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Archive for the ‘California (CA)’ 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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Yesterday, I wrote about how the Malibu Media, LLC filings stopped dead towards the end of April 2016, and continued for three months (~90 days) to be SILENT… NOT EVEN ONE new case was filed.

Until July 21st, where over the next month, Malibu filings came in with a rush of 134 new cases — 75 in the last ten (10) days of July, and then another 59 cases in August — and then again… SILENCE.

Until October, where someone at Malibu pulled a lever, and each of their local attorneys filed roughly ten cases every few days until a total of 109 cases were filed, but then again… SILENCE.

After Lipscomb and Malibu Media, LLC parted ways in April, I thought Malibu Media — the largest copyright troll ever (have you ever known any person or entity to file 6,800 cases for ONE CLIENT?) — was dead. But rather than being a dead copyright troll, it occurred to me that not only is Malibu Media, LLC still “alive,” so to speak, but the pattern in which they are filing their cases actually replicates a monster [or troll] BREATHING.

You might ask yourself whether I just claimed that Malibu Media is breathing, and I am answering YES. Every 90 days, they are coming out with roughly 100 cases, like the breath of a dragon, or in in the spirit of their name, like the ebb and flow of the waves that crash across the Malibu shores.

That sounds all artistic, but really, there appears to be a hard-nosted money number behind their filings. $20,000. Malibu Media, LLC appears to be trying to keep their monthly filings costs to $20,000/month.

How? (admittedly, this is a stretch, but there is a point.)
July = 75 filings x $400 per filing = $30,000
August = 59 filings x $400 per filing = $23,600 (-16 cases)
September = ZERO FILINGS. (-75 cases)
October = 109 filings x $400 per filing = $43.600
November = ZERO FILINGS. (-75 cases)
December = ZERO FILINGS. (-75 cases)

TOTAL CASES FILED in two quarters: 243 cases / 5 months = avg 48.6 cases/mo.
~50 cases/mo (rounding up) /6 months = $20,000/mo.

Okay, so what does that mean for me or for you? Nothing… except to expect another 100 filings in January 2017 ...but not in California.


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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It has been almost a full day since yesterday’s historic Prenda flop where the attorney for Prenda Law Inc. (formerly, Steele|Hansmeier, PLLC and before that, Steele Law Firm PLLC) appeared to be woefully unprepared to overturn the sanctions that were ordered against Prenda Law and their team. (Flashback: “The 12 minute hearing and the end of Prenda Law Inc.” on 4/3/2013)

For those of you who missed it, you can watch the entertaining video here (fast forward to the tall guy).

As a quick recap, two years ago, Prenda Law was caught forging the name “Alan Cooper” on the copyright assignment documents which gave them the apparent authority to sue on behalf of their clients. The “real” Alan Cooper (John Steele’s gardener) who was the victim of identity theft hired an attorney, showed up at one of Prenda’s hearings, and served John Steele with his own lawsuit.

I don’t know how to explain what happened in a recap other than that the whole “house of cards” that was Prenda Law Inc. was unraveled — not because of the Alan Cooper forgery issue, but because John Steele couldn’t stay away from the cases when he successfully made the courts believe that he sold his Steele Hansmeier PLLC law firm to Paul Duffy. Shortly afterwards, he resumed making phone calls and openly running things himself, and he started showing up at hearings and speaking to the judges. This is what tipped off Judge Otis Wright to ask who the real parties in interest were in these lawsuits.

Personally, it jaded me a bit to see that after being caught (having their grand scheme exposed by good lawyers), the lawyers for Prenda continued their stories of misinformation by lying under oath in their depositions and in court proceedings. Further, I was annoyed when I learned about the scheme unfold in its entirety, including the creation of various offshore entities created to funnel settlement payments, and where Prenda peddled the blatant lie that Mark Lutz (the paralegal) was the mastermind behind the lawsuits.

Being behind the scenes when all this was happening, I was also hearing about issues of Prenda Law lying to, not paying, and in one notorious case, turning against their own local counsel who put their law licenses in jeopardy to file the lawsuits on Prenda’s clients’ behalf. Lastly, there were even more issues that I was privy to that never even made it into the courtroom, namely what appeared to be a credible accusation that Prenda Law Inc. was uploading and seeding their own clients’ content on the bittorrent networks — the same bittorrent swarms in which they sued the internet users for downloading the content they uploaded.

My own thought process was that the proper judicial response was 1) for the federal judges to serve as the “guardians of the gates” of the federal courts [e.g., to kill the copyright infringement cases as they are filed based on principles of improper joinder, etc.], and 2) to prevent the attorney(s) at this point from practicing law through the remedies of suspension and disbarment through their local bar associations. If the attorney persists, the attorney(s) should be charged with the unauthorized practice of law. Yet none of this happened. A lawyer (who for the purposes of this article will remain private) filed ethical charges against John Steele to have him disbarred, and in return, Steele filed ethical charges against him [a story for him to tell, not my secrets to tell].  Then, Steele at some point appeared to have voluntarily disbarred himself and retired from the practice of law, and his organization went inactive in the Illinois state registry. Yet his involvement in the cases persisted.

Thus, I was not surprised when Judge Wright wrote his order sanctioning John Steele, the Hansmeier brothers, and all those involved in the conspiracy. What surprised me was their hubris in that they continued fighting after they already lost. This is why I call the Prenda Law fiasco a “circus.” Everybody continues to argue in circles, but nobody goes to jail.

So, getting back to yesterday’s hearing (YouTube Link), there were THREE ITEMS that I took note of in what was perhaps the most entertaining 3-panel judge hearing I have ever seen.

ITEM 1) John Steele and the Hansmeiers were quite upset that Judge Wright implicated them as having broken criminal laws, and even though they were never charged for the violation of those laws (which I could only guess include identity theft [forgery], extortion, perjury, fraud, and perhaps even money laundering and/or racketeering). [NOTE: There were other acts allegedly committed, including the unauthorized practice of law, violation of countless ethical rules including compensating a non-attorney as a partner of the law firm, alleged tax evasion, and misuse of corporate structures after they were dissolved, etc.] Many of these acts if looked into could make the principles of the law firm personally liable for any charges without the protection of a corporate entity.

They appear to have hired attorney Daniel Voelker for the sole purpose of disputing the $200K+ in sanctions awarded against them because Judge Wright implicated them in a lawsuit which they tried their darnedest to keep at an arms length through the use of legal structures, funneling money into offshore entities, using the paralegal as the “fall guy,” and through the use of local attorneys. But rather than arguing against the sanctions award on the merits of whether it was proper to award the sanctions, they appear to have been offended by the implication of having broken criminal law in what Judge Pregerson called “an ingenious extortion fraud [scheme].” Thus, they instructed attorney Voelker to request that the court REMAND (meaning, return to the lower courts as a “do over”) the case to the U.S. District Court so that they can properly defend the insinuation that they committed one or more crimes while running what was — at the time — the most successful copyright trolling extortion scheme in existence.

ITEM 2) Attorney Daniel Voelker appeared to be woefully unprepared for the hearing. When asked about the details of the various copyright troll lawsuits filed by Prenda Law Inc. / Steele Hansmeier PLLC / Steele Law Firm, PLLC, he was unaware of anything other than what was the subject of the appealed case. This was surprising to the judges, it was surprising to me, and I am sure it was surprising to the hundreds of “fans” who were watching the hearing live and streamed over the internet. How could this attorney not be aware of the hundreds of other filings that his client took part in?!?

I also want to point out that YET AGAIN, STEELE, HANSMEIER, AND MARK LUTZ THE PARALEGAL WERE NOTORIOUSLY ABSENT FROM THE PROCEEDINGS.

ITEM 3) Simplifying the discussions of damage multipliers and other damages issues that were discussed, the jist of what the judges needed to decide were 1) whether to uphold the sanctions award against Prenda Law and company, and 2) whether to remand the case so that the questions of criminal conduct could be hashed out.

IN MY OPINION, again, this whole Prenda Law fiasco is a circus. John Steele and his buddies have been “gaming” the system since they began, and even when their whole scheme came tumbling down around them, they turned to lying, cheating, and misdirection in order to get around the rules.

Nothing will right the wrongs that were inflicted on tens of thousands of internet users except seeing each of these attorneys disbarred and jailed for criminal conduct. Yet I cannot see this happening because notorious criminals today too often go uncharged. Judges too often find the “lazy” alternative of slapping an attorney with sanctions, and then not following up on their order when the attorney weasels their way out of paying those sanctions. This is a sign of a corrupt system, and as much as I have faith in the law, I do not have faith that the judges will inflict stern judgement (“fire and brimstone”) against a bunch of lawyers who look more like a**clowns in the courtroom.

Thus, it is my best guess that the sanctions will not only be upheld, but they will be strengthened and perhaps multiplied. However, as for the criminal prosecution of the clowns who perpetrated this grand heist of an extortion scheme, their activities will go unpunished. Maybe they’ll lose their law licenses (noting that in part, this has partially happened to some of them). Maybe they’ll be held personally liable without the shielding of the corporate entities they tried to use to hide their involvement in these cases. Maybe one or more of them will need to continue to hide their money indefinitely and file for bankruptcy. Maybe one or more of them will need to move out of the country and live out their days on a beach somewhere.

I don’t see orange jumpsuits in anyone’s future here. Not in today’s lawless society.

 

USEFUL ARTICLES ON YESTERDAY’S HEARING:


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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Malibu Media, LLC has been filing lawsuits across the U.S. with a fervor with one change — most of them appear to be “Single John Doe” lawsuits against defendants whom they believe have deep pockets.

In other words, it appears that Malibu is looking at the geolocation data of the various IP addresses of the so-called downloaders, and they are going after defendants who live in towns which have high value residential homes. I know this because based on the individuals who call our office, a disproportionate number of them have commented that they have multi-million dollar estates, and they were wondering whether it was ethical to target high value individuals in their copyright infringement lawsuits.

To make matters worse, Malibu Media, LLC appears to have incentivized their local counsel with financial rewards for bringing in higher settlements. In the olden days, I could have called one of their contacts directly, and within a few phone calls, I knew what kind of settlement a defendant could get based on how many “titles” or alleged instances of infringement they were accused of downloading. From there, the client and I would decide whether it made more financial sense to fight the case by waiting to be named and filing an answer in court, or whether it made more financial sense to settle the case. Malibu has complicated this process in order to provide the appearance of legitimacy for the courts. Now, they are having their local counsel negotiate the settlements themselves. This would be okay, but it is my experience that local counsel are asking for higher numbers than I know Malibu would have settled for just a few months ago. “The old settlement numbers you used to have with Malibu are no longer in effect,” one local counsel told me as she pushed for higher numbers. “We are doing this ourselves now.”

To make matters worse, when Malibu Media, LLC identifies a downloader by his IP address, they track that IP address and monitor that defendant to see what other bittorrent files that defendant is downloading (wiretap?). They continue to monitor that defendant downloading non-Malibu Media titles such as “The Walking Dead,” “Homeland,” “Breaking Bad,” often creating a list multiple pages long of “other” infringing activities that defendant has taken part in. Their logic is that because a particular defendant downloaded those other titles, he is a “serial downloader” and thus it is more likely that he downloaded their titles as well. A number of us attorneys have explained to their local counsels’ deaf ears that just because a particular IP address downloaded a number of bittorrent titles does not mean that the accused defendant is that downloader. However, even the best attorney’s understanding of the law can be clouded when money influences that attorney’s understanding of it.

On a positive note, in just a few weeks, we have seen judges rule that the “other” BitTorrent activity listed in their complaints [for works not owned by Malibu Media] is inadmissible under the Federal Rules of Evidence (“FRE”), specifically Rule 404 on “Character Evidence.” The reason for this is because “Evidence of a person’s character or character trait is not admissible to prove that on a particular occasion the person acted in accordance with the character or trait.” In other words, proving that a particular defendant is a “serial downloader” is not admissible to prove that on a particular date and time, that defendant downloaded Malibu Media’s copyrighted titles. Shame on Malibu attorneys for not knowing this.

Further, judges have ruled that introducing evidence of “other” downloads is not relevant and is actually prejudicial to the defendant, and thus that so-called evidence is not admissible to prove that the defendant downloaded Malibu Media, LLC’s titles. As one example, Judge Stephen Crocker has frozen all of Malibu Media, LLC’s cases in the Western District of Wisconsin for this very purpose (link).

In sum, messing up on the Federal Rules of Evidence and doing so on each of their “Single Doe” upper-class cases was a big mistake which they might not be able to undo.  And also on a positive note, because they have filed so many “Single Doe” cases across the country, judges across the U.S. are looking deeper into their tactics and their evidence of infringement.  See @Ddragon229’s article on the FCT website, “Winds of change begin to blow on Malibu Media” for details on the character evidence issue.

Despite this, Malibu Media, LLC continues to file lawsuits across the U.S. in alarming numbers, and in each case, they continue to file this prejudicial information of “other” downloads as their “Exhibit C” in each case. A snippet of cases filed in just the last few weeks is pasted below:

Cases filed by Chris Fiore in the Pennsylvania Eastern District:
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:13-cv-02858)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:13-cv-02859)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:13-cv-02867)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:13-cv-02868)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:13-cv-02854-JP)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:13-cv-02855-MMB)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:13-cv-02856-JD)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:13-cv-02857-SD)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No.2:13-cv-02863-PD)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:13-cv-02864-HB)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:13-cv-02765-MSG)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:13-cv-02766-MSG)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:13-cv-02767-WY)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:13-cv-02768-PD
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:13-cv-02769-RB)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:13-cv-02770-CMR)

Cases filed by Mary Schulz of Schulz Law PC in the Illinois Northern District:
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-03726)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-03699)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-03700)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-03703)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-03704)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-03705)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-03706)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-03707)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-03710)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:13-cv-03711)

Cased filed by Paul J. Nicoletti of Nicoletti & Associates PLLC inn the Michigan Eastern District:
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe subscriber assigned IP address 71.238.205.92 (Case No. 4:13-cv-12231-MAG-MAR)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe subscriber assigned IP address 68.42.185.159 (Case No. 2:13-cv-12210-RHC-MJH)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe subscriber assigned IP address 68.43.4.96 (Case No. 2:13-cv-12213-SFC-DRG)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe subscriber assigned IP address 68.43.84.236 (Case No. 2:13-cv-12214-AJT-MKM)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe subscriber assigned IP address 68.60.140.87 (Case No. 2:13-cv-12216-PDB-RSW)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe subscriber assigned IP address 68.62.41.133 (Case No. 2:13-cv-12217-VAR-RSW)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe subscriber assigned IP address 69.14.181.108 (Case No. 2:13-cv-12218-NGE-DRG)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe subscriber assigned IP address 69.246.89.172 (Case No. 2:13-cv-12220-AJT-DRG)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe subscriber assigned IP address 67.149.158.6 (Case No. 2:13-cv-12197-GAD-PJK)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe subscriber assigned IP address 67.149.89.224 (Case No. 2:13-cv-12198-PDB-MKM)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe subscriber assigned IP address 68.40.123.7 (Case No. 2:13-cv-12200-GER-MKM)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe subscriber assigned IP address 68.40.46.12 (Case No. 2:13-cv-12201-DPH-DRG)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe subscriber assigned IP address 68.43.35.2 (Case No. 2:13-cv-12202-PDB-DRG)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe subscriber assigned IP address 68.41.170.197 (Case No. 2:13-cv-12204-GAD-RSW)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe subscriber assigned IP address 68.41.19.221 (Case No. 2:13-cv-12206-DPH-LJM)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe subscriber assigned IP address 68.41.86.4 (Case No. 2:13-cv-12208-MOB-RSW)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe subscriber assigned IP address 68.42.172.154 (Case No. 2:13-cv-12209-SJM-MKM)

Cases filed by Paul J. Nicoletti of Nicoletti & Associates PLLC in the Indiana Northern District:
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe 12 (Case No. 1:13-cv-00166-PPS-RBC)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe 5 (Case No. 1:13-cv-00164-PPS-RBC)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe 9 (Case No. 1:13-cv-00165-PPS-RBC)

PERSONAL NOTE: Even with all these cases, I have only listed 46 cases having 46 defendants. With the hundreds of filings, it becomes impossible to track and report on each case. The more I look at each of these cases, the more I feel as if they have succeeded in preventing attorneys like myself from tracking and reporting on each of their hundreds of cases. Obviously I am still here, and I am still reporting on these cases. My list of cases to track has just gotten a bit larger.

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Sometimes there are no words other than silence to best express the thoughts I have about Judge Wright’s order essentially referring John Steele and the Prenda Law Inc. gang to the IRS’ Criminal Investigation Division (CID) for all the settlements on which no taxes were paid. There is one police agency that a criminal organization does not want to be contacted by, and that is the CID.

The $81K in sanctions essentially funds the lead attorneys who spent time on this case. And, the referral to the bar associations means that the principals at Prenda Law Inc. may no longer have their law licenses shortly.

In sum, there is not much for me to comment here, except to be silent, because the judge’s order itself says all it needs to. Copyright trolling may seem profitable for the attorneys filing the lawsuits, but no money can compensate for the loss of freedom that one experiences when what was once a multi-million dollar law practice lands the principles in prison for tax evasion. This should be a lesson to all other copyright trolls out there. Judge yourselves accordingly.

Fight © Trolls

We have been waiting for this moment for a long time. Congratulations to everyone involved, especially Morgan and Nick.

Coverage

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While the Cashman Law Firm, PLLC and its clients were celebrating “freedom,” I am sure some of my readers will be wondering the fate of Prenda Law Inc. / Steele Hansmeier, PLLC / John Steele / Paul Duffy / Mark Lutz / Brett Gibbs et al. after their hearing today before Judge Wright.  Today was the big day where the world of those who have been injured by Prenda Law Inc.’s activities looked on to see their demise.

In sum, the hearing was short, and John Steele and his “gang” showed up as they were ordered to, but they decided to plead the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution rather than answer Judge Wright’s questions.  As a result, the judge did not allow them the pleasure of “pleading the fifth” as he appears to have no interest in lawyer gamesmanship.  Thus, after 12 minutes, he walked off the bench and ended the hearing.

While there was no immediate gratification for those who flew over to attend the hearing, in my opinion, “Popehat” described their fate better than I ever could:

“Prenda Law may still be standing. But it’s dead.”

I would be very surprised if I saw any further activities coming from this law firm. I expect that in a few days (if not sooner), Judge Otis Wright will write an order which will make any copyright troll shake in their boots, and it is my hopes that this order will serve as a warning shot to any of the other copyright trolls who go after individual downloaders using the tactics and corporate structures that Prenda employed.

It is my opinion (although I *am* still cautious until I actually see Judge Wright’s order,) this will likely be the end of Prenda Law Inc., John Steele, and Paul Duffy, as I expect that this will evolve into inquiries which will endanger their law licenses. I don’t think we’ll see the end of them, per se, as it is not so difficult to find a hungry lawyer who will agree to have his hand held while he lets others practice under his law license in the shadows.

On the other hand, I believe the result of this case (and Judge Wright’s influence over the the future penalties of unlawful copyright enforcement tactics) will force the bittorrent cases to evolve from its current state (which comprise mere pre-trial settlement “or else” tactics) to actually taking clients to court on the merits.  Also, while the inquiry in this case surrounded plaintiff copyright trolls who “invent” corporate figureheads, who seem to falsify copyright assignment documents, and who structure their business tactics to allow their activities to proceed with limited affects on the attorneys furthering their scheme) no doubt, this will be a damaging blow to those copyright holders who try to enforce their copyrights against individual downloaders.

Articles on the topic:
Forbes: Porn Copyright Lawyer John Steele, Who Has Sued More Than 20,000 People, Is Now The One In Legal Trouble

ArsTechnica: Prenda lawyers take Fifth Amendment; judge storms out: “We’re done” — Those in attendance describe Judge Otis Wright as “incandescently angry.”

TechDirt: Team Prenda Shows Up In Court, Pleads The Fifth… Angry Judge Ends Hearing In 12 Minutes

TorrentFreak: Prenda Copyright Trolls Plead the Fifth

Fight Copyright Trolls (SJD): Prenda trolls appear in Judge Wright’s courtroom only to plead the Fifth. Furious judge ends the hearing after 12 minutes

Follow-Up Articles:

ArsTechnica: Judge smash: Prenda’s porn-trolling days are over

Popehat: Prenda Law’s Attorneys Take The Fifth Rather Than Answer Judge Wright’s Questions

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A number of interested readers have wondered what my opinion was about Monday’s sanctions hearing against Prenda Law Inc., Brett Gibbs, John Steele, Paul Hansmeier, and the others [Case Cite: Ingenuity 13 LLC v. John Doe, Case No. 2:12-cv-08333, in the California District Court (Case Documents “Recap’d” here)]. Quite frankly, I read the #Prenda Twitter stream throughout the day just as many of you did.

Up front, there were some pretty good articles on the event, and as far as I am concerned, there is nothing substantive that I can add to what has already been written. I advise anyone affected by the AF Holdings, LLC cases (or any of Prenda Law Inc.’s so-called “trusts”) to read the following articles:

IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE:

In sum, it is my opinion that whatever the result, there was a lesson taught — that copyright trolls are not “above the law,” so to speak. As far as the effect of Monday’s hearing, we will not know the effect until we read Judge Wright’s order (which we do not expect to see for a few days). However, as for the applicability, the ruling will apply nationwide, and no doubt every court which hears their cases will probably receive a copy of the order.

There is a lot of mention of “trusts” when it comes to the Steele|Hansmeier organization.  I have a “love-hate” relationships with trusts. They form a wonderful legal alter-ego function when it comes to protecting assets and benefiting third party beneficiaries. However, in scenarios like this, I believe they are tools to break the law and hide from responsibility. The problem here is that I’m not so sure Steele and Co. could pull off having a trust without it being broken by the courts.

From what I have read, it is my opinion that there is too much involvement in the trust by all parties, and putting it simply, keeping the classic definition and rules of a trust, I’m not sure they’ve done it in a way which could withstand scrutiny. For example, I’m not sure who the grantor is, who the grantee (receiver of assets) is, and for which beneficiary or purpose was the trust formed. Are there any documents relating to the formation of the trust?  Are there any filings anywhere relating to the trust?  Also, who is the trustee who is in charge of directing and managing the funds of the trust? I would be worried of the parties mishandling the movement of the funds (the trust assets), and this is where they may get busted for playing the trust game… not to mention that I hear that nobody has filed taxes on this income and all the members are U.S. citizens? I can’t believe no taxes have been filed or paid, because if not, the IRS would be after them for tax evasion (and I have heard nothing of the sort happening).

As far as the Hansmeier deposition that nobody gets paid and that every lawyer gratuitously works for free without receiving an income, I call BS on that statement. It appears to me that he is playing semantics with the term “income” according to the tax code, and he can get in trouble the way he has maybe misused the term. No lawyer, as wonderful as any of them might be, would work for “no income.” Even Brett Gibbs. I assume there is some foreign trust account set up for each of them into which funds get deposited on a regular basis. And, those “offshore trusts” need to pay taxes just like any other legal entity.

My sadness from Monday’s events stem from the fact that Steel/Hansmeier/Duffy clan staying out of court was a very smart move. By staying as far away from the court as possible, Judge Wright was unable to swear them in, and he was unable to take their [what would likely have been incriminating] testimony. If he sanctions them, if he orders a bench order for their arrest (not likely), or if he does something to them, from a distance [and out of jail], they can easily appeal any order the judge makes, essentially eviscerating any legal authority Judge Wright may show.

I mentioned to a few other lawyers how queasy attorneys get when a judge speaks strong words. However, we all have been watching these cases for almost THREE YEARS NOW (come June), and I have never seen a judge do any damage to a copyright troll. Even Evan Stone, the prolific copyright troll out of Dallas, Texas — for sending subpoenas out before the judge gave authorization to do so, he was only sanctioned $10,000 (essentially one day’s income for Steele, according to Alan Cooper’s testimony, or three of Evan Stone’s settlements).

At the end of the day, unless the result of this hearing is a state bar disciplinary hearing (or more seriously, a criminal investigation if there was indeed “fraud” in the legal sense), and unless some lawyers lose their licenses, there will be no deterrance from Prenda Law Inc. (or any other copyright troll) thinking twice about their actions, and copyright trolling lawsuits will grow exponentially until enough people cry out, “this must be stopped!”

UPDATE (3/14/2013):

SJD reports that Judge Wright has ordered the Steele|Hansmeier gang to appear on 3/29/2013 based on “their pecuniary interest and active, albeit clandestine participation in these cases” (emphasis added).  He continues that “Not only does [their motion not to appear] lack merit, its eleventh-hour filing exemplifies gamesmanship”  (emphasis added).  Wow.  Further, the judge expanded his inquiry to impose sanctions not only to the original masterminds of these lawsuits, but to the so-called entities who are supposed to be separate and apart from their operation (they’re not).  He called Livewire Holdings LLC, and 6881 Forensics, LLC to be present at the hearing.  Now if these entities will be represented by the same Steele / Hansmeier / Duffy / Lutz characters (Hansmeier’s deposition already pegged paralegal Lutz as the CEOs of a number of these entities), this will look very bad for them.

NOTE: A commenter referred to this article (or me) as a “buzzkill,” and that got a good laugh out of me.  If you knew how much my reporting on these blogs represented how dull I sometimes am in real life, the humor of that comment is pretty on-point.  On this note, however, if you read Judge Wright’s order carefully, again, he’s only threatening sanctions.  Even if he imposes $1 million dollars in sanctions, I cannot imagine Steele and the others would pay it.  After all, they technically don’t “own” that money that is in the various trusts (#sarcasm).

Also see:

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