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.