Category Archives: West Coast Productions Inc.

CEG-TEK: Naughty or Nice?

[2017 UPDATE: Carl Crowell has created a new entity called RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT which has reverse-engineered CEG-TEK’s proprietary DMCA copyright infringement notice system.  Many of you have visited CEG-TEK links thinking that RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT was CEG-TEK, but really they are an ‘evil twin’ competitor.  Since their methodologies are nearly identical, this article is still very useful.]

Copyright Enforcement Group (CEG-TEK) has sent possibly hundreds of thousands of letters to internet users accused of downloading copyrighted content via bittorrent. In their letters, they invoke the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) as the justification for their “intellectual property (IP) enforcement” activities. They claim to be the good guys, but are they?  Are they “naughty or nice”?

CEG-TEK claims to be the good guys — they stop piracy, and as a result of their efforts, fewer people download on the ISPs’s networks (a social “good” and a “win” for the copyright holders). They have stopped the copyright troll lawsuits, for the moment. And, although they are charging $300 per title for each downloaded movie (sometimes higher) for what is often an accidental “click of the mouse,” they claim that they are not “bad” or “vindictive” like their Rightscorp competitor, which charges only $20 per title, but then sues the accused downloaders in federal courts, and then even go so far as contacting the ISPs in order to attempt to shut down the internet accounts of those accused of downloading their clients’ copyrighted titles via bittorrent.

But then again, CEG-TEK is a business. While I have had success negotiating away cases against veterans, the elderly, and in many cases, college kids, CEG-TEK has taken a number of steps which at best would be questionable.

Most relevant is the “admission of guilt” clause in their settlement agreements, which at the time of writing this article has flipped back to the version which does not include this clause. Months ago, when CEG-TEK expanded into Canada and then Australia, the settlement agreements which released those who have settled from liability included the following clause:

111715 Admission of Guilt in CEG-TEK Settlement Agreement

[For those of you who cannot see the image, it says, “…in the event of a (i) failure to clear, (ii) chargeback, (iii) cancellation, (iv) failure to complete…this Release shall be considered admissible and conclusive evidence of RELEASEE’s infringement of the copyright in the Work and that RELEASEE will be liable to CONTENT COPYRIGHT OWNER for all damages, statutory and/or otherwise, for such infringement plus attorney fees plus costs as of the Settlement Date…” (emphasis added)]

[Now as a side note, for those who are particular about formatting and details, note that CEG-TEK placed that inflammatory clause at the bottom of Page 2, and they split it up where half of it is at the bottom of the page, and the other half is at the top of the next page, where even a careful individual might not read the clause in its entirety because the inflammatory clause is separated by being on different pages.]

The problem with such a clause admitting guilt is that it is binding on an unsuspecting individual who tries to settle the claims against him by paying with a credit card. How?  These contracts are available to the individual paying the settlement fee on the CopyrightSettlements.com website to review, and upon processing the credit card payment, they agree to the terms contained within the contract.

Then, when their credit card transaction fails (either because their card is not accepted by CEG-TEK’s website, or because the transaction is declined, or, if through no fault of their own, because of the website itself the bank flags the transaction as suspicious (fraud alert for a large online charge) and fails to approve the transaction), at that point, the individual has admitted guilt to copyright infringement, which carries a $150,000 statutory fine for each title downloaded. Assume for the moment that the individual has five (5) cases.  Multiply this $150,000 amount by five separate copyright holders, and the individual could be looking at 5 x $150,000 lawsuits (= $750,000 in statutory damages separated into multiple lawsuits filed by different copyright holders all of whom hired CEG-TEK as their agent to enforce their copyrights) where the internet user has already admitted guilt.

Then, when the confused internet user who tried to settle calls CEG-TEK on the phone already having admitted guilt, what sort of leverage does the individual have if they are asked for more than $300 per title? Legally, they likely have no defense because according to the terms of the agreement, they already admitted guilt — even if the credit card transaction failing was not their fault.

So… Copyright Enforcement Group may be the “good guys” because they let attorneys negotiate away cases for vets, old ladies, and elderly gentlemen who don’t realize that they should be using a VPN when they download adult content, and CEG-TEK may serve the public good by demonstrating that piracy has gone down because of their efforts. While this is all true, remember: watch their contract, because caveat emptor still applies.

I don’t want to make this into a “you should have hired an attorney for your $300 matter” blog entry, but really, this is but one example of how even the “good guys” need to be approached with caution, and better yet, through a proxy by using an attorney. [I won’t even go into the conspiracy theories about CEG-TEK trying to get more than the $300 per title that is listed on the website.] Let’s stick to the facts and look at their contract to judge them on whether they are truly “naughty or nice.”


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 Sunshine State: No longer a “Happy” place for copyright trolls.

A number of copyright trolls hit a snag when the judges in both the Middle District of Florida (FLMD) and the Northern District of Florida (FLND) froze a whole slew of cases, consolidated some, and severed many others. This is just a simple indication that 1) federal judges in Florida are talking to one another, and 2) Florida has caught on to the copyright trolls’ extortion scheme.

In the Northern District of Florida, the mass bittorrent lawsuit West Coast Productions, Inc. v. Does 1-581 (Case No. 5:12-cv-00277) was “smoked,” resulting in all defendants [except one] being severed and dismissed from the case. Judge Smoak not only denied plaintiff attorney Jeffrey Weaver of Dunlap Weaver, PLLC (think, “Dunlap, Grubb, & Weaver, PLLC” from the olden days) an extension of time to name and serve defendants (as if he would have if he was given the chance) but he also killed Weaver’s lawsuit by severing out all the defendants. Now obviously Jeffrey Weaver can always re-file against individual John Does in their home states, but so far [with few exceptions] I have not seen individual lawsuits from these plaintiff attorneys.

However, here is the problem with the West Coast Productions, Inc. severed case. We know it is severed. You now know it is severed. However, your ISP does not know, and as far as they are concerned, they are still under an order signed by Judge Smoak on 9/4/2012 forcing them to produce the names, addresses, phone numbers, and e-mails of the 581 accused defendants. And, based on my conversations with defendants in this case over the past few days, these deadlines are coming up right around the corner.

I would assume that eventually the ISPs would pick up on the dismissal after enough notice, but I want to remind defendants to make sure to give notice to your ISP not to produce your information. This is something you can do on your own, but if you want an attorney to do it for you, I have already taken care of this for my own clients. Remember, your ISP gets paid by the plaintiff attorneys for each name they hand over, so they have a financial interest in producing the names “accidentally,” unless you give them notice. And, Jeffrey Weaver (your plaintiff attorney) will gladly pay your ISP for their accident because he wants nothing more than to get your names so that he can ask for $3,500 from each one of you. For this reason, be smart and follow-up with this, whether you use me to send the letter and documentation to your ISP for you, or whether you do it on your own.

As if the severance is not enough exciting news, in the Middle District of Florida, PRETTY MUCH EVERY CASE HAS BEEN EITHER FROZEN, SEVERED, OR DISMISSED.  Hoo yah!

I am happy to share that many of these cases were frozen in their tracks BEFORE THE JUDGES GAVE ORDERS PERMITTING THE PLAINTIFFS TO RECEIVE SUBPOENAS.  In other words, the ISPs were never subpoenaed, and you — the thousands of John Doe Defendants — never received ANYTHING in the mail!  Here are just a few examples of various cases:

West Coast Productions, Inc. v. Does 1-448 (3:12-cv-01277) — STAYED
West Coast Productions, Inc. v. Does 1-675 (3:12-cv-00964) — STAYED

Night of the Templar, LLC v. Does 1-23 (6:12-cv-01777) — SHOW CAUSE WHY SANCTIONS SHOULD NOT BE AWARDED.
Night of the Templar, LLC v. Does 1-92 (6:12-cv-01778) — SHOW CAUSE WHY SANCTIONS SHOULD NOT BE AWARDED.
Night of the Templar, LLC v. Does 1-98 (8:12-cv-02645) — SEVERED AND DISMISSED.

Bait Productions Pty Ltd. cases — CONSOLIDATED; ALL CASES ASSIGNED TO JUDGE COVINGTON AND GIVEN NEW CASE NUMBER (6:12-cv-01779).  This applies to the following cases:

Bait Productions Pty Ltd. v. Does 1-81 (6:12-cv-01779)
Bait Productions Pty Ltd. v. Does 1-96 (6:12-cv-01780)
Bait Productions Pty Ltd. v. Does 1-40 (5:12-cv-00644)
Bait Productions Pty Ltd. v. Does 1-36 (5:12-cv-00645)
Bait Productions Pty Ltd. v. Does 1-82 (8:12-cv-02643)
Bait Productions Pty. Ltd. v. Does 1-95 (8:12-cv-02642)
Bait Productions Pty. Ltd. v. John Does 1-26 (2:12-cv-00628)
Bait Productions Pty. Ltd. v. Does 1-78 (3:12-cv-01274)
Bait Productions Pty. Ltd. v. Does 1-44 (2:12-cv-00629)
Bait Productions Pty. Ltd. v. Does 1-71 (3:12-cv-01252)
Bait Productions Pty. Ltd. v. Does 1-31 (6:12-cv-01721)
Bait Productions Pty. Ltd. v. Does 1-73 (8:12-cv-02554)
Bait Productions Pty. Ltd. v. Does 1-41 (8:12-cv-02555)
Bait Productions Pty. Ltd. v. Does 1-52 (8:12-cv-02556)
Bait Productions Pty. Ltd. v. Does 1-66 (3:12-cv-01204)
Bait Productions Pty. Ltd. v. Does 1-73… and so on.

According to @copyrightclerk, “Bait Productions ha[d] 25 active cases in the Middle District of Florida against a total of 1,536 defendants.” Her write up on the consolidation of Bait Productions cases can be found here.

In sum, while Florida might be “the sunny state,” it appears as if a deep cold front has come in and given the flu to the trolls.  I saw a number of Florida cases from other plaintiffs as well that have been frozen, killed, stayed, or severed and dismissed.  It took them over two years, but I am happy they have finally caught on.


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.

Copyright Going Insane — How The Fight Between the Online Content Providers (ISPs) and TV Networks Are Affecting Our Bittorrent Piracy Lawsuits

I am always hesitant to write articles which are not relevant to the reason you are here. Very simply put, you and I are fighting against the production companies (the “copyright trolls”) who hire Intellectual Property (“IP”) Enforcement Companies and “copyright troll attorney” law firms who turn around and hire local counsel (your “Doug McIntyres, Joseph Pereas, and Mike Meiers” of the world) who sue defendants on behalf of their bosses to shake down internet users (regardless of whether they actually did the bittorrent downloads or not) to extort thousands of dollars “or else they will move forward in a copyright litigation lawsuit against that individual John Doe Defendant.” This is *our* fight.

However, there is a bigger fight looming in the courts, and our so-called “piracy” lawsuits are getting influenced by their headwinds — there is a brewing fight between 1) the CONTENT DISTRIBUTORS (e.g., the cable companies, the ISPs, and streaming content providers such as Netflix, Hulu, and now Amazon Prime), and 2) the CONTENT CREATORS (e.g., the television networks and movie, film, and production companies) who produce the films that the ISPs share with you, sometimes for a fee or a premium membership. Where it is impacting us is the strange and recent “out-of-place” rulings in our cases discussing the applicability of the Cable Act to ISPs. It appears that the judges want the ISPs and the CONTENT DISTRIBUTORS to fall under the Cable Act.

This morning, I read an ArsTechnica article written by New York Law School Professor James Grimmelmann entitled “Why Johnny can’t stream: How video copyright went insane,” which skillfully goes through the recent changes in the evolving application of copyright law from the creation of VHS and VCRs to today’s digital age of DVRs and more recently, Cablevision’s own DVR-RS (remote streaming — “DVRs in the cloud”) technology.

The ultimate issue which everyone is tiptoeing over is simply, “can an internet user download, share, stream, view, or save copyrighted content on their computers (or in their computer’s memory) and not be in violation of the copyright laws?” I suspect the answer will eventually be “yes,” but the law has a lot of catching up to do, and a lot of people like you and me will be sued in the process. This sounds scary, but this is the bigger fight we are in the middle of with our bittorent piracy lawsuits.

In the ArsTechnica article, it appears as if there is a circle of corporate parties fighting to capture the dollar of the internet user. The TV networks create and copyright the movies and the videos they produce, and the cable companies, the ISPs, and the online streaming companies pay extensive licensing fees to the TV networks in order to provide that TV show or that movie to their paying subscribers (and the advertisers who subsidize when subscribers view “free” content). The problem is that as a particular show (in my case, Stargate SG-1 which was pulled from Netflix a few weeks ago without explanation) gets popular, more people view and subscribe to the cable companies’ and online streaming companies’ websites to view the film. The problem is that as shows get more popular and the content distributors make more money from their subscriptions and their advertisers, the TV networks and content creators increase the licensing fees they demand from the cable companies and online streaming companies to erase their profits (and quite often to grossly unfair amounts). As a result, the cable companies and online streaming companies simply pull the show from the list of shows they offer their subscribers, and everyone loses. No TV show is being shown, the online content providers lose subscribers who go elsewhere, the advertisers don’t pay their advertising dollars (products that would be shown in the ads do not get sold) and the TV networks lost their licensing fees. Quite frankly, it is my opinion that this is where piracy kicks in, where users share with others shows that they cannot find online through normal streams of commerce without an outright purchase of a particular season at retail prices — in other words, the internet user loses as well.

In my opinion, the ArsTechnica article is more than a history lesson on copyright as its application to the everyday viewer has evolved over the years as the internet and technology has advanced, but it also discusses the absurdity of the “hoops” that cable companies and other start-ups are jumping through in order to be in strict compliance with the draconian copyright laws. Really? 10,000 tiny antennas so that a cable company does not infringe a TV network’s copyright [when ONE ANTENNA would serve exponentially more viewers at a dramatically LOWER COST to both the cable company AND the viewer]? This is where the laws are interfering with technology (think eating wet glue), and I have a problem with this.

As to the applicability of the cable companies (the “cable operators”) and the internet service providers (“ISPs”), I understand that these smaller-case Cable Act rulings in our cases have nothing to do with our problem, but with the fight between the cable companies, the ISPs, and the television networks. Cable companies have clear regulations as to where they fit within the Cable Act and the FCC’s rules. ISPs however are not so clear, and the water gets muddied when one skilled in telecommunications law compares the rules governing an ISP run by a cable company (e.g., Cablevision, or Xfinity run by Comcast, or Roadrunner run by Time Warner Cable, etc.) and the rules governing an ISP which provides their DSL, satellite (e.g., Dish Network), or fiber optic (e.g., Verizon “Fios”) who use means to allow users to view content other than through a coaxial cable. THE RELEVANCE OF THIS WHOLE FIGHT APPEARS TO BE OVER THE EVER-SKYROCKETING LICENSING FEES PAID TO THE TELEVISION NETWORKS, AND THE CABLE COMPANIES AND ISPs WHO ARE TRYING TO FIND WAYS NOT TO PAY THEM.

I understand that this should help you understand the headwinds which are affecting our cases, and while it is not relevant to the outcome of whether Hard Drive Productions, Inc. or West Coast Productions, Inc. sues thousands of internet users, or whether Malibu Media, LLC (a.k.a., “x-art”) has an unfair strategy in hooking internet users who download one torrent file (a bittorrent “siterip”) and are sued for twenty copyrighted films (even though they probably never downloaded them all in their entirety), it is still interesting to know that judges adjudicating the fight between the television networks and the ISPs are using our small lawsuits to plant case law which I suspect in the coming months and years will become relevant in the fight over licensing fees and which content provider has to pay them.


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.

“Forum Shopping” is the link between the TX & DC “Millennium TGA, Inc.” lawsuits.

As a response to the “You Have Been Shopped” article written by DieTrollDie on forum shopping, I do have some insight to add to this.  In short, there are not two Millennium TGA lawsuits in this forum shopping scandal, but three (if you are counting the “motion to compel” lawsuit in DC which is the key to understanding exactly what is going on — this is the missing link which provides the insight I am sharing).

MILLENNIUM TGA I: In short, on 12/7/2012, Millennium TGA v. Does 1-939 (Case No. 1:11-cv-02176) (hereinafter, “Millennium TGA I”) was filed in DC.  It was assigned to Judge Robert Wilkins, the DC judge who killed the “Expendables” bittorrent lawsuit — this was the Nu Image, Inc. v. Does 1-23,799 lawsuit by Dunlap Grubb & Weaver, PLLC which quickly expanded from 6,500 into 23,222 John Doe Defendants before the judge shut down the case.  It took Prenda Law Inc. a week to figure out that their judge was THE Judge Wilkins, and they quickly and voluntarily dismissed the case.

MILLENNIUM TGA II: Four days later, Prenda Law Inc. used their local counsel Doug McIntyre (the same local counsel who was almost fired because he took on the West Coast Productions, Inc. client [remember them in DC and in W.VA with their attorney Kenneth Ford who is now in jail?] in his West Coast Productions, Inc. v. Does 1-351 (Case No. 4:12-cv-00504) case which he filed without telling Prenda Law Inc. about it) and on 12/20/2012, Doug McIntyre filed the Millennium TGA, Inc. v. John Doe (Case No. 4:11-cv-04501) case here in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas.  This case involves pretty much identical parties, facts and claims as were alleged in the MILLENNIUM TGA I case in DC.  I suppose they thought nobody would notice their overt forum shopping, especially since they changed the name of their lawsuit.

Everything went smoothly for the plaintiff attorneys in the MILLENNIUM TGA II case in Texas …until Prenda Law Inc. served a subpoena on Comcast, who said “no.”

This is where the story gets interesting.  On 2/29/2012, Comcast objected to the subpoena by stating that 1) the court lacked personal jurisdiction over most of the IP addresses listed in the subpoena; 2) there were serious joinder issues in the lawsuit; and 3) the plaintiff was engaging in “a blatant attempt to FORUM SHOP” since they already dismissed MILLENNIUM TGA I to avoid being in front of Judge Wilkins in DC.

MILLENNIUM TGA III: As a result, Prenda Law Inc. (Millennium TGA, Inc.’s attorneys) filed a lawsuit against Comcast (it was actually a “motion to compel”) in the MILLENNIUM TGA, INC. v. JOHN DOE (Case no. 1:12-mc-00150) case in DC.

It was in this lawsuit that John Steele “surfaced” from pretending (think, “Prenda”) that he was not associated with Prenda Law Inc. since Paul Duffy allegedly took over the firm.  It is also my understanding that Prenda Law Inc. didn’t realize that John Seiver was the attorney behind the scenes on this case, and what they might not have known was that John Seiver has wreaked havoc on bittorrent cases as long as two years ago with the Digiprotect cases in New York.  Perhaps even Prenda Law Inc.’s predecessor firm Steele|Hansmeier, PLLC was not yet in existence when this happened, and John Steele was still running his divorce practice a la the Steele Law Firm, PLLC.  Either way, I suspect that they filed the motion to compel Comcast to comply with the subpoena in order to bully them, and they didn’t realize that Comcast (through John Seiver) would fight back.

Now advancing forward a bit on the timeline, Magistrate Judge Alan Kay ignored pretty much every point that Comcast brought up and he issued an order on 4/18/2012 ordering Comcast to comply with the subpoena for the MILLENNIUM TGA II Texas case.  They were ordered to reveal 351 of the subscriber identities to Prenda Law Inc.  This is, however, where it gets interesting.

John Seiver, obviously realizing that Magistrate Judge Kay made a dumb ruling, essentially called him a moron in appealing his order.  As an attorney, I would hold my tongue myself here in writing this article, especially because I am interested in seeing John Seiver and Comcast prevail, and I know that sometimes a judge can rule his court by ego rather than adhering to the law, but Magistrate Judge Kay’s ruling against Comcast was so dumb I could not contain myself.

In short, according to Comcast’s appeal, 1) the judge erred by failing to consider any of the legitimate defenses that Comcast raised on behalf of its subscribers. 2) The judge erred by failing to address the fundamental issue of whether any of the unnamed Does would be subject to personal jurisdiction (either in Texas, or in DC per the motion to compel).  3) The judge erred by failing to address the possible misjoinder of the one John Doe defendant (and the many co-conspirators) in the Texas case.  4) The judge erred by failing to realize that “conspiracy” is not a sufficient crime to allow massive discovery on the John Doe Defendants, and 5) Magistrate Judge Kay was not the proper judge to accept this case — according to DC’s own local rules (Local Rule 40.5), the case should have been immediately reassigned to Judge Robert Wilkins, the judge who was previously assigned to the MILLENNIUM TGA I case, since MILLENNIUM TGA I and MILLENNIUM TGA II had identical claims.  As of this evening, I am still waiting to hear a ruling on this appeal.

Now for those of you still in Prenda Law Inc.’s MILLENNIUM TGA II (Millennium TGA, Inc. v. John Doe (Case No. 4:11-cv-04501)) case here in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, if you are a Comcast subscriber, as you can see, there are unresolved questions in the MILLENNIUM TGA III DC case, and your status is uncertain.  Thus, my contribution to the FORUM SHOPPING article by DieTrollDie today is that the DC MILLENNIUM TGA III case holds the key to understanding what is currently going on in the MILLENNIUM TGA II case here in Texas.  Now as for everyone else (e.g., non-Comcast clients who are in the MILLENNIUM TGA II Texas case), understand now that the MILLENNIUM TGA III [motion to compel] DC case directly impacts your Texas case.  Obviously this is something we are watching for our clients.

If you are interested in reading this entertaining appeal by Comcast in order to understand the entire story and its implications, I have attached a copy of Comcast’s motion below.

[scribd id=93747083 key=key-x09ssrh5ihg17mi79cw mode=list]