Category Archives: Copyright Enforcement Group (CEG-TEK)

MG Premium Ltd. is about to sue internet users for streaming adult videos. My suspicion. Watch.

MG Premium Ltd. is the owner of the websites containing adult content, [specifically, “Reality Kings,” “Brazzers,” “MOFOS,” “Babes.com,” “Twistys,” and others]. While at the moment they appear to be merely “shaking down” adult film websites [e.g., last year, WAXTUBE.COM; this year, YESPORNPLEASE.COM and/or VSHARE.IO], I cannot help but to think that MG Premium Ltd. will soon be suing downloaders accused of streaming their copyrighted adult films on Tube-like websites. 

[Less likely (because they have already tried this in the US with CEG-TEK), I suspect that MG Premium might again begin sending DMCA settlement demand letters to US-based accused internet users just as they are currently doing in Sweden as I write this article (currently, they are trying to shake down 16,594 accused internet users in Sweden who have been observed downloading their adult film titles).]

Why I think MG Premium’s lawsuits will catch internet users who are STREAMING CONTENT rather than downloading videos on BITTORRENT SWARMS:

In April of 2017, I suggested that in the future, internet users will be caught viewing streamed Tube-like videos.  I suggested that based on the Pornhub lawsuit (MG Premium Ltd. owns Pornhub.com), viewers of adult content would get caught by the Google Analytics tracker which is installed on many websites using Google Analytics to track their users.  This would be a “next-gen” kind of lawsuit where the copyright holders move past tracking bittorrent use (an outdated method of tracking downloaders), and they would start using the pirated porn websites themselves to track the users by their IP address.

Unfortunately, I was wrong about the tracker, but I was right about the concept.  Instead of Google Analytics, I should have been looking at Cloudflare, the content delivery network (“CDN”) provider which hosts a majority of the content online.  And in the near future, I expect [from mere 1+1 observation] that MG Premium Ltd. will soon launch lawsuits against John Doe defendants… but not based on bittorrent use.  Rather, they will have companies such as Cloudflare turn over the IP address logs of which IP addresses accessed the pirated adult films on which dates and times.

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WHO IS MG PREMIUM LTD.?

MG Premium Ltd. is a subsidiary of Mindgeek. According to Ernesto from Torrentfreak, “[MG Premium Ltd.] the company, formerly known as Manwin, owns one of the most visited adult websites, Pornhub, and is also the driving force behind YouPorn, Redtube, Tube8, Xtube, and dozens of other sites.”

TechNadu, “MindGeek is the owner of Pornhub, one of the most visited porn websites in the world, as well as the owner of well-known adult production companies.”

NOTE: MG PREMIUM LTD. ALSO USED TO ACT UNDER THE NAME FROYTAL SERVICES LTD., THEN THEY ACTED UNDER THE NAME “MANWIN CONTENT.”

HISTORY: MG PREMIUM LTD USED A COPYRIGHT ENFORCEMENT COMPANY TO SEND DMCA SETTLEMENT DEMAND LETTERS.

The last time I saw MG Premium Ltd. acting in the “copyright trolling” space was in 2014-2016 when they hired Copyright Enforcement Group (“CEG-TEK”) to send settlement demand letters asking for money every time an accused downloader downloaded one of their thousands of copyrighted titles.

At the time, MG Premium Ltd. was using the business entity name “Froytal Services Limited”. I was tracking them for some time trying to warn those downloading their titles that they will receive a settlement demand letter from MG Premium Ltd. and others using CEG-TEK’s services. At the time, they were asking for $300/title allegedly downloaded, but back then, the Strike 3 Holdings, LLC “Tushy, Vixen, and Blacked” lawsuits did not yet get started.

In 2015, the average settlement for an MG Premium Ltd. case was something like $900 (~3 titles displayed on CEG-TEK’s page). Now we are seeing Strike 3 Holdings, LLC lawsuits ask for settlements closer to $30,000 or $40,000 and I have no doubt that MG Premium Ltd. has noticed.

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MG PREMIUM LTD. IN 2015:

In 2014-2015, most internet users at that time were fearful about $150,000 copyright infringement lawsuits filed in federal courts, as we see today with the Strike 3 Holdings LLC and (and in past years with the Malibu Media LLC lawsuits).

In 2015, MG Premium Ltd. (via CEG-TEK) went around the US federal courts and used the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) to “politely ask” the ISPs to forward their settlement demand letter to ISP subscriber’s e-mail address on file.

Using DMCA settlement demand notices [which went into the e-mail inbox of ISP account holders], MG Premium Ltd. accused the ISP account holders of copyright infringement.

They threatened that they could file a copyright infringement lawsuit against them in federal court. However, “to avoid litigation,” they were willing to have the accused downloaders pay CEG-TEK (their agent) a modest settlement anonymously and conveniently using a credit card.

CEG-TEK was the company they hired to set up the settlement payment website and to handle the settlement negotiations should an accused downloader have multiple titles claimed against him (and most did).

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I knew that tracking the piracy of every one of their adult films was prohibitively expensive because the huge amount of computer resources it would take to track every single bittorrent swarm containing the various versions leaking on the internet of each of their movie titles (1080p, 720, high definiton (HD), low definition, clips, siterips, mistitled swarms, etc.). Thus, I realized that MG Premium Ltd. merely resorted to selecting adult film videos (their most “popular” titles) which they believed would yield the largest number of settlements. For this reason, I posted an list of titles that MG Premium Ltd. was tracking.

The fall of CEG-TEK and the end of MG Premium Ltd.’s copyright trolling DMCA settlement campaign:

There is a lot of history in what ended up killing CEG-TEK’s DMCA settlement business, but to keep things simple, many ISPs got together and created the Six Strikes Anti-Piracy System where the ISPs stopped forwarding CEG-TEK’s settlement demand letters (cutting off MG Premium Ltd.’s ability to collect settlement payments).

Instead of forwarding the DMCA settlement demand letter, under the Six Strikes System, ISPs simply notified their customer that copyright infringement had occurred on their internet connection, and if it did not stop, they would share their identity with the copyright holder (exposing that internet user to a copyright infringement lawsuit in federal court for $150,000 per instance of infringement).

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The immediate result was that big ISPs were no longer forwarding CEG-TEK’s settlement demand letters. CEG-TEK then expanded the list of ISPs that agreed to forward its DMCA settlement demand letters, but in the end, to no avail.

While the Six Strikes System was meant to support the copyright holders’ interests by sharing user information with them, instead it killed the business of the copyright enforcement companies. It also caused other non-member ISPs to also start refusing to comply with the DMCA rules [as companies such as CEG-TEK and MG Premium Ltd. were exploiting them] by refusing to forward settlement demand letters in their entirety.

Most notable of these ISPs was COX Communications, which was eventually sued by BMG for refusing to send over DMCA notices to its subscribers. There is no doubt a lot to write about the BMG v. Cox lawsuit, but the focus in this article is on MG Premium Ltd., CEG-TEK’s old client.

The Six Strikes System eventually ended (as far as I know), but before this occurred, the idea of sending DMCA letters to internet account users became a useless endeavor. The last time I spoke to CEG-TEK, they were waiting for the outcome of the BMG v. Cox lawsuit to determine whether they could continue their proprietary DMCA settlement demand letter “adult film copyright enforcement” business, or whether they would sell it to the highest bidder.

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I suspected at one point that Malibu Media LLC or other prolific copyright trolls would buy CEG-TEK’s DMCA settlement website and proprietary technology, but due to circumstances of Malibu Media LLC filing lawsuits against its own attorney Keith Lipscomb (the attorney running all of the Malibu Media LLC adult film lawsuits across the US), the sale to Malibu Media LLC never happened. (In full disclosure and in hindsight, CEG-TEK would never have sold their business model to Malibu Media LLC based solely on the fact that CEG-TEK tried its best to keep its operations legitimate and Malibu Media LLC had a bad reputation).

Instead, the CEG-TEK company is gathering dust and happily, no MG Premium Ltd. settlement demand letters have been sent out [to US internet] users since 2016.

WHAT NOW?

So where do we go from here? Honestly, at this moment, nowhere. The BMG lawsuit ended with COX settling the claims against it (giving DMCA settlement demand letters from companies such as CEG-TEK and Rightscorp (music) some “teeth” — because now copyright owners could force ISPs to shut down the internet accounts of those accused of copyright infringement — but those who were running CEG-TEK already moved on to other business ventures.

CEG-TEK is in the dustbin, for the moment, adult film company Malibu Media LLC lawsuits have stopped because Malibu Media LLC again is in litigation with their new attorneys, and Strike 3 Holdings, LLC cases are floundering like a fish-out-of-water with some federal court rulings killing their business method of suing accused downloaders for copyright infringement in federal court.

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The new tactic of “shaking down” large websites hosting pirated content.

No doubt the new tactic of going after the large websites hosting copyrighted content is a very profitable idea for the adult film copyright holders. Instead of shaking down end-users (downloaders) for a few hundred dollars per video, they can shake down significantly deeper pockets — the adult film websites hosting “free” adult film content [and, consequently making millions of dollars in advertising revenue]… and the adult film movie copyright holders want every penny of that revenue.

I am seeing the same trend on the movie front. I understand that movie companies have been going after the websites that are hosting copyrighted movie content… first The Pirate Bay… and most recently, IceFilms.info (currently down, and possibly down forever).

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My Thoughts: Staying Away From Downloaders is a Good Thing for Downloaders.

If the movie companies and the adult film companies can succeed in shutting down the website owners who host the unlicensed copyrighted movies AND they stop trying to sue and extort thousands of dollars from each accused internet user who was observed downloading the copyrighted movies, this would be a good outcome.

Of course, millions of users who rely on pirated movies and TV shows would be temporarily unable to access their movies without paying some cable company provider or subscription-based providers such as Hulu, Disney+, Netflix, etc., but at least the focus of the copyright holders will be in the right place — trying to stop the AVAILABILITY of pirated content.

…but “a scorpion cannot act in any way other than a scorpion.”

And yet, out comes the jaded part of me which laughs when I consider that “a scorpion cannot act in any way other than a scorpion.” MG Premium Ltd., Strike 3 Holdings, LLC, and other movie copyright trolls are not going to change who they are. They may shed their skin and change their tactics momentarily (perhaps now moving from tracking accused downloaders on Bittorrent to tracking them using Cloudflare or Google Analytics), but they will not stop going after the most profitable source of revenue… the collective deep pockets of those accused of downloading their copyrighted films.

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If you are old enough to get the “Little Shop of Horrors” reference, maybe giving the venus fly trap “a drop of blood” at a time to keep it momentarily satiated will stay the coming copyright infringement lawsuits (the “drop of blood” = each movie website who pays the copyright holders a multi-million dollar settlement). But eventually, I have NO DOUBT that the words “FEED ME SEYMOUR!” will once again begin to ring in the halls of the federal courts across the US as new lawsuits are filed against accused downloaders yet again.

This time, however, I suspect that the copyright trolls will have changed their skin. They will no longer sue accused internet users who used BITTTORENT to download their copyrighted videos, but rather, they will use big-tech companies such as Cloudflare and Google as partners in their “Anti-Piracy” campaign to sue each IP address who visited a particular website and who streamed a particular video on a particular date.

Comparing the Little Shop of Horrors' Venus Fly Trap (Audrey II) to MG Premium Ltd. and their desire for a "drop of blood."
Comparing the Little Shop of Horrors’ Venus Fly Trap (Audrey II) to MG Premium Ltd. and their desire for a “drop of blood.”

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[CONTACT AN ATTORNEY: If you have a question for an attorney about MG Premium Ltd. or anything else I have written here, you can e-mail me at [email protected], you can set up a free and confidential phone consultation to speak to us about your circumstances, or you can call us at 713-364-3476 (this is our Cashman Law Firm, PLLC’s number].

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.

REVISITED: Beware of the defense attorney “copyright trolls” too.

This post was originally written as a “rant” against volume-based “settlement factory” attorneys.  At the time, the kind of damage they caused to accused defendants in bittorrent cases was unknown, as was their existence.  Even today, settlement factory defense attorneys continue to feed inquiring ‘John Doe’ subpoena recipients false information.  And as a result, settlement prices paid to copyright trolls often end up being artificially inflated.  As of 4/17/2017, I have revisited the topic, and it is still as valid today as it was one year ago.

After writing this article, Ernesto from Torrentfreak wrote an article entitled, “BEWARE: PIRACY DEFENSE LAWYERS CAN BE “TROLLS” TOO.“. -Rob Cashman

Beware of Attorney Settlement Factories

I started writing this article because there is too much conflicting information floating around the web about whether to settle a bittorrent-based copyright infringement lawsuit.  The attorneys who are causing this confusion are trying to profit from the current broken state of the copyright laws.  These attorneys use fear tactics and manipulation to scare a John Doe Defendant into settling with their law firm.

Credible Websites Teach That Settlement is NOT a Requirement

There are credible websites that blog almost daily on copyright troll issues.

see “Fight Copyright Trolls,”

see “Die Troll Die.”

Copyright Trolls Do Not Take Cases To Trial

Because copyright infringement lawsuits are often based on scare tactics, and because copyright troll attorneys name only a small sliver of defendants sued, ignoring a copyright troll and his threats can be a good strategy.

IGNORING A COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT CLAIM AGAINST YOU CAN OFTEN BE A VIABLE OPTION TO RESOLVE THE PROBLEM (WITHOUT SPENDING $$$$ ON A LAWYER). 

Thus, beware of the so-called “defense” attorneys who tell you that you will lose your home and your life savings if you do not settle.

What are “SETTLEMENT FACTORY” defense attorneys?

NOTE: In this section, 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.

“SETTLEMENT FACTORIES” are what I call law firms who focus on providing apparent “low cost settlements” to clients (as you will see, the settlements end up not being low cost).

These settlement factory law firms hire multiple attorneys to solicit and lure accused ‘John Doe’ 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.

SETTLEMENT FACTORY law firms PRE-ARRANGE settlement amounts.

Rather than actually negotiate a good settlement for their client, settlement factories run what I refer to as a “volume business.” They PRE-ARRANGE an often inflated settlement price with the copyright holder, so the copyright troll will agree to the arrangement.

In return, the copyright troll allows that so-called attorney to not have to negotiate the settlement for each client, since they have a prearranged agreed-upon “settlement amount.”

Why settlement factory attorneys are PART OF THE PROBLEM of copyright trolling.

This arrangement creates a “cottage industry,” where the defense attorney and the plaintiff attorney (who are supposed to be opponents) are allies for profit.  Settlement factory attorneys are part of the problem of copyright trolling; they are not part of the solution, and the only one that gets hurt is the accused defendant.  Why?  Because with settlement factories, the accused defendant almost NEVER gets the lowest possible settlement amount.

SETTLEMENT FACTORY law firms DO NOT NEGOTIATE SETTLEMENT AGREEMENTS either.

What compounds the problem is that negotiating the settlement is only HALF of the solution. The SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT itself must also be negotiated. However, settlement factory attorneys do not negotiate settlements either (even though they tell you they do).

Why settlement agreements need to be negotiated.

Settlement agreements need to be negotiated because “boilerplate” settlement agreements contain ADMISSIONS OF GUILT and UNFRIENDLY LANGUAGE.

These boilerplate settlement agreements do not protect the client because they often:

  1. do not properly identify the accused defendant by name,
  2. they do not contain proper confidentiality clauses (to stop the plaintiff attorney from suing again or asking for more money later on), and
  3. they do not release the accused defendant from liability.

Settlement factory defense attorneys.

As a result of this article, settlement factory attorneys will take steps to hide their scheme.

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.  Sure they will.

‘RED FLAGS’ TO SPOT A SETTLEMENT FACTORY

I know settlement factory attorneys follow this blog, and thus all I could say is “caveat emptor.”

At the time of writing this blog, here are the items to look for:

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),

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?

2017 UPDATE: When I mentioned SEO OPTIMIZED content, I am referring to the fact that settlement factory blog articles lack content.  In our blog, we have over 200+ information-packed articles that we wrote TO EDUCATE.  Obviously many clients came to our firm as a result of our articles, and this is fine.  However, settlement factories have ONE MOTIVE ONLY: TO PROFIT.  Look for sites that advertise to you rather than inform you and educate you.

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.

AUTHENTICITY AND ORIGINALITY

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.  This was 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.

COPYCATS / FOR PROFIT ATTORNEYS

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. Watch for these attorneys — they are usually the “settlement factories” I referenced above, and again, caveat emptor.

REPUTABLE ATTORNEYS DO EXIST

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.  Some of them 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]).

PIPEDREAMS AND REFERRALS

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.

NO REFERRAL FEES

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.”). This is something that is often done in my field which, in my opinion, needs to stop.

Over the years, I have upset many non-copyright attorneys who know nothing about these cases.  In the typical fashion, they call me with a client they would like to refer to me (coincidentally, asking to share in the fees, but not in the work).  I have rejected each request.

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.

BACK TO IGNORING A CLAIM OF COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT

Copyright trolls sue many John Doe Defendants in one case, but only a small number of them are named and served.  When you are evaluating your options, STOP AND CONSIDER THE OPTION OF *NOT SETTLING*, BECAUSE *NOT SETTLING* A CLAIM OF COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT CAN OFTEN BE A GOOD IDEA.

Similarly, in a lawsuit, DOING NOTHING MAY OFTEN BE YOUR BEST STRATEGIC MOVE, as counterintuitive as that might sound.  Again, this is because much of the ‘copyright trolling’ problem is based on a bluff — namely, that the copyright holders have evidence against you, and they will take you to trial if you do not pay them money to settle.

A Settlement Factory attorney makes NO MONEY if you ignore.

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). Then, those attorneys 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??

WHY WE DISCUSS THE “IGNORE” OPTION WITH EVERY POTENTIAL CLIENT

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.]

WHEN TO CONSIDER THE “IGNORE” OPTION.

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).  Such factors include:

1) the individual’s financial situation,

2) whether they live in an apartment or a home,

3) the location of that apartment or home,

3) the state in which the plaintiff attorney has his law firm,

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 only option in that person’s situation.

IN SUMMARY

In summary, this has been a stream of thought article, but if you have made it to this point, you now understand the difference between a defense attorney who does settlements (among other forms of representation), and the settlement factory.

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) DEFENDING the claims against you, beware.

And if you need help and want my honest opinion about your case, or whether a particular attorney is engaging in a certain practice, just ask me.  I do not need to have all of you as clients, and I will answer you honestly.  And if you need, I will provide you a referral.


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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