Hundreds of John Doe Defendants Hidden in Steele’s “Single John Doe” Lawsuits

RE: AF Holdings LLC v. Matthew Ciccone (MIED; Case No. 4:12-cv-14442)
Local Counsel:  Jonathan W. Tappan (a.k.a., Anti-Piracy Law Group, a.k.a., Prenda Law Inc.)
Judge: District Judge Gershwin Drain (Magistrate Judge Laurie Michelson) –> case reassigned to Mona K. Majzoub.

Prenda Law Inc. (now formally known as the “Anti-Piracy Law Group”) might be the most prolific copyright troll law firm out there, but they have become quite skilled at hiding their activities, even from the likes of me. In the past few months, I have seen many lawsuits bearing the title, “AF Holdings LLC v. John Doe.” My immediate assumption was that there was just one defendant in each of these cases [about to be named], but no! Just how many John Doe Defendants are in each of these “single John Doe” cases? As of today, the answer is now, “sometimes hundreds of defendants.”

Case in Point: AF Holdings LLC v. Matthew Ciccone (Case No. 4:12-cv-14442) filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. The title of the accused infringed work is “Sexual Obsession.” For the purposes of this blog entry, I will ignore the fact that this pornography video was copyrighted by Heartbreaker Films and not AF Holdings, and I will also ignore the non-existent [fake] CEO “Alan Cooper,” and copyright assignment issues which have been circulating around the blogs.

At first glance, it looks like yet one more John Doe (Ciccone) defendant was named in one of their many “single Doe” lawsuits. However, buried deep in the lawsuit (in Document 10) is what is known as a “Joint Motion for Expedited Discovery” naming an ADDITIONAL 300 JOHN DOE DEFENDANTS INTO THE LAWSUIT.

Now these 300+ John Doe Defendants are getting subpoenas from their ISPs telling them that unless they file a “motion to quash,” their ISP will be complying with the subpoenas and handing over their information.

On a personal note, I have been dealing with copyright trolls such as the Anti Piracy Law Group for almost two years now. In the olden days, their lawsuits used to look like “AF Holdings, LLC v. Does 1-1,040” where it was obvious how many defendants were in each lawsuit.  With this new information, now I need to delve back in to what appeared to be “single John Doe” lawsuits and see whether there is really one defendant or hundreds in each lawsuit.

One point for you, John Steele. I didn’t see this one coming.


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17 thoughts on “Hundreds of John Doe Defendants Hidden in Steele’s “Single John Doe” Lawsuits”

  1. Thanks, Rob, for bringing attention to this lawsuit. Although I don’t know for sure, my gut feeling is that there is only one lawsuit of this kind, the one you referred to. In my opinion, the scam artists test the water here. This is an attempt to play the Guava/Arte de Oaxaca trick on the federal level.

    I’m not 100% sure though: Steele is back from his offline, no-bragging hiatus, and this usually happens when 1) he just pulled or about to pull a relatively successful swindle (“relatively” because, as a real traveling gang, Prenda’s MO is do short-term tricks and loot, loot, loot exploring judicial hysteresis). 2) There is another reason for Steele’s drunken self-damaging rants, but I can’t talk about it. So, again, it is not clear if something big has just been pulled.

    This one is a dangerous trick though because it is based on collusion, i.e. on the people that Prenda don’t trust. If any “defendant” that was given an immunity in exchange for “agreed” discovery will go forward and contact FBI, it means end.

    End is already here anyway: with Lutz on the run, and Steele mulling leaving the country, with more and more bold scams, with mass closing of cases with “real” plaintiffs, leaving only fake entities, it is obvious.

    Can you believe that these gangsters are calling DOes from the dismissed HDP case as we speak? this fact translates to desperation.

    1. I also want to look at this further..It would make me quite upset if an attorney from our defense side was purposefully allowing this to happen to other John Doe defendants. “Represent one; throw all the others under the bus” in my opinion is not an honest or ethical legal strategy.

      1. The Judge can always just ask again if plaintiff and defense counsel are in bed together… er wait… been done.

  2. I got this letter today from my ISP. I have no idea what this is about (as I’m quite sure I didn’t download this, but did have my WIFI unlocked for quite a long period of time last fall). Should I do anything or just ignore it?

  3. I got this letter too just a few days ago what should I do and what shouldn’t I do?? I feel like I’m being targeted for something I’m 99.99% sure I had no part of and feel like somehow I’m gonna get screwed all the same…any pointers would be greatly appreciated. Do I lawyer up? Do I get tech guys to go through my computer to see what’s going on? Thanks for the info and keep up the good fight.

    1. The Guava cases (and the others) are a tough one for me because they are filed in state courts, and I do not have “eyes” on their dockets. If they were filed in federal courts, I would be all over them as far as representing clients.

      From what I know, the plaintiff attorneys employ a cookie-cutter approach to their lawsuits, so all the problems that you will read about with the AF Holdings, LLC cases likely apply to what they have done to “procure” the copyrights for these so-called copyright holders as well. The same issues of proper assignment, etc., should be applied in any legal analysis.

      As far as the lawsuits themselves go, at the state level, all that is happening is akin to the “Bill of Discovery” issues SJD covered months ago with Lipscomb’s Florida cases (same concept with Steele’s Illinois Lightspeed cases). They are gathering names for the purpose of sending out their “we will sue you if you do not settle” letters. Other than this, there is not much they can do on the state level since these are federal statutes they are asserting.

      The subject matter, whether they call it the CFAA, the Hacker statutes, or whatever they call it — at the end of the day, whether it is a CFAA violation they are asserting or a copyright infringement hidden in some other form, chances are this will have to pass through a federal court in order to move forward, and myself and the other attorneys are “standing at the gates,” so to speak.

      In the meantime, my opinion is that settling will only fuel other people getting implicated in other lawsuits, and from what I’ve been reading in Minnesota, even if you settle, that doesn’t mean they won’t come after you again and again. In other words, beware of their boilerplate settlement agreement.

  4. Since I received this letter from my ISP stating that they are giving my info to AF holdings next week, I am still unclear on whether I should contact a lawyer or just let this ride its course. What are the other Does doing? And should I be concerned about this? I have noticed these guys have lawsuits out there like crazy.

  5. Just in case others come across this, it seems Tappan is dismissing an number of his other Prenda/AF Holdings cases. Even if he sticks with this one, a hearing is set for Friday the 22nd (last I knew) and a good amount of the new Prenda info has already been introduced as exhibits.

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