BACKGROUND: Malibu Media, LLC is a copyright holder who has sued internet users for the download of their adult films under the “X-Art” brand name. In the lawsuits they file, they may sue for the download of one title (asking $150,000 statutory damages for that one title), but then they claim in an addendum that the defendant also downloaded multiple “copyrighted” titles, listing a bunch of other videos that were also downloaded.
When settling claims against that defendant, Malibu attorneys ask for settlement FOR EACH AND EVERY ONE OF THOSE ACCUSED DOWNLOADS (and not for just the one title claimed in the lawsuit). So instead of asking for a settlement of $1,000 for one title, they will ask for a settlement of $35,000 for 35 titles allegedly downloaded.
The problem is that of the 35 titles allegedly downloaded, many of them weren’t copyrighted at the time the download took place. Malibu Media, LLC gets around this requirement by stating that since the copyrighted adult film was “published” on their website, thus they have three-months to file the copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office in order to get copyright rights in that video.
Thus, Malibu Media is claiming copyright protection for videos that were not copyrighted at the time they were downloaded. Their logic is that their file was deserving of copyright protection retroactively, BEFORE THEY FILED FOR A COPYRIGHT WITH THE U.S. COPYRIGHT OFFICE, because the video was properly “published” on their website (plain meaning of the word is “posted” on their site), and filed with the copyright office within the three-month statutory period.
Not relevant to this discussion (but equally interesting) is the fact that the file somehow “leaks” from their website onto the bittorrent networks to be downloaded by the internet users who then download large .zip or .rar files containing sometimes 100+ Malibu Media videos (or one .torrent file containing multiple video files). These internet users are then sued in the federal courts for copyright infringement in what are known as the “Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe” lawsuits.
NEW MATERIAL (THIS IS THE ACTUAL ARTICLE):
Malibu Media, LLC has formed a habit of suing defendants for downloads that appear on the bittorrent networks literally a day or so after they are supposedly “published” on their website. The videos themselves are not copyrighted often for another three-months.
When questioned about this tactic, they claim that their activities are legitimate because U.S. copyright law gives a content creator up to three months after “publication” to file their copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office. They are correct about this three-month rule.
The scam is that Malibu Media, LLC is basing their “right” to solicit settlements for MANY videos because they “PUBLISHED” each video [according to the plain definition of the word] on their website before it was downloaded by the John Doe defendant. Thus, they claim that their copyright rights existed in each of the videos at the time the videos were downloaded, even though 1) the downloader couldn’t find the video as being copyrighted when searching the US Copyright Office’s copyright registry, and 2) even though the copyright was not yet filed for when the download took place. Thus, they can ask for settlements for each and every video because they all were deserving of copyright protection retroactively at the time the downloads happened BECAUSE that video was “published” prior to being downloaded.
However, I am convinced that their stated “publication” is really no publication at all. It’s a scam to make the accused downloader think that Malibu Media, LLC has copyright rights over ALL of the videos they claim in their “list” of infringed videos, including even those videos that were “published” just a day or so before they appeared on the bittorrent websites.
Why do I think that Malibu Media is faking the “publication” requirement in their lawsuits? Because according to the statutory definition of “Publication,” posting a new porn video onto their website is more of a “public performance,” and that does not satisfy the requirement for “publication.” (see, 17 U.S. Code § 101 – Definitions).
Here is the text of the statute:
“Publication” is the distribution of copies or phonorecords of a work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending. The offering to distribute copies or phonorecords to a group of persons for purposes of further distribution, public performance, or public display, constitutes publication. A public performance or display of a work does not of itself constitute publication.
Remember, in law, words do not always mean what they do according to the plain meaning of the word. Tongue-in-cheek, stating, “I did not sleep with that woman” might be telling the literal truth, even if you had sexual intercourse with her. The understanding to pull from this example is that the legal definition of “sleep” might be very different from the plain meaning of the term.
In the context of the Malibu Media, LLC lawsuits, it is not enough for a lawyer to look up the definition of “Publication” (defined above) in the statute and decide according to the plain meaning of the written definition whether publication is or is not taking place. (By the way, looking up the definition of a word is a very good start, and is something that is often NOT done! But the investigation of “the law” should not end there.)
To properly explain the term in the context of bitttorrent lawsuits, the terms “publication,” “to the public,” “distribution,” “public performance,” “public display,” etc. also have to be defined within their context. How? In addition to the plain meaning of the term, each term in the legal world has specific LEGAL DEFINITIONS which change as case law interprets them in the context of various situations (and if there is no case law, it is the job of the lawyer to carve out that changed definition for each particular context where justice sees it fit to do so). These definitions can often be different, or even opposite to the plain meaning of the term. Again, the “legal definition” of a term is often not the same as the “plain meaning” of that same term.
In sum, I suspect that there is a legal argument that “publication” is not actually happening with the Malibu Media, LLC lawsuits (even moreso if they are found to be leaking their videos onto the bittorrent networks prior to their release, as is described in Sophisticated Jane Doe’s article, reblogged below). While I have not hashed this out yet completely, I have been working on this theory for some time now, and I believe it may be a viable argument. However, for those attorneys who troll this blog and will immediately jump on me saying “of course it is published,” step out of your box containing only plain meaning definitions, and come over to my side of the room. The view is a bit better here.
I am merely mentioning this issue as food for thought. Anyone who wants to contribute to this legal argument, I’m more than willing to hash this out. And of course, read SJD’s article because it demonstrates the publication issue very nicely.
It was proven beyond any doubt that Prenda seeded their smut on Bittorent to entrap hapless file-sharers. Given the striking similarities between Prenda and Guardley-driven copyright shakedown outfits, including Lipscomb/X-Art/Malibu Media, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to believe that the Karlsruhe-Miami-Malibu cartel’s hands are not so clean in this respect either. Indeed, numerous defense attorneys asserted that Malibu either seeds their porn itself, or someone does it with its blessing. Even Jordan Rushie, before he started doing errands for Lipscomb, suggested that
When considering litigating the “swarm theory,” Malibu was faced with the prospect of dozens of defendants, joined in their common defense against the plaintiff, with an initial seeder who very well may have had a license to publish the works to BitTorrent or elsewhere. [FN: Malibu’s investigation company, IPP, Ltd., was previously called Guardaley, Ltd. While it had that name, it was accused of being the seeder for swarms…
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