Why would copyright trolls show evidence of ‘other downloaded movies’ if they have evidence of infringement?

ANSWER: Insufficient or non-existent evidence.

Copyright trolls often surprise me by the lengths they will go to prove that a particular “John Doe” defendant downloaded a particular movie. Because the underlying copyright infringement cases likely cannot prove copyright infringement, instead, copyright troll attorneys will spy into the internet connections of their accused defendants and determine what other movies, videos, or content that accused downloader allegedly downloaded. They use those additional downloads as ‘character evidence’ to assert that the defendant downloaded the accused movie. (Next article, I will describe how they are likely doing it.)

By showing character evidence of ‘other downloaded movies,’ copyright trolls prove that the accused “John Doe” Defendant has the personality or ‘character’ of being a habitual infringer (a ‘pirate’).  This character evidence shows that the defendant is familiar with piracy tools and illegal methods of acquiring movies and videos from bittorrent websites (e.g., The Pirate Bay). By demonstrating to the court that “someone from that same IP address downloaded these other movies,” the copyright troll seeks to prove that “the accused defendant must have also downloaded this movie as well.”

Copyright Trolls Use Other The Pirate Bay Downloads to demonstrate character evidence to infringe their movie copyright.

[NOTE TO THE READER: WHAT YOU ARE ABOUT TO READ IS A GREAT ARTICLE, BUT IT NEEDS A ROADMAP TO UNDERSTAND THE FLOW OF IT.]

HERE IS THE ROADMAP:

  1. INTRODUCE THE CONCEPT OF ‘CHARACTER EVIDENCE’ (A LEGAL TERM), AND DESCRIBE WHY EVIDENCE OF ‘OTHER TITLES DOWNLOADED’ IS INADMISSIBLE TO PROVE COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT.
  2. INQUIRE WHY PLAINTIFF WOULD TAKE THE EXTRA STEP OF SHOWING ‘OTHER TITLES DOWNLOADED’ IF HE HAS SOLID EVIDENCE OF INFRINGEMENT.
  3. DISCUSS THE NEBULOUS ‘PCAP FILE’ WHICH CAN PROVE INFRINGEMENT, NOTE THAT THE PLAINTIFF HAS ACCESS TO THIS FILE, AND YET IT IS MISSING FROM THE PLAINTIFF’S CASES.
  4. SUB-TOPIC: THE EVIDENCE THE PLAINTIFF ACTUALLY HAS IS “SNAPSHOT EVIDENCE.” COURTS REJECTED SNAPSHOT EVIDENCE AS BEING INSUFFICIENT TO PROVE COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT.
  5. (I RETURN TO THE MISSING PCAP EVIDENCE AND DEMONSTRATE THAT THE PLAINTIFF ATTORNEY MISDIRECTS THE COURT BY REFERRING TO A SOFTWARE REPORT, BUT GLOSSING OVER THE PCAP EVIDENCE).
  6. END THE ARTICLE BY COMMENTING THAT SHOWING ‘OTHER TITLES DOWNLOADED’ TO A DEFENDANT IS AN EFFECTIVE STRATEGY IN SCARING HIM TO AGREE TO SETTLE THE CASE.

1. EVIDENCE OF ‘OTHER TITLES DOWNLOADED’ IS INADMISSIBLE CHARACTER EVIDENCE.

In the eyes of the law, ANY CHARACTER EVIDENCE OF ‘OTHER MOVIES OR TITLES’ DOWNLOADED BY THE JOHN DOE DEFENDANT IS INADMISSIBLE TO PROVE THAT THE DEFENDANT DOWNLOADED THE MOVIE TITLE FOR WHICH THAT DEFENDANT WAS SUED. Malibu Media, LLC tried using character evidence and failed. For a while, they were listing other movie titles and illegal downloads that accused defendant participated in, and the courts reprimanded their efforts.

Specifically because Malibu Media attempted to admit character evidence into their complaints, in the Western District of Wisconsin, Judge Stephen L. Crocker consolidated each of Malibu Media LLC’s cases.  Here, the judge ruled that character evidence of ‘other titles allegedly downloaded’ was not only inadmissible, but it was prejudicial to the defendant’s case (see attached order).

According to the Federal Rules of Evidence (“F.R.E.”), evidence of a person’s character to prove a consistent act with that character is called ‘character evidence,’ which is inadmissible to prove copyright infringement. (See the Federal Rules of Evidence, §404 on Character Evidence).

2. WHY WOULD COPYRIGHT TROLLS USE CHARACTER EVIDENCE OF ‘OTHER DOWNLOADED TITLES’ WHEN THEY CAN PROVE INFRINGEMENT USING THE PCAP FILE?

Why a copyright troll would resort to using ‘character evidence’ of ‘other titles downloaded’ to prove that the downloader must have downloaded this title is puzzling.  The copyright holders DO have evidence of infringement, don’t they?

3. EVIDENCE OF INFRINGEMENT CAN BE FOUND IN THE PCAP FILE.

Perhaps the reason why the attorney is seeking to find “other titles” an accused defendant downloaded is that copyright trolls do not actually have evidence that the defendant downloaded this movie.

For the technical-minded, this evidence of copyright infringement would be found in a “PCAP file.” Copyright holders have this file, but they will never release to the courts. This PCAP file would indicate whether a downloader merely clicked on a link and connected to a bittorrent swarm WITH THE INTENT* to download, view, or stream a movie, or whether the accused defendant actually copied a substantial watchable portion of the movie. (*NOTE: a defendant who had ‘INTENT’ to commit a copyright infringement cannot be found guilty of ‘willful’ copyright infringement if the download or the viewing never actually took place.)  The PCAP file is hidden from the courts and is never introduced to prove that the defendant downloaded the movie. Instead of documenting actual evidence of infringement, the copyright troll attorneys find “other titles” that the defendant allegedly downloaded.

4. HOW TROLLS REPLACE PCAP EVIDENCE WITH ‘SNAPSHOT’ EVIDENCE.

The omission of the PCAP evidence is relevant to an accused defendant in a bittorrent-based movie lawsuit.  The reason for this is because courts are misled into thinking that a report containing a list of IP addresses of accused downloaders at some ‘snapshot’ or time period by proprietary Peer-to-Peer surveillance software is sufficient to prove infringement.  However, the so-called ‘SNAPSHOT’ EVIDENCE of infringement (described below) might demonstrate only that the accused John Doe Defendant was present downloading a bittorrent file at a particular date and time.  ‘Snapshot’ evidence of infringement has been rejected by the courts as not being sufficient to prove copyright infringement.

Further, the companies that do the ‘snapshot’ tracking of the bittorrent networks — IPP International, and here in the Texas-based cases, MaverickEye UG, all appear to be shell companies of Guardaley.  For those who are new to the site, Guardaley is the German company our firm has been investigating to find the connection between almost every copyright infringement case hitting the US courts.  Guardaley has been the common thread between each lawsuit, regardless of whether the copyrighted material is pornographic (as in the Malibu Media, LLC lawsuits), or whether it is a mainstream movie.

For current defendants, the ‘snapshot’ evidence problem as I will describe it below likely applies to each of the “Mechanic:Resurrection” movie lawsuits (ME2 Productions), each of the “I.T.” movie lawsuits (I.T. Productions), each of the “Mr. Cook” movie lawsuits (Cook Productions), and literally every other movie lawsuit filed in the last seven years, as listed on Carl Crowell’s list of Guardaley clients.

Character Evidence of 'Other Movies Downloaded' To Prove The Download of THIS movie.

4A. SUB-TOPIC: WHY “SNAPSHOT EVIDENCE” IS INSUFFICIENT TO PROVE COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT

Source: Judge Otis Wright’s 2013 order from the Ingenuity 13 LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:12-cv-08333) case in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

RULE 2. A “SNAPSHOT OBSERVATION” OF AN IP ADDRESS ENGAGED IN DOWNLOADING AT THAT MOMENT IS INSUFFICIENT PROOF OF COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT

Here, all the evidence a copyright troll plaintiff has on a suspected defendant is that at a particular date and time (a “timestamp”), that particular IP address was engaged in the downloading of a particular copyrighted file.

Here, a “snapshot” of an IP address correlated with evidence from the subscriber’s internet service provider (“ISP”) [that it was the subscriber who was leased that IP address during the date and time the alleged activity took place] is insufficient proof that the download actually took place. The defendant could have merely entered the swarm and could be in queue to download his first byte of data. The defendant could be 10% done with the download and could have in his possession an unviewable fragment of the copyrighted video.  This is hardly enough to rise to the level of “SUBSTANTIAL SIMILARITY” that is required in order to find a defendant guilty of copyright infringement. And, yet at the same time, that same snapshot could refer to a defendant having a download which is 99% complete.

A snapshot of an IP address in a bittorrent swarm is simply not conclusive that the downloader infringed the copyright.

The analogy the judge gives is taking a “snapshot” of a child reaching for a candy bar. In order to find someone guilty of copyright infringement, a plaintiff needs to prove that it is “more likely than not” that activity rising to the level of copyright infringement occurred. A snapshot places the defendant at the “scene of the crime.” It does not convict him for the unlawful act itself, and usually this is all the evidence a plaintiff copyright troll compiles when tracking a bittorrent swarm.

5. RETURNING TO THE OMISSION OF PCAP EVIDENCE IN PLAINTIFF’S DECLARATION. WHY THEY TURN TO ‘CHARACTER EVIDENCE’ OF ‘OTHER TITLES DOWNLOADED’ WHEN CONFRONTING A DEFENDANT

Instead of providing the PCAP file (which can prove or disprove whether actual infringement happened), the copyright holders have some expert witness file some declaration stating that they have viewed the reports generated by the bittorrent surveillance software.   That expert witness declares that they have verified that the IP address list created by that software matches the list of defendants who are accused as “John Doe” defendants in this case.

[Curiously, even copyright troll attorneys list themselves as expert witnesses to show that they viewed the software printout.  I don’t know why an attorney would do this, because this makes the plaintiff attorney a discoverable witness in discovery. Here in the Texas ME2 Productions, Inc. v. Does lawsuits, we see plaintiff attorney Gary Fischman’s declaration stating exactly what I have described:

Gary Fischman Declaration Regarding Maverickeye UG (Guardaley) P2P swarm surveillance software report. by Cashman Law Firm, PLLC on Scribd

As a defense attorney, I am puzzled why the plaintiff attorneys often try to prove their case with inadmissible character evidence (“other downloaded titles”).  I understand that copyright infringement in the context of a bittorrent swarm can be proved by the PCAP file (e.g., stating that the movie was 100% downloaded).

Thus, it logically makes sense that the attorney simply DOES NOT HAVE EVIDENCE OF INFRINGEMENT.  This could be why he goes to such lengths to prove that the downloader downloaded the other titles.

6. NEVERTHELESS, SHOWING CHARACTER EVIDENCE OF ‘OTHER TITLES DOWNLOADED’ IS STILL AN EFFECTIVE TACTIC.

From the copyright troll’s perspective, the goal is not to ‘nail’ each “John Doe” Defendant and make them liable for the $150,000 in statutory damages. Rather, a copyright troll seeks to elicit a settlement of a few thousand dollars from each “John Doe” defendant. 

Thus if the copyright troll isn’t interested in proving copyright infringement, but rather wishes to scare the bejeebies out of the accused defendant who actually downloaded those additional titles, then showing that defendant the list of ‘other titles downloaded’ *is* an effective tactic to manipulate them to do whatever the plaintiff demands of them, even if that means paying a multi-thousand dollar settlement.

IN SUM: WHICH ONE IS IT?

So which is it?  Does the plaintiff actually lack evidence of infringement as I have suggested by the missing PCAP file and the misdirection in the declarations filed with the court?  Or, does the copyright troll want to use the so-called ‘character evidence’ of ‘other titles downloaded’ to demonstrate to you (the John Doe Defendant) that you must have been the one who did the download of the movie (and thus you should pay him)?

My opinion: it is both.


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.

Turnkey ‘Settlement Factory’ Defense Attorneys and Malibu Media LLC

Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe lawsuits have plagued the US federal courts so far with over 6,000 lawsuits filed nationwide.  The burden to the courts to manage each of these cases is large.  The emotional and financial burden to families faced with subpoenas sent to their ISPs forcing them to decide whether to file a motion to quash the subpoena or pay a large settlement is staggering.

There is no public defender to represent John Doe Defendants against Malibu Media, LLC in motions to quash, and so-called defense attorneys are using the $150,000 statutory damages these cases come with to manipulate those they speak to into settling the Malibu Media lawsuit.  What many John Doe defendants have told me in response to the articles that have been written on “Turnkey” / “Settlement Factory” defense attorneys is that they have been overpaying to the tune of thousands of dollars per settlement because their attorney agreed to settle for a “per case” amount significantly higher than I know Malibu Media, LLC would have come down to in a settlement negotiation.

For this reason, I am posting again on the topic of defense attorneys who run what I call “turnkey settlement factory” law firms.  In this article, I am not blowing the whistle on the defense-attorney-working-for-plaintiff “weretroll” issue (those who know what I am speaking about have been informed about it), but I am revisiting the caution an accused defendant should have when hiring an attorney who promises a ‘quick settlement.’

 [NOTE: BEFORE READING THIS ARTICLE: If you have not already done so, and you are implicated as a John Doe in a Malibu Media, LLC lawsuit, read these first:
1) “Everything You Need To Know in One Page About Your Malibu Media, LLC (X-Art) Lawsuit [FAQ]
2) “In-Depth Malibu Media.  Their Lawsuits, Their Strategies, and Their Settlements

FOR IMMEDIATE CONTACT AN ATTORNEY: To set up a free consultation to speak to an attorney about your Malibu Media, LLC lawsuit, click here.  Lastly, please feel free to e-mail me at info [at] cashmanlawfirm.com, or call 713-364-3476 to speak to me now about your case (I do prefer you read the articles first), or to get your questions answered.]

Screenshot from Malibu Media, LLC's X-Art.com website.
Screenshot from Malibu Media, LLC’s X-Art.com website.

“TURNKEY” / “SETTLEMENT FACTORY” DEFENSE ATTORNEYS

There are attorneys who have turned the copyright infringement lawsuits into ‘turnkey’ settlement operations, ‘riding the gravy train of a broken system’, as one prominent blogger correctly put it. These attorneys scale up and hire attorneys to answer phone calls, but instead of honestly evaluating the meritorious defenses of a would-be client, they scare, threaten, and apply high-pressure tactics to accused defendants manipulating them to settle the claims against them.

Knowing that Malibu Media, LLC runs their settlement operations from a location above-the-head of the local attorney who is filing the lawsuit, their settlement prices have become well known.  Defense attorneys have been known to offer their clients higher than normal settlement amounts in return for foregoing the need to actually participate in settlement negotiations.  Thus, where a Malibu Media, LLC settlement would go down to $300 per title, the ‘turnkey’ or ‘settlement factory’ attorney will be more than happy to agree to a $600 per title settlement in return for a quick settlement.  The problem is that Malibu Media asks for settlements for 20+ titles in a lawsuit, so a $600/title x 20 title settlement = a $12,000 settlement.

That same so-called defense attorney will charge $800 for the negotiations ($400 x 2 hours, although 2 hours were not spent on the client’s matter), and the client will pay $12,800 total.  However, if he hired an attorney who charged $2,400 ($300 x 8 hours), and the settlement ended up being $6,000 ($300/title x 20 titles = a $6,000 settlement), the extra few bucks paid to the attorney to actually negotiate the settlement would save the client a little under $6,000 than if they paid a ‘settlement factory’ attorney.

In sum, the sign that you are dealing with a ‘turnkey’ operation or a ‘settlement factory’ is unusually low costs to represent a defendant in a settlement.

NOTE: Don’t get me wrong, I am all for low-cost representation, but in a law firm, you pay for the time that attorney expects to spend on your case. If he is billing $400/hour (this surprised me too), and he charges a flat fee of $800, expect that only two (2) hours will be spent on your case IN TOTAL (including the so-called ‘free’ conversation. I have had too many run-ins with these attorneys and their methods, and all I can say is that they are part of the problem, not the solution.

There is not much more to this topic than this.  You get what you pay for.  If an attorney charges a certain amount of money, assume he will be doing work on your behalf for that amount of time.  Now obviously as a response to this article, the attorneys I am writing about will lower the per hour rate they charge and will claim that they are working more hours (as exposing a fraud usually causes the ones committing the fraud to shift to mask their scheme), but it is what it is.

Representing a Malibu Media, LLC “John Doe” client in a settlement can take a number of hours.  The simple steps of preparing the case, sending the letter of representation, opening up communications with the plaintiff attorney, discussing the claims against the client, negotiating a settlement price, writing up the settlement agreement, facilitating the settlement payment (or settlement payments), and seeing to it that the plaintiff attorney timely dismisses the client before the deadline to file an answer with the court passes (and all this time communicating with the client at each step), well, this obviously is not a two-hour representation.

As a hint to what is coming for the Malibu Media, LLC client and our Cashman Law Firm, PLLC, we have been working on shifting our strategy in view of Matthew Sag’s “Defense Against the Dark Arts of Copyright Trolling” article, which we believe will change the way defense attorneys handle Malibu Media, LLC cases.

What else can you tell me about the Malibu Media cases?

[2017 UPDATE] The best way to learn about Malibu Media, LLC is to read what happened to them as it happened.  The list of stories below (in the order I listed them) tell the Malibu Media story in a way that you will understand them.


FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT MALIBU MEDIA, LLC:Again, if you have been implicated as a John Doe defendant in a Malibu Media, LLC lawsuit, there are TWO (2) main articles you should read immediately:

1) “Everything You Need To Know in One Page About Your Malibu Media, LLC (X-Art) Lawsuit [FAQ],” and then
2) “In-Depth Malibu Media.  Their Lawsuits, Their Strategies, and Their Settlements.”

FOR IMMEDIATE CONTACT WITH AN ATTORNEY: To set up a free consultation to speak to an attorney about your Malibu Media, LLC lawsuit, click here.  Lastly, please feel free to e-mail me at info[at] cashmanlawfirm.com, or call 713-364-3476 to speak to me now about your case (I do prefer you read the articles first), or to get your questions answered.

CONTACT FORM: Alternatively, sometimes people just like to contact me using one of these forms.  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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