DING, DONG, THE HARD DRIVE PRODUCTIONS CASE IS DEAD!

I don’t know how to say this other than in my field of work, it is not often that I am shocked.  I often speak to local counsel who get excited that they are handling a “porn” case.  Just a few days ago, I called one of Steele’s (a.k.a., “Anti-Piracy Law Group”) local counsel.  When I introduced myself, he said to me (with a boyish excitement), “Aren’t you the porn lawyer?” to which I responded, “Aren’t YOU the porn lawyer?!?”

Anyway, I cannot help but to generalize these cases into “okay, one more production company suing a college kid or husband for clicking on a link and viewing copyrighted materials.”  What I often forget is that there is usually some guy behind the scenes who has trailed so far into the world of pornography that he has opened up his own company, produced some porn videos, and now is suing defendants for their download.

The motive is usually the same.  Instead of “let’s punish these pirates” as they would like you to believe, their motive is rather, “let’s hit up as many people for thousands of dollars each until we get shut down by the courts.”  In my opinion, this was the motive of the Hard Drive Productions, Inc. lawsuits.

Digressing, the epic news of the day is that the Hard Drive Productions, Inc. v. Does 1-1,495 (Case No. 1:11-cv-01741) case has been dismissed.  Congratulations to the Cashman Law Firm, PLLC defendants who have been released from this case.  

I don’t need to go into details about the case history — it has been riddled with controversy since they started suing internet users 2+ years ago.  As far as the legal issues were concerned, this was a typical copyright infringement lawsuit plagued with the same procedural issues that most of the other cases of its time suffered from — improper joinder (defendants were not part of the same “swarm”), and improper jurisdiction (defendants were sued in a court which did not have personal jurisdiction over them because the DC court’s reach could not decide the case against most of the defendants who were implicated in the lawsuit because they lived outside of the court’s jurisdiction).

What surprised me about the Hard Drive Productions, Inc. case was not Hard Drive Productions, Inc., but the District of Columbia judges who made a political mess of these cases.  Judge Beryl Howell came on the scene making pro-copyright troll rulings, such as 1) “you don’t need to decide jurisdiction or joinder until a defendant is named and served in a lawsuit,” 2) an ISP cannot file a motion to quash on behalf of their subscribers, and 3) accused John Doe Defendants cannot file motions to quash until they are named as defendants in the case.  Mind you, she was a copyright lobbyist before she was appointed a federal judge.

Then in February, 2012, Judge Facciola came in with a ruling in the West Coast Productions, Inc. v. Does 1-1,434 (Case No. 1:11-cv-00055) case which I was sure was going to kill the Hard Drive Productions, Inc. case and all the other bittorrent cases in DC.  In his order, he ruled that “a defendant who does not live in the District of Columbia cannot be sued in the DC court because the DC court lacks jurisdiction over those defendants.”  However, at some point, it appears to me as if the RIAA/MPAA copyright lobby (probably by using Judge Beryl Howell as their mouthpiece) pressured Judge Facciola into giving into the copyright lobby’s pressure, and with a few contradictory rulings, he transitioned over to being Judge Beryl Howell’s sidekick in these cases.

Judge Bates also came in appearing to protect the procedural rights of the accused defendants who lived outside of DC, but once again, after what appeared to be some pressure from the RIAA/MPAA copyright lobby (once again, my educated guess is that Judge Beryl Howell was the force behind what happened), he was removed from the case which Judge Facciola took over.  Then, after some time, it appears as if Judge Bates too eventually caved in to the RIAA/MPAA copyright lobby (some refer to them as the “mafia,” or the copyright police), and on my September 27th, 2012 post, Judge Bates reversed his decision in Hard Drive Productions, Inc. case and let the “extortion” of the John Doe Defendants at the hands of John Steele and Co. (a.k.a., Steele Hansmeier PLLC, a.k.a., Prenda Law Inc., and now a.k.a., the “Anti-Piracy Law Group”) continue.

So.  The story with this dismissal is not necessarily a Hard Drive Productions, Inc. story, but a story of the forces behind the public interest groups and lobbyists who pressure Washington to always rule in favor of the copyright holder, regardless of whether the copyright holder is a pornography company, or whether the copyright holder is involved in making B-movies.  Bottom line, these lobbyists insist that WASHINGTON MUST CONTINUE TO BE PRO-COPYRIGHT AND MUST CONTINUE TO RULE IN FAVOR OF THE COPYRIGHT HOLDERS, regardless of who the copyright holder is, or at what cost.

So as things stand in DC, there is still a split as to the rights of unnamed John Doe Defendants between the rulings of Judge Wilkins (relating to the “motion to compel” lawsuit by Prenda Law Inc. against Comcast relating to their Millennium TGA, Inc. cases [BTW, dismissed last week]) and the rulings of Judge Beryl Howell, because as you read, Judge Howell certified an interlocutory appeal to answer questions relevant to these cases, but it appears to me that someone is dragging their feet there in DC and hoping for a dismissal so that they don’t have to decide the issues.

Lastly, there is a lot of activity on Twitter as to the 28 or so defendants who have settled their case, and some anger directed at these anonymous defendants who have settled.  Quite frankly, they are not all anonymous.  What happened with these is that without warning, Prenda Law Inc. turned around and sued one of these defendants (or threatened to imminently sue these defendants) in lawsuits in their home states.  I understand that many, if not most of the defendants in the “Hard Drive Productions, Inc. v. John Doe” cases which were filed towards the end of 2011 probably settled (I’ve listed a few of the named defendants in the “At What Point Does a Copyright Troll Stop Being a Troll” article.)

In closing, people are asking me whether I think Hard Drive Productions, Inc. is dead, or whether this is just the next logical progression before a slew of defendants being named.  I must note that Hard Drive Productions, Inc. got their butts kicked quite a few times, especially with the Hard Drive Productions, Inc. v. John Doe, 3:11-cv-05634-JCS (Seth Abrahams) case and the Hard Drive Productions, Inc. v. John Doe, 4:11-cv-05630-YGR (Liuxia Wong) case, both in California.  If you look at the http://www.rfcexpress.com website, there have been ZERO filings since March, 2012.  A defendant must also understand that with the egos of these copyright troll attorneys, there is the saying, “As the ego of the attorney inflates, so does his hourly rate.

We also know there have been squabbles between Prenda Law Inc.’s local counsel and Steele, and we know that their own attorneys have been jumping ship (and in some cases even testifying against Prenda Law Inc. in their attempts to withdraw as local counsel.)  Thus, there are problems all around, so my best advise is to watch the http://www.rfcexpress.com website and see whether Hard Drive Productions, Inc. starts a flurry of lawsuits across the U.S. or not.  And remember — behind every lawsuit there is a person (joking using the term “person” to mean a human, a fictitious person (who might not exist), or an offshore entity) who needs to pay Steele’s legal fees so that he can pay for his Las Vegas lifestyle of traveling the country “not” representing his clients in these matters.


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.

Borrowing the analogy from SJD: “The Steele Snake Changes Its Skin Once Again.”

Don’t get excited.  Prenda Law Inc. appears to be dead… just like Steele|Hansmeier, PLLC was dead last year (November 18th, 2011), and just like Steele Law Firm, PLLC was dead the year before…  Their new name will be called the Anti-Piracy Law Group.”

I would joke around and say that these guys don’t want to file their tax returns so every year they shut down their entity and open up a new one.  Joking aside, it is my opinion that the reason they keep changing their name is to evade the courts’ recognition of their copyright trolling business strategy because the tough lesson they have learned is that their firm’s bad name follows their lawsuits.

If you receive a notice from your internet service provider (ISP) containing a subpoena for copyright infringement, or if you receive a “scare” letter directly from the Anti-Piracy Law Group or one of their local counsel, do not be scared.  It is still the same John Steele / Paul Duffy Illinois racket foisting the same copyright trolling scam on us taxpayers.  As Sophisticated Jane Doe put it in her article, this is merely an example of a snake changing its skin… yet again.

While John Steele’s “WeFightPiracy.com” website is still up, their “Prenda Law Inc.” entity according to the Illinois Secretary of State’s page is “NOT IN GOOD STANDING.”  I too don’t think this will change.  To get a glance at their new website which is looking for a home (note, “www.antipiracylawgroup.com” has already been registered by someone else), you can visit what the new site will likely look like at http://wefightpiracy.org.previewdns.com/about-us/.

There is really not much else to say, except that I hear people are getting “scare” letters in the mail with the “Anti-Piracy Law Group” name on the letterhead.  If you are one of these recipients, just know that the game has not changed.  Everything is EXACTLY the same as it was when it was Prenda Law Inc., just as it was when it was Steele Hansmeier, PLLC, just as it was when it was Steele Law Firm, PLLC.  No changes.  No criminal charges.  No disbarments… yet.

ON A PERSONAL NOTE:  Their new “Anti-Piracy Law Group” name is quite official sounding.  I wonder if next year they’ll have the gall to call themselves the U.S. Copyright Group (oh yeah, that’s been done already by other copyright trolls), because choosing scary-sounding names and changing them as soon as the courts catch on to their scam seems to be their modus operandi these days.


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.

Sunlust Pictures, LLC attorney was a no-show this afternoon in the Southern District of Texas.

So… I was in the Southern District of Texas court this afternoon, and I thought that I would stop by and sit in on the Sunlust Pictures, LLC v. Does 1-75 (Case No. 4:12-cv-00695) case management hearing.

Prenda Law Inc.’s local counsel was a no show.

Using the court’s speaker phone, the clerk called Douglas Clemons, Prenda’s answer to Doug McIntyre’s withdrawal as local counsel from all of their cases.

RECEPTIONIST: “Manfred Sternberg & Associates, how may I help you?”

CLERK: “We are looking for Douglas Clemons.  He has a hearing scheduled with Judge Ellison.”

RECEPTIONIST: “With who?”

CLERK: “Judge Ellison.”

RECEPTIONIST: “Let me see if he is here… No, he is not in the office.  I don’t even see anything on his calendar for today.  I’m going to transfer you to his cell phone. [click. dial tone.]”

In other words, Doug Clemons, local counsel to Prenda Law Inc. didn’t even know he had a hearing this afternoon.  This baffles me — I’ve known about it for weeks.  I expect that he has some explaining to do.

As far as the Sunlust Pictures, LLC v. Does 1-75 case is concerned, the hearing from today will probably be rescheduled with no consequences to the plaintiffs or to Prenda Law Inc.’s local counsel.  That being said, I do want to point out that the John Doe Defendants in this case likely have nothing to worry about — well, at least the Comcast Cable Communications subscribers.

Comcast refused to comply with the subpoena issued to them to release the names of the accused defendants, and Prenda sued Comcast in DC in a “motion to compel” case entitled “Sunlust Pictures, LLC v. Comcast Cable Communications, LLC” (Case No. 12-mc-00383).  They have done this before.  The judge denied Prenda’s motion, and thus Comcast will not be complying with the subpoena which essentially means that any Sunlust Pictures, LLC clients here in the Texas lawsuits are home free.  Your plaintiff attorneys will not know who you are.

As for non-Comcast defendants, there will be another case management hearing.  It’s probably a good idea to mount a proactive defense and at least let yourselves be heard.  Judge Ellison is a fair judge, and he will listen to you regardless of whether you are represented by an attorney or not.

I think more generally that it is probably a good idea for Doe Defendants across the country to start showing up to these hearings.  If you don’t have an attorney, wear a tie and a jacket, and say hello to the judge and the clerk.  If you do not have an attorney representing you, then represent yourselves.  I don’t think one local counsel who doesn’t have his heart invested in these cases can stand up to many of you, especially when you are passionately against these kinds of lawsuits.


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.