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dmca gone wild

I have been sitting on this article for a few days because I was not sure what to make of it.

I don’t know if what I am noticing is based on greed on behalf of the “Girls Gone Wild” copyright holder (a.k.a., GGW Brands LLC) based on their corporate shakeup and recent bankruptcy, or whether CEG-TEK’s computer system has been going haywire sending sometimes hundreds of DMCA copyright infringement notifications for one “click” of a bittorrent file, or if there is a shift coming where CEG-TEK will be using the DMCA notices in a new way to extort larger and larger settlements from accused downloaders.

BACKGROUND [SKIP IF YOU KNOW HOW BITTORRENT WORKS]:
CEG-TEK has always tried to be a modestly clean organization.  While an internet user downloads a video using bittorrent software, CEG-TEK’s servers are “dipping in and out” of the various bittorrent swarms which share their 100+ clients’ [usually adult] videos, and while CEG-TEK is “in the room” (so to speak, meaning, while CEG-TEK’s servers are connected to the bittorrent swarm [in which the internet users’ bittorrent software downloads file fragments from multiple individuals also in that same bittorrent swarm, and in which the bittorrent software shares (“seeds”) file fragments it has acquired to other bittorrent users in the swarm who are lacking that particular file fragment in order to obtain the entire shared file(s)), CEG-TEK writes down the IP addresses of each of the file sharers, they identify which ISP that IP address belongs to, and their computer sends a DMCA notice to that ISP.  That DMCA “scare letter” notice is then forwarded to the account holder who was assigned that IP address at that particular date and time.

So with the Girls Gone Wild copyright holder, in the olden days (meaning up until two weeks ago), an internet user would click on a bittorrent file which contained something like 20-30 GGW videos, but when we logged into the CopyrightSettlements.com website to view the claims against my client, there would only be a few claims of copyright infringement.  Why?  Because GGW was having CEG-TEK ask for $300 per copyrighted DVD (which it itself contained many “files” or “scenes”).  Point being, one click, one copyrighted DVD pirated, one $300 settlement.

This is no longer the case.  Now when an internet user clicks a download link on a bittorrent website (sample screenshot of a GGW bittorrent link below — this one containing 95 video files), the same 20-30 video files are downloaded, but instead of ONE (1) DMCA notice being sent to the internet subscriber’s ISP, these past few weeks, 20-30 DMCA notices are being sent.

TPB_GGW

To make the effect of downloading Girls Gone Wild videos more egregious, instead of asking for $300 for each GGW DVD pirated, the copyrightsettlements.com website now lists 20-30 “cases,” asking for $300 for each file downloaded, rather than $300 for each DVD.  Thus, in the 20-30 file example, now an accused internet user will see a settlement request of $6,000-$9,000 for one click of a bittorrent website (or in the example shown above with 95 video files, CEG-TEK would now be asking for a $28,500 settlement, when before it would have been just a few hundred dollars).

Now, let’s take the scenario further, because I’ve seen settlement amounts as high as $78,000 in the past few days.  How?

That same internet user who clicked on this link above containing 95 titles leaves his bittorrent software running in the background.  He does not realize that after the downloads are complete, his software is set to “seed” (upload) the files to other bittorrent users who have not yet acquired all 64.02 Gigabytes of data (as if someone actually has that amount of free space on their hard drive to download all of those videos, and as if each and every video was actually downloaded — both topics outside the scope of this article).

It takes roughly 4-5 days for a Charter or a CenturyLink subscriber to receive his DMCA notice, so by the time he learns that he has done something wrong by that “one click,” his ISP has changed his IP address 5 times (IP addresses are leased to subscribers for 24 hours, although this differs from ISP to ISP), that means that CEG-TEK “thinks” he has 475 instances of infringement (MATH: 95 videos * 5 days seeded = 475 instances of infringement).  Thus, when those 29 downloaders and 5 uploaders shown in the image above (listed as “29 leechers” and “5 seeders”) get their DMCA copyright infringement notice for this particular torrent five (5) days later, each one of them will see a settlement amount of $142,500.  Obscene.

Now obviously a lawyer (myself or anyone else) can negotiate the amount of the settlement, or, based on the copyright holder’s tendency to sue or knowing the limitations of CEG-TEK’s abilities to know who you are [taking into consideration the ISP and the known information such as geolocation data as to where you live, etc.], I may just as easily suggest that you ignore the claims against you, but quite frankly, if CEG-TEK is really expecting to get a $142K settlement (or even a $10K settlement), well, this suggests to me that maybe they are getting a bit greedy.

In sum, here is what I know:

1) Girls Gone Wild and CEG-TEK (as their agents) are now asking for $300 settlements for each and every video file downloaded.

2) CEG-TEK’s computer systems are going haywire, and ISPs are receiving HUNDREDS of DMCA violation notifications for files contained within one bittorrent file.

3) CEG-TEK’s computer systems lock out users who have more than ten (10) claims against them with a note to call their 800 number to discuss the claims with them.  This means that your claims WILL LIKELY BE LOCKED when you try to log in and you will get their “Please contact Ira Siegel” notice.

4) If you made the mistake and called them, you would be faced with an obscenely high settlement amount to negotiate down from.

My interpretation:

Here is my interpretation of what is going on.  I see two possible causes for what we are seeing.

The founder of Girls Gone Wild appears not to be an upright citizen.  He has been reportedly convicted of tax evasion, bribery, false imprisonment, assault causing great bodily injury, dissuading a witness, record-keeping violations, and he has even reportedly pleaded no contest to child abuse and prostitution.  It does not jolt me to add copyright trolling to his list of indiscretions, and thus if this new development is coming from CEG-TEK’s “Girls Gone Wild” client rather than from CEG-TEK itself (management), I am not surprised by what I am seeing.

From 2007 – 2013, GGW advertised up the wazoo on late night infomercials, and they used to sell their DVDs, but there was a point where something happened to their business — the internet happened, and people stopped purchasing their videos.

In 2013, I remember hearing about a lot of drama and “shake-ups” on the corporate level, where Girls Gone Wild was talking about filing for bankruptcy, and where they were no longer putting their focus on the sale of DVDs.  Rather, moving forward, they would be focusing on “intellectual property monetization,” which is another way of saying that they hired a number of lawyers and copyright enforcement entities (e.g., CEG-TEK, or Copyright Enforcement Group) to elicit settlements from those internet users who they blame for the collapse of their company.

In sum, either Girls Gone Wild is tired of collecting a few bucks here and there, or CEG-TEK is no longer happy with the $300 settlement and they are trying to increase the settlement amounts to lawsuit levels without having to file a lawsuit.  Either way, be aware that things are changing, and I will let you know as I see the shift reveal itself in a more pronounced way.


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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When representing a client, in my eyes I am representing the internet users against the “bad guys.” Copyright holders who use the federal court subpoena power to unclothe the identity of the internet subscriber with the intent of extorting that internet user out of thousands of dollars (regardless of whether the internet user did the download or not) is an abuse of the federal court system.  To offset the very high cost of hiring an attorney to defend a copyright infringement claim in federal court, copyright law provides the “winner” of the lawsuit attorney fees (see, 17 U.S. Code § 505).

That way, when an accused internet user is forced to spend tens of thousands of dollars to properly defend him or herself against claims of copyright infringement (which often include appearing for multiple court hearings, allowing the household’s computers and electronic devices to be inspected by a forensics expert, being questioned under oath [or having to answer written interrogatories under oath]), *IF* at the end of the investigation (e.g., at the end of “discovery”), the claim of copyright infringement ends up being unfounded and the claim of copyright infringement against the internet user is dismissed, the law gives that internet user the right to collect from his accuser all the fees he paid to his attorney.

Beware, however.  Just because a defendant is entitled to attorney fees does not mean that they will get them.  There are three scenarios which can stop a defendant from obtaining their fees back from a copyright holder plaintiff:

1) The “cut and run” scenario, where a copyright holder dismisses the defendant before a judge can rule that there was no infringement, and

2) the “limited liability company” plaintiff, where the movie company has created smaller independent “shell” companies, and they use those companies to sue defendants in copyright infringement actions (knowing that if those companies incur liability, that liability will not trickle up to the owner or to the other corporate entity), and

3) the “underfunded shell company” scenario, where the copyright holder might not have the funds to pay the attorney fees to the defendant (for example, when the settlement funds have been siphoned off to another entity, or paid out to the copyright troll attorneys).

SCENARIO 1: THE “CUT AND RUN” SITUATION

In a “cut and run” situation, the accused internet user (a.k.a., the “named” John Doe Defendant) mounts a sufficient defense to demonstrate either that the plaintiff copyright holder does not have sufficient evidence to find him guilty of copyright infringement, or he is able to prove that it was not him “at the keyboard” at the time the download took place (because suing the account holder based on an ISP demonstrating that the account holder was assigned a particular IP address [which was used to participate in the downloading or copying of a copyrighted video] has been held in various jurisdictions to be insufficient to prove that it was the account holder who did the download).

In this first scenario, the account holder “fights back,” and hires and pays an attorney to file an answer to the complaint once named and served.  That attorney shows up to the court hearings, he cooperates with the discovery requests (the attorney sits with his client as he answers questions under oath, objects to questions, speaks to the judge in the middle to clarify issues that arise, etc.), and after what ends up being hundreds of hours, the copyright holder dismisses the defendant proactively before the court can rule on a summary judgement hearing that there was never a case against the client in the first place.   I saw this over and over with the Malibu Media, LLC cases.

SCENARIOS 2 & 3: THE “LIMITED LIABILITY COMPANY (LLC)” PLAINTIFF, AND THE “UNDERFUNDED” SHELL COMPANY:

The second scenario in which a defendant could be deprived of attorney fees is when the movie studio sets up multiple limited liability “shell” entities (as seen by the “LLC” designation behind the name), and then that “shell” entity is used to file a lawsuit, but it does not have the funds to pay an award of attorney fees should it lose the copyright infringement claim against the “named” defendant.  This could be either because the “shell” entity was not properly funded in the first place, or because the plaintiff lawyers or the owners of the entity are siphoning the settlement funds out of the entity so that it would not be able to pay attorney fees if it was ordered to do so.

This is what bugs me about the limited liability entities which are set up and used to sue defendants — there is no accountability to the accused copyright defendant for the misuse of those entities.  Using Voltage Pictures, Inc. as an example (and by no means am I insinuating that their “shell” entities are misused or underfunded), Voltage Pictures, Inc. is a big name movie company that has sued thousands of defendants over the years.  Since our firm started in 2010, I have been seeing Voltage Pictures, Inc. as a copyright troll who has sued defendants, who has hired not-so-ethical attorneys to enforce their copyrights against bittorrent users, and I do not think one year has past where I have not seen one lawsuit or another where Voltage was behind the scenes as the copyright holder.

Over the years, I have seen Voltage shift from suing thousands of defendants using their their own Voltage name in the lawsuits to setting up smaller “shell” entities which are then used to sue John Doe Defendants.  It is not always obvious that a company suing for copyright infringement is a Voltage copyright troll, but there are tip offs in that each time a new copyright troll “shell” entity files a lawsuit, I see the same copyright troll attorney(s) filing the identical complaint as they filed in other lawsuits, and each time, I see the same discredited German forensics company (Guardaley) listed as the “expert” in the lawsuit.  With so many hundreds of lawsuits filed — and I wasn’t sure I was going to go here, but I am — , I ask myself why the judges don’t see that these are the same set of entities filing the lawsuits, and I shake my head in disgust that the copyright troll scam is still going on.  It boggles my mind that companies as large as Voltage Pictures, Inc. are still taking part in this kind of legal militarism and butchery.

Dallas Buyers Club, LLC was one such shell company that was set up and used to sue defendants, which I later learned was a Voltage Pictures, Inc. shell company.  More recently, Fathers and Daughters Nevada, LLC appears to be another such shell company.  These companies are all “limited liability companies,” which means that unless the company was structured improperly when it was formed, or unless the principals of the company did something stupid (e.g., intermingling company funds with another shell company’s funds), it is very difficult to “break the veil” to hold the owner of the company personally liable for the company’s mistakes.

This got me thinking.  A defendant does not immediately know whether a copyright troll corporate “shell” entity is properly funded or not, and before hiring an attorney and spending tens of thousands of dollars on a defense, the first thing that defendant should do (or have his lawyer do) is have the “shell” company demonstrate that they have the funds to pay the defendant’s attorney fees should it be demonstrated a) that the account holder “named” and served as the defendant was not the one who did the download in the first place, or b) that the plaintiff’s experts cannot provide sufficient evidence to prove that the copyright infringement actually happened.

Why? Because if the plaintiff does not have the funds to proceed, why spend the time and money defending the lawsuit?  Rather, hit them early on with a bond request to demonstrate that 1) they have the funds to proceed, and to demonstrate 2) that they have the intent to move forward, all the way to trial (if necessary).  This is not a cheap proposition for the copyright holders, as lawsuits such as these could easily run into the hundreds-of-thousands of dollars in fees.

 

Anyway, my point in this article is simply caveat emptor.  Before you go ahead throwing out all of your money paying an attorney for a defense, make sure the plaintiff can pay your fees if you win. Have them post a bond, or do something to demonstrate that they have the funds to proceed if the case goes in that direction.  If they cannot demonstrate this, then maybe there is no need to defend your case in the first place.

In sum, the copyright laws as they are practiced is lopsided.  Copyright owners are given their remedy — the ability to sue for “statutory damages” of $150,000 per instance of infringement.  And, the accused defendant apparently has his remedy — the ability to retrieve his paid attorney fees when he successfully defends his case against the copyright holder.  Why shouldn’t an accused defendant take a few steps to preserve his rights and check to make sure the plaintiff can pay his attorney fees if he wins?

NOW A NOTE FOR THE JUDGES:

Accused internet users are thrown around, threatened, extorted for thousands of dollars in cash, and the law does little to protect their rights. Defendants have the remedy to have their funds returned to them if they fight and win, but what individual internet user defendant has the ability to pay for a lawyer to defend him in court?  What use is it for the law to award attorney fees and costs to a defendant who prevails “on the merits” when that defendant cannot afford to hire a lawyer to get to that point in the legal process?

Rather, the duty to protect the public in circumstances such as these (suing internet users for the download of copyrighted materials) is on the judges themselves.

Judges know (or their clerks can easily discover) when a particular copyright holder is a “copyright troll” and they know if the same parties have filed serial lawsuits in one state, or if they have filed multiple lawsuits in multiple states, or whether that same entity has sued defendants using multiple shell companies.  Judges also know that most accused defendants cannot pay a lawyer even for the most basic defense.

Too often, judges do not act as the gatekeepers they are, and they let the copyright holders do whatever they want to do while the judges pretend to pressure the copyright holders to move forward and name and serve defendants, or not. This is a charade — one that unnerves me, because it is an open secret that the copyright holders have absolutely no interest in taking a case to trial.

Judges who rubber stamp “expedited discovery” motions: WHY allow copyright holders access to the names of the accused John Doe Defendants when those copyright holders have shown through their past filings that they have absolutely NO INTENTION of proceeding to trial?  And why not make the plaintiff copyright holders demonstrate that they intend to proceed to trial (e.g., by having them post a bond as a matter of course) rather than using your federal court as a weapon to extort settlements from defendants who otherwise do not have the funds to pay for an adequate defense?

Since I mentioned Voltage Pictures, Inc. in this article (since they are the ones behind the Dallas Buyers Club, LLC lawsuits from a few months ago, and more recently, they are the ones behind the Fathers & Daughters Nevada, LLC lawsuits), below are a list of cases filed across the U.S. (and this is only a small sample of the lawsuits that were filed).  Judges, how can you NOT know that this “Fathers & Daughters Nevada, LLC” entity is a shell company practicing copyright trolling across the US?!?  Will you now let this “shell” entity do the same thing that every Voltage Pictures, Inc. “shell” entity did before them?  Ask yourself: Have ANY of these Voltage plaintiffs gone to trial?

Current Cases Affected by this Article (I am listing these so that you see how deep the Voltage Picture lawyer network goes — cases are not only filed in Texas, but like the Malibu Media, LLC cases were, they are filed across the US):

Fathers & Daughters Nevada, LLC v. Does (Case No. 4:16-cv-01968, Texas Southern District Court (July 5, 2016))
[Plaintiff Attorney Joshua S. Wyde]

Fathers & Daughters Nevada, LLC v. Does (Case No. 4:16-cv-01315, Texas Southern District Court (May 10, 2016))
[Plaintiff Attorney Joshua S. Wyde]

Fathers & Daughters Nevada LLC v. Unknown Parties (Case No. 2:16-cv-01073, Arizona District Court (April 15, 2016))

Fathers & Daughters Nevada LLC v. Unknown Parties (Case No. 1:16-cv-00362, Michigan Western District Court (April 8, 2016))

Fathers and Daughters Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-13 (Case No. 2:16-cv-10948, Michigan Eastern District Court (March 16, 2016))

Fathers And Daughters Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-26 (Case No. 1:16-cv-02452, Illinois Northern District Court (Feb. 22, 2016))

Fathers and Daughters Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-32 (Case No. 1:16-cv-02453, Illinois Northern District Court (Feb. 22, 2016))

Fathers and Daughters Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-17 (Case No. 1:16-cv-02456, Illinois Northern District Court (Feb. 22, 2016))

Fathers And Daughters Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-21 (Case No. 1:16-cv-02450, Illinois Northern District Court (Feb. 22, 2016))

Fathers and Daughters Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-15 (Case No. 2:16-cv-10371, Michigan Eastern District Court (Feb. 2, 2016))

Fathers and Daughters Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-15 (Case No. 2:16-cv-10372, Michigan Eastern District Court (Feb. 2, 2016))

Fathers & Daughters Nevada, LLC v Does 1 Through 12 (Case No. 1:16-cv-00187, Hawaii District Court (April 22, 2016))

Fathers and Daughters Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-13 (Case No. 4:16-cv-10948, Michigan Eastern District Court (March 16, 2016))

Fathers and Daughters Nevada LLC v. Unknown Parties (Case No. 2:16-cv-00406, Arizona District Court (Feb. 12, 2016))

Fathers and Daughters Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-14 (Case No. 4:16-cv-10939, Michigan Eastern District Court (March 15, 2016))

Fathers & Daughters Nevada, LLC v. John Does 1-7 (Case No. 1:16-cv-01318, Colorado District Court (June 1, 2016))

Fathers and Daughters Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-14 (Case No. 2:16-cv-10939, Michigan Eastern District Court (March 15, 2016))

Fathers and Daughters Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-14 (Case No. 4:16-cv-10751, Michigan Eastern District Court (March 3, 2016))

Fathers and Daughters Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-18 (Case No. 4:16-cv-10785, Michigan Eastern District Court (March 4, 2016))

Fathers and Daughters Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-13 (Case No. 4:16-cv-10654, Michigan Eastern District Court (Feb. 23, 2016))

Fathers and Daughters Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-11 (Case No. 2:16-cv-10910, Michigan Eastern District Court (March 14, 2016))

Fathers & Daughters Nevada, LLC v. John Does 1-15 (Case No. 1:16-cv-00560, Colorado District Court (March 8, 2016))

Fathers & Daughters Nevada, LLC v. Doe 1 et al (Case No. 1:16-cv-00670, Colorado District Court (March 22, 2016))

Fathers and Daughters Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-11 (Case No. 4:16-cv-10910, Michigan Eastern District Court (March 14, 2016))

Fathers & Daughters Nevada, LLC v. Doe 1 et al (Case No. 1:16-cv-00747, Colorado District Court (March 31, 2016))

Fathers and Daughters Nevada, LLC v. Does (Case No. 1:16-cv-00278, New Mexico District Court (April 11, 2016))

Fathers and Daughters Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-15 (Case No. 4:16-cv-10372, Michigan Eastern District Court (Feb. 2, 2016))

Fathers & Daughters Nevada, LLC v. Doe 1 et al (Case No. 1:16-cv-00613, Colorado District Court (March 16, 2016))

Need more examples?


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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This is a follow-up article to the “What to do about the Siemens Product Lifecycle Management Software Inc. v. Does case (TX)” article I wrote last week.

I did a bit more digging into the Siemens Product Lifecycle Management Software Inc. v. Does 1-100 (Case No. 4:16-cv-01422) lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, and I learned more about their software, and more about where some of the John Doe defendants are coming from.  What I also learned was that this is not the first time they have sued defendants for copyright infringement.

The Siemens Product Lifecycle Management (“PLM”) software being sued over is known as the Siemens NX software.

According to Wikipedia, “NX, formerly known as NX Unigraphics or usually just UG, is an advanced high-end CAD/CAM/CAE software package originally developed by Unigraphics, but since 2007 by Siemens PLM Software… NX is a direct competitor to TopSolid, CATIA, Creo, Autodesk Inventor, and SolidWorks.”

The Pirate Bay shows 9 torrent files for “Siemens NX” software (below).

062016 Siemens PLM NX

Surprisingly, for version 9, there are only 3 seeders (uploaders).  For all others, there is only one seeder.  For a program that takes on average 1GB-5.7GB to download, a download like this could take forever to complete.

Looking at version 10 (the current stable release; version 11.2 is probably a fake), there is one seeder (uploader) and one leecher (downloader).  See attached.

062016 Siemens PLM NX 10

As dry as this post may be, the point is that my suspicions were correct — even though the bittorrent file provides a serial number (probably a valid, but likely an OLD registration code), and even though there is an “activator” which modifies or “cracks” the pirated file to allow the software to accept the old serial number [it likely does this by blocking the “authentication” feature when the software checks with the server to verify the registration key], the software looks to the user as if he has successfully registered the software.

However, through the CASUAL USE of the software, the activator software is likely not persistent, which means that after the software is registered using the old key, it restores the software’s executable (.exe) file to its original state.  Then, when using the software, it connects to Siemens’ servers for whatever purpose (to download an update, to check for new features, etc.), and this is how their copyright enforcement / IT department can identify the IP address of the individual using a pirated copy of the software.

In sum, what this means is that Robert Riddle and the Siemens copyright holder likely knows how long the software has been in use, and which IP addresses have been using an old or invalid serial number.  This will likely be a consideration when discussing the matter with the plaintiff attorneys on behalf of my clients.

What all this means for you — 1) June 22nd appears to be the date that Comcast will be ordered to hand over the names and addresses of the 100 accused John Doe defendants, so there is no anonymity and the John Doe defendants will be exposed to being named and served as defendants in the lawsuit. 2) If you have been using the software, they likely know more details than you would like as to what you have been doing with it.  3) Speak to an attorney (me, or anyone else) about what options you have to get out of this, whether you were the downloader, the purchaser (of a pirated copy of the software), or whether you have absolutely no idea why you have been implicated as being one of the John Doe defendants in this case.

 

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We already know that it is the business model of CEG-TEK and other copyright monetization companies is to develop relationships with the internet service providers (“ISPs”), and to have them forward copyright infringement / DMCA notices to their subscribers.

I have mentioned this already with regard to the relationships CEG-TEK has with Charter, CenturyLink, and Suddenlink, and as we know, COX Communications, Inc. signed on with CEG-TEK in December of 2015, and has been sending CEG-TEK’s DMCA violation notices to their users.  What we did not notice until now is that Cox Communications has become CEG-TEK’s “golden goose.”

WHY COX IS CEG-TEK’s “GOLDEN GOOSE”:

Why Cox? Because Cox provides its users the same IP address each day. This “one subscriber, one static IP address” trend provides copyright holders and government officials an “ID” of sorts which allows them to identify a particular IP address, watch the activities of that IP address over time as it interacts with different websites (e.g., to see what links that internet user clicks on, to learn where they shop online, what accounts they use, what items they purchase, and what bittorrent downloads they participate in).  Then, when they have developed enough of a profile on that user to convict, they then trace that IP address back to a certain Cox Communications account for prosecution, or in our case, extortion.

For CEG-TEK, they are focusing their efforts on Cox because by doing so, they do not need to obtain from the ISP a past list of IP addresses assigned to that user, and it is very easy for CEG-TEK to go back in time and check their own logs of the past bittorrent swarms to see whether that particular subscriber / IP address participated in any other downloads of their other clients. Some have suggested to me that CEG-TEK can do a search to see what other bittorrent downloads the accused Cox subscriber has participated in. In short, Cox’s “one subscriber, one static IP address” is nothing short of a violation of their subscriber’s privacy, and it is only a matter of time before someone’s IP address gets “followed” and someone gets hurt because Cox is not obscuring the identity of their subscribers.

BRIGHT HOUSE NETWORK IS NOW WORKING WITH CEG-TEK:

Other than Cox, I have recently learned that Bright House Networks (brighthouse.com) is now working with CEG-TEK. I do not yet know in what capacity they are working with CEG-TEK, or in what kind of relationship, but it appears as if they are a new ISP “recruit” in CEG-TEK’s “war” against piracy.

NEW CHARTER COMMUNICATIONS POLICIES AS TO HOW THEY FORWARD DMCA NOTIFICATIONS (THE GOOD AND THE BAD):

For the thousands of you who are Charter subscribers, Charter has recently changed the way they forward the DMCA notices, and this can only be good for subscribers. Instead of forwarding the notices in an e-mail, they are now asking subscribers to “log in” to their website, where only then can then view and copy for themselves a copy of CEG-TEK’s letters.

This is both very good, and bad. On the good side, any “hoops” an ISP makes a subscriber jump through to see the claim(s) against him might annoy the subscriber, but it no doubt infuriates the copyright holders and “monetization” companies (like CEG-TEK) that rely on them seeing their DMCA notices to provide their copyright holder clients their dirty money (I could have said “ill-gotten gains,” but emotionally, calling it “dirty money” seemed to fit better).

THE PROBLEM OF “LOST” DMCA NOTICES:

However, BUYER BEWARE! I have received many calls about people who have physically LOST their DMCA notice because they did not copy it down when they viewed it. And when they called me about it panicked, because I couldn’t see the claims because they did not know who was claiming copyright infringement against them, I couldn’t tell them whether the copyright holder was a “copyright troll” or not, or whether they are suing downloaders in the federal courts. So please, as soon as you access the DMCA violation notices sent to you, either download a copy of it for yourself, or copy-and-paste it into a text file.

GOOGLE FIBER IS A DISORGANIZED ISP WHICH HAS ALSO LOST DMCA NOTICES:

Google Fiber subscribers also — Google Fiber seems to not be organized as to keeping track of the DMCA notices that they are forwarding to their subscribers. So when an internet user inadvertently deletes that notice, it is gone forever. Neither I, nor anyone else can help you fight or settle (or even advise you as to your options) if you accidentally deleted the notice. I suspect that if you are reading this article, it may already be too late.

CANADA — NEW CANADIAN ISP RECRUITS:

Okay, last piece of news and then I need to get back to work. As we know, CEG-TEK has been sending letters for months to Canadians and forcing the ISPs to send these letters to their subscribers under what is known as “notice and notice.” I have written about the problem and the solutions here in my “CEG-TEK: What are your financial risks and considerations of ignoring, settling, or being sued for copyright infringement if you live in Canada or Australia?” article. The news is that just as CEG-TEK is growing their business by signing on new ISPs in the US, this is also true in Canada.

The new Canadian ISPs now working with CEG-TEK appear to be Videotron (a.k.a., Vidéotron), Bell Aliant (www.bellaliant.ca), and Eastlink (www.eastlink.ca) — this will also affect their FibreOP users under the ISP names NorthernTel, DMTS, Telebec (Télébec), and Cablevision. If anyone receives notices from these internet providers, I would like to see them, as I hear that CEG-TEK is not following the notice rules.

As for the older ISP names — Bell Canada, Rogers Cable, Shaw Communications (sjrb.ca), ACN Canada, Electronic Box Inc., TELUS Communications, Start Communications, and TekSavvy, yes, these are still in play. The only one of these that has my respect thus far is TekSavvy which has tried to protect their users by fighting back, but even so, they are still sending CEG-TEK’s DMCA violation / copyright infringement letters, so my respect is limited.


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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Obviously I am not privy to the contracts signed between CEG-TEK and the internet service providers (“ISPs”).

There are three possible relationships between a copyright enforcement company and the ISP through which they send DMCA letters informing subscribers that unless they settle the claims against them for downloads that allegedly occurred, they might be implicated in a copyright infringement lawsuit.

1) A RELATIONSHIP OF FORCE AND THREATS AGAINST THE ISP (where CEG-TEK threatens, and the ISP complies),

2) A RELATIONSHIP OF PROFIT FOR BOTH SIDES (where CEG-TEK pays, and the ISP cooperates), and

3) A RELATIONSHIP OF PURE MOTIVE (both CEG-TEK and the ISP hold hands and cooperate, to “fight piracy”).

SCENARIO 1) “A RELATIONSHIP OF FORCE AND THREATS AGAINST THE ISP” (where CEG-TEK threatens, and the ISP complies)

In the first scenario, a company or set of attorneys representing the copyright holders contacts the ISP and informs them that they might be in violation and subject to various lawsuits, fines, and penalties for not complying with the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”), and other statutes (in Canada, the ISPs are literally required to pass on claims to their customers, and this is referred to as “notice and notice”). If the ISPs do not comply, they could be sued for millions of dollars for encouraging piracy on their networks (I am speaking loosely in the vernacular).

ISPs across the US would be included in this first scenario, which explains how many of the bigger ones such as Comcast [who I understood were originally NOT working with CEG-TEK, because doing so would violate how they are supposed to act by being part of the “Six Strikes” system] started sending out abridged CEG-TEK infringement notices a few months ago, even to first time offenders.  Another such example of ISPs who “take steps” to stop infringement is Charter, which has been known to temporarily suspend their users who are accused of copyright infringement, but only with a pop-up notice that they need to click on to acknowledge the claim of copyright infringement against them before their internet service is resumed, unhindered.

NOTE: Comcast also has a strong profit motive as demonstrated in Scenario 2 (below), as does Charter, who has been known to be working with CEG-TEK since the beginning of their operation.  We believe the relationship between Charter and CEG-TEK is one of “for mutual profit” (Scenario 2) because CEG-TEK has obtained information about accused downloaders that they could only obtain with the help of the ISP.  Also, I understand that over the years, there have been periods of “tension,” (as I called them) where Charter has held back the sending of the CEG-TEK DMCA infringement notices for sometimes weeks at a time, only to send them all at once (my joke at the time was, “I guess they were waiting for their payment.”)  All jokes aside, the point here is to note both the Comcast example and the Charter example to show the actions an ISP will take to make it look as if they are “taking steps” to fight piracy.

In each of these scenarios, the ISP does the absolute minimum to comply with the claims against their customers, but what you don’t see is the “wink and a nod” from the ISP that they are likely not going to shut your account down or lose you as a customer over this (in other words, your activity violates the ISP’s terms of service “TOS” or “PUA”, but I have not been hearing of anyone’s account being shut down).

UNRELATED, BUT STILL VERY IMPORTANT: I have even heard that ISP customer service representatives actively tell their subscribers [in ignorance of the law] to just delete the infringing content and to ignore the notices.

FYI, look up “spoliation” of evidence, where the victories of the copyright holders in the US against downloaders happen where the copyright holder can prove that the accused defendant wiped his hard drive or deleted the infringing content after being notified by the copyright holder that there was a claim of copyright infringement against the subscriber. Thus, take what the ISP customer service representative says with a grain of salt because even though they might not care that the download happened on their network, there is still the law and the claims against you, and your ISP’s customer service rep is in no position to be giving you legal advice. Better to deal with or resolve the CEG-TEK claim against you first (if you were going to settle) before wiping the hard drive in fear of having other claims of copyright infringement or lawsuits filed against you (e.g., by other copyright holders such as Malibu Media, LLC, etc.) in the near future.

NOTE: Your relationship with your ISP has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO with your relationship with the copyright holder (or CEG-TEK) or the claims against you, since the copyright holder(s) still have one or more claims of copyright infringement against you.

SCENARIO 2) “A RELATIONSHIP OF PROFIT FOR BOTH SIDES” (where CEG-TEK pays, and the ISP cooperates)

In this scenario, the understanding is that CEG-TEK is actively paying the ISP for providing their DMCA infringement notices to their subscribers. While I did not initially believe this was happening in Canada (although I did have my suspicions), as of this morning, I now believe that Shaw Communications Inc. (a.k.a. Shaw Cablesystems G.P., or “sjrb.ca”) is working with CEG-TEK in a “for profit” relationship. I obviously cannot prove this, but from what I understand is about to happen with their subscribers [who will shortly be receiving multiple letters of infringement sent to them at the same time], this type of “delay, then dump a bunch of infringement claims” experience usually happens in a “for profit” relationship when the ISP is being compensated for the time they spend complying with the copyright infringement requests, and the payment is not immediately made.

Two examples demonstrating the “for profit” motive of various ISPs in the U.S. with facts (in these two cases, the “for profit” motive was forced upon CEG-TEK to their frustration) can be seen in the past behaviors of both Comcast and AT&T. A few years back, to handle the increasing number of subpoena requests (at the time, as a result of John Steele / Prenda Law Inc. lawsuits and the increasing number of bittorrent lawsuits being filed across the U.S.), Comcast opened up a “subpoena compliance” department in Morristown, NJ and staffed [at the time] twelve new hires just to handle the new subpoena demands from the lawsuits. In the lawsuit filings, when the copyright holders and their attorneys learned that Comcast was trying to profit off of the bittorrent lawsuits, they complained to the judges that Comcast was stalling on the subpoenas (Comcast was, at the time, under a duty to comply with the many subpoenas that were being requested of them).  It came out that Comcast was asking for something like $25-$50 per IP address lookup, when they were supposed to be complying with the subpoena for free.  Comcast prevailed in getting their IP address lookup fees, which I understand they continue to charge, even though other ISPs still do this for free.

Similarly, for those who know anything about Ira Siegel — the name that shows up on the bottom of every single CEG-TEK DMCA notice — there was a point where Ira absolutely refused to work with AT&T because AT&T’s subpoena department would charge $200 per subpoena request or IP address lookup, something at the time I heard that he found infuriating. Thus, you’ll notice that even today, you’ll never find a recipient of a CEG-TEK violation notice being a subscriber to AT&T, but as you can see, there *is* a profit motive of the ISPs to benefit financially from the growing influx of copyright infringement claims against their subscribers.

NOTE: I understand that the relationship between Charter, Centurylink, Suddenlink, Cox, sometimes Comcast, [and now most recently in Canada, Shaw Communications] fall under this scenario. The reason I am of this understanding is because of the advanced information CEG-TEK is able to identify about that subscriber, sometimes including the subscriber’s name (I have my own understanding as to how they get this from the geolocation), the geolocation itself of where the downloads occurred, along with other “past downloads” that allegedly happened weeks or months in the past at that same location, or by that same subscriber (based on a list of old “IP addresses” provided to CEG-TEK so they they can correlate that list against their own bittorrent records).

SCENARIO 3) “A RELATIONSHIP OF PURE MOTIVE” (both CEG-TEK and the ISP hold hands and cooperate, to “fight piracy”)

This is the “kum baya” view of piracy, where CEG-TEK approaches the ISP and tells them that they want to fight piracy. They show statistics of how when other ISPs “joined forces” with them and started sending out the DMCA violation settlement letters, piracy dropped significantly on that ISP’s network.

The ISP then sees this information and also agrees to “sign on” with CEG-TEK to help them forward their settlement demand letters to their subscribers with the hopes of diminishing the amount of “piracy” of copyrighted content that occurs on their networks.

NOTE: In this last scenario, you won’t find a profit motive by the ISP, and this is where I believe they get colleges and universities to sign on with them to fight piracy on their networks.

MY PERSONAL OPINION AND BIAS: Whatever the relationship or the scenario between CEG-TEK and the ISP, in the end, the subscriber is the one who suffers because it is THEY who receive the “settle or else my client will sue you as a John Doe Defendant in a U.S. federal court lawsuit for copyright infringement” letter.  Call it “speculative invoicing,” call it “Intellectual Property Monetization,” call it “fighting piracy,” when it is the individual downloader the copyright holder goes after, it is still WRONG.

To CEG-TEK’s merit, I have personally been in conversations with CEG-TEK where they were excited that piracy was actually going down on a particular ISP’s network — so apparently they do believe in what they do — but then again, whatever I feel about piracy and how the copyright laws should be changed to match today’s internet generation, in the end, it is the college students, their parents and landlords, the young graduates who are trying to find jobs, and those who are lured in by the adult content which is so addicting, widely available, and prevalent on the internet who fall prey to the tactics of the copyright holders.  For this reason, I still believe that the copyright holders should focus their efforts on pursuing those SELLING FOR PROFIT, DISPLAYING PUBLICLY WITHOUT A LICENSE, POSTING OR INITIALLY SHARING copyrighted content, but leaving alone those internet users who have no profit motive, who click on a link to view the copyrighted content.  

Back to my policy letter, I believe that it is the job of the copyright holders to police their own copyrighted materials, and not to attack, sue, extort, threaten, or pressure those who view or download content already aired on TV or in a public forum and posted on the internet.  The internet today has become like the TV and the Betamax of yesteryear.  Media becomes available, and people watch that media, whether the source is legitimate or not (think, Youtube).  TV shows are recorded, and are posted on many websites, some of them are licensed to share that content (e.g., Netflix, Hulu, ABC.com, etc.), some unlawfully do so without a license.  However, it is not the job of the internet user to inquire as to whether a source for a video is legitimate, especially when watching a show that was publicly aired just a few days beforehand.

The last thing that I want to do is to think twice when clicking on a YouTube video.  Taken to extremes, this is where the copyright holder’s activities go.


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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BACKGROUND: Malibu Media, LLC is a copyright holder who has sued internet users for the download of their adult films under the “X-Art” brand name. In the lawsuits they file, they may sue for the download of one title (asking $150,000 statutory damages for that one title), but then they claim in an addendum that the defendant also downloaded multiple “copyrighted” titles, listing a bunch of other videos that were also downloaded.

When settling claims against that defendant, Malibu attorneys ask for settlement FOR EACH AND EVERY ONE OF THOSE ACCUSED DOWNLOADS (and not for just the one title claimed in the lawsuit). So instead of asking for a settlement of $1,000 for one title, they will ask for a settlement of $35,000 for 35 titles allegedly downloaded.

The problem is that of the 35 titles allegedly downloaded, many of them weren’t copyrighted at the time the download took place. Malibu Media, LLC gets around this requirement by stating that since the copyrighted adult film was “published” on their website, thus they have three-months to file the copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office in order to get copyright rights in that video.

Thus, Malibu Media is claiming copyright protection for videos that were not copyrighted at the time they were downloaded. Their logic is that their file was deserving of copyright protection retroactively, BEFORE THEY FILED FOR A COPYRIGHT WITH THE U.S. COPYRIGHT OFFICE, because the video was properly “published” on their website (plain meaning of the word is “posted” on their site), and filed with the copyright office within the three-month statutory period.

Not relevant to this discussion (but equally interesting) is the fact that the file somehow “leaks” from their website onto the bittorrent networks to be downloaded by the internet users who then download large .zip or .rar files containing sometimes 100+ Malibu Media videos (or one .torrent file containing multiple video files).  These internet users are then sued in the federal courts for copyright infringement in what are known as the “Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe” lawsuits.

NEW MATERIAL (THIS IS THE ACTUAL ARTICLE):
Malibu Media, LLC has formed a habit of suing defendants for downloads that appear on the bittorrent networks literally a day or so after they are supposedly “published” on their website. The videos themselves are not copyrighted often for another three-months.

When questioned about this tactic, they claim that their activities are legitimate because U.S. copyright law gives a content creator up to three months after “publication” to file their copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office. They are correct about this three-month rule.

The scam is that Malibu Media, LLC is basing their “right” to solicit settlements for MANY videos because they “PUBLISHED” each video [according to the plain definition of the word] on their website before it was downloaded by the John Doe defendant.  Thus, they claim that their copyright rights existed in each of the videos at the time the videos were downloaded, even though 1) the downloader couldn’t find the video as being copyrighted when searching the US Copyright Office’s copyright registry, and 2) even though the copyright was not yet filed for when the download took place.  Thus, they can ask for settlements for each and every video because they all were deserving of copyright protection retroactively at the time the downloads happened BECAUSE that video was “published” prior to being downloaded.

However, I am convinced that their stated “publication” is really no publication at all. It’s a scam to make the accused downloader think that Malibu Media, LLC has copyright rights over ALL of the videos they claim in their “list” of infringed videos, including even those videos that were “published” just a day or so before they appeared on the bittorrent websites.

Why do I think that Malibu Media is faking the “publication” requirement in their lawsuits? Because according to the statutory definition of “Publication,” posting a new porn video onto their website is more of a “public performance,” and that does not satisfy the requirement for “publication.” (see, 17 U.S. Code § 101 – Definitions).

Here is the text of the statute:

“Publication” is the distribution of copies or phonorecords of a work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending. The offering to distribute copies or phonorecords to a group of persons for purposes of further distribution, public performance, or public display, constitutes publication. A public performance or display of a work does not of itself constitute publication.

 

Remember, in law, words do not always mean what they do according to the plain meaning of the word.  Tongue-in-cheek, stating, “I did not sleep with that woman” might be telling the literal truth, even if you had sexual intercourse with her.  The understanding to pull from this example is that the legal definition of “sleep” might be very different from the plain meaning of the term.

In the context of the Malibu Media, LLC lawsuits, it is not enough for a lawyer to look up the definition of “Publication” (defined above) in the statute and decide according to the plain meaning of the written definition whether publication is or is not taking place.  (By the way, looking up the definition of a word is a very good start, and is something that is often NOT done!  But the investigation of “the law” should not end there.)

To properly explain the term in the context of bitttorrent lawsuits, the terms “publication,” “to the public,” “distribution,” “public performance,” “public display,” etc. also have to be defined within their context.  How?  In addition to the plain meaning of the term, each term in the legal world has specific LEGAL DEFINITIONS which change as case law interprets them in the context of various situations (and if there is no case law, it is the job of the lawyer to carve out that changed definition for each particular context where justice sees it fit to do so).  These definitions can often be different, or even opposite to the plain meaning of the term.  Again, the “legal definition” of a term is often not the same as the “plain meaning” of that same term.

In sum, I suspect that there is a legal argument that “publication” is not actually happening with the Malibu Media, LLC lawsuits (even moreso if they are found to be leaking their videos onto the bittorrent networks prior to their release, as is described in Sophisticated Jane Doe’s article, reblogged below). While I have not hashed this out yet completely, I have been working on this theory for some time now, and I believe it may be a viable argument. However, for those attorneys who troll this blog and will immediately jump on me saying “of course it is published,” step out of your box containing only plain meaning definitions, and come over to my side of the room. The view is a bit better here.

I am merely mentioning this issue as food for thought. Anyone who wants to contribute to this legal argument, I’m more than willing to hash this out. And of course, read SJD’s article because it demonstrates the publication issue very nicely.


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.

Fight © Trolls

It was proven beyond any doubt that Prenda seeded their smut on Bittorent to entrap hapless file-sharers. Given the striking similarities between Prenda and Guardley-driven copyright shakedown outfits, including Lipscomb/X-Art/Malibu Media, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to believe that the Karlsruhe-Miami-Malibu cartel’s hands are not so clean in this respect either. Indeed, numerous defense attorneys asserted that Malibu either seeds their porn itself, or someone does it with its blessing. Even Jordan Rushie, before he started doing errands for Lipscomb, suggested that

When considering litigating the “swarm theory,” Malibu was faced with the prospect of dozens of defendants, joined in their common defense against the plaintiff, with an initial seeder who very well may have had a license to publish the works to BitTorrent or elsewhere. [FN: Malibu’s investigation company, IPP, Ltd., was previously called Guardaley, Ltd. While it had that name, it was accused of being the seeder for swarms…

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2/8 UPDATE: This post was written as a “rant” against volume-based “settlement factory” attorneys because of the damage they cause to other accused defendants (by feeding them false information, causing increased settlement prices, etc.).  This afternoon, Ernesto from Torrentfreak wrote an article entitled, “BEWARE: PIRACY DEFENSE LAWYERS CAN BE “TROLLS” TOO.”  Because my article (below) was a “stream of thought” article (and because I am still emotional about the problem), as chock full of information this posting might be, his article better describes the issue.  -Rob

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.

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