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Archive for the ‘Issues’ Category

Let’s take this one step deeper, and delve into the 100 most recent cases filed in October, because these are the Malibu Media, LLC cases most relevant to people now (the July-August batch of cases have likely been disposed of by now).

Of the 109 cases, roughly EIGHTY of them were filed in the California Northern District Court, and EACH AND EVERY CALIFORNIA CASE was assigned to Judge William Alsup (going back to even 2011, I referred to him as ‘Judge Rocket Docket’ by the way he handles and disposes of cases). In my humble opinion, it appears to me as if Malibu Media here stepped in the mud.

Here are a list of the cases. I’ll write my opinion about them in just a moment.:

80 CASES FILED IN 10/2016 IN THE CA NORTHERN DISTRICT COURT (CAND) — [I’m not formatting these.  Just note the filing dates.]
Malibu Media LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05741) Oct 06, 2016
Malibu Media LLC v. Doe (Case No. 4:16-cv-05742) Oct 06, 2016
Malibu Media LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05742) Oct 06, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05737) Oct 06, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05738) Oct 06, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 5:16-cv-05741) Oct 06, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05739) Oct 06, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 4:16-cv-05735) Oct 06, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05735) Oct 06, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 5:16-cv-05743) Oct 06
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05743) Oct 06
Malibu Media LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05825) Oct 09, 2016
Malibu Media LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05829) Oct 09, 2016
Malibu Media LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05827) Oct 09, 2016
Malibu Media LLC v. Doe (Case No. 4:16-cv-05828) Oct 09, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 5:16-cv-05826) Oct 09, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 5:16-cv-05829) Oct 09, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05826) Oct 09, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05828) Oct 09, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 5:16-cv-05824) Oct 09
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05824) Oct 09
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05823) Oct 09
Malibu Media LLC v. Doe (Case No. 4:16-cv-05850) Oct 11, 2016
Malibu Media LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05845) Oct 11, 2016
Malibu Media LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05848) Oct 11, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05847) Oct 11, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 4:16-cv-05845) Oct 11, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05849) Oct 11, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 4:16-cv-05848) Oct 11, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05850) Oct 11, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 4:16-cv-05849) Oct 11, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 5:16-cv-05855) Oct 11, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05855) Oct 11, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05843) Oct 11
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 4:16-cv-05843) Oct 11
Malibu Media LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05925) Oct 13, 2016
Malibu Media LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05926) Oct 13, 2016
Malibu Media LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05920) Oct 13, 2016
Malibu Media LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05927) Oct 13, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05921) Oct 13, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05922) Oct 13, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05923) Oct 13
Malibu Media LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05974) Oct 17, 2016
Malibu Media LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05976) Oct 17, 2016
Malibu Media LLC v. Doe (Case No. 5:16-cv-05975) Oct 17, 2016
Malibu Media LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05975) Oct 17, 2016
Malibu Media LLC v. Doe (Case No. 4:16-cv-05977) Oct 17, 2016
Malibu Media LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05977) Oct 17, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05970) Oct 17, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05972) Oct 17, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05973) Oct 17, 2016
Malibu Media LLC v. Doe (Case No. 4:16-cv-06108) Oct 23, 2016
Malibu Media LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-06110) Oct 23, 2016
Malibu Media LLC v. Doe (Case No. 4:16-cv-06109) Oct 23, 2016
Malibu Media LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-06111) Oct 23, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-06106) Oct 23, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 5:16-cv-06110) Oct 23, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 5:16-cv-06111) Oct 23, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-06107) Oct 23, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-06108) Oct 23, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-06112) Oct 23, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-06109) Oct 23, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 4:16-cv-06107) Oct 23, 2016
Malibu Media LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-06160) Oct 25, 2016
Malibu Media LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-06146) Oct 25, 2016
Malibu Media LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-06147) Oct 25, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 5:16-cv-06160) Oct 25, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-06155) Oct 25, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-06141) Oct 25, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-06144) Oct 25
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-06143) Oct 25
Malibu Media LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-06241) Oct 28, 2016
Malibu Media LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-06242) Oct 28, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-06245) Oct 28, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-06239) Oct 28, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-06247) Oct 28, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-06240) Oct 28, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-06249) Oct 28, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-06243) Oct 28

My first impression when reviewing these cases was… why did they file them in batches of 10-13 cases or less?  Were they trying to ‘play’ the case distribution game in order to make sure the cases were equally distributed between all of the California Northern District federal judges?  Because this backfired on them.  Judge Alsup has all of their California cases.

I actually smiled when I saw that each of the cases are now assigned to Judge Alsup, because he has been known to question Malibu Media’s tactics. Let me say this more clearly — Judge Alsup knows exactly who Malibu Media, LLC is, what kind of copyright trolls they are, and he makes no secret about it. He is even on the record in casting doubt on the reliability and the accuracy of the geolocation data that Malibu Media uses to file their lawsuits.

Most recently, on December 1st (see, Case No. 3:16-cv-05738 (Document 8)), Judge Aslup denied 53 requests by Malibu Media to send letters to the ISPs ordering them to turn over the identity of the accused internet users, which means that 53 of the 80 California ‘John Doe’ defendants in these cases (maybe more by now) will be shielded from Malibu Media, LLC’s copyright infringement lawsuits and tactics.

IN SUM, BECAUSE JUDGE ALSUP DENIED MALIBU MEDIA LLC’S MOTION FOR EXPEDITED DISCOVERY, MALIBU MEDIA LLC WILL NOT BE PERMITTED TO SEND SUBPOENAS TO THE ISPs ORDERING THEM TO HAND OVER THE CONTACT INFORMATION FOR THESE DEFENDANTS.

I have not checked whether anything has happened since 12/8, but in short, if you live in California, Malibu Media is not doing so well.

Sources and Kudos to:
Fight Copyright Trolls, “Judge Alsup questions accuracy of Malibu Media’s geolocation technology, stays subpoena” on 6/20/2016, updated on 12/6/2016.

Fight Copyright Trolls, ““Malibu Media’s geolocation accuracy: more scrutiny” on 6/21/2016.

Techdirt, “Judge Calls Out Malibu Media For Its Attempt To Cut And Run When Faced With Challenge To Its Infringement Claims” on 6/27/2016.


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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As an attorney, unfortunately there is often information that I need to be tight-lipped about when discussing a case or a particular copyright holder. Malibu Media, LLC and their implosion with Keith Lipscomb (who ran each of their thousands of lawsuits filed across the US) was one such example, but not for the reasons you might consider.

This summer, I sat back and watched what was once one of the biggest copyright trolls and their scheme implode as the relationship between the attorney hired to represent their cases across the US (Keith Lipscomb) and Malibu Media, LLC crumbled. Regardless of the screams of autonomy each local counsel hired by Lipscomb claimed in the courts, it was still plain and obvious to me that Lipscomb was running each of the thousands of lawsuits filed against single “John Doe” defendants (not only because the filings were identical, and the court documents allegedly filed by different attorneys had the same spelling errors in each filing, but because every settlement payment — regardless of which local counsel was allegedly in charge of the lawsuit — went to Lipscomb’s Florida office).

Recognizing that there is ‘no honor among thieves‘, I laughed when I learned that Malibu Media sued Lipscomb for not paying them the settlement monies him and his attorneys extorted from hundreds if not thousands of John Doe Defendants across the US, and… he appears to have kept the settlement monies for himself.

However, the reason I stayed quiet was because I knew of something going on internally at Copyright Enforcement Group (CEG-TEK), and I saw a possible reality where Keith Lipscomb got into negotiations with CEG-TEK, and he got them to agree to send DMCA letters to thousands of accused downloaders through their ISPs, but instead of asking for a $300 settlement for one copyrighted title allegedly downloaded, he would list each-and-every title from his X-Art.com siterips.

Instead of CEG-TEK sending a notice for each title allegedly downloaded, Keith would have them send one notice for the siterip [when accessed by clicking a link on a bittorrent website, and that bittorrent file wold contain possibly 100+ titles to be downloaded]. However, when that unsuspecting user logged into CEG-TEK’s copyrightsettlements.com website using the username and password provided in the DMCA notice, each-and-every title in the X-Art Malibu Media siterip would have appeared. Thus, a $300 per accused downloader settlement could have easily turned into a $30,000+ per accused downloader settlement ($300/title x 100+ titles in the siterip). This could have even been exacerbated if Lipscomb asked for higher per-title settlement amounts, as his attorneys are accustomed to negotiate with other attorneys in the $750-$500/title range.

In my opinion, a Lipscomb-Siegel/CEG-TEK marriage would have been a nightmare, and because at the time CEG-TEK was changing their business model and shifting how they send out letters and to whom (remember the Girls Gone Wild fiasco?), the timing was right for Lipscomb to reach out to them, and I was concerned that they would have accepted his plan.

[In passing, I want to note that CEG-TEK had a shake-up as well over the summer. They were changing their business model from sending DMCA notices and soliciting small $300 settlements for copyright infringement claims for just a few titles to sending notices only to “more egregious downloaders” which in turn would increase the per-person settlement amount paid to CEG-TEK on behalf of their clients. They also appear to have been changing their client base by transitioning away from little porn companies to more well-known copyright trolls (e.g., Millennium Films, LHF Productions, etc.) — copyright holders who threatened to sue downloaders (and in at least one circumstance did sue at least one client of mine in federal court.) The point is that they were changing their image from being a company who’s clients didn’t sue to a company who’s clients do sue. Lipscomb fit their former profile of bringing pornography copyright holders to the table, and he matched their new profile because he brings a strong proclivity to sue defendants who ignored the notices. Thus in a possible reality, I saw Lipscomb meeting with CEG-TEK, and I did everything I could behind the scenes to avert this reality.]

Now we are roughly six-months later, and I am happy to share that the marriage between Lipscomb and CEG-TEK never took place, and CEG-TEK is no longer in a place where they would accept Keith Lipscomb or the $10K/client+ settlement amounts he would have brought to the table.

For this reason, I am sharing the story of this nightmare which — even though the ‘stars aligned’ — never happened (and thankfully, will never happen).

…there is new news for Lipscomb’s former Malibu Media, LLC client. I will post about that next.


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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johnsteelearrested

We learned this morning that John Steele was arrested under 17 counts of mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering, and perjury. I have detailed the charges lower down in the article, and a link to the Star Tribune article can be found here (and sincere kudos to both DTD & SJD for breaking this story).  The link to the indictment itself can be found here.

For those of you who became readers more recently, one of the first prolific copyright trolls was John Steele, formerly from Steele Law Firm PLLC, then from Steele|Hansmeier, then most popularly, from #Prenda Law Inc. (that last name even earned itself a hashtag and a group of followers on Twitter).

John Steele hired many lawyers across the US who acted as his “local counsel” just as Keith Lipscomb later did on a larger scale with the Malibu Media, LLC [x-art.com] copyright holder. [As I’ve written before, I believe that Voltage Pictures, Inc. is doing the same thing in a manner which has not yet become public knowledge with their Dallas Buyers Club, Fathers & Daughters, September Productions, Cell Productions, and a number of other non-pornographic copyright infringement cases slowly making their way through the federal courts.]

The relevance here is that John Steele was the original kingpin, and TODAY HE WAS ARRESTED for the following:

COUNT #1) Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud and Wire Fraud (18 USC §1349) [using the U.S. mail to extort settlements from bittorrent defendants]

sh-clip1-mailfraud

COUNTS #2-6) Mail Fraud 18 USC §1341 [using the U.S. mail to send “scare letters” threatening to sue accused John Doe Defendants unless they settled the claims against them.]

sh-clip2-mailfraud
COUNTS #7-16) Wire Fraud 18 USC §1343 [using the internet to process settlement checks and upload torrent files containing porn which they would later track and sue defendants for the download thereof]

sh-clip3a-wirefraudsh-clip3b-wirefraud

COUNT #17) Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering (18 USC §1956(h)) [for the transfer of settlement funds received, knowing that those funds were proceeds from unlawful activity, and disguising the nature, source, ownership, and control of those proceeds.]

and,

COUNT #18) Conspiracy to Commit and Suborn Perjury (18 USC §371) [by scheming to conceal and disguise their involvement by providing false and misleading testimony and declarations, for example, and Mark Lutz (the paralegal) was really the CEO behind all of their activities, etc.]

In short, there is so much to say about this story which has been an evolving saga since 2010 (now six years and counting).  Many internet users were hurt by their activities, and the injustices that John Steele, the Hansmeier brothers, Mark Lutz, and the others more well known as “the Prenda gang” perpetrated on so many thousands of accused John Doe Defendants are still being copied by many copyright troll attorneys even today.

My personal opinion is that this arrest should be a warning sign to other copyright troll attorneys who are still filing lawsuits against John Doe defendants even today using the same tactics described here.  The scheme described in the indictment has not been stopped, and it continues (albeit in more hidden forms where attorneys go through such great lengths to make their outfit appear legitimate).  

My only message to the other copyright trolls perpetuating this scheme is not that “I’m watching,” or that “you’re being seen by the internet bloggers for what you are,” but that the U.S. Federal Government is watching.  

John Steele’s problems are not over.  There are still other departments likely analyzing their activities.  The one department that comes to mind is the Criminal Law Enforcement arm of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Other Links of interest relating to this topic:

DieTrollDie: John Steele & Paul Hansmeier (Steele|Hansmeier, AKA: Prenda Law) Arrested – December 2016
Fight Copyright Trolls: Steele and Hansmeier Have Been Indicted On Fraud, Money Laundering Charges
ArsTechnica: Prenda Law ‘copyright trolls’ Steele and Hansmeier arrested

…and likely many others to come.


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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Monday’s order against John Steele / Prenda Law Inc. / Steele|Hansmeier (no matter which of these entities hurt you through their “copyright trolling” activities) is nothing other than a wonderful victory for justice, and I thank and commend the lawyers involved in bringing justice to one of the worst sets of copyright infringement (bittorrent-based) cases I have seen in my law career.

My apologies for leaving attorneys out of this (as there were many who were involved in making this happen) and for my lack of recollection of the details, but immediate kudos goes to Paul Godfread who served John Steele while he got off of an elevator as soon as he realized that his client Alan Cooper (who did landscaping for Steele) had his identity stolen by Steele and his signature forged as the mastermind behind all of the bittorrent cases.

This was a common theme in Steele’s lawsuits — pick a patsy (whether it was Alan Cooper, Mark Lutz [his paralegal], or Paul Duffy [rest in peace]), elevate that patsy to be the “mastermind” behind all of the lawsuits, hire local counsel across the U.S. to file lawsuits, and run every lawsuit like the captain of the ship while being tied to none of the lawsuits for liability purposes.

The story goes much deeper and it involved many twists and turns, but bottom line, through the hard work of Paul Godfread, Morgan Pietz, Jason Sweet, Erin Russell, Steven Yuen, David Madden, and so many more attorneys that I cannot even remember, AND the almost daily blogging by bloggers such as Sophisticated Jane Doe (FightCopyrightTrolls.com) and DTD (DieTrollDie.com), none of this would have happened and these guys would still be suing hundreds of John Doe defendants at a time in their newest scheme (whether that be accusing defendants of violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (“CFAA”), or shaking down companies for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), etc.).

As a result of the judicious reporting of the Steele|Hansmeier / Prenda Law Inc. activities, their scheme has been halted, and the crew are being investigated by the FBI, and (I’ve heard, maybe even) by the IRS for tax evasion.  Paul Hansmeier (one of the Hansmeier brothers) has been disbarred, Steele (I believe) still has his law license (although I remember Steele withdrew from the practice of law himself before being disbarred), and Mark Lutz (the “paralegal” or the “mastermind,” depending on when you ask him) is “in the wind.”

Most importantly, as of Monday, the “Alan Cooper / Paul Godfried” case defending against Steele and Prenda Law Inc. (Case No. 1:13-cv-01569 in the ILND Court) [also known as “Prenda v. The Internet”] has been won.  Judge John Darrah (IL) awarded the defendants $162,448.74 in attorney fees and costs, $11,758.20 in sanctions, AND $500,000 in punitive damages (see Judge’s Order).

Now I am no longer sure whether Prenda Law Inc. has the assets to pay these fees (because if I remember correctly, as part of their scheme, they siphoned the $4-5 Million or so in settlement monies out of the law firm and into an offshore trust in Nevis.

My opinion is that justice is slow to act, and while this is a good result, it does not benefit any of the thousands and tens of thousands of defendants who had their lives destroyed and their savings decimated by these attorneys.  I still think that the justice system failed its people because judges got lazy for years and failed to stop the racket, even when they knew of their activities.  Even today as an outgrowth of the Prenda Law Inc. / Steele|Hansmeier empire, we find Malibu Media LLC lawsuits, Voltage Pictures lawsuits [including Dallas Buyers Club LLC, Fathers and Daughters Nevada LLC, Cell Productions, Criminal Productions Inc.], and too many other “copyright troll” lawsuits which are still rubber-stamped DAILY in the federal courts by judges who ARE AWARE and who WERE AWARE of the “mass bittorrent lawsuit / copyright trolling” problem when the cases initially were filed as early as 2010.

In short, on 5/6/2015, I wrote an article entitled,

No Orange Jumpsuits Predicted For Prenda Law Inc. Just sanctions.

I hate to see that it has been almost seven years since these cases started showing up (six years for team Prenda), and nobody has been jailed.  Judges have failed to guard the gates leading into their courtrooms.  Attorney Generals have sat on their hands and done nothing.  Lawmakers have done nothing.  Bar associations have done nothing.  Thus, I continue to defend these cases in whatever form they have changed into, but I too remain jaded.  This result is a good result, and the FBI/DOJ/IRS so-called investigations are nice to see (referring to SJD’s web logs of individuals visiting her blog), but I am not moved nor is my heart [on behalf of all those who have been affected by this] made whole by this ruling.

Okay, I didn’t expect to go here with the blog article, but in short, awarding $500,000 in damages against Prenda Law Inc. is one wonderful step in the right direction.  I just still want to see orange.

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There is a new problem that I am encountering where software developers are writing code in order to catch downloaders – not in the download of the software, but in the illegal USE of that software.  These software developers – with knowledge of the accused IP address of the so-called “pirates” are hiring attorneys to send out DMCA settlement demand letters, often requesting a hefty settlement for the piracy or use of that software without authorization.

Unlike the bittorrent cases that we have seen over the past six years — where an internet user would be caught downloading movies, music, or “scenes” using bittorrent or Popcorntime software (where the connection to other bittorrent users in a “bittorrent swarm” would reveal the IP address of the downloaders) — software developers are increasingly building in to their new software the capability to “phone home” to the developer. When the software “phones home,” it reports certain information to the software developer, including the IP address of users who are actively using the pirated software at that moment.

et

When a downloader accesses a “pirate” site (e.g., The Pirate Bay), and downloads a piece of software with a “crack,” that crack alters the software code, to allow it to be used in a “registered state” (e.g., cracked software will allow a user to enter a serial code to register the software whereas in an “uncracked” state, that serial code would be rejected.  Thus, the user sees a message such as “your serial code has been accepted.  Thank you for registering your software.) This “registered” state allows the downloader to actively use the software; however, it does not stop the software from phoning home.

Very often included in the cracked software package will be what is known as “a .NFO file,” (which is a text file, and “NFO” sounds like “info”) where the hacker, a.k.a. the “cracker,” will instruct the user to block the software from connecting to outside networks (often advising that the downloader use a software firewall, such as Comodo Firewall). Conventionally, the purpose of this instruction to the downloader is to avoid the common scenario where the software developer automatically updates the software to work around and invalidate any cracks which it discovers in the wild. As a result, the downloader would find that his once-registered software is no longer registered.

Some software developers who have become savvy to this trend will create a pop-up screen which alerts the downloader that his IP address has been flagged and gives him an opportunity to purchase the software at a discounted rate.  By using this method, the software developer attempts to turn a pirate into a paying customer in a manner that is both ethically and morally sound.  However, and pardon my jaded view of the matter, but people get greedy, and software developers get frustrated with the piracy of their software, and thus they often turn from good business judgment to using the law as a prickly weapon to sting those caught downloading their software.

And with this greed, here is the trend for which I wrote this article.  I am now seeing a trend that the software developers are contacting attorneys and asking those attorneys to use the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) rules to force the ISPs to send settlement demand letters to the internet users who are suspected of illegally using that software without a license.  However, instead of trying to turn that downloader into a paying customer, the software developer decides instead to gouge the internet downloaders into paying a bloated fee for a software license. In this scenario, this internet user receives a letter demanding that the user purchase the pirated software for an amazingly high amount of money, for example, $5,000-$20,000. If that internet user does not purchase the software as the letter demands, the threat of a copyright infringement lawsuit looms.

Now the first company you might think of when reading this article is the Siemens Product Lifecycle Management Software Inc. company, who is currently suing John Doe Defendants for the download and unlicensed use of the Siemens NX software.  However, in defense of their lawyers, the Siemens attorneys are simply trying to stop engineers and companies who are using their software in a commercial manner from profiting from the use of their software without a license.  They are not gouging (so far as I know), and my personal experience with their attorneys have been (so far) positive.

Thus, the focus of this article is on other software developers and copyright holders who have begun to mimic the Siemens model of suing (or here, sending DMCA settlement letters through the ISPs and threatening to sue) users, and attempting to force them to purchase an enterprise-level, multi-thousand-dollar software license or face a copyright infringement lawsuit in a Federal court, even if they have absolutely no legitimate use or benefit from “owning” that software.

To the internet user who receives such a letter requesting a settlement:  It is important to know that following the instructions of the software developer and purchasing a license (even an expensive one (e.g., a $5,000 license where the software itself costs only $150) does not protect you from being sued. Rather, your compliance may simply operate as an admission of guilt. Instead of simply following the instructions of the settlement demand letter, here is why it is advisable to STOP, THINK, RESEARCH THE TOPIC, and hire an attorney (me, or any other attorney competent in both copyright litigation and software licensing) to resolve the claim or claims against you.

First, the attorney that you hire will provide a legal “buffer” between you and the copyright holder’s attorney. Your attorney will be able to speak on your behalf without admitting guilt, whereas an accused defendant speaking alone to the copyright holder’s attorney might accidentally claim that they were only using the software to test the software (an act which according to the law would be copyright infringement, and would subject the internet user to statutory damages of $150,000 or more if there are multiple instances of infringement). Thus, an attorney can stop the copyright holder’s attorney from contacting you directly by putting them “on notice” (a legal term) that the attorney is representing you and, thus, all communications must go through the attorney.

Additionally, the attorney that you hire (knowledgeable in both copyright law and in software licensing) would be able to negotiate a settlement to allow you to purchase a license at a steep discount from the “gouging” amount that the copyright holder’s attorney was initially asking for in the settlement demand letter. Moreover, your attorney could obtain a release of liability, releasing you from all liability surrounding the unlicensed use and the unlicensed copying of the pirated software – something you would not be in a position to negotiate if you were handling the matter.

Similarly, [or in the alternative,] your attorney might negotiate a software license to allow you to pay for your “experimental” use of their software.

If you are a student, then it may be a good strategy to have your attorney negotiate in the settlement agreement to allow you to purchase that product at a student discount at your local college as your “settlement payment.”

 The above are all options that an experienced copyright/software development attorney (me, or anyone else) would be able and knowledgeable to negotiate on your behalf.  Your attorney would be able to oversee the payment of the licensing fee or the purchase of the actual software [for your own future legitimate use] and to obtain for you a written release of liability from the software copyright holder’s attorney, which means that following the conclusion of the settlement or the signing of the software license, you would never be sued for copyright infringement or any sort of piracy in a Federal court.

These are the benefits of hiring an attorney for your settlement demand letter issue rather than simply going out and paying whatever fine is requested of you.  Remember: Following the copyright holders instructions to pay them a fee or to purchase a piece of software after-the-fact (after the unlicensed activity or infringement occurred) will not provide you any protection.  Paying a settlement fee alone will not provide you with a settlement agreement or a release of liability.  Without a release of liability, you could still be sued in a federal court for copyright infringement, piracy, or any other relevant law relating to the unlicensed use, piracy, and possibly the cracking of software.

OTHER ARTICLES ON THE SIEMENS PLM SOFTWARE CASES:

How an attorney should handle a Siemens PLM Software, Inc. lawsuit, on 1/11/2017.

Siemens PLM NX-based lawsuits – converting accused engineers into loyal customers, on 1/9/2017.

Software Developers are now tracking piracy through the USE of downloaded software, on 9/9/2016.

Siemens Software Case IS a Bittorrent Case, on 6/20/2016.

What to do about the Siemens Product Lifecycle Management Software Inc. v. Does case (TX), on 1/16/2016.

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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Every pirate knows that the only way to block the copyright trolls from identifying their true IP addresses (and thus sending out DMCA copyright infringement notices, as outfits such as CEG-TEK have been known to do) is through the use of a Virtual Private Network (VPN) [, and not just any VPN, but a paid VPN provider which does not track their subscribers’ activities*].

In recent weeks, I have heard from various copyright trolls that bittorrent users are “winning the piracy war,” in that their activities have thwarted the copyright holders from learning who they are. Armed with what is becoming common knowledge of free software which can be configured to stream pirated content (e.g., Kodi, formerly XBMC), internet users who wish to “unplug” from the cable companies are able to do so in a way in which it becomes difficult if not next to impossible to be caught viewing streamed content**. Not only this, but many have even purchased Amazon Fire sticks which can be jailbroken to allow the Kodi software to be installed on it, and they are watching pirated videos from their HDTV without even needing a computer.***

But what is the effect of “winning the war” on those who are left behind and don’t realize that they need to use a VPN if they are going to bittorrent their favorite movie, software, or video game? This is the point of the article.

The unintended consequence of bittorrent users learning to use a VPN, or migrating away from bittorrent and towards free streaming services is that copyright holders [who for three years now have enjoyed easy settlement money] are realizing that there simply are not enough people to send DMCA / copyright infringement notices to in order to line their pockets with gold and dirty cash. As a result, it is my experience that they are becoming “less nice” and they are trying to make more money from fewer downloaders. Case-in-point: Girls Gone Wild DMCA notices used to ask for one $300 settlement for a whole page of 60+ videos, but now they are asking for tens of thousands of dollars for that same “click” of a bittorrent file.

I am also noticing that CEG-TEK is acting differently, perhaps in response to what has been described to me as a steep decline in numbers of “pirates” to whom they can send DMCA notices. In the past few weeks, it has been my experience that Copyright Enforcement Group (CEG-TEK) is now sending multiple notices out to the ISPs for the same download. In one case regarding their Girls Gone Wild client that I mentioned above, CEG-TEK sent literally over 1,000 notices to one ISP for the alleged download of one bittorrent file.

At first I thought this was a glitch in their computer system, but then it occurred to me that maybe CEG-TEK somehow benefits from keeping the numbers of DMCA notices sent to the ISPs artificially high. Is there any benefit to them to be doing this? I have been racking my brain on this topic and I still cannot come up with a reason.

Honestly, here is my concern. When an animal is backed against the wall, what does it do? It attacks. If indeed we are winning the bittorrent piracy war, I am concerned that CEG-TEK will begin taking on new clients who thrive on stacking their bittorrent files with hundreds of adult films. Those who are sophisticated will understand exactly who I am speaking about.  

They will then trap the unsuspecting bittorrent user who “clicks on a bittorrent file” in their spider web, and that user will receive hundreds of DMCA notices which will scare the b’jeebies out of him.  Then they will give in to the urging of their less-than-ethical client, and they will agree to start charging more than the $300 per title that they currently do (remember, at one point, CEG-TEK used to charge $200 per title, and then at what I understood to be the urging of their client, they raised the settlement amount to $300 per title).  So they are pliable, as we have seen in the past.

In the end, just as we saw hints of this with the recent Girls Gone Wild debacle, CEG-TEK will morph from a $300 per title copyright enforcement outfit (lamb) into a $3,500 per title shakedown outfit (wolf) where they base their settlement amounts on the client’s ability to pay rather than what they believe is a “fair” amount to compensate the copyright holders.

Last, but not least, I learned that CEG-TEK threatened an accused downloader with criminal prosecution this week. For those of you who know me, I have spent almost every day since 2010 working on copyright infringement cases. NEVER until last week have I seen a copyright holder threaten an accused internet user with criminal charges for a copyright infringement matter.

In sum, the times they are a changin’. If we are indeed winning the war, what will CEG-TEK turn into in order to survive?  And, what will their copyright holders (who for the most part have been docile and lazy these past few years) do when their easy income stream dries up?


CONTENT CUT FROM THE ARTICLE:

*[UNRELATED PERSONAL NOTE: I am a fan of such VPN providers not because they make piracy more difficult to detect, but because I believe strongly in a person’s right to be anonymous. The amount of snooping that happens with internet trackers, cookies, and newer methods literally sickens me, and I do not believe that advertising companies and ISPs should have so much knowledge about their customers. For this reason, I have nothing wrong with sharing for privacy purposes that examples of VPNs that you can rely on can be easily found by searching “torrentfreak secure vpn” on Google, or just by going to TorrentFreak’s website where they review VPN providers which take your anonymity seriously. Just be sure to have some mechanism in place that if the VPN connection goes down, even for a second, that your real IP isn’t exposed to whatever site you happen to be visiting, or to whatever server you happen to be connected to. This is called a “DNS leak,” and there are easy ways to configure your system to lock down the connection if or when the VPN goes down, even for a second.]

** NOTE: There is a popular software called PopcornTime which I am sad to share has given our firm many clients who have been caught downloading mainstream movies (e.g., The Dallas Buyers Club cases, Voltage Pictures’ Fathers & Daughters Nevada, LLC cases, and most recently, Millennium Film’s London Has Fallen (“LHF”) movie cases, etc.). Most recently, I have been seeing new CEG-TEK notices for Millennium Film’s “Criminal” movie which the copyright holders have already started suing in “Criminal Productions, Inc. v. John Doe” copyright infringement lawsuits . The reason for so many getting caught is that PopcornTime appears to be a software which allows you to stream video content, but it uses bittorrent as its back-end to download the movies.

*** NOTE: The Amazon Fire sticks which have Kodi installed in my opinion can still get you caught for copyright infringement. The reason for this is that they connect directly to the internet exposing your real IP address. Most people don’t realize that they need to also configure their ROUTER to connect to the internet through their paid VPN provider.


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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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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