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Archive for the ‘Arizona (AZ)’ Category

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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For those bittorrent users accused of copyright infringement in Arizona, there is a new rule which you can use in your defense.

Traditionally, in order to properly sue multiple bittorrent users together in one lawsuit, they need only to participate in the “same transaction or occurrence.”  In other words, they need to do the same “crime” at the same time.  Not so in California, and NOW, not so in Arizona.  [For the California citation, see Document 26 in the Hard Drive Productions, Inc. v. Does 1-188 (Case No. 3:11-cv-01566) case in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.]

In bittorrent language, when you connect to a bittorrent swarm and download copyrighted media, all of you participating in that bittorrent swarm would be sued together.  This is one of the most recent kinds of lawsuits by the more skilled plaintiff attorneys — instead of Plaintiff v. John Does 1-123 (or however many John Doe Defendants there are lumped together [and separated by the state in which they reside] in this lawsuit), smarter plaintiffs are suing participants of the swarm itself (e.g., Plaintiff v. Swarm of Nov. 3rd, 2011 [and participants thereof]).  No longer in in Arizona.

NEW RULE: Now in Arizona, in order to be sued with other John Doe Defendants, you must have either UPLOADED TO or DOWNLOADED FROM each one of the other defendants.  If not, the defendants are not properly joined and defendants can be severed and dismissed from the case for improper joinder.

TODAY in the Patrick Collins, Inc. v. John Does 1-54 (Case No. 2:11-cv-01602) case in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona, in U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow’s own words:

Plaintiff alleges that the two remaining Defendants “participat[ed] in the BitTorrent swarm with other infringers” but does not claim that John Doe 6 provided data to the former John Doe 12 or vice versa. (Doc. 26 ¶ 56). …

… Plaintiff alleges no facts that these two particular Defendants shared data with each other, and provides data instead that they were logged on to BitTorrent weeks apart. “The bare fact that a Doe clicked on a command to participate in the BitTorrent Protocol does not mean that they were part of the downloading by unknown hundreds or thousands of individuals across the country or across the world.” Hard Drive Prods., Inc. v. Does 1–188, 11 No. CV-11-01566, 2011 WL 3740473, at *13 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 23, 2011)

(emphasis added).

Personal Note: While this ruling is not immediately relevant if you do not live in Arizona, it is still good news because it indicates that judges are starting to understand how rules (here, the rules of “joinder”) apply in the bittorrent context.  No doubt, this order will be recognized and used in other cases in other jurisdictions as being persuasive as to how a judge should understand who can be sued together with whom.  Soon it will no longer be permitted for an enterprising plaintiff (e.g., “copyright troll”) to sue tens or hundreds of defendants in one lawsuit, lumping them together by the state in which they live (this lumping-together-by-state was the result of the dismissals last year over personal jurisdiction issues).  I look forward to other judges in other states soon to adopt this ruling.  It is a well thought-out understanding of the joinder issue.

I have pasted the link to the order below for your enjoyment.

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I’ve been bumping into more clients than ever who did not retain counsel and have now been “named” as a defendant in their bittorrent case (e.g., they were one of many John Doe Defendants, and now they have been served with paperwork and are now a defendant in their case).  The purpose of this post is to very explicitly state what you are up against at this point (this is for attorneys [unfamiliar with these cases] defending clients as well, as many of you also call me with the same questions as named defendants) and to give you your options.  Here are a few examples of named defendants:

Patrick Collins, Inc. v. John Doe 6, Ching Y., et al. (Arizona U.S. District Court; Case No. 2:11-cv-01602 [or 11-cv-1602]) (1/7/2012)

K-Beech, Inc. v. George H., Shana S., Richard S., Brian T., and Catherine V. (Arizona U.S. District Court; Case No. 2:11-cv-01604 [11-CV-1604]) (originally, K-Beech, Inc. v. John Does 1-54) (12/19/2011).

and K-Beech Inc. v. Derek L.K-Beech Inc. v. Paul F.K-Beech Inc. v. Carl P.; K-Beech Inc. v. Cesar V.; K-Beech Inc. v. Joseph G.; K-Beech Inc. v. Scott S.; K-Beech Inc. v. Hanna B., etc. (each in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania)

In short, my opinion thus far has been that these so-called lawsuits each are pieces of one larger “extortion scheme” where the plaintiff attorneys have acquired your name and contact information (whether through early discovery in a federal court, or a lawsuit in a state court such as Miami Dade, FL, Maricopa County, AZ, or even St. Clair County, IL).  Then they called you and sent you what I described as “scare” letters telling you that if you did not settle by a certain date, they would name you as a defendant (either individually or as a smaller group of Does) in your home state’s federal court.  For whatever reason, you did not hire an attorney and you became what I referred to as “low hanging fruit,” meaning that you became an easy target because by not hiring an attorney, you told them that you are not taking their case seriously and that you probably did not educate yourself about what they could do to you.

Not realizing that the plaintiff attorneys are using the courts and the legal system to further their extortion scheme, you did not realize that these so-called “copyright trolls” could actually follow-up and “name” you as a defendant in your lawsuit.  As far as I’m concerned, it costs them essentially nothing to do this.  They have already sued you as a “Doe” Defendant, and by doing this they have already paid the filing fee.  The complaints are all essentially copies of one another so the paperwork is already written (and if there is a no-name local attorney involved, he has probably been given templates by the Lipscomb & Eisenberg, Prenda Law Inc., or other firm behind the scenes (e.g., if it is a Patrick Collins, Inc. or K-Beech, Inc. case), so naming a defendant is a piece of cake.  The hard part of finding a local attorney in many cases has already been done, and so it is just a matter of “naming” you as a defendant in the lawsuit.  Even Dunlap Grubb & Weaver, PLLC (parading as Media Law Group) has started to hire local counsel and sue dismissed defendants from their many cases from last year.

Many people have asked me whether at this point they can “hide” from the process server so that they are not properly “served.”  Many have also told me “I don’t live at that address anymore,” “I’ve since moved so they’ll never find me,” or “my ISP doesn’t have my correct [NAME SPELLING/ADDRESS/PHONE NUMBER/E-MAIL {pick one}].”  My answer to each one of these is to point out that you are not fighting a traffic ticket… This is a copyright infringement lawsuit in federal court. Whether or not you are guilty, these cases have the ability to broke you (and to potentially seize your assets and force you into bankruptcy).  It borderline offends me when people stick to their “I’m not guilty, they can’t do anything to me” viewpoint because this is simply not true.  The so-called copyright trolls have the power and force of the law to haul you into court and force you to spend tens of thousands of dollars to defend yourself or face a default judgement (essentially a finding of “guilty” because you did not timely file an answer once you were named).

If you are named as a defendant and you avoid service of process (“being served”), there are other ways to serve you.  Depending on the jurisdiction, they can post a notice at your last known address, they can publish a notice in the newspaper… the judge may even allow them to serve you by sending an e-mail to your last known e-mail address.  Don’t think that you are the first person to attempt to outsmart the legal system.  People have tried all these before (and some have even fled the country), and this is why every attorney now learns about the ins and outs of service of process in their first year of law school.

So once you are named as a defendant, depending on your circumstances, the general rule is that you have twenty (20) days to file an answer in federal court.  An “answer” essentially is a denial of their claims, along with all your counterclaims and defenses (remember, if you don’t plead it in your answer, you lose the ability to argue it later).  Fail to file your answer in time and you’ve already lost your case and will be facing a default judgement.  On this note, NEVER rely on a default judgement being $750 plus attorney fees & costs.  I know you have seen those few judgments (e.g., DC’s Call of the Wild Movie, LLC v. Does case) where named defendants didn’t respond and they only got hit with the minimum $750 statutory judgement (but then again, Judge Alsup in N.D. California hit two defendants with $30,000 default judgments each for not filing an answer).  Judgements can be $750, $30,000, $150,000, and based on the sole discretion of the judge, any number in between.  I would never risk my financial future on hoping a judge had a good day.  In short, if you are named and served, you must file an answer with the court.

This is the point where many defendants are when they  contact me.  They believe that they will “fight the good fight” and they will “take these f^%@&!! to court!”  What they don’t realize is that lawsuits cost money and time to fight, and that suddenly it becomes my job to manage their expectations and to explain to them that depositions take time.  Drafting and filing documents take time.  Hearings take time.  And do defendants want a barebones defense? or do they want me to give the plaintiffs hell as well?  This takes more time.  We CAN depose them, take interrogetories, and I’ve always said that with one winning case, we can bring down their whole extortion scheme.  But this all takes…time.  And time costs you money.  So be smart before you declare war on those who have sued you.  There are smarter ways to handle these cases, and so make sure your attorney knows your particular copyright troll, their capabilities, where they will crack, and where they will give in before you decide to step into the courtroom.

Now that you are named (and it took SEVEN PARAGRAPHS to get to this point), realize that your power of negotiating a settlement is severely limited at this point because the plaintiff attorneys have ABSOLUTELY NO REASON TO ACCEPT A SETTLEMENT AT THIS POINT.  I expect they are hoping that you do not hire an attorney and that you try to do this on your own, because if you mess up, they’ve just created a valid judgement against you which they can have the court enforce against you.  Now if you have retained counsel, maybe they *would* decide to settle because as you’re about to see, we’re about to cost them a lot of money.

After we file the answer on your behalf, because their so-called evidence is insufficient to prove that you (and not someone else in your household, or someone using your internet connection living within a 3/4 mile radius [depending on the strength of your router]) downloaded their client’s copyrighted video(s), they will need to hire a digital forensics expert. This is a costly step for them – you do not pay a penny for this — so that they can make a mirror image of your computer(s)’ hard drives and go through them with the equivalent of a microscope to see whether they can find a hint of the file(s) you are accused of downloading.

Assuming they do not find anything incriminating, they will pull you in for a deposition under oath where they will ask you many hours of questions (with me at your side; again, think time) about your bittorrent use, your internet habits and activity, your schedule on the date of the alleged infringement, and anything else they need to establish that it was more likely than not you who did the download.

Again, assuming you are not guilty and assuming you did not say anything incriminating in your deposition, we would likely file for what is known as a summary judgement, essentially telling the judge, “Judge, they looked at my client’s computer(s). They questioned my client. They did not find anything and they have no evidence to move forward. Please dismiss.” Assuming we win, we will ask the court for attorney fees and costs to reimburse you for everything you have paid me. However, remember again, you just spent six months of your life fighting this. Had you contacted me before you were swept into this path of litigation, we could have avoided having you go through this in the first place.

Remember, as much as each of these steps will take time to fight on your behalf (and I’m happy to do this for each one of you), I always tell people that it is important to be practical and smart.  Your plaintiff attorneys are looking at this like a business, and so should you.  I have no doubt they want to spend as little as possible to make the most amount of money from you that they can collect.  As giddy as they may be from getting a $150,000 judgement from you if they took you to trial, chances are they will never see a penny of it.  I have no doubt this is why not one of these bittorrent cases has ever gone to trial.  Your plaintiff attorneys know this, as this was the lesson we learned from the MPAA and RIAA lawsuits from a few years back (where they did bring defendants to trial) — that it is more expensive to get a few large judgments than it is to get many smaller settlements.  If I have not said this loud enough, let me say this explicitly.  Everyone (even each of your copyright trolls and their clients) has a cracking point and a monetary goal (yes, even after naming a defendant).  Your attorney should know 1) how far they are willing to go, 2) how far they have gone before, 3) at what point(s) they would consider a settlement and for how much at each point, and 4) how equipped they are to move forward in case you do decide to  use our firm’s services.   Without an attorney, you’re on your own and they have no reason not to trample all over you and demand as much as they can.  With an attorney, we are too much of a liability (one word from our client and we have no choice but to move forward with litigation) for them not to consider settling (contrary to what they’ll tell you) because we cost them time.

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