the downloader is.  But, because of recent trends (where CEG-TEK is now picking up “additional cases” which were downloaded by that same user sometimes weeks or months ago), I am now understanding that certain Canadian ISPs (my best guess, Bell Canada, Rogers, Shaw, and possibly the others) are working with CEG-TEK to provide them 1) geolocation data as to where the downloads are taking place, and/or 2) lists of past IP addresses which have been leased to that internet user / subscriber over the past twelve months (or, whatever that ISPs “IP Retention Policy” before they purge the IP address data for older records).

Thus, Canadian CEG-TEK cases are starting to look and act more like U.S. CEG-TEK cases as far as them having the ability to identify who the subscriber is, and being able to “look back in time” to see what other bittorrent downloads belonging to their many clients [that their bots tracked on the bittorrent networks realtime weeks or even months ago] these subscribers participated in.

 

EVEN IF THEY KNOW WHERE YOU LIVE, WHAT ARE THE CHANCES THAT THEY WILL SUE YOU IN CANADA?!?

A few months ago, I was concerned that copyright holders might start suing Canadian account holders who ignored the DMCA settlement demand letters that were sent to the ISP.  They even shared details about the Canadian lawyer that they were going to hire to sue defendants in Canadian courts.  But that never happened, and I know why.

Copyright infringement in the U.S. carries statutory damages of $150,000 USD per instance of infringement.  In Canada, there is a legal cap of $5,000 CAD for many instances of infringement.  And then if they obtain a judgement against an internet user in Canada (whether that lawsuit was filed in the U.S., or whether it was filed in Canada), what are the chances that a U.S. based copyright holder would spend the time to enforce a judgement in a Canadian court in order to seize the bank account or garnish the wages of a defendant who was found guilty of copyright infringement?!?  My best guess is zero, simply because the laws in Canada are different than the laws in the U.S., and it is simply not worth it financially to pay a Canadian attorney “go after” the bank accounts for what would be a maximum amount of $5,000 CAD (or, $3,500 USD).  The attorney would cost that much alone just to succeed in collecting the funds.  For this reason, there is absolutely no reason why it makes sense to 1) sue a Canadian for copyright infringement in Canada, and even if they did sue and win, 2) there is almost no likelihood that they would pay a lawyer to enforce the judgement against the Canadian and/or seize their bank accounts and/or assets in local Canadian courts… not for $3,500 USD.

Thus, if a Canadian citizen is concerned that they will be sued in Canada, and that they will have their assets seized, they are probably better off ignoring the DMCA letter rather than settling it.  I really don’t think any U.S. based copyright holder will spend all that effort to sue and collect against a Canadian citizen.  It is simply too costly.

Similarly, I am not even worried about a Canadian being sued in the U.S. for copyright infringement, because even if the copyright holder sues AND wins a judgement of $150,000 USD in a U.S. federal court, what are the chances that 1) the copyright holder will go through the effort to enforce that U.S. judgement to seize the assets of a Canadian citizen in a Canadian court, and 2) since there is such a large difference in penalties between the laws governing copyright infringement in the U.S. and in Canada, what are the chances that a CANADIAN JUDGE (with knowledge of the disparity between the laws) will enforce a $150,000 USD judgement against a Canadian citizen?!?

HERE IS THE ONLY REASON A CANADIAN MIGHT CONSIDER SETTLING THE CLAIMS AGAINST HIM/HER:

If the Canadian accused of downloading copyrighted materials via bittorrent is concerned that maybe they will be named and served as a defendant in a U.S. federal court, and they have a reputation that they must preserve (meaning, they have little-to-no risk tolerance of having their name become associated with being part of a pornography or piracy lawsuit), AND THE COPYRIGHT HOLDER IS A “COPYRIGHT TROLL,” (meaning, they have sued John Doe Defendants in the U.S. courts, or they have made known that they intend to sue defendants who ignore the DMCA copyright infringement letters that are sent to accused internet users), ONLY THEN does it make sense to settle a CEG-TEK claim against you.

Why?  Because as soon as an individual is named and served as a defendant in a U.S. lawsuit, there are many “spiders” and “robots” which comb the U.S. District Court (federal) court cases, and report and index the names of the court cases on the various search engines.  That way, if someone (e.g., an employer, a creditor, or someone who wants to dig up information on a particular person) does an internet search for that person’s name, then that person’s name and his involvement in the lawsuit will show up as one of the top entries on the search engine’s results, along with the case information.

And to make matters worse (which is why I would like to see some discretion on the part of the websites NOT to index the names of defendants in search engine results), even if that accused defendant did not do the download, or EVEN IF THAT DEFENDANT FIGHTS THE CHARGES AND WINS — FOREVER, THAT NAMED DEFENDANT WILL HAVE THE FACT THAT THEY WERE IMPLICATED IN A COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT LAWSUIT FOR PORNOGRAPHY OR PIRACY attached to their search engine results.

This is the most powerful leverage a copyright holder has over an accused defendant, namely, that even if he fights the case and wins, his reputation will forever be tarnished, and for this reason alone people settle the claims against them, even before there is a lawsuit.  I have spoken to hundreds (if not thousands of accused defendants) over the years, and this is the primary reason people (even U.S. citizens) settle.

[Personally, this is why I would like to see the laws changed to make it a crime (or more likely, very heavy civil fines, penalties, or sanctions) to name and serve a defendant without having a higher threshold of evidence (e.g., “clear and convincing” rather than “more likely than not”) that it was them who did the crime they are accused of.  Too many families have had their reputations ruined because some overzealous attorney accused them of a crime they did not commit.]

Because of the leverage a copyright holder yields over an accused defendant that they may sue, this is why I read the press releases and follow the financial lives of many of the copyright holders — so that I can properly predict what they will or will not do in the future.  This is also why I make such a large distinction on this blog and when discussing cases with potential clients of distinguishing those copyright holders who are “copyright trolls” (those who have sued in the past, or are likely to sue in the future) versus those who have not yet sued in the U.S. federal courts, and those who (in my opinion) will never sue.  That way, at least I can properly advise clients as to which copyright holders pose the greatest risks, and which copyright holders they can ignore based on who the copyright holders are, what they have done in the past, and what they have publicly stated (in court cases, motions, press releases, and on website articles) that they will do in the future.

IN SUMMARY:

So for those of you who live in Canada, or Australia, or whatever countries the U.S. copyright holders will go next to enforce their rights, please be level-headed when receiving these infringement notices from CEG-TEK and the like.  In some cases (especially for those in Canada), there is almost NO CHANCE that you will be sued in Canada, or that your assets or Canadian bank accounts will be seized.  If you are sued in the U.S. (the more likely result), there is little-to-no chance that the copyright holders would pay Canadian attorneys to enforce a U.S. judgement against a Canadian citizen because of the currency differences and conflict of laws between the U.S. and Canada.

The only reason to settle — if you are going to settle at all — is if you have a copyright holder who is a “copyright troll,” and you are concerned that you will be named and served as a defendant in a U.S. lawsuit, and that your involvement in that lawsuit (whether or not you are found guilty) will tarnish your reputation abroad when someone searches your name.  Otherwise, learn who your copyright holder is and if there is a low risk of them suing you, save your money.

LEGAL DISCLAIMER: I personally find it silly to see attorneys place disclaimers on website articles, but here it is actually appropriate.  In this article, I am not suggesting that any person ignore a settlement demand letter that is sent to them, nor am I suggesting that they settle the claims against them.  I am also merely stating my thoughts about the likelihood of being sued so that they can evaluate their options and the risks and rewards of each course of action.  These are not legal opinions, nor are they to be considered advice to act upon or not act upon. 

Every person’s situation is different, and every person has a slightly different set of circumstances that can affect whether the best course of action is to ignore, fight, or settle, and every copyright holder similarly makes the same financial risk-reward analysis of whether it makes financial sense to take a particular action.  Often, lawyers take actions which do not make financial sense for an alternative reason, e.g., to get a judgement in a particular location against a poor person, NOT to ever collect that judgement, but as a trophy or a weapon to show the next set of would-be defendants that he is ready, able, and willing to pursue a particular line of attack against them as just as they did to so-and-so.  The opinions stated here are my own calculations based on my own understanding of the circumstances.


CONTACT FORM: If you have a question or comment about what I have written, and you want to keep it *for my eyes only*, please feel free to use the form below. The information you post will be e-mailed to me, and I will be happy to respond.

NOTE: No attorney client relationship is established by sending this form, and while the attorney-client privilege (which keeps everything that you share confidential and private) attaches immediately when you contact me, I do not become your attorney until we sign a contract together.  That being said, please do not state anything “incriminating” about your case when using this form, or more practically, in any e-mail.

There was a point where someone raised the question, “should I be afraid that a copyright troll might try to sue or collect money for copyrights they don’t own?” That is an interesting question and certainly this could happen, but apparently CEG-TEK took it seriously since they represent so many copyright holders, and they have altered some of the DMCA letters that they send to accused internet users through their ISPs.

As a response to this question (which I suppose was asked enough times to inspire them to take action upon it), in the most recent versions of the CEG-TEK DMCA letters, there is now often a link to a “certification page” which affirms that CEG-TEK is authorized to collect settlements on behalf of a particular copyright holder.

I clicked on a few of the links, and while a few of them were innocuous (containing only the certification from the copyright holder’s website), some of them were pretty explicit as far as the graphics they show on their websites. I thought it would be a good idea to take a few screenshots and post them here, but after seeing a few of the sites, posting the screenshots here would put our website into the “Not Safe For Work (‘NSFW’)” category (as if it is not already in that category from its content).  I have pasted one below just to show an example of what they look like:

Reality Kings

For some of their other clients, below are some of the links I have collected over the past few weeks (and by NO MEANS is this a complete list of CEG-TEK’s client list. I tried to create such a “List of CEG-TEK clients” in June, 2014, and it backfired because immediately afterwards, so many of the copyright holders scattered and changed their name completely confusing the issue of who is a copyright troll and who is not a copyright troll.) I am merely providing this list as a quick sample to prove the existence of an AGENCY AGREEMENT between CEG-TEK and various copyright holders:

Digital Sin Inc. (a known copyright troll which carries the following brands: Digital Sin Inc, Greedy, Hot Boxxx, Lesbian Provocateur, New Sensations Inc*, The Romance Series, Vengeance XXX, X-Play)
http://www.digitalsindvd.com/distro/agent-cert.php

MG Premium Ltd DBA Mofos (formerly, “Froytal Services Ltd.” which carries the following brands: Canshetakeit, Iknowthatgirl, Ingangwebang, Latinasextapes, Letstryanal, Milfslikeitblack, Mofos, Mofosnetwork, Mofosoldschool, Mofosworldwide, Pervsonpatrol, Publicpickups Realslutparty, Shesafreak, Teensatwork)
http://www.mofos.com/cegtek-cert/

Porn Pros [also seen as AMA Multimedia, LLC] (which carries the following brands: Drive Shaft, Gay Castings, Gay Room, Man Royale, Men POV, Porn Pros, Pure Passion, Thick and Big, Tiny4K)
http://pornpros.com/cegtek-cert

MG Premium Ltd DBA Brazzers (formerly, “Froytal Services Ltd.” which carries the following brands: Asses In Public, Baby Got Boobs, Big Butts Like It Big, Big Tits At School, Big Tits At Work, Big Tits In Sports, Big Tits In Uniform, Big Wet Butts, Brazzers, Brazzers Vault, Brazzers Network, Busty And Real, Bustyz, Butts And Black, Day With A Pornstar, Dirty Masseur, Doctor Adventures, Hot And Mean, Hot Chicks Big Asses, HQ Honeys, Jizz On My Juggs, Jugfuckers, Milfs Like It Big, Mommy Got Boobs, Pornstars Like It Big, Racks And Blacks, Real Wife Stories, Sex Pro Adventures, Shes Gonna Squirt, Teens Li)
http://www.brazzers.com/cegtek-cert/

MG Content RK Limited DBA Reality Kings (formerly, “Manwin Content RK Ltd.” which carries the following brands: 40inchplus, 8thStreetLatinas, Bignaturals, BigTitsBoss, Bikini Crashers, CaptainStabbin, CFNM Secret, Cum Girls, CumFiesta, Cumfu, Dangerous Dongs, EuroSexParties, Extreme Asses, Extreme Naturals, FirstTimeAuditions, FlowerTucci, Footville, Girls of Naked, Happy Tugs, Hot Bush, InTheVip, Itsreal, Kingdong, Kristinslife, Manueluncut, MegaCockCravers, MikeInBrazil, MikesApartment, MilfHunter, MilfNextDoor, Mollyslife, Moms Bang Teens, MoneyTalks, MonsterCurves, Muffia, Mysexylife, Nakedmovie, etc.)
http://www.realitykings.com/cegtek-cert.htm

MG Content DP Limited DBA Digital Playground (formerly, “Manwin DP Corp.”)
http://www.digitalplayground.com/cegtek.html

E.A. Productions / Evil Angel
http://www.evilangelvideo.com/copyright/

Addicted 2 Girls
http://www.addicted2girls.com/cegtek.php

New Sensations Inc. (a known copyright troll which carries the following brands: Digital Sin Inc*, Greedy, Hot Boxxx, Lesbian Provocateur, New Sensations Inc, The Romance Series, Vengeance XXX, X-Play)
http://www.newsensations.com/tour_ns/cert.html

MG Cyprus Ltd DBA Men
http://www.men.com/cegtek-cert/

*[UNRELATED, BUT FUN TO NOTICE: Note the overlap between these companies as far as which brands are owned by which companies. Many of the popular names have the same parent company, e.g., MG Content, MG Premium, or more plainly, Manwin.  Also notice that some “brands” which market themselves to be separate and apart from one another are actually owned by the same entity, e.g., New Sensations, Inc. and Digital Sin, Inc.; as much as they tried to pretend that they were different entities when suing in the federal courts, we now know that they are the same entity. It is also interesting to see what a “small world” the adult industry is, and who the power players are behind the scenes of the “large” brand names. Unrelated to this article, when defending clients in federal court and in settlement negotiations, I have often found it funny to find that “old man grandpa” or “innocuous family woman grandma” is the CEO or power behind a large multi-million dollar adult company.]

What to take away from this article is simply that CEG-TEK’s role is as an “Intellectual Property Monetization” company, where the copyright holders hire them to track instances of copyright infringement using the bittorrent networks (hence the “CEG” portion of their name stands for “Copyright Enforcement Group,”), to collect and record the IP addresses of the accused infringers, identify the internet service providers (ISPs) associated with those IP addresses (and yes, they now contact ISPs not only in the U.S., but also in Canada and Australia), and request, pay, pressure, or threaten the ISPs to forward their copyright infringement notices to the subscribers which invites the accused internet user to visit their CopyrightSettlements.com website in order to view the claims against them and to pay a settlement fee to avoid potential legal action that may be taken against the internet users.

What is also important to note is that the legal role CEG-TEK plays is the authorized AGENT of the copyright holder. This means that whatever CEG-TEK agrees to (e.g., when an attorney negotiates a settlement on behalf of a client, or when CEG-TEK agrees to make one or more cases “go away” as part of a settlement negotiation), all of their activities are binding on their client, the copyright holder. Thus, if you pay CEG-TEK*, it is as if you paid the copyright holder. I am obviously simplifying the law of Agency here (where there are nuances), but what to take away is that anything CEG-TEK does, they do on behalf of their client and with the implicit [and in many cases, explicit] authorization of their client. That means that no, a copyright holder cannot turn around and sue you if you paid CEG-TEK to satisfy that copyright holder’s claim of copyright infringement against you where that client has hired CEG-TEK to enforce the copyright holder’s copyrights on their behalf (now you know the term, as their “agent.”).

*NOTE: I don’t need to toot my own horn and solicit my own services, but before you decide to pay CEG-TEK or visit their website, please do your research and contact an attorney who is familiar with their operation.  There are things to be aware of specifically with regard to capabilities CEG-TEK and ISPs have as far as geolocation technologies to identify the location where a download is claimed to have taken place, and how a company can dig into your past browsing history (with the help of an ISP providing your past IP addresses) in order to discover past acts you may or may not have taken part in.  Each of these impact your anonymity when settling a claim against you, and ultimately what a copyright holder can or can not later claim against you.  Your lawyer should understand this to help you understand the limits of CEG-TEK’s knowledge so that whether you choose to ignore or settle a claim, you will be aware of who is allowed to do what before, during, and after a settlement, and what are the time limits they face before information they may have on you is purged from your ISP’s records, sometimes making it unnecessary to worry about a settlement or a lawsuit.


CONTACT FORM: If you have a question or comment about what I have written, and you want to keep it *for my eyes only*, please feel free to use the form below. The information you post will be e-mailed to me, and I will be happy to respond.

NOTE: No attorney client relationship is established by sending this form, and while the attorney-client privilege (which keeps everything that you share confidential and private) attaches immediately when you contact me, I do not become your attorney until we sign a contract together.  That being said, please do not state anything “incriminating” about your case when using this form, or more practically, in any e-mail.

For those of you involved in Keith Vogt’s Cobbler Nevada, LLC cases, a huge ambiguity showed up yesterday on the court’s docket which I needed to clarify. I actually needed to call the clerk because at first glance, it looked as if all of the Cobbler Nevada, LLC cases in the Southern District of Texas were dismissed.

To back up just a bit, Cobbler Nevada, LLC suffered a large setback when on August 10th, 2015, Judge Alfred H. Bennett CONSOLIDATED all of their Texas cases into one case (TXSD, Case No. 4:15-cv-01308). As soon as we heard this, [especially after writing the “Dallas Buyers Club, LLC is a modern-day Icarus Story” article relating to this same plaintiff attorney], champagne glasses were clinked, and cheers rose up from the homes of many Texans who were caught up in what was often the streaming and/or download of the “The Cobbler” movie using Popcorn Time.

As a general rule, consolidations are ALWAYS* a good thing for bittorrent cases because:

1) they take each of the cases and place them under the direction and control of one judge (meaning that there will be no conflicting orders where one judge allows something whereas another judge forbids it, or more specifically, where one judge gives a copyright holder free reign to do whatever he wants [granting extension after extension, ignoring procedural violations, etc.], and another judge clamps down on the copyright holder forcing him to observe the rules, eventually dismissing his defendants because he missed a deadline or violated a federal procedure or local rule, etc.), and

2) having so many defendants bunched together in one lawsuit changes the dynamic of the lawsuit from having an aggressive “copyright troll” attorney to having a more passive plaintiff attorney who tiptoes around the court, who avoids filing documents in fear that one misstep (such as the one that happened to his Dallas Buyers Club, LLC cases with Judge Hughes) might cost him his entire batch of defendants.

For a plaintiff attorney, losing 20 John Doe defendants in one case is a tolerable defeat. Losing 400 defendants who have been consolidated into one case creates a “china shop” mindset for the plaintiff attorney, where the “don’t touch it or else it might break” rule suddenly becomes relevant when handling this newly large and fragile set of defendants.

Well, as of yesterday, “Document 70” showed up on Vogt’s Cobbler Nevada, LLC consolidated case, and the document was entitled “ORDER DISMISSING DEFENDANTS.” When I reviewed the document, it purported to dismiss John Doe defendants from a number of Keith’s older cases (e.g., 4:15-cv-01322 through 4:15-cv-01333), but it also appeared to dismiss EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THE JOHN DOE DEFENDANTS FROM EVERY COBBLER NEVADA CASE FILED IN TEXAS [AND WHICH ARE CONSOLIDATED INTO THIS ONE CASE].  Essentially, ALL of the defendants from the consolidated case itself, 4:15-cv-01308, appeared to have been dismissed.

010516 CobblerNV Doc70

At first, I shouted “woo-hoo!” because the case was dead. But then, I took a second look, and the order was originally written by Keith Vogt himself in November (Document 58), and there is no way he would dismiss his entire golden goose of defendants.  Plus, the case itself wasn’t marked “closed” by the clerk [as it would be if there was a mass dismissal], so there was an ambiguity. Reading the document, I asked, “if the defendants from this consolidated case were dismissed, did this dismissal also include the many, many defendants from ALL THE OTHER TX COBBLER NEVADA, LLC CASES which were all consolidated into THIS case!?”

After calling the clerk and eventually calling Keith himself, I confirmed that the case itself is still alive, and sadly, the John Doe Defendants are still John Doe Defendants. In short, nothing has changed, move along, there is nothing to see here. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but if the wording of the order in such an important case tripped me up, it probably confused a few other attorneys, and for this reason, I have written this article.

So yes, for now the Texas Cobbler Nevada, LLC cases still lives, and the next court date for this case (which affects every TX Cobbler Nevada, LLC John Doe Defendant) will be on 2/10/2016 at 10am in Courtroom 704 in Houston, TX.  If anything relevant happens at the hearing or in the meantime, I’ll be sure to let you know.

Known Cobbler Nevada, LLC cases in the TXSD:
Cobbler Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-22 (Case No. 4:15-cv-02060)
Cobbler Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-23 (Case No. 4:15-cv-02061)
Cobbler Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-27 (Case No. 4:15-cv-02046)
Cobbler Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-11 (Case No. 4:15-cv-02053)
Cobbler Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-27 (Case No. 4:15-cv-02047)
Cobbler Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-26 (Case No. 4:15-cv-02045)
Cobbler Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-24 (Case No. 4:15-cv-02062)
Cobbler Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-21 (Case No. 4:15-cv-02059)
Cobbler Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-28 (Case No. 4:15-cv-02048)
Cobbler Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-29 (Case No. 4:15-cv-02050)
Cobbler Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-25 (Case No. 4:15-cv-02043)
Cobbler Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-20 (Case No. 4:15-cv-02058)
Cobbler Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-24 (Case No. 4:15-cv-02041)
Cobbler Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-10 (Case No. 4:15-cv-02051)
Cobbler Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-14 (Case No. 4:15-cv-02055)
Cobbler Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-25 (Case No. 4:15-cv-02044)
Cobbler Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-14 (Case No. 4:15-cv-02057)
Cobbler Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-25 (Case No. 4:15-cv-01332)
Cobbler Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-15 (Case No. 4:15-cv-01322)
Cobbler Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-26 (Case No. 4:15-cv-01333)
Cobbler Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-15 (Case No. 4:15-cv-01323)
Cobbler Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-17 (Case No. 4:15-cv-01327)
Cobbler Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-16 (Case No. 4:15-cv-01324)
Cobbler Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-16 (Case No. 4:15-cv-01325)
Cobbler Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-20 (Case No. 4:15-cv-01328)
Cobbler Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-12 (Case No. 4:15-cv-01308)

Dallas Buyers Club, LLC cases in the TXSD (also affected):
Dallas Buyers Club, LLC v. Does 1-19 (Case No. 4:15-cv-00050)
Dallas Buyers Club, LLC v. Does 1-13 (Case No. 4:15-cv-00049)
Dallas Buyers Club, LLC v. Does 1-12 (Case No. 4:15-cv-00047)
Dallas Buyers Club, LLC v. Does 1-7   (Case No. 4:15-cv-00044)
Dallas Buyers Club, LLC v. Does 1-11 (Case No. 4:15-cv-00046)
Dallas Buyers Club, LLC v. Does 1-18 (Case No. 4:14-cv-03389)
Dallas Buyers Club, LLC v. Does 1-10 (Case No. 4:14-cv-03387)
Dallas Buyers Club, LLC v. Does 1-14 (Case No. 4:14-cv-03388)
Dallas Buyers Club, LLC v. Does 1-19 (Case No. 4:14-cv-03393)
Dallas Buyers Club, LLC v. Does 1-25 (Case No. 4:14-cv-03394)

*NOTE: I mentioned above that case consolidations are ALWAYS a good thing for mass bittorrent copyright infringement lawsuits having multiple John Doe Defendants.  Nothing is always the case, and one can usually find strong exceptions to the rule.

For example, the judge which consolidated all of the cases in a district under his or her control might mishandle the case (as we saw with the Malibu Media, LLC bellwether cases from 2013 where the judge forced cases into what ended up being a “show trial,” because the defendants selected for trial already came to an arrangement with the plaintiff), or, as we saw a few years ago in DC, the judge can be biased towards one side or another, or she could even be a former lobbyist for the MPAA as we saw with the Judge Beryl Howell rulings from 2011-2012.  Similar-minded judges from other districts more recently have been causing problems as well.  So, no, case consolidations are NOT ALWAYS a good thing.


CONTACT FORM: If you have a question or comment about what I have written, and you want to keep it *for my eyes only*, please feel free to use the form below. The information you post will be e-mailed to me, and I will be happy to respond.

NOTE: No attorney client relationship is established by sending this form, and while the attorney-client privilege (which keeps everything that you share confidential and private) attaches immediately when you contact me, I do not become your attorney until we sign a contract together.  That being said, please do not state anything “incriminating” about your case when using this form, or more practically, in any e-mail.

Off the cuff, this is a post about PGP (a.k.a., “pretty good privacy”) and encryption.

When I was in college in the 1990’s, encryption was the easiest thing to set up. We’d download some freeware, set up a few encryption keys, upload the keys to the MIT servers, and send around “how are you, aren’t we cool because we’re using encryption” e-mails to friends and family. Little did we know those keys would be permanently there years later, and most of us lost our keys over the years, and forgot to set expiration dates on our keys (so my old college keys are still available somewhere on the net).

After a phone call today, I realized that after so many years, I have not used PGP, and I did not have a PGP key handy to encrypt an e-mail and its contents. “No problem,” I thought, I’ll just go online, grab the free software from Symantec, and I’ll set up a key and forward the documents. NO GO.

Symantec purchased the rights to the PGP software from Phil Zimmerman, and they TOOK AWAY the ability for individuals to set up PGP encryption on their machines (unless they purchase an elaborate suite of programs for $$$$). And, even if I wanted to purchase the software, they have made it next to impossible to acquire it using a few clicks, a credit card, and a website checkout.

Honestly, I have nothing wrong with companies selling premium features on top of their free software, but ENCRYPTION SOFTWARE SHOULD BE FREE!!! In order to have a free society where individuals can speak and express themselves freely without need to censor themselves in fear of a snooping government, encryption is needed! Because Symantec took away the ability for individuals to use PGP, in my opinion, this in my book is considered unethical and “mean” business practice. Shame on you, Symantec.

[ON A SIDE NOTE: I want to point out that in college Phil Zimmerman was my hero. Now on his “Where to get PGP” website, he states that he doesn’t care that PGP is no longer free, as long as Symantec kept the source code available to the public. Phil Zimmerman, for the reason that you have made it so that companies can make it difficult for users to access and use encryption, now almost twenty years later, you are no longer my hero.]

Since PGP has become monetized and corporatized for corporate profit and control, for those of you who want (and should) set up encryption, there is still a way. GnuPG (part of the OpenPGP Alliance) has made encryption available to Windows PC users using their GPG4win software. Essentially, the software appears to have originally been written for the Linux operating systems, but it has been ported for those of us that are still shackled to a Windows PC operating system.

 

HOW TO OBTAIN AND SET UP PGP SOFTWARE IN ORDER TO ENCRYPT AND DECRYPT YOUR MESSAGES AND FILES:

STEP 1: DOWNLOAD THE SOFTWARE.

The link to download the latest version of GPG4win is here:
https://www.gpg4win.org/download.html

STEP 2: CREATE A SET OF KEYS.

– For those of you more techy, the keys they set up are 2,048 bit keys, which are the standard for today’s encryption. However, technology does advance quickly, and if you are anything like me, you’ll want to use the 4,096 bit keys (which is more encryption than you’ll ever need, but why skimp on privacy when such a key is available?)

So if you want this stronger key, when the software asks you if you want to create keys, say “no,” click “File, New Certificate,” and click on the advanced settings. There, you will be able to 1) choose the heightened security 4,096 keys, along with 2) the ability to SET AN EXPIRATION DATE FOR YOUR KEYS.

STEP 3: SET AN EXPIRATION DATE FOR YOUR KEYS!!!!!

NOTE: All of us have set up keys, and have lost them due to computer malfunction, hard drive crash, or just losing the secret key files. ***IF YOU DO NOT SET AN EXPIRATION DATE ON YOUR KEYS, THEY WILL BE ON THE MIT SERVER FOREVER!!!*** And, you will be unable to delete the keys later on. So please! Set an expiration date on your keys. I set mine for 12/31/2016 (at the end of next year), and next year, I’ll set up another set of keys.

STEP 4: CREATE A REVOCATION CERTIFICATE BEFORE YOU UPLOAD YOUR KEYS TO THE SERVERS!

For some reason, the Kleopatra Windows PC software does not have an option to set up a revocation certificate so that you’ll be able to revoke (or inactivate) keys on the MIT server that you no longer use.

For this reason, and this is easy to do, the superuser.com website has described a way to set up a PGP key revocation certificate using a command terminal (“CMD”) code.

In short, open a terminal in Windows (using “Run, CMD”), and type the following:

gpg –output revoke.asc –gen-revoke [MY KEY-ID]

(NOTE: The MY KEY-ID is the “Key-ID” for the key you created using the Kleopatra software.)

Then save it somewhere where you cannot lose it. Print it out and save it offline if you need to.

STEP 5: UPLOAD YOUR NEW KEY TO THE MIT SERVER SO THAT OTHER PEOPLE CAN FIND YOUR KEY.

This is the step that you should be most careful about. Once you upload the key, it’s on the server forever (viewable at https://pgp.mit.edu/). So just double-check your steps before you take this step.

 

HOW TO USE PGP:

Once you’re all set up, you’re set for the life of your encryption keys (remember, I set mine to expire at the end of next year.)

Below are the steps to use PGP:

STEP 1: OBTAIN THE KEY OF THE PERSON YOU ARE SENDING YOUR MESSAGE OR FILE(S) TO FROM THE MIT SERVER.

You can search for their key by either:

1) On the Kleopatra software, click “File, Look Up Certificates on Server,” and then you would type in either their name or e-mail address and select which key you want to use (best to use their most recent key if there are multiple keys).

2) Alternatively, you can accomplish the same result by entering their name or e-mail address on the MIT server (https://pgp.mit.edu/). For example, for mine, you would search for rzcashman@cashmanlawfirm.com, and my key would show up.

STEP 2: WRITE YOUR MESSAGE AND ENCRYPT IT TO THE KEY OF THE PERSON YOU ARE SENDING IT TO.

On the Kleopatra software, you would click on the “Clipboard” button on the toolbar and select “Encrypt.” A new screen will open, and you’ll write your message.

Once you have written your message, click on the “Add Recipient” button and select the key of the person you are sending the e-mail to. Remember, you did this in STEP 1.

STEP 3: COPY AND PASTE THE ENCRYPTED TEXT INTO AN E-MAIL.

This is the easy part. Once you have the message you wrote encrypted to the key of the person to whom you wrote the message, a string of letters will appear in your window. Copy and paste it (all of it) into an e-mail.

REMEMBER, encryption protects the CONTENTS of an e-mail not the META DATA, meaning, it only protects the contents of what you wrote. It does not protect who you wrote it to, or what server you were logged into when you sent the encrypted text. This was part of the issue with the NSA claiming that they were “only” pulling meta data, and not the contents of the e-mail themselves.

NOTE: If you also encrypted a file to attach to the e-mail [I did not describe how to do this yet], attach the .gpg file that your software created as an attachment to the e-mail. The person to whom you encrypted the e-mail will be able to decrypt the attachment as well as the contents of your e-mail.

STEP 4: THE RECIPIENT OF THE E-MAIL DECRYPTS YOUR E-MAIL AND ANY ATTACHMENTS

Since you encrypted your message with the intention that only the recipient sees it, when he receives your e-mail (and any encrypted attachments you also sent), he will be able to use his own software to decrypt what you have sent to him.

Why is this possible? Because you encrypted the contents of your message to his key, and thus only he can unencrypt and read your message. When he replies to you, he will write the text into his software, and he will encrypt the message (and any files he also wants to attach) using YOUR key that he pulled off of the server, and he’ll send it over to you.

 

ENCRYPTING FILES:

Encrypting one file at a time using the Kleopatra software can be done by clicking “File, Sign / Encrypt Files.” From there, another window will open up, where you can select which file to encrypt. When the software asks for whom you would like to encrypt the file, just use the key of the person to whom you want to send the file. The software will make an encrypted copy of the file in the same folder, just with the .gpg file type. Use that file when sending the encrypted file in an e-mail as an attachment.

If you want to encrypt the file using your own key file (meaning, only you can unlock it), you may (for example, if you are sending yourself a private file to be accessed somewhere else). But if you only want the encrypted file to remain on your computer, remember to manually delete the original file, or you’ll have both the original and encrypted files in the same directory.

ENCRYPTING MULTIPLE FILES, OR FOLDERS, OR ENTIRE HARD DRIVES:

The topic of encrypting entire files, folders, or entire hard drives is outside the scope of this article. Doing so requires software such as Truecrypt, and it is a different process than encrypting and decrypting e-mails and messages using PGP as we have described here.

ENJOY!

TERMINOLOGY: There are two PGP encryption keys that you create when you set up your “key pair” — a “public” key and a “private” key. The public key is the one that is uploaded to the server, and if you provide someone your encryption key for them to send you e-mails or files, it is ALWAYS the public key that you send to them. The “private” or “secret” key is the one that remains with you or on your computer, and it is used to decrypt messages and files that were encrypted to your public key. Never give out your private key to anyone.


CONTACT FORM: If you have a question or comment about what I have written, and you want to keep it *for my eyes only*, please feel free to use the form below. The information you post will be e-mailed to me, and I will be happy to respond.

NOTE: No attorney client relationship is established by sending this form, and while the attorney-client privilege (which keeps everything that you share confidential and private) attaches immediately when you contact me, I do not become your attorney until we sign a contract together.  That being said, please do not state anything “incriminating” about your case when using this form, or more practically, in any e-mail.

Last month, I wrote an article entitled, “Whether internet porn viewers ‘should expect viewing histories to be made public.”  The fear that prompted that article was that someone could hack into the logs of a porn-streaming website, and with that information, expose the porn viewing habits of millions of Americans.  The conclusion of that article was that it would be difficult for a hacker to hack into a website which streams adult content, steal the website’s logs containing the IP addresses of those who have viewed the web pages which stream the videos, and then somehow correlate that IP address list with the actual identities of the internet users.  Thus, I do not expect to see any Ashley Madison hacks for websites streaming copyrighted content anytime soon.

The next question people asked was, “can I be sued for viewing copyrighted content on a YouTube-like site?”  In short, the answer is yes, you can be sued, but it will likely never happen.  Here’s why:

POINT #1: A COPYRIGHT HOLDER WOULD LIKELY NOT BE ABLE TO OBTAIN THE IP ADDRESSES OF THOSE WHO VIEWED THE WEBSITE STREAMING THE CONTENT.

While a hacker would likely be able to obtain the IP address records from a pornography website’s analytics through theft, a copyright enforcement company such as CEG-TEK or RightsCorp would be unable to get this information without 1) a court order, or 2) the cooperation of the adult website itself.  The reason for this is that 1) porn website owners are notoriously outside the U.S., and thus, they are outside the jurisdiction of the U.S. federal courts.  The copyright holders could try suing the website owners, but this is often a difficult task (finding an elusive website owner outside the U.S. is a much more difficult task than suing internet users who participate in a bittorrent swarm to obtain files using BitTorrent).

While the analytics companies could be sued and forced to disclose the list of IP addresses for a particular website, this is also an unlikely scenario because complying with such a court order directing them to turn over records for one of their clients’ websites could be 1) illegal, and 2) it could put them in jeopardy of being sued by their customer.  So this is not a likely outcome.

Secondly, the copyright holders could “join forces” with the website owners to participate in the financial earnings of going after the downloaders (alternatively, they could be outright paid to disclose this information), but again, doing so would put the websites own visitors (their own customers) in financial jeopardy, and thus they would likely not participate in such a scheme.

In short, it is unlikely that a copyright holder would be able to obtain this needed list of IP addresses of those who viewed certain copyrighted content, and thus, with a streaming site, the copyright holders would likely not be able to learn who you are.

NOTE: It is still advisable to use a VPN when accessing a site streaming content, because your own ISP could be monitoring your web viewing habits, and they ARE in the U.S., and they could be sued and/or pressured to hand over “evidence” that your account visited a particular web page at a certain date and time.  It is unlikely this would ever happen, but it is best to err on the side of caution.

POINT #2: ALL LAWSUITS TO DATE HAVE BEEN FOR BITTORRENT ACTIVITY.  I HAVE NEVER (YET) SEEN A LAWSUIT SUING SOMEONE WHO VIEWED A PARTICULAR VIDEO ON A PARTICULAR WEBSITE.

To date [and as far as I am aware], all of the copyright infringement lawsuits filed in the U.S. District Courts (the federal courts) across the U.S. have been for BITTORRENT ACTIVITY.

With very few exceptions where the copyright holder identified and sued the UPLOADER (the one who POSTED the video onto the website) based on a watermark or secret code embedded into the copyrighted video that identified the accused infringer as being the one who disseminated the copyrighted materials, there has never been a “John Doe” bittorrent lawsuit against a downloader who got caught by viewing content streamed on a YouTube-like website.  This is not to say that there will not be one in the future based on future internet fingerprint IDs forced upon internet users by government entities, or the like.

Thus, copyright holders have not yet and likely will never go through the initial step of 1) suing the website owner to obtain the list of IP addresses, and for this reason, I have not seen and do not foresee seeing lawsuits filed against internet users who view copyrighted content using a YouTube-like streaming service.

This is not to suggest or encourage that someone use this medium of viewing copyrighted films as technology can change, laws can change, and as the courts loosen their long-arm jurisdiction against foreign corporations and entities (weakening the Asahi case), the United States might start asserting its jurisdictions over foreign countries or foreign entities or corporations, and they might start forcing an internet fingerprint ID on the citizenry to track each citizen’s internet usage.  The takeaway, however, is that it is a lot harder to sue someone for viewing streamed content rather than suing someone for downloading content via bittorrent.

NOTE: An obvious exception to this article are those who have created accounts using their real identity or contact information, either 1) to participate or comment on forums or in the comment sections of the websites, or 2) those who pay a monthly or annual membership to access the premium content (e.g., faster speeds, unlimited content, etc.).  If you have an account on a website which streams content, then YES, your identity is at risk, and your viewing habits could be exposed for the world to see.  Otherwise, likely not.


CONTACT FORM: If you have a question or comment about what I have written, and you want to keep it *for my eyes only*, please feel free to use the form below. The information you post will be e-mailed to me, and I will be happy to respond.

NOTE: No attorney client relationship is established by sending this form, and while the attorney-client privilege (which keeps everything that you share confidential and private) attaches immediately when you contact me, I do not become your attorney until we sign a contract together.  That being said, please do not state anything “incriminating” about your case when using this form, or more practically, in any e-mail.

Copyright Enforcement Group (CEG-TEK) has sent possibly hundreds of thousands of letters to internet users accused of downloading copyrighted content via bittorrent. In their letters, they invoke the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) as the justification for their “intellectual property (IP) enforcement” activities. They claim to be the good guys, but are they?  Are they “naughty or nice”?

CEG-TEK claims to be the good guys — they stop piracy, and as a result of their efforts, fewer people download on the ISPs’s networks (a social “good” and a “win” for the copyright holders). They have stopped the copyright troll lawsuits, for the moment. And, although they are charging $300 per title for each downloaded movie (sometimes higher) for what is often an accidental “click of the mouse,” they claim that they are not “bad” or “vindictive” like their Rightscorp competitor, which charges only $20 per title, but then sues the accused downloaders in federal courts, and then even go so far as contacting the ISPs in order to attempt to shut down the internet accounts of those accused of downloading their clients’ copyrighted titles via bittorrent.

But then again, CEG-TEK is a business. While I have had success negotiating away cases against veterans, the elderly, and in many cases, college kids, CEG-TEK has taken a number of steps which at best would be questionable.

Most relevant is the “admission of guilt” clause in their settlement agreements, which at the time of writing this article has flipped back to the version which does not include this clause. Months ago, when CEG-TEK expanded into Canada and then Australia, the settlement agreements which released those who have settled from liability included the following clause:

111715 Admission of Guilt in CEG-TEK Settlement Agreement

[For those of you who cannot see the image, it says, “…in the event of a (i) failure to clear, (ii) chargeback, (iii) cancellation, (iv) failure to complete…this Release shall be considered admissible and conclusive evidence of RELEASEE’s infringement of the copyright in the Work and that RELEASEE will be liable to CONTENT COPYRIGHT OWNER for all damages, statutory and/or otherwise, for such infringement plus attorney fees plus costs as of the Settlement Date…” (emphasis added)]

[Now as a side note, for those who are particular about formatting and details, note that CEG-TEK placed that inflammatory clause at the bottom of Page 2, and they split it up where half of it is at the bottom of the page, and the other half is at the top of the next page, where even a careful individual might not read the clause in its entirety because the inflammatory clause is separated by being on different pages.]

The problem with such a clause admitting guilt is that it is binding on an unsuspecting individual who tries to settle the claims against him by paying with a credit card. How?  These contracts are available to the individual paying the settlement fee on the CopyrightSettlements.com website to review, and upon processing the credit card payment, they agree to the terms contained within the contract.

Then, when their credit card transaction fails (either because their card is not accepted by CEG-TEK’s website, or because the transaction is declined, or, if through no fault of their own, because of the website itself the bank flags the transaction as suspicious (fraud alert for a large online charge) and fails to approve the transaction), at that point, the individual has admitted guilt to copyright infringement, which carries a $150,000 statutory fine for each title downloaded. Assume for the moment that the individual has five (5) cases.  Multiply this $150,000 amount by five separate copyright holders, and the individual could be looking at 5 x $150,000 lawsuits (= $750,000 in statutory damages separated into multiple lawsuits filed by different copyright holders all of whom hired CEG-TEK as their agent to enforce their copyrights) where the internet user has already admitted guilt.

Then, when the confused internet user who tried to settle calls CEG-TEK on the phone already having admitted guilt, what sort of leverage does the individual have if they are asked for more than $300 per title? Legally, they likely have no defense because according to the terms of the agreement, they already admitted guilt — even if the credit card transaction failing was not their fault.

So… Copyright Enforcement Group may be the “good guys” because they let attorneys negotiate away cases for vets, old ladies, and elderly gentlemen who don’t realize that they should be using a VPN when they download adult content, and CEG-TEK may serve the public good by demonstrating that piracy has gone down because of their efforts. While this is all true, remember: watch their contract, because caveat emptor still applies.

I don’t want to make this into a “you should have hired an attorney for your $300 matter” blog entry, but really, this is but one example of how even the “good guys” need to be approached with caution, and better yet, through a proxy by using an attorney. [I won’t even go into the conspiracy theories about CEG-TEK trying to get more than the $300 per title that is listed on the website.] Let’s stick to the facts and look at their contract to judge them on whether they are truly “naughty or nice.”


CONTACT FORM: If you have a question or comment about what I have written, and you want to keep it *for my eyes only*, please feel free to use the form below. The information you post will be e-mailed to me, and I will be happy to respond.

NOTE: No attorney client relationship is established by sending this form, and while the attorney-client privilege (which keeps everything that you share confidential and private) attaches immediately when you contact me, I do not become your attorney until we sign a contract together.  That being said, please do not state anything “incriminating” about your case when using this form, or more practically, in any e-mail.

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