Category Archives: Prenda Law Inc.

JOHN STEELE ARRESTED.

johnsteelearrested

We learned this morning that John Steele was arrested under 17 counts of mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering, and perjury. I have detailed the charges lower down in the article, and a link to the Star Tribune article can be found here (and sincere kudos to both DTD & SJD for breaking this story).  The link to the indictment itself can be found here.

For those of you who became readers more recently, one of the first prolific copyright trolls was John Steele, formerly from Steele Law Firm PLLC, then from Steele|Hansmeier, then most popularly, from #Prenda Law Inc. (that last name even earned itself a hashtag and a group of followers on Twitter).

John Steele hired many lawyers across the US who acted as his “local counsel” just as Keith Lipscomb later did on a larger scale with the Malibu Media, LLC [x-art.com] copyright holder. [As I’ve written before, I believe that Voltage Pictures, Inc. is doing the same thing in a manner which has not yet become public knowledge with their Dallas Buyers Club, Fathers & Daughters, September Productions, Cell Productions, and a number of other non-pornographic copyright infringement cases slowly making their way through the federal courts.]

The relevance here is that John Steele was the original kingpin, and TODAY HE WAS ARRESTED for the following:

COUNT #1) Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud and Wire Fraud (18 USC §1349) [using the U.S. mail to extort settlements from bittorrent defendants]

sh-clip1-mailfraud

COUNTS #2-6) Mail Fraud 18 USC §1341 [using the U.S. mail to send “scare letters” threatening to sue accused John Doe Defendants unless they settled the claims against them.]

sh-clip2-mailfraud
COUNTS #7-16) Wire Fraud 18 USC §1343 [using the internet to process settlement checks and upload torrent files containing porn which they would later track and sue defendants for the download thereof]

sh-clip3a-wirefraudsh-clip3b-wirefraud

COUNT #17) Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering (18 USC §1956(h)) [for the transfer of settlement funds received, knowing that those funds were proceeds from unlawful activity, and disguising the nature, source, ownership, and control of those proceeds.]

and,

COUNT #18) Conspiracy to Commit and Suborn Perjury (18 USC §371) [by scheming to conceal and disguise their involvement by providing false and misleading testimony and declarations, for example, and Mark Lutz (the paralegal) was really the CEO behind all of their activities, etc.]

In short, there is so much to say about this story which has been an evolving saga since 2010 (now six years and counting).  Many internet users were hurt by their activities, and the injustices that John Steele, the Hansmeier brothers, Mark Lutz, and the others more well known as “the Prenda gang” perpetrated on so many thousands of accused John Doe Defendants are still being copied by many copyright troll attorneys even today.

My personal opinion is that this arrest should be a warning sign to other copyright troll attorneys who are still filing lawsuits against John Doe defendants even today using the same tactics described here.  The scheme described in the indictment has not been stopped, and it continues (albeit in more hidden forms where attorneys go through such great lengths to make their outfit appear legitimate).  

My only message to the other copyright trolls perpetuating this scheme is not that “I’m watching,” or that “you’re being seen by the internet bloggers for what you are,” but that the U.S. Federal Government is watching.  

John Steele’s problems are not over.  There are still other departments likely analyzing their activities.  The one department that comes to mind is the Criminal Law Enforcement arm of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Other Links of interest relating to this topic:

DieTrollDie: John Steele & Paul Hansmeier (Steele|Hansmeier, AKA: Prenda Law) Arrested – December 2016
Fight Copyright Trolls: Steele and Hansmeier Have Been Indicted On Fraud, Money Laundering Charges
ArsTechnica: Prenda Law ‘copyright trolls’ Steele and Hansmeier arrested

…and likely many others to come.


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.

Prenda is essentially done

Sometimes there are no words other than silence to best express the thoughts I have about Judge Wright’s order essentially referring John Steele and the Prenda Law Inc. gang to the IRS’ Criminal Investigation Division (CID) for all the settlements on which no taxes were paid. There is one police agency that a criminal organization does not want to be contacted by, and that is the CID.

The $81K in sanctions essentially funds the lead attorneys who spent time on this case. And, the referral to the bar associations means that the principals at Prenda Law Inc. may no longer have their law licenses shortly.

In sum, there is not much for me to comment here, except to be silent, because the judge’s order itself says all it needs to. Copyright trolling may seem profitable for the attorneys filing the lawsuits, but no money can compensate for the loss of freedom that one experiences when what was once a multi-million dollar law practice lands the principles in prison for tax evasion. This should be a lesson to all other copyright trolls out there. Judge yourselves accordingly.


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.

The 12 minute hearing and the end of Prenda Law Inc.

While the Cashman Law Firm, PLLC and its clients were celebrating “freedom,” I am sure some of my readers will be wondering the fate of Prenda Law Inc. / Steele Hansmeier, PLLC / John Steele / Paul Duffy / Mark Lutz / Brett Gibbs et al. after their hearing today before Judge Wright.  Today was the big day where the world of those who have been injured by Prenda Law Inc.’s activities looked on to see their demise.

In sum, the hearing was short, and John Steele and his “gang” showed up as they were ordered to, but they decided to plead the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution rather than answer Judge Wright’s questions.  As a result, the judge did not allow them the pleasure of “pleading the fifth” as he appears to have no interest in lawyer gamesmanship.  Thus, after 12 minutes, he walked off the bench and ended the hearing.

While there was no immediate gratification for those who flew over to attend the hearing, in my opinion, “Popehat” described their fate better than I ever could:

“Prenda Law may still be standing. But it’s dead.”

I would be very surprised if I saw any further activities coming from this law firm. I expect that in a few days (if not sooner), Judge Otis Wright will write an order which will make any copyright troll shake in their boots, and it is my hopes that this order will serve as a warning shot to any of the other copyright trolls who go after individual downloaders using the tactics and corporate structures that Prenda employed.

It is my opinion (although I *am* still cautious until I actually see Judge Wright’s order,) this will likely be the end of Prenda Law Inc., John Steele, and Paul Duffy, as I expect that this will evolve into inquiries which will endanger their law licenses. I don’t think we’ll see the end of them, per se, as it is not so difficult to find a hungry lawyer who will agree to have his hand held while he lets others practice under his law license in the shadows.

On the other hand, I believe the result of this case (and Judge Wright’s influence over the the future penalties of unlawful copyright enforcement tactics) will force the bittorrent cases to evolve from its current state (which comprise mere pre-trial settlement “or else” tactics) to actually taking clients to court on the merits.  Also, while the inquiry in this case surrounded plaintiff copyright trolls who “invent” corporate figureheads, who seem to falsify copyright assignment documents, and who structure their business tactics to allow their activities to proceed with limited affects on the attorneys furthering their scheme) no doubt, this will be a damaging blow to those copyright holders who try to enforce their copyrights against individual downloaders.

Articles on the topic:
Forbes: Porn Copyright Lawyer John Steele, Who Has Sued More Than 20,000 People, Is Now The One In Legal Trouble

ArsTechnica: Prenda lawyers take Fifth Amendment; judge storms out: “We’re done” — Those in attendance describe Judge Otis Wright as “incandescently angry.”

TechDirt: Team Prenda Shows Up In Court, Pleads The Fifth… Angry Judge Ends Hearing In 12 Minutes

TorrentFreak: Prenda Copyright Trolls Plead the Fifth

Fight Copyright Trolls (SJD): Prenda trolls appear in Judge Wright’s courtroom only to plead the Fifth. Furious judge ends the hearing after 12 minutes

Follow-Up Articles:

ArsTechnica: Judge smash: Prenda’s porn-trolling days are over

Popehat: Prenda Law’s Attorneys Take The Fifth Rather Than Answer Judge Wright’s Questions


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.

Why CEG-TEK’s DMCA settlement system will FAIL.

This is a rather tricky article to write, especially since I am setting some copyright trolls apart from others, and I am unsure whether this is a good idea or not.

It is my opinion that the “Six Strikes” System which has recently gone into effect will ultimately kill Copyright Enforcement Group’s (CEG-TEK)’s “CopyrightSettlements.com” settlement system. In short, their selling point of attracting new copyright holders (the production companies) with the promise of big profits through volume settlements (from you, the internet users) by the sending of DMCA scare letters directly to internet subscribers via their ISPs will fail. I am concerned that the production companies / copyright holders might decide to start once again suing defendants in copyright infringement lawsuits.

Copyright trolls take two forms — the “copyright troll” lawyer, and the production company who embraces the concept of extorting settlements from so-called “infringers” rather than selling their copyrighted product on the marketplace.  There is one entity often missing from our blog’s focus on lawyers and their clients — the “IP enforcement company” (“IP” = intellectual property) who is working behind the scenes to 1) acquire clients for their firm, 2) track the peer-to-peer / bittorrent downloads and torrent swarms, 3) hire and maintain one or more attorneys capable of suing, and 4) converting their tracking efforts into CASH [in terms of $$$ settlements from accused downloaders].

This explains why whether you are sued by Patrick Collins, K-Beech, or Malibu Media, you’ll be contacted by someone on the Lipscomb & Eisenberg law firm’s collection team. Similarly, if the production company is Digital Sin, Zero Tolerance, Girls Gone Wild, etc., then your IP enforcement company is the Copyright Enforcement Group (CEG-TEK) and you will be sent DMCA letters suggesting that you settle their claims against you or else they may sue you (so far, this has not been the rule, but the exception). Yet, if your plaintiff is AF Holdings, Hard Drive Productions, Openmind Solutions, or any of the others connected with Prenda Law Inc. or the new Anti-Piracy Law Group, your IP enforcement company is one of John Steele’s entities. In other words, every copyright troll plaintiff is a client of a particular IP enforcement company, and that IP enforcement company has one or more lawyers on their team (or more often then not, as with John Steele and Ira Siegel — very different entities) — the lawyers themselves appear to own an ownership interest in the IP enforcement companies they run and work on behalf of.

It is my understanding that an enterprising attorney (or members of his IP enforcement company’s sales team) will often attend annual pornography conventions, and they will rub shoulders with production companies who end up being the copyright holders in these lawsuits.

The traditional IP enforcement companies (Lipscomb, Steele, etc.) will tell them, “I am aware of your company’s piracy problem, and I have a solution. Look at all our data as to the piracy of your videos.  Our team of experts can track the piracy of your copyrighted content, and our team of “expert” lawyers will sue defendants on your behalf. Instead of defending themselves, the accused internet user will be shamed with a lawsuit and will settle with us for thousands of dollars (average asking price: $3,400), we’ll take our commission, and we’ll both be millionaires. And, we’ll cut down on piracy in the process.

CEG-TEK (the Copyright Enforcement Group) and Ira Siegel has a different approach, and I believe the Six Strikes System will be the achilles heel of their “out-of-court pre-lawsuit settlement” approach.

The Copyright Enforcement Group was essentially formed because Ira Siegel didn’t like the idea of suing defendants and having all of his settlement activities monitored by a federal judge who can ask him uncomfortable questions about his activities. Rather, he has been paying ISPs to send out “DMCA” settlement letters (invoking and in my opinion, misusing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act) in order to scare defendants into settling cases before they are filed in federal court. Settlements average $200 per accused title, but I have seen a few $500 per-title settlements as well.

It is my understanding that the way CEG-TEK acquires new clients — their “unique selling proposition,” if you will — is that they tell production companies, “we can track and sue the downloaders if we want — we have attorneys in a number of states who can sue defendants, and possibly get a $3,400 settlement from a few of them [once in a while]. However, if you come on board with us, we will send DMCA settlement letters out to the internet user directly via his ISP, and that letter will point them to our Copyright Settlements (www.copyrightsettlements.com) website where they can enter their unique username and password and privately pay their settlement fee. The settlement fee will be $200 and not $3,400, but the quantity of users who will pay us our small fee and move on will be significantly higher than those who will settle a federal copyright infringement lawsuit. We’ll all make millions!”

The reason I think CEG-TEK’s business model of sending DMCA letters will ultimately fail is because the Six Strikes System has undermined CEG-TEK’s abilities to contact so many internet users. In short, instead of sending the DMCA letters directly to the ISP subscribers as Charter and a number of smaller ISPs do, the big ISPs have banded together and formed something called the “Six Strikes System” which essentially gives six warnings to their subscribers before giving copyright holders access to their subscriber’s contact information for the purposes of suing for copyright infringement or sending DMCA threat letters as CEG-TEK does every day.

In other words, anyone who has Comcast, Time Warner, Verizon, etc. as their ISP will no longer receive CEG-TEK’s DMCA letters. Instead, they receive a notice such as “we have received a complaint of copyright infringement from your account; stop this activity.” But with ISP members of the Six Strikes Program, CEG-TEK’s DMCA LETTERS ARE NO LONGER FORWARDED OVER TO THE SUBSCRIBERS! What this means is that let’s say 75% of the market share of internet users (I’m using this number merely as a hypothetical) will no longer go online and settle CEG-TEK’s claims against them. Or in other words, the www.CopyrightSettlements.com website as of a week or so ago [the plan went into effect roughly a week or so ago] will have experienced a 75% drop in settlements.

Knowing the production companies who signed on with CEG-TEK with the sole purpose of making millions in settlements from these DMCA letters, I suspect that they are starting to get upset and impatient because CEG-TEK’s promise of directing would-be defendants to their website is no longer the money-making machine they thought it would be. As a result, I am concerned that the production companies who signed on with CEG-TEK might start opt for suing defendants once again en masse.

PERSONAL NOTE: I obviously don’t want to scare anyone because I am very far from screaming “the sky is falling.” We have been defending clients in countless cases filed in federal courts across the U.S., and in recent months, there has been a clear change in the level of education of the judges and their feelings towards “copyright troll” plaintiffs. Possibly with the help of our POLICY LETTER (or simply our phone calls and faxes to a judge’s chambers when one is assigned to a copyright infringement case).  Judges are now educated as to the copyright trolling problem, and it is much more difficult to go after defendants because our collective arguments (such as, “an IP address is not a person,” and “just because you can prove an IP address snapshot was involved in a download does not mean that copyright infringement occurred,” etc.) are starting to take plant themselves deeply in the federal court system. In other words, if they start suing, we are very prepared, and they are almost a year-and-a-half behind.


UPDATED COPYRIGHT ENFORCEMENT GROUP (CEG-TEK) ARTICLES (from this blog):
Canada begins receiving CEG-TEK DMCA settlement letters. (3/12/2015)
How time limits / purged records stop a copyright holder from learning a downloader’s identity. (12/18/2014)
CEG-TEK’s growing list of participating ISPs, and their NEW alliance with COX Communications. (11/12/2014)
The Giganews VPN Problem (11/12/2014)
CEG-TEK is now your friendly “photo” copyright troll. (6/13/2013)
CEG-TEK’s new “you didn’t settle” letters sent from Marvin Cable. (3/22/2013)
CEG-TEK’s DMCA Settlement Letters – What are my chances of being sued if I ignore? (2/22/2013)
Why CEG-TEK’s DMCA settlement system will FAIL. (2/22/2013)


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.

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.

Judge Facciola issues a F’You order to one of the defendants.

I was floored when I saw this.  A proactive John Doe Defendant (Dan Krebs) wrote Judge Facciola asking him why he ordered copyright trolls in the Patrick Collins, Inc. v. Does 1-72 (Case No. 1:11-cv-00058) case not to contact Doe Defendants until they are named and served, but in the Hard Drive Productions, Inc. v. Does 1-1,495 (Case No. 1:11-cv-01741) case, the judge continues to allow John Steele and his Prenda Law Inc. gang to do whatever they want with the Doe Defendants (and consequently, Steele is sending out “scare” letters to the unnamed defendants).

While the lack of consistency between rulings from Judge Facciola is not surprising, I cannot help but to think of the words, “bias, corruption, and perhaps cronyism” when I think of his treatment of these bittorrent cases.

What floored me, however, was the “F’you” order he issued in response to Dan’s letter to the court.  In short, he stated,

“The Court notes that it will not answer this correspondence since an extra-judicial comment about matters pending before it is inappropriate.”

Or, in other words, “F’You.  Don’t tell me what I can and can’t do in my own court.  This is MY WORLD, MY PLAYGROUND, and I will play however I want to!”

My opinion:  Kudos to you, Dan.  Your letter was proactive, and you called out the judge on his inconsistent rulings.  It is my opinion that all judges should have watchdogs like you to force them to adhere to their own precedents.

Attached is Dan’s Letter sent to the court.

And, attached is Judge Facciola’s response.

[NOTE: Scribd is experiencing issues right now. Will update links later.]


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.

Judge Bates reverses his decision in Hard Drive Productions, Inc.’s DC case.

I have always known that “crabs crammed in a crate grab crabs trying to escape,” and this is no doubt true for judges in DC.

In our November 16, 2011 article entitled, “Judge Bates “removed” from Hard Drive Productions, Inc. v. Does 1-1,495 (Case No.1:11-cv-01741) DC case,” we wrote about how Judge Bates courageously called the copyright troll extortion scheme for what it is, and he halted all subpoena requests for John Doe Defendants. However, it was apparent to us at the Cashman Law Firm, PLLC that as soon as he did so, the other judges (“crabs“) grabbed at him and stopped him from killing the case. If you remember from our post, Judge Bates was immediately removed from the case and Judge Facciola replaced him (almost as if there was a DC conspiracy to promote copyright enforcement efforts by porn production companies such as Hard Drive Productions, Inc.).

As of yesterday, Judge Bates caved in and wrote a scathing order describing in detail how and why Hard Drive Productions, Inc. should be allowed to force the ISPs to hand over the subscriber information for the John Does implicated in this case. In addition, siding with Judge Facciola and Judge Beryl Howell, Judge Bates agreed that internet subscribers have no expectation of privacy for the account information they provide to their ISP.  I wonder if the same thing holds true for my electricity bill.

What I found most offensive, however, was that Judge Bates initially promised John Doe Defendants that if they filed motions to quash anonymously, that they would remain anonymous (even if later denied). We have been advising internet users for almost a year now to be VERY WARY regarding Judge Bates’ promise because he could always go back on his word and unseal the motions to quash thus revealing the identities of those who filed them [and making the John Doe Defendants who filed these motions to quash targets for Prenda Law Inc.’s bloodthirsty desire for revenge (image)]. And I am hurting when I write this (because I hate it when I end up being right, especially when I fight against well-meaning individuals who think they are doing the right thing by following the instructions on the subpoena letters they receive from their ISPs and they file motions to quash), but as we suspected, it turns out that Judge Bates lied to us, and in yesterday’s order, he stated that “all sealed motions to quash will be ordered unsealed.”

In my opinion, I must point out that I have a respect for Judges, and I must believe that most of them (including Judge Bates) are good. In the legal system, just as there are copyright troll attorneys who abuse the legal system, these same “bad apples” plague the legal system because many of these bad apples sit on the bench and render one bad decision after another. Many people have called me “dark and jaded” for my opinions about these cases, and while I am not one to subscribe to a conspiracy theory, I do smell conspiracy here.

Looking over the order many times, I cannot shake the feeling that Judge Bates’ order smells as if it was written by Judge Beryl Howell. If you compare the terminologies used by each of the judges in the past, terms such as “putative defendants” was a term that Judge Howell uses, not Judge Bates, just as the Call of the Wild v. Does case referenced incessantly in the order was Judge Beryl Howell’s. In sum, “crabs grabbing crabs” applies here — it is my opinion that Judge Bates tried to crawl out of the “crab cage” and call this case for what it is; the other “crabs” merely clawed at him until he fell back in line with the others. Welcome to the DC court.

I do not have anything else to say about this case other than that ISPs will start handing out the subscribers’ information, and John Steele and the Prenda Law Inc. gang will start sending out “scare” letters, harassing John Doe Defendants, and will scare too many into settling before they retain someone like me to represent them (or anyone else who fights these cases).

I “Saw” Prenda’s New Face; Mark Lutz is OUT.

It appears as if Prenda Law Inc. is shaking things up once again. It appears as if Mark Lutz is no longer working for the firm.

Since John Steele [wanted us to believe that he] left the firm in the capable hands of Paul Duffy (now we have an image of him), Mark Lutz has been running the firm. All of the phone calls, the harassing voicemails, and the threats have all been from Mark. When John Steele “left the firm,” Mark moved to Miami, FL and was running the firm from its Miami office which in my opinion was opened for the sole purpose of filing the corrupt state-based “bill of discovery” cases in the Miami-Dade county courts (AFAIK, now defunct).

As far as I observed, John Steele and Mark Lutz did not get along.  I expect that the whole “robocall” fiasco was just the first step of Steele ousting Mark Lutz from the firm so that he can reclaim his throne, although Mark may have left for his own reasons.  No doubt there is dirt there, and as angry John Steele has gotten in the past for me contacting (and in a few cases offering to visit) his local counsel, I have no doubt that he would enjoy my inviting Mark to call me at his convenience to share his stories with me.  Mark, if you are out there, please feel free to give me a call (on or off the record).

On a related note, I have always said to John Steele that he (and other copyright trolls) should start a blog explaining their side of the story.

Well, apparently they have started to listen.

Prenda Law Inc.’s new website (http://www.wefightpiracy.com) now has a blog (and a “news and press” section, which in my opinion should be combined), and they have started posting articles on their various cases. Obviously the headings are one-sided, but it is nice to see them start to express their side of the story. My one critique — JOHN STEELE, OPEN UP YOUR BLOG AND ALLOW COMMENTS! No doubt doing this will flood your site with “f-u’s,” but still — you can easily moderate the comments and only allow those comments that are not inflammatory. This will bring the blog some needed credibility rather than it being a pedestal used only to pontificate your firm’s skewed values.

Last, but not least, I have a deep psychological concern with the large red copyright image on the main page of their website:

…It reminds me too much of the clown from the “Saw” series.

Last, but not least, I want to point out that their website incorrectly states that they have attorneys in all 50 states. This is simply not true. However, one piece of information that I can share is that there appears to be new counsel in Chris Fiore’s Pennsylvania territory, and it’s not Chris Fiore.  Whether this turns out to be another rumor or not is something we’ll have to wait and see.

P.S. – I love the “Lorem Ipsum” category.  Looking forward to seeing the website out of beta.

“The Divide” — Copyrighted Bait, New Copyright Trolls

The Divide - New Copyright TrollsI wanted to bring your attention to a new “copyright troll” in the backyard of Steele Hansmeier, PLLC (now Prenda Law Inc.). The copyright troll is “R & D Film 1, LLC” and their plaintiff attorney is Michael Heirl and Todd Parkhurst of Hughes Socol Piers Resnick & Dym, Ltd. Their website is http://www.hsplegal.com, and surprise, surprise — they are out of Chicago, Illinois.

It appears as if they are suing over the movie title “The Divide,” directed by Xavier Gens, which was seeded over the bittorrent network as “The Divide 2011 LIMITED 720p BRip XVID AC3 BHRG” on USAbit.com [and is coincidentally still being seeded now as we speak here, so apparently neither Michael Heirl nor Todd Parkhurst have issued a DMCA takedown letters to the bittorrent websites.] The download appears to be a rip of a Blu-Ray, the size of the file is 3.8 GB, and it appears to have been downloaded 2162 times so far (so expect to have 2,000+ defendants soon for this file alone).

On another complaint, I see the torrent file is “The Divide 2011 720p BRRip x264 -MgB,” and I could only guess that in their other lawsuits, they are suing for all the other bittorrent filenames downloaded.

It appears that plaintiff attorney Michael Heirl has targeted the following ISPs: Comcast Cable, Frontier Communications, Mediacom Communications Corp., RCN Corp., SBC Internet Services, Norlight Telecommunications, Wireless Data Service Provider Corporation, and WideOpenWest. Plus, it appears as if they have not only focused on those defendants in Illinois, but they have narrowed the IP addresses down to which town allegedly housed this accused IP address.  Thus, forget about motions to quash based on a lack of personal jurisdiction — they’ve nailed it.

So far, I only see 364 John Doe Defendants implicated in these lawsuits, but with 2,000+ downloads (and counting) for one file on one bittorrent website, they could easily amend their complaints to add thousands of new defendants as Dunlap Grubb & Weaver, PLLC and other plaintiff attorneys have habitually done in the past. Here are the lawsuit titles to date:

CASES FILED BY TODD S. PARKHURST & MICHAEL A. HIERL OF HUGHES SOCOL PIERS RESNICK & DYM LTD. IN THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS:
R & D Film 1, LLC v. Does 1-52 (Case No. 1:12-cv-05810)
R & D Film 1, LLC v. Does 1-20 (Case No. 1:12-cv-05817)
R & D Film 1, LLC v. Does 1-57 (Case No. 1:12-cv-05821)
R & D Film 1, LLC v. Does 1-62 (Case No. 1:12-cv-05822)
R & D Film 1, LLC v. Does 1-36 (Case No. 1:12-cv-05823)
R & D Film 1, LLC v. Does 1-88 (Case No. 1:12-cv-05825)
R & D Film 1, LLC v. Does 1-29 (Case No. 1:12-cv-05827)
R & D Film 1, LLC v. Does 1-20 (Case No. 1:12-cv-05828)

Now I have started a discussion page on the R&D FILM 1, LLC lawsuits here, and as I learn more, I will obviously post about it.

On a personal level, it is always an interesting experience defending defendants who are accused of downloading actual motion pictures (“movies”), because the attorneys for these cases are usually more self-assured than those from the porn industry. Obviously the difference between a porn copyright troll and a motion picture copyright troll is that the porn troll is usually suing because they want to 1) stop the piracy of their film and 2) it is a better business model (frowned upon by the porn industry or not) to get thousands of dollars from one internet user rather than to get hundreds of members to sign up for monthly or annual memberships at their sites.

However, with “movie” copyright trolls, they often appear to be self-righteous and have no compunctions throwing threats around because nothing of theirs stinks except for the way they have chosen to make money for their production company client (which they often share a piece of, so there are ethical implications as well [e.g., having a “stake” in the outcome of the litigation]). Looking at these attorneys, they look like older gentlemen who might not be aware of the poo they just stepped in by copying the methods of the copyright trolls.  I even wonder whether they are aware of the now hundreds of lawsuits that have been filed in the courts, and specifically the many adverse rulings in the Northern District of Illinois where any copyright troll should be thinking twice before filing there.  In short, what will be interesting is to see whether these copyright trolls are interested in stopping the piracy of their films, or whether they want to punish those who have not purchased a ticket at the box office.

(UPDATED) Forum Shopping by Malibu Media, LLC Copyright Trolls

5/17/2012 NOTE: I want to make sure the blog continues to be a source of accurate information, and so while I have no doubt that the forum shopping I speak of in this blog happens (especially with copyright trolls filing lawsuits all over the place, sometimes implicating the same defendant in different cases (as is what happened with the Millennium TGA, Inc. Texas case), it was brought to my attention that Jason Kotzker filed cases in the Southern District of New York before receiving the adverse ruling in the Eastern District. For this reason, I am changing the blog article to reflect this fact.

I received a few inquiries in the past day or so about evidence that has surfaced that Prenda Law Inc. is involved in what is known as “forum shopping.”  Forum shopping in the context of our bittorrent cases is essentially where a plaintiff attorney (“copyright troll”) receives an adverse ruling from a judge in a particular federal district. “No problem,” the troll thinks. “There are many other federal districts in the country, some of which where the judges have not heard about our pornography bittorrent lawsuits. We’ll file there instead.” (See John Steele’s war of words with Sophisticated Jane Doe in the comments section of this article, specifically page 2.)  So the troll re-files its lawsuit, sometimes shamelessly doing a “cut and paste” job, implicating literally the same IP addresses they implicated in lawsuits they filed and dismissed in other jurisdictions. More about Prenda Law Inc. and forum shopping here.

The problem is that Prenda Law Inc. isn’t the only one doing this — many, if not all of the copyright trolls are doing the same thing, and just because “other people are doing it” doesn’t make it any more ethical.

This issue becomes relevant is when a local attorney receives an adverse ruling essentially shutting down bittorrent lawsuits in a particular jurisdiction. So far, as you know, you and we have been quite successful in educating judges as to the issues in the bittorrent cases [which has resulted in many case severances and dismissals], and the more judges learn about the copyright trolls’ tactics, the quicker they’ll shut down one or more of a plaintiff attorney’s lawsuits. The question becomes — and this is where forum shopping becomes relevant — IF A JURISDICTION SHUTS DOWN A COPYRIGHT TROLL’S CASES, IN WHICH COURT DO THEY RE-FILE THE LAWSUIT?  After all, the plaintiff attorneys are under the instructions from their clients (here, the production companies) to “sue this list of IP addresses who downloaded our stuff.”  If a court in a particular jurisdiction will no longer entertain such lawsuits — and each John Doe Defendant is potentially worth THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS IN SETTLEMENTS — where do the plaintiff attorneys sue these defendants?  Right or wrong, EVEN IF THEY SUE THEM IN THE WRONG COURT, MANY DEFENDANTS STILL WILL SETTLE.  Thus temptation for the copyright troll to “stick them into another lawsuit” is no doubt too great — “after all, who tracks this stuff?”  Hence, this is where forum shopping becomes an issue.

As just one example of a court shutting down a bittorrent case making it difficult to file in that federal court again (let’s see if I am proved wrong), it was brought to my attention yesterday that Jason Kotzker filed a handful of new cases — 8 in total — which he filed in the U.S. District Court for the SOUTHERN DISTRICT of New York (FYI, this is where Mike Meier is having trouble with his cases consolidated by Judge Forrest). These cases are:

Newly filed in the New York SOUTHERN District Court – Jason Aaron Kotzker of the Kotzker Law Group
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Does 1-11 (Case No. 7:12-cv-03810 – Judge Ramos)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Does 1-8 (Case No. 7:12-cv-03812 – Judge Seibel)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Does 1-16 (Case No. 7:12-cv-03818 – Judge Ramos)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Does 1-17 (Case No. 7:12-cv-03820 – Judge Karas)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Does 1-21 (Case No. 7:12-cv-03821 – Judge Ramos)
Malibu Media, Inc. v. John Does 1-7 (Case No. 7:12-cv-03823 – Judge Karas)

The funny part about this is if you remember my “Malibu Media, LLC – Friend of Foe? Foe.” article posted on March 23rd, 2012, you’ll immediately notice that Jason Kotzker was filing in the EASTERN DISTRICT of New York. However, no more. If you remember reading (and it does become difficult after a while to keep tabs on all of this) Sophisticated Jane Doe’s article on May 2nd, 2012 entitled, “New York judge blasts trolls’ practices, recommends banning mass bittorrent lawsuits in the district,” it should make perfect sense why Jason Kotzker is no longer filing in that court.

In all fairness, Jason wrote me and noted that he was filing in the Southern District of New York before this adverse ruling, and he is correct (I have listed a few of these cases below).  That being said, I don’t think we’ll be seeing any more filings from him in the U.S. District Court for the EASTERN District of New York any time soon, lest he file and land the same judge who hits him with sanctions for filing a frivolous lawsuit.

New York Southern District Court – Jason Aaron Kotzker of the Kotzker Law Group
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Does 1-5 (Case No. 1:12-cv-02950 – Judge Oetken)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Does 1-5 (Case No. 1:12-cv-02951 – Judge Griesa)
Malibu Media, Inc. v. John Does 1-7 (Case No. 1:12-cv-02952 – Judge Cote)
Malibu Media, Inc. v. John Does 1-4 (Case No. 1:12-cv-02953 – Judge Crotty)
Malibu Media, Inc. v. John Does 1-5 (Case No. 1:12-cv-02954 – Judge Buchwald)
Malibu Media, Inc. v. John Does 1-4 (Case No. 1:12-cv-02955 – Judge Engelmayer)
Malibu Media, Inc. v. John Does 1-4 (Case No. 1:12-cv-02960 – Judge Buchwald)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Does 1-4 (Case No. 1:12-cv-02961 – Unassigned)
Malibu Media, Inc. v. John Does 1-4 (Case No 1:12-cv-02962 – Judge Baer)

Looking at even this list of cases all filed in the SOUTHERN DISTRICT of New York at the same time, you have to ask yourself — why did Jason Kotzker break these cases into “John Does 1-4” cases, when he could have easily filed the lawsuit as Malibu Media, LLC v. John Does 1-42?  Are you telling me that breaking this case into 9 SEPARATE CASES resulting in 7 SEPARATE JUDGES [whereas 2 are known to rule against copyright trolls] is not forum shopping?!?  Are you kidding me??

Here is my solution.  We have learned from past experience, judges need to be educated on the issues, and sometimes from non-parties, sometimes from us attorneys whispering into their ears, and sometimes through mainstream channels via the EFF, the ACLU, through their use of amicus briefs. For this reason, I would like to see more people sending letters to the chambers of Judge Ramos [Phone: (914) 390-4290], to the chambers of Judge Karas [Phone: (914) 390-4145], and to the chambers of Judge Seibel [Phone: (914) 390-4271] and the others letting them know exactly what is going on.  Tell them what cases have been filed, and tell them which other judges have the other cases.  Speak about jurisdiction.  Speak about joinder.  Speak about the phone calls you have received from the plaintiff attorney’s so-called “collection” agents.  Now obviously calling up and ranting won’t get you anywhere.  However, calling up each Judge’s chambers and asking for their fax number, and then sending over a well written letter to the judge can certainly get some results.


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