Illinois copyright attorneys suffer first loss in their home court.

Congratulations to our clients and to all defendants in the “CP Productions, Inc. v. Does 1-300” case (1:10-cv-06255), dismissed in the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. While at first glance this case appears to be a no-name media company attempting to enforce their copyrights using the mass tort copyright infringement “John Doe” model, there *is* real significance to this case.

This is one of the first cases in the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois to have been dismissed. It was dismissed by Judge Milton I. Shadur, a Senior United States District Judge. More importantly, this is John Steele’s (of the Steele Law Firm LLC — now Steele Hansmeier, LLC) home court where a majority of his other cases have been filed. Have you heard any of his other cases filed there (just to name a few)?

Millenium TGA, Inc. v. Does 1-100 (1:10-cv-05603)
Lightspeed Media Corporation v. Does 1-100 (1:10-cv-05604)
Hard Drive Productions, Inc. v. Does 1-1000 (1:10-cv-05606)
First Time Videos LLC v. Does 1-500 (1:10-cv-06254)
Future Blue, Inc. v. Does 1 – 300 (1:10-cv-06256)
MGCIP, LLC v. Does 1-316 (1:10-cv-06677)
MCGIP, LLC v. Does 1-1,164 (1:10-cv-07675) [no misspelling there]
Achte/Neunte Boll Kino Beteiligungs GMBH & Co KG v. Novello (1:11-cv-00898)
Achte/Neunte Boll Kino Beteiligungs GMBH & Co KG v. Famula (1:11-cv-00903)

As you can see, a lot is riding on these cases, and one dismissal creates a ripple effect which will likely affect the others. This is what happened in Evan Stone’s Larry Flynt Productions (LFP Internet Group, LLC) cases and related cases which were all dismissed in the US District Court for the Northern District of Texas all at once. Here, the judge’s order (which you can either find online or you can e-mail me) was quite explicit in his reasons for dismissing the case. No doubt the other judges for the cases I listed above will take notice of this dismissal.

For more information on the case, Ars Technica website had a nice write-up on it in their “Random defendant outlawyers P2P attorney, gets lawsuit tossed” article. The 99 comments (as of the posting of this article) are also very telling and informative.

41 thoughts on “Illinois copyright attorneys suffer first loss in their home court.”

  1. Kudos to the judge. I am involved with a case with Mr. Steele in the same district. I hope the judge in my case follows suit and they put this extortionist bastard out of business.

  2. It will be interesting to see if he will refile….

    I have also noticed on some of his cases he has dismissed up to 100+ does stating:

    Plaintiff, pursuant to Rule 41(a)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, hereby dismisses without prejudice all causes of action in the complaint against the Doe Defendants associated with the Internet Protocol addresses listed in Exhibit A to this Notice of Dismissal. Plaintiff is dismissing this action because the parties have reached a mutually satisfactory resolution of their differences, the Defendants’ respective Internet Service Providers deleted the relevant Internet Protocol address records before Plaintiff was permitted to issue a subpoena, or discovery has revealed a more convenient venue in which to pursue an action against a given Defendant. The respective Defendants have filed neither an answer to the complaint nor a motion for summary judgment with respect to the same. Dismissal under Rule 41(a)(1) is therefore appropriate.

    Seems fishy to me….

    1. Based on the contents of that Techdirt post by(who I’m assuming is) Steele, I’m curious as to Mr. Cashman’s opinion on what actual authority Steele has in essentially telling people that they have to keep/maintain equipment that is for all intents and purposes not currently the subject of any existing suit, just in case he decides individually sue them over it some time in the next two years or however long?

  3. There is another interesting development in one of his other cases(First Time Videos LLC v. Does 1-500).

    Apparently he is now calling for sanctions against the attorney of one of the defendants because he referenced the CP Productions case. He’s calling for any references to CP Productions to be stricken from the court documents under the claim that he’s misleading the court in stating that the CP Productions case was for any other reason than Rule 4.

    The judge’s quotes from Ars Technica seem to differ in that regard, however. But he also goes on to say that “Thompson’s actions are in bad faith because this Court only has limited time to review other judge’s dockets and the Order enclosed as an exhibit to Thompson’s motion does not explain the tangled procedural history that lead to the ruling.”

    Am I wrong in reading that as “Take my word for it, because the court shouldn’t have to waste time looking up the case?”

    The full document can be found here.

    http://bitshare.com/files/qgvt85co/8447378-0–31648.pdf.html

    1. I read the filing, and I was disgusted by the attorney’s motion for sanctions. It is one thing to correct the error and file a response in opposition, I think it is inappropriate to try to slap the other side into submission by threatening them with sanctions. Sanctions are for egregious activities, e.g., filing copyright troll lawsuits against multiple John Doe defendants, not for attempting to protect a defendant and misstating the holding of a previous case (and by the way, it wasn’t a complete misstatement of why the CP case was dismissed — it just wasn’t the actual holding that the court found to dismiss the case outright).

    2. On a second glance, I believe the best response is an informed response. I corresponded with Mr. Steele this morning and told him that I thought it was improper that he asked for sanctions against the defendant’s attorney. It appears to be John’s sincere belief that the attorney lied in his motion, and that John even contacted him and asked him to withdraw and/or modify his motion and the attorney refused. Thus, he filed for sanctions.

      As I said before, I am against the use of sanctions to slap and punish attorneys for attempting to protect their clients against what is too often a great injustice and misuse of the legal system. But I am also against so-called sloppy work. Now I don’t plan to spend too much time on this to figure out who really did what since it is not relevant to defending my clients’ interests, but both sides need to be vigilant and diligent in protecting their clients’ interests.

      1. I must certainly make the point that I could sincerely believe that kittens are born when rainbows shine upon a field of dandelions, but that doesn’t necessarily make it the case.

        I’d like to think that there’s a good reason for the sanctions, but given the history of Steele’s actions to this point, I find myself hard-pressed to believe that he is legitimately concerned with the court being properly informed.

        Perhaps the statements made by the defendant’s plaintiff may have been in -error- if there may not have been any -officially documented- reasons beyond Rule 4, but given the quotations from the judge in the articles relating to the dismissal of the CP Productions case, I don’t believe that there is any lie in the fact that the judge did indeed state those reasons as part of why he was dismissing the case. Even in(especially in) that situation, it is particularly eyebrow-raising to call for sanctions for such a hypocritical reason as “abuse of judicial process”, over what could at best be labeled an error.

        Be that as it may, with any luck, something as large a red flag as a call for sanctions on an attorney will turn the judge’s head and perhaps prompt him to take a look at the CP Productions case and events thus far more closely(especially as judge Castillo is involved in at least two of Steele’s mass-lawsuit cases). Being as how both judges are in the same district, it could even result in communications with judge Shadur and in the end, the judge could make a determination based on Shadur’s statements and the history of these cases thus far. As you’ve said yourself, these do create a ripple effect, especially when you involve co-workers.

  4. I have found a post pointing out that it seems that he has filed at least one new suit in the state of Illinois against another group of Does. Steele is casting his net wide again with this one. Just letting you know.

    VPR Internationale v Does 1-1017(2:2011-cv-02068)

    1. Thank you. He has been taken on a few new monster cases. Here is one more: Openmind Solutions, Inc. v. Does 1-2925 (Case No. 3:11-cv-00092), also in the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

      1. @houstonlawy3r:
        This same case you refer to [Openmind Solutions, Inc. v. Does 1-2925 (Case No. 3:11-cv-00092)] is in fact the case that triggered EFF’s amicus brief looking at quashing all the ISP subpoenas.
        (https://www.eff.org/cases/openmind-solutions-v-does-1-2925)

        I have it from good authority that already some people have begun receiving the settlement letters related to this case, from Mr. Steele’s office. So, looks like ISPs are already complying, and EFFs action has come too late.

    1. My primary concern with these cases(especially now that he’s doing thousands at a time) is that it’s largely irrelevant whether or not the judge dismisses them, as long as he has enough time to subpoena all of the IP addresses and send out settlement letters. Provided just one person responds, that already pays for the filing fee and a nice portion of his own costs. Any more than that is just raw profit.

      By that point, even if the judge eventually catches on and dumps the case, he’s already won. He doesn’t need to be concerned with with the people that don’t pay up as long as he can cast his net wide and collect as many as he can in the period that the judge gives him before the case is dismissed. Many of these cases have simply been dragging on for nearly half a year now, and I fully believe that this is intentional, to maximize the amount of settlements he can try to collect before the judge forces something to happen.

      He is fully aware that the longer a case drags on, the less capable he would be of actually proving that there was any evidence of infringement if the case came to blows(especially when ISPs take months at a time before they even notify a defendant of being part of the suit). But I don’t think that’s what he cares about at all, it’s really just harvesting the wheat from the chaff. Even if the case is dismissed and he has to notify everyone of the dismissal, the people that settled are already out the money that they paid.

      Unfortunately it looks like the only way we can really prevent this abuse from being profitable is for either more people to out and out refuse to settle until it becomes so unprofitable that his firm goes down in flames(like ACS Law did in the UK), or have the judges crush the suits on the outset before it can even get to the subpoena phase.

  5. MCGIP, LLC v. Does 1-1,164 (1:10-cv-07675)
    VPR Internationale v Does 1-1017(2:2011-cv-02068)

    Both of these cases reference the same adult titles.

    She lost a bet
    Iraq Care package

  6. Well, my case was continued to 5/11. PACER says Steele says he will have all the names and will be prepared name defendants and tell the judge how he plans to serve everyone. Which we all know is BS, it just gives him another 2 months to shake people down. I really don’t understand how the judge is letting this drag on and on and on and allowing him to extort settlements. This case was filed in Sept. Now to May? Really? I can only hope that somewhere down the road a judge gets fed up with this nonsense and smacks Steele with sanctions.

    1. Good. Well, good in the sense that the longer the case drags on(/he stalls), the more it plays against him, because it flies in the face of any insistence he made at the onset of the case that discover in order to serve is a time critical factor due to natural data decay over time.

      I know it’s unlikely to actually happen, but let’s say he actually did serve everyone in the case. And let’s say that the judge ignores the severe problems that would descend upon him if he allowed a suit against hundreds/thousands of people completely outside of his jurisdiction. Steele would have an extremely hard time proving(or even arguing) that eight(or more!) months after the initial filing of the case, that any data in question still exists, if it ever existed to begin with.
      Essentially the only evidence he has are accusations that something was reported at the IP address in question that the ISP said belonged to you at the time the attorney said that it happened.

      Note that yes, I’m saying the *attorney*, the plaintiff actually had no involvement in any discovery(they only lend Steele the ability to enforce his client’s copyrights on their behalf), it was entirely executed by Steele’s front company, by software that he had invested in developing, and that he refuses to divulge information about beyond the spreadsheet outputs due to it being “proprietary”. I feel this just screams conflict of interest personally, which makes his ‘evidence’ flimsy at best to begin with.

      Here’s one of the more concise articles about this issue.
      http://current.com/technology/92979069_copyright-troll-john-steele-uses-flawless-software-he-paid-250k-to-create-in-order-to-generate-evidence-to-sue-1000s-in-torrent-lawsuits.htm

      (Random closing statement: You can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar, but bull—- works just as well too.)

  7. I have just received a letter from my ISP… [edited out]. Donnican, your posts have been helpful as well.

    At this point… [edited out].

    …please keep the updates coming.

    (Rob Cashman’s comment: For your own protection, please do not discuss incriminating details about your case on this forum. Remember, you must assume that John Steele and the other plaintiff attorneys read this blog and the comments regularly.)

  8. He has to send out settlement letters? I thought they only send out subpoenas which cause letters to be sent from the ISPs. Maybe it will get thrown out like the CP Productions case did.

  9. Is it usual to receive letters from the ISPs? ( Why not just send a settlement note ? )
    I am glad my search brought me here, time to cook some dinner and relax now. I read about a gentleman forking over 2900 to Steele over this suit last month, so he seems to be still going strong.

    1. Yes, the ISPs are usually required to tell you if they do something with your information.

      The ISP has nothing to do with your settlement. They are a neutral party that is only responding to Steele’s subpoena for your information. Any settlement demands you receive will come from Steele’s offices after he runs a background check to see what he thinks you can afford to pay him.

  10. I figured he would be considering the stories that D, G & W do it with their mass suit cases.

    Of course, it’s entirely possible that I’m just giving him to much credit.

    1. That’s pretty much exactly what he’s doing. The more of these he files in Illinois, the more suspicious it’s going to look. Especially when two judges in Illinois have already booted two of his cases out the door.

      How is it going to look if he files against another several hundred/thousand people, and the court ends up assigning you the same judge that booted your previous case out for doing the exact same thing he’s continuing to do? Why risk that, when you can just go to a completely different state with a judge that has probably never heard of you?

  11. i’ve just been subpoenaed by the same guy (steele) as a result of my IP being targeted (Hard Drive Productions, Inc v. Does 1-16 (http://www.rfcexpress.com/lawsuits/copyright-lawsuits/illinois-northern-district-court/75197/hard-drive-productions-inc-v-does-1-16/summary/) … after reading the above a i have a few questions…

    i’ve read that many quash attempts have been unsuccessful… is it still worth filing at least attempt to protect the distribution of account information?

    i also am using an unprotected wireless network, which will immediately become protected as a result of this, but i’ve read that this may assist in the defense of such subpoenas… is this true?

    are there any actions other than to quash the subpoena that would work better to defend the position of the IP address in lieu of a future direct subpoena to my person?

    any help would be greatly appreciated…

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