Posts Tagged ‘copyright troll’

DISCLAIMER: In this article I speak a lot about plaintiff attorneys cheating their own copyright holder clients, billing them “by the hour” (rather than the conventional method of accepting the copyright holder clients “on contingency”), and in some cases, wasting time to generate additional billing to their own clients.  It is my observation and opinion that this is happening, but short of a lawsuit like we saw with the Dallas Buyers Club copyright holders against their Voltage Pictures licensee, it is difficult to prove that such things are taking place.  However, “honor or dishonor among thieves” is not the topic or the point of the article — the point of the article is that plaintiffs are dragging defendants further into the federal lawsuits by naming and serving them, and it is my opinion that it is still possible to obtain a settlement, even after a client has admitted guilt in an answer to a deposition question.

It is a sad day when trolls force those they’ve accused to become legal experts and to stick their toes into the federal courts to defend themselves. In the attached article, DTD is correct that lawyers (myself included) can get expensive, and defending a case (e.g., answering a complaint, showing up and defending a deposition, answering the various requests for information that are required in a federal lawsuit, etc.) is often more expensive than simply paying a copyright troll plaintiff a few bucks to make them go away.

Unfortunately (at least in my Texas Southern District federal court), the copyright-troll attorneys appear to be billing their copyright-holder clients BY THE HOUR (which differs from the old model of a plaintiff attorney agreeing to take a case on contingency and only sharing in the settlement profits believing [the lie] that “they’ll make millions going after John Doe Defendants”), so these ‘hardened’ plaintiff attorneys seem to be running-up the bill by dragging the defendants through the mud — naming them, serving them, filing documents, and wasting everyone’s time.

In short, while I agree that IN NORMAL CIRCUMSTANCES doing what DTD suggested (filing an answer with the court and fighting your case) would normally not be something one would ever dare do [at least without a lawyer holding his/her hand, or sitting in and defending a deposition], in today’s evolution of the bittorrent cases, filing an answer and at least being willing to endure the legal process until a settlement is offered (and a settlement is usually offered eventually) has become a necessity.


Let’s take a quick example.  In the typical scenario, the goal in representing a client who wants to settle is to contact the plaintiff attorney on the client’s behalf and negotiate a settlement.  For a plaintiff attorney who is billing his copyright troll client by the hour (as is what appears to be happening in the Texas bittorrent-based copyright infringement cases), agreeing to a settlement is too easy of an outcome because the plaintiff attorney does not make the kind of money he could make “dragging the defendant through the mud while charging his client hourly to do so.”  (Remember, as we saw with the Voltage / Dallas Buyers Club cases, a crooked attorney steals not only from his victim [the accused defendant], but also from his client (as we saw in the Voltage / Dallas Buyers Club cases where Voltage was sued for failing to pay Dallas Buyers Club monies earned and owed to it through its copyright enforcement activities)).

More likely than not, the plaintiff attorney’s client (the actual copyright holder seeking to “monetize” or “enforce” the rights given to him via his copyright) is not aware that the attorney is over-billing (e.g., engaging in such “mud-dragging”, “revenue-producing” activities often cannot be proven, and thus it continues until the copyright holder gets tired of paying his attorney’s bill).  Thus, free of scrutiny from his client, the plaintiff attorney needlessly exacerbates the situation by demanding from the defendant something unreasonable (e.g., that unless the defendant is willing to agree to sign an explicit admission of guilt prior to being made aware of the kind or amount of settlement he will be offered, there will be no settlement).  [FYI, this is something no sane person would agree to.]  As a result, the defendant refuses to admit guilt, he gets named and served, and he is forced to spend thousands of dollars more to defend himself.  Why?  Because his plaintiff attorney figured out a way to milk not only him (the defendant), but his copyright-holder client as well.

There are a number of steps that happen after being named and served, but the point is that eventually, the plaintiff attorney is going to schedule a deposition (where the defendant will need to answer questions “under oath,”) and the defendant is going to tell the truth about what happened.  If the download indeed happened, this will come out in the deposition.

However, this “nightmare” fear that the defendant will “admit guilt” will only cause one result — the plaintiff will have proof that at trial, based on the information elicited from the defendant in the deposition, that defendant could be held liable for the $150,000 in statutory damages.  But then… how many of these defendants have $150K sitting around in their mattresses or in their bank accounts?  And if they do, don’t you think that instead of paying the judgment, they would rather hire a bankruptcy lawyer and file for a bankruptcy to discharge the copyright infringement judgment in bankruptcy?

In short, the worst-case-scenario in a deposition is that the defendant admits guilt, which is often what will likely happen if the defendant is the downloader of the copyrighted film.  But then after all this excitement, the plaintiff attorney and the copyright holder still want to get paid (and they know they are likely not going to collect anything by obtaining a $150K judgment against the defendant).  This is why the plaintiff attorney will likely initiate settlement talks with the defendant, taking his financial circumstances into consideration.

This is not to say that settling a case right away (and before being named and served) is no longer an option — there are multiple copyright holders filing in the Texas and New York courts, including Criminal Productions Inc., September Productions Inc., CELL Film Holdings LLC, the infamous Malibu Media LLC, Fathers & Daughters Nevada LLC, Dallas Buyers Club LLC, and the related non-bittorrent copyright holders which include DISH Network L.L.C. (not so much anymore) and Siemens Product Lifecycle Management Software, Inc. (a software company), each of whom have their priorities and specific instructions on how they would like their plaintiff attorneys to handle the lawsuits on their behalf.

But, what I do want you to glean from this commentary (really, it’s an article, but I did re-blog DTD’s article and I need to stick to that topic), is that plaintiff attorneys ARE naming and serving defendants, and it should be expected that this could happen — and if a defendant is named and served, they could still negotiate a settlement.  But be aware that in order to get to that point, the plaintiff attorney (who might be motivated by maximizing his billing to his own client [think, stealing from you AND stealing from his own client]) might drag you through a deposition and a number of steps before he accepts a settlement from you.


I agree that lawyers are expensive simply because we charge for the time it takes to complete each step of the legal process. However, many attorneys (myself included) already know how much time each step will take, so “flat fee” billing is an option (understanding that billing would happen based on timelines of where you are in the lawsuit).

Thus, it might make sense to hire an attorney who charges you a flat fee for a certain “block” or piece of the lawsuit (e.g.,






…AND SO ON, BLOCK 6: …TRIAL (my opinion, unlikely, unless the copyright holder figured out a way to prevent the deep-pocket defendant from filing for bankruptcy).

I have laid these out as a template, as each case and each copyright holder often needs to be handled differently.  Typically, clients were able to negotiate a settlement and be released from liability with just BLOCK 1.  However, as we discussed above, we are seeing more-and-more that plaintiff attorneys are taking defendants deeper into the lawsuits (“deeper down the rabbit hole, so to speak”), specifically past the “naming and serving” stage, past the answer stage, and into the discovery stages before considering or accepting settlements.  I am not one to advocate doing this on your own, and if you could afford an attorney (me, or anyone else), that is the safest way to go.  But if hiring me or another attorney is not an option, fighting this on your own (called, “pro se”) is the best alternative, and DTD’s article gives you a good first and necessary step in getting the ball rolling.

As I said before, good article, DTD!

Caveat – I’m not an attorney and I’m not practicing law. This is simply my thoughts and views based on what I see concerning BitTorrent (BT) Copyright Infringement Trolls. If you decide you need legal advice, please hire a knowledgeable attorney. IF you truly cannot afford an attorney, here at least is one possible option. […]

via Answering A BT Copyright Troll Summons/Complaint — DieTrollDie

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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It is 12:30am and I really do not have time to go into this, but I just learned that Dallas Buyers Club, LLC is suing Voltage Pictures, LLC in Montgomery County, TX for, among other things, not paying fees to Dallas Buyers Club for the licensing fees owed to them.

[Hat tip to SJD @ FightCopyrightTrolls for breaking the story.  Her link to the lawsuit can be found here.]

It appears from the TX case filing (Cause No. 15-06-06049) that Voltage Pictures, LLC approached Dallas Buyers Club, LLC and offered to pay for the license to act as Dallas Buyer’s Club’s agent so that they can sell the film abroad and… so that they can file lawsuits against John Doe Defendants across the US. Part of this agreement appears to be that Voltage Pictures was permitted to use Dallas Buyer’s Club’s name.

082516 Voltage-DBC Power of attorney

…and skipping down a bit:

082516 Voltage-DBC Exclusive Agent

Well, now we learn that Nicholas Chartier and Voltage Pictures are being sued because after making all of the sales and suing all of the John Doe defendants for copyright infringement, Voltage Pictures is accused of cheating Dallas Buyers Club out of their earned licensing fees.

I feel as if I just fell down a rabbit hole…

Thus, whenever we saw a Dallas Buyers Club, LLC lawsuit, and whenever we represented a client against Dallas Buyers Club, LLC, we were really representing them against… VOLTAGE PICTURES, LLC?!?

This brings me to the Fathers & Daughters Nevada, LLC cases.  Did Voltage Pictures, LLC make the same licensing deal with the Fathers & Daughters movie producers, and are they also not paying them the money that is due to them?  When we see a Fathers & Daughters Nevada, LLC case, are we really representing clients against the makers of the Fathers and Daughters movie? Or are we representing clients against VOLTAGE PICTURES, LLC who is parading as Fathers & Daughters Nevada, LLC and claiming that they are Fathers & Daughters Nevada, LLC, when really they are not?!?

This also makes me ask who the attorneys for the Fathers & Daughters Nevada, LLC are really representing? Are Josh Wyde and Gary Fischman suing on behalf of Fathers & Daughters Nevada, LLC? Or are they suing on behalf of Voltage Pictures, LLC pretending to be Fathers & Daughters Nevada, LLC?  I know Josh is watching this blog, so please feel free to comment.

Who is their client? Voltage or Fathers & Daughters Nevada?

Last question, and then I’m going to sleep. Will Voltage Pictures, LLC soon be sued by the real Fathers & Daughters copyright holders for failure to pay the licensing fees, proceeds, and sales from the monetization of the Fathers & Daughters movie copyright? Have the same facts that are coming out with the Dallas Buyers Club, LLC lawsuit also transpired with the Fathers & Daughters Nevada, LLC copyright holder?

One more thought — a while back, I was concerned that perhaps the shell companies that were created for various movies were not properly funded. [Well, okay, I backed away from that accusation, but that was on my mind.]  The original thought was that production companies made movies, and to limit their liability, we understood that they set up shell companies as limited liability companies so that if something went wrong or if, say, Dallas Buyers Club caused damage to someone and they were sued, fined, sanctioned, or otherwise held liable for damages from their activities, those damages would be contained to the Dallas Buyers Club, LLC limited liability entity, and they would not trickle “up” to what I thought was the Voltage Pictures, LLC production company.

However, now we see that Voltage Pictures, LLC is NOT the production company, but a LICENSEE (one who signs an agreement to acquire a license to sell or act on behalf of the copyright holder [the licensor]). Thus, this brings me back to the entity that was formed to sue John Doe Defendants in federal court. Dallas Buyers Club, LLC, and Fathers & Daughters Nevada, LLC (the two Voltage-related companies that are currently on my mind). Are they properly funded? Who owns them, and who are the real parties acting through them? Voltage Pictures or Dallas Buyers Club? Voltage Pictures or Fathers & Daughters? Who is providing the funding for them?  And did they properly notify the court of this arrangement when they filed the lawsuits against the John Doe Defendants?

Wow, when they say that there is “no honor among thieves,” they weren’t kidding.  First Keith Lipscomb is sued by Malibu Media, LLC for not paying them the royalties and/or funds received through Lipscomb’s Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe lawsuits across the US, and now Voltage Pictures, LLC is being sued by Dallas Buyers Club, LLC for the same thing. I also want to point out that Liberty Media also sued their lawyer, Marc Randazza (although the circumstances were different, and if what Marc wrote in his defense was true (e.g., that they used his office desk to shoot adult films), both Liberty Media and Randazza are both to blame, but for different reasons). I also remember when Prenda Law Inc. stopped paying their local counsel here in Houston the fees and commissions he earned through the filing of the lawsuits.

So… in sum, is this the scenario of thieves stealing from thieves as we have seen before? Or is this an example of “copyright trolls stealing also from their own clients”?? Wow, this field of law has skeletons hidden in closets all over the place.

UPDATE: For more on this topic, SJD covered this topic in detail.  See FightCopyrightTrolls article, “How copyright trolls plunder both US citizens and… rights holders.

CONTACT FORM: If you have a question or comment about what I have written, and you want to keep it *for my eyes only*, please feel free to use the form below. The information you post will be e-mailed to me, and I will be happy to respond.

NOTE: No attorney client relationship is established by sending this form, and while the attorney-client privilege (which keeps everything that you share confidential and private) attaches immediately when you contact me, I do not become your attorney until we sign a contract together.  That being said, please do not state anything “incriminating” about your case when using this form, or more practically, in any e-mail.

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This is one of the more difficult blog entries to write, because the “Siemens Product Lifecycle Management Software Inc.” case is not the typical bittorrent extortion case, but rather, more of a “compulsory licensing” case.

In short, it would be too easy to say that the 100 John Doe defendants were implicated as downloading or uploading Siemens’ CAD software using bittorrent, because this is not the case. Siemens’ software appears to “phone home” when being used, revealing the computer users IP address (thus making them a target in a lawsuit such as this one).

Cracks and keys probably were part of the software download package, if the software was downloaded via a website. Alternatively, the download instructions perhaps instructed “to block the internet connection using a software firewall,” but the downloader forgot to read the instructions.

Lastly, some of the defendants are believed to have purchased the software (e.g., while the software license itself could cost $20,000, the pirated copy cost $50), but the software they purchased was pirated. Thus, when they entered the key to register the software, the key was flagged as being a pirated copy.

In short, Siemens is a software company looking to stop the unlicensed use of their software, and for this reason, they hired attorney Robert Riddle (more accurately, his firm) to file the Siemens Product Lifecycle Management Software Inc. v. Does 1-100 (Case No. 4:16-cv-01422) lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas.

The weird part for me about this case is that there are so many software solutions out there which would accomplish the result for significantly cheaper.  The Siemens software modules appear to be commercial and high-end, which is more than a typical engineer would need to do their work.

So… what to do now. If you purchased a pirated copy or downloaded an unlicensed copy of the software, all is not lost. This is why you will be hiring an attorney — to speak to your plaintiff attorney and “make it right,” whether that means purchasing a copy after-the-fact, or signing a licensing agreement for the months or years the software was in use.

If you are a business owner, or if the software is in use in your engineering company (or on the laptops of your employees) without authorization, you are the plaintiff’s prime targets, and the licensing strategy will likely be more comprehensive.

If you have absolutely nothing to do with this lawsuit and yet you were implicated as a John Doe Defendant, well, this happens too, and I’d be happy to represent you telling them that there will be no software licensing deal, and that there will be no payment to the plaintiff copyright holders.

The immediate concern is that like all copyright infringement “John Doe” lawsuits, your plaintiff copyright holder has been given permission by a federal judge (here, Texas Judge Keith Ellison) to issue subpoenas to the internet service providers to hand over the subscriber contact information to the plaintiff attorney by or before a certain date.  That date is quickly coming to a close, so this is why you have been trying to contact our firm to figure out your options in how to proceed.  I’d be happy to discuss these with you, obviously time permitting.

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

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


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

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


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


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

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


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


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


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

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

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

CONTACT FORM: If you have a question or comment about what I have written, and you want to keep it *for my eyes only*, please feel free to use the form below. The information you post will be e-mailed to me, and I will be happy to respond.

NOTE: No attorney client relationship is established by sending this form, and while the attorney-client privilege (which keeps everything that you share confidential and private) attaches immediately when you contact me, I do not become your attorney until we sign a contract together.  That being said, please do not state anything “incriminating” about your case when using this form, or more practically, in any e-mail.

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

Here is the text of the statute:

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


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

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

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

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

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

CONTACT FORM: If you have a question or comment about what I have written, and you want to keep it *for my eyes only*, please feel free to use the form below. The information you post will be e-mailed to me, and I will be happy to respond.

NOTE: No attorney client relationship is established by sending this form, and while the attorney-client privilege (which keeps everything that you share confidential and private) attaches immediately when you contact me, I do not become your attorney until we sign a contract together.  That being said, please do not state anything “incriminating” about your case when using this form, or more practically, in any e-mail.

Fight © Trolls

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

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

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

I started writing this article because there is too much conflicting information floating around the web (likely from attorneys who are trying to use fear tactics to scare you into settling with their firm), and my point was that there are credible websites, such as “Fight Copyright Trolls,” “Die Troll Die,” and a few others who have been helping individuals understand that IGNORING A COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT CLAIM AGAINST YOU CAN OFTEN BE A VIABLE OPTION TO RESOLVE THE PROBLEM (WITHOUT SPENDING $$$$ ON A LAWYER), so beware of the attorneys who tell you that you will lose your home, your life savings, or any other fear-of-embarrassment-and-exposure-or-financial-ruin-based argument as to “why you should settle anonymously through them for cheap, or else you might lose everything.”

I circled back to this topic in the end, but this article ended up being a “buyer beware of attorney settlement factories” article, where an attorney or his team of lawyers is trying to lure you into being part of their high-volume settlement business.  In this article, I give you the red flags to look for to spot these attorneys, and I hope this helps clarify some of the conflicting information you get from speaking to different attorneys where one attorney pushes you to settle and where another (e.g., I) suggest that you just ignore it.

“SETTLEMENT FACTORIES” are what I call these law firms. These law firms hire multiple attorneys to track down, solicit, and lure accused defendants into hiring them “for a cheap and anonymous settlement.” From a business perspective, more attorneys for the business owner means the ability to make more phone calls to solicit more accused defendants [to process more settlements], and the ability to “capture” more clients for their law firm means more profits. And, rather than actually negotiate a good settlement for their client, they run what I refer to as a “volume business” where they pre-arrange a price with the copyright holder which is above the market (copyright troll profits). Then, instead of actually negotiating a settlement, they’ll hand over the names to the plaintiff attorney and get the high-priced mediocre settlement for their client.  In return, the copyright troll allows that so-called attorney to not have to negotiate the settlement for each client, since they have a “fixed settlement amount.”  As far as I am concerned, this means that the so-called defense attorneys are part of the copyright troll problem, in a “cottage industry” sort of fashion.

What compounds the problem is that negotiating the settlement is only HALF of the solution. The SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT itself must also be negotiated, particularly because the “boilerplate” settlement agreements contain ADMISSIONS OF GUILT and UNFRIENDLY LANGUAGE which does not properly release the client from liability, nor does it properly protect the client’s rights.

For me, where writing this article will become infuriating is that suddenly these attorneys and their “beefed up” staff of hired attorneys will now start advertising 1) that they spend the time to actively negotiate the best settlement for their client, and 2) that they take the careful time to negotiate the terms of the settlement agreement so that the accused John Doe Defendant will be released from liability and the negotiated terms will properly protect the client’s rights.

If I see this, all I could say is “caveat emptor,” do your own research on:

1) How long that attorney has been in practice [REMEMBER: “Copyright Troll” mass bittorrent lawsuits targeting multiple “John Doe” defendants have only been in existence only since 2010, so any attorney who claims he has been fighting copyright trolls for 20 years is obviously lying.],

2) Check the attorney’s blog to see the HISTORY of his articles — was he one of the first attorneys who fought these cases, or is he a new “me too” copycat attorney who is standing on the shoulders of giants? (after reading this, no doubt these attorney will now add “older” articles to make their website look older), and

3) Check the blog article itself for “SEO OPTIMIZED” content, or “KEYWORDS” placed into the article.  Ask yourself, “was the purpose of this article to provide me valuable information? or was the purpose of the article to bulk it up with keywords so that search engine spiders will reward the author with first page rankings on the search engines?

4) Last, but not least, check the EARLY ARTICLES of the blog to see whether the attorney actually tried to fight these cases and hash out the legal arguments, or whether they were merely reporting on the lawsuits already in existence to attract new business.  I call these attorneys “me too” attorneys, and you can usually spot them because all they do is report the cases.

NOTE: I write this article cringing a bit because I myself just added an e-mail form at the bottom of my articles so that people can contact me if they had a question. I also dislike trashing another attorney or law firm because that simply makes me look bad. I also have a secret, and that is that I was one of the first group of attorneys contacted by EFF to figure out the “John Doe” mass bittorrent lawsuits, and so I have an advantage over the “me too attorney” both legally and information-wise as to the history of these cases, who is who, and which copyright “troll” uses which strategy in fighting a case, and under what conditions will a copyright holder accept a settlement, and how far they will bend in their settlement price. I also spend a lot of time on what I call “situational awareness,” knowing not only the law, and not only the personality of the copyright holder AND the mannerisms of the local copyright attorney hired to sue defendants in a particular set of federal courts, but I also know when a judge is going to dismiss a case (based on his past rulings), and I know when the copyright holder’s local counsel is pressured because of activities that happened in other cases, or whether they are under pressure to resolve a case because they have already have asked for two extensions from the court and I know they will likely not receive a third extension because the judge has expressed an intent for the plaintiff to begin naming and serving defendants.  This is the difference between a copycat and an original.

I also say with no shame that in 2010, I and a small handful of attorneys were contacted by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (better known as EFF) to help understand and resolve the developing copyright troll problem back when ISPs began sending letters out to their subscribers informing them that their ISP would be handing out their contact information and their identity to the plaintiff attorney / copyright holders unless they filed objections (or, “motions to quash”) with the courts. Thus, I credit the EFF for even noticing the copyright troll problem and contacting us to figure out what to do about it.

Unfortunately (or, fortunately, however you see it), that initial list of 20 attorneys has grown to over 100+ names, and some attorneys have negotiated with EFF to list them as representing clients in multiple states, hence increasing their visibility in an ever-growing list of lawyers. These are usually the “settlement factories” I referenced above, and again, caveat emptor.

Let’s pretend, for a moment, that you did not like me or my use of pretrial strategies (often making use of federal procedure) to defend a client. Or, let’s pretend for a moment that I could not take you as a client (e.g., because my case load was full, or because I did not have time to speak to you about your matter). Because there were only a handful of us attorneys on the original EFF list who knew anything about these copyright infringement lawsuits, over the years, we have become friends and have helped each other out on many of the lawsuits in which we represented both John Doe Defendants and “named and served” defendants. Some of these attorneys are still around today, and some have moved on to other areas of law, or they have stopped taking clients because fighting mass bittorrent cases has become more burdensome than the effort was worth (especially when some copyright holders do not play fairly in discovery [think, Malibu Media, LLC]).

Finding “that special client who will pay my fees to fight this case to trial” for many attorneys has become an unrealized pipe dream, and is something us attorneys often discuss.  If you truly want to fight your case, I have nothing wrong with either me, or anyone else I trust representing you in your lawsuit (I will happily tout another attorney’s merits and advanced skillsets when speaking to clients). AND, I will happily refer you to someone if I find that one of my peers would better assist you.  I *DO NOT* believe in referral fees, nor do I “share the workload” with other attorneys (this is code word for “I referred you this client, so pay me a piece of the legal fees you receive and call it paying me for my “proportional efforts.”), something that is often done in my field which, in my opinion, needs to stop. This is also why I have upset a handful of non-copyright attorneys who know nothing about these cases who have called me with a client they would like to refer to me (coincidentally, asking to share in the fees, but not in the work).

So in hindsight, while I thought I’d be reintroducing “copyright troll” subpoenas and basic copyright infringement concepts to clear up some conflicting information found on the web, instead I am providing a clear warning to those who are being actively solicited by law firms. A law firm simply should not be calling you or contacting you to solicit your business.

There is a lot of conflicting information on the web about copyright trolls, and what to do when you receive a subpoena from your ISP, what to do when you receive what is often known as a “DMCA notice” (usually signed at the bottom by Ira M. Siegel) that you have violated a copyright holder’s rights [by what is often the download of a “B-rated” film or more shockingly, that you have been accused or caught downloading pornography through the use of bittorrent (and you thought you were private), and now you want to settle the claims against you anonymously, or you want to make this go away as quickly as possible].

All I could say is STOP AND CONSIDER YOUR OPTIONS, BECAUSE IGNORING A CLAIM OF COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT CAN OFTEN BE A GOOD IDEA (and, when I speak to clients, I do ask them questions about the claims against them, and IF THEY CAN IGNORE, I do suggest that they DO NOTHING.) Even in a lawsuit — DOING NOTHING MAY OFTEN BE YOUR BEST STRATEGIC MOVE, as counterintuitive as that might sound.

But when you are bombarded with attorneys and law firms who actively market their fear-based services by using “Google AdWords” (ethically or unethically “buying” more well known attorney’s names as keywords so that THEY show up at the top of a search when you search for another attorney after doing your own research on who to trust, yes, you know who you are), and those attorneys then have their “assistant” attorneys calling you and pushing you to anonymously settle the claims against you, think twice. Is this person trying to get you to be yet one more client in their “volume” business??

In every one of my calls, I discuss what I call the “ignore” option which in many people’s scenario is a viable option. In many cases, I even push a client towards the “ignore” side of things.

[NOTE: There are many political reasons I have for this, such as “not feeding the troll,” or “not funding their extortion-based scheme,” or simply because I have been trying to change the copyright laws to limit or hinder a copyright holder’s ability to accuse or sue an internet user for the violation of that copyright holder’s copyrights, but NONE OF THOSE REASONS ARE REASON WHY I SUGGEST SOMEONE I SPEAK TO IGNORES THE CLAIMS AGAINST THEM.]

Sometimes an individual’s circumstances allow them to ignore the lawsuit filed against them (or the copyright violation claimed against them in the DMCA notice) simply because of 1) the individual’s financial situation, 2) the location of their home, 3) the location of the plaintiff attorney, 4) whether that copyright holder authorizes his attorneys [and pays their fee] to “name and serve” defendants and move forward with trial, 5) for strategy purposes, e.g., the psychological impact of having one or more John Doe Defendants ignore the claims against them (while other defendants rush to settle in fear of being named and served), or 6) simply because ignoring is the better option in that person’s situation.

But my point, MY POINT, ***MY POINT*** IS CAVEAT EMPTOR. If the attorney you are speaking to is running your case as a volume business, or he is pushing you towards a “quick anonymous settlement” without showing you the merits of either 1) IGNORING, or 2) if in a lawsuit, defending the claims against you, beware, beware, beware.

The EFF list of attorneys who handle “mass bittorrent John Doe lawsuits for copyright infringement violations” has grown to over 100+ attorneys, and I have never even heard of some of these attorneys (which means that they are not defending cases, but rather, are running a volume-based settlement factory). I also see a number of names where I know for a fact that some of the attorneys listed in various states are NOT LICENSED to practice law in that state (neither on the state level, nor on the federal level) — this is a clear sign of being a volume-based settlement factory. I also know from my own experience defending clients that some of the attorney names on this list have switched sides and are now suing defendants.

…Just do your research, ok? And when a lawyer calls you, and then calls you again (and again), please ask yourself why they are following up with you.

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