Category Archives: Torrent

Defense Against the Dark Arts of Copyright Trolling, and its effects.

WHY FIGHT?

The purpose of this post is not to educate, but to share an experience I went through over the weekend.  I spent some time reviewing the various cases where John Doe Defendants have fought back, and the results (even when the attorney did a good job defending the case) were not what I expected.  And then it occurred to me that the Defense Against the Dark Arts of Copyright Trolling unmasks a problem with the bittorrent-based copyright infringement lawsuits — namely, that they will never end.

Defense Against the Dark Arts of Copyright Trolling (“DADA”) = Good & Bad

Professor Sag’s Paper (Defense Against The Dark Arts of Copyright Trolling) was meant to expose the extortion scheme that is behind each of the bittorrent cases we fight every day, and in hindsight, it did a lot of good, but it also did some bad.

Good:

The good it did was that it exposed and confirmed the suspicion that the same players have been (and continue to be) behind each of the lawsuits filed across the US.  Whether it is RIGHTSENFORCEMENT.com (Carl Crowell), APMC, or any of the other names or corporate shell entities working together and using the same German companies (Guardaley) and their so-called “experts” is irrelevant.  The scheme is the same, and this group of individuals who are soliciting movie companies and having them license the rights to sue for copyright infringement is the same, and the list of production companies who are signing onto copyright trolling as an effective method of making money from copyrights is growing.

Bad:

The problem is that Sag’s Defense Against the Dark Arts of Copyright Trolling paper also emboldened the plaintiff attorneys, and it has inspired many of them to “legitimize” these kinds of lawsuits, almost as if “legitimization” is their new mission statement and credo.  Plaintiff attorneys I speak to all now speak about “changing the way so-and-so district court sees our kinds of lawsuits,” as if they have all been coached by the same individual or group working in unison to change how federal courts view copyright infringement lawsuits, in spite of their inherent weaknesses.

How the Defense Against the Dark Arts of Copyright Trolling paper affected the Cashman Law Firm, PLLC

Since Sag’s Defense Against the Dark Arts of Copyright Trolling paper has come out, our Cashman Law Firm, PLLC now offers the following services to accused defendants:

  1. Fight and defend in court
  2. Settle out of court
  3. Represent, but don’t settle (meaning, help the plaintiff attorney understand that my client did not do the download)
  4. “No Settlement” letter

FIGHT AND DEFEND IN COURT:

This is the romantic option.  Have your victory in court and expose these guys for the scheming scum they are.  Vindicate the client, show the world they should not have been selected to be named-and-served defendants in the first place.

SETTLE OUT OF COURT:

This is frowned on by everyone, except the defendant who decides that this is the cheapest option.  Our law firm settles cases too, and in many circumstances we have leverage when negotiating a settlement.  Contrast this with settlement factories (you know who you are), who scare defendants into settling even when they did not do the download.  These settlement factories appear to promise one set of settlements, get the client to pay their volume-based fee, and then hit the defendant with a higher settlement amount claiming it is the client’s fault the settlement was higher (when the ‘deal’ they had with plaintiff attorneys in the first place was this higher ‘premium’ amount they prearranged with the plaintiff attorney).  See here for details.

REPRESENT, BUT DON’T SETTLE:

This is the preferred option for the innocent defendant who did not do the download.  I have called this mode of representation many things over the years, but the point of it is 1) to keep the plaintiff attorney far away from the defendant, 2) to keep an open line of communication between the plaintiff attorney and the defendant, and 3) to monitor the case so that the innocent defendant does not need to worry about the various filings, hearings, and documents that are filed in their case.  The ultimate goal of this “ignore” option is to inform the plaintiff attorney that my client was not the one that did the download, and to help him/her understand this by providing documentation and an open line of communication.  Eventually, the plaintiff attorney will need to decide whether to dismiss my client or move forward against him/her, but this will be based on the evidence, not based on bullying, threats, or coercion.  And if that becomes the circumstances, our firm is prepared to defend the client in the courtroom.

“NO SETTLEMENT” LETTER (as suggested by the Defense Against the Dark Arts of Copyright Trolling paper):  

This is the “no settlement letter” option suggested by Matthew Sag’s paper.  In the Defense Against the Dark Arts of Copyright Trolling, Prof. Sag suggested that the threat to name-and-serve a defendant if they do not settle is a *bluff*.  Counter the plaintiff attorney’s accusation with a denial letter sent by an attorney indicating that no infringement occurred, and that the client will not entertain a settlement.  The total representation should take 2-3 hours at most, but there is no ongoing representation — meaning, our firm is not monitoring the case, we are not interacting with the plaintiff attorney (only minimally, if necessary to substantiate something we wrote in the letter), and we are not spending time additional time arguing with the plaintiff attorney, or going back and forth on the evidence, or arguing the merits of the case — something that can cause the cost of defending a client to skyrocket.  This, according to the paper should provide the innocent defendant enough legal protection to inform the plaintiff attorney that they did not do the download and that they will not settle.[Should the client wish to have a more complete representation, we offer the “REPRESENT, BUT DON’T SETTLE” option, and we offer it as a flat fee service.]

Defense Against the Dark Arts of Copyright Trolling and the various paths of representation.
geralt / Pixabay

Prof. Sag’s Defense Against the Dark Arts of Copyright Trolling paper gave us direction.

I would say that the main benefit derived from Sag’s Defense Against the Dark Arts of Copyright Trolling paper is that the issues surrounding the mass bittorrent cases filed across the US have been defined.  The “lines in the sand” have been drawn, so to speak.  The scheme of the copyright holders has been revealed (I have not discussed the scheme or its details in this article).

We now know that the copyright holders are trying to prove that “snapshot” infringement is copyright infringement, whereas we look to establish that the “substantial similarity” standard of copyright law must be adhered to.  They look to prove that an IP address implicates the account holder while we look to prove that the IP address does not implicate the account holder (just to name a few points).

Sag’s Defense Against the Dark Arts of Copyright Trolling paper has shed a clear light on what case law needs to be established in each of the federal districts across the US.  This will take work, and it will take a number of years before we generate a consensus of law in each federal district.

The Defense Against the Dark Arts of Copyright Trolling paper also gave the copyright trolls direction.

The problem is that when a fraud is exposed, those committing the fraud double-down and get emboldened to prove that their side is right.  The copyright holders have a clear advantage over the defense counsel, as they have hundreds of lawsuits where they spew the same lines in every court trying to sway the judges to their side of the argument.  And, it costs them almost nothing to get their argument before a court.  However, for an individual defendant who hires a law firm like mine, we can only represent the defendants who come to our firm and choose to have us fight the case on their behalf (rather than settle or choose one of the other less confrontational options).

It is no secret that it costs more to defend a case in the courtroom than it does to settle it.  As a result, there are significantly fewer attorneys on our defense side who have the ability to get their arguments in front of the judges.  Rather, we are tasked with doing what is in the “best interest of our client,” and that is often to take active steps to avoid the costs of litigation.  So while we protect our client (one at a time), we are not the heroes who are slaying the copyright troll dragon.  And, while our Cashman Law Firm, PLLC does our best to starve the copyright trolls by avoiding settlements whenever possible (“no settlement” representation), copyright trolls do not require a lot of food to continue growing like a cancer.

The Defense Against the Dark Arts of Copyright Trolling paper’s suggested solution: Attorney Fees

The Defense Against the Dark Arts of Copyright Trolling paper suggested that attorneys such as myself should take my case pro bono (meaning, for free) or at a reduced rate so that we can get our attorney fees from the copyright trolls (those filing the lawsuits) rather than from the client.  His logic was that copyright law (in theory) allows a defendant to recoup attorney fees he paid to his attorney from the other side if he is successful in his defense (or more specifically, when the prevailing party gets a judgement “on the merits” of the case).

The problem is that even if the attorney is successful in fighting the case, the copyright trolls will dismiss their lawsuit against the defendant before he is able to get a judgement “on the merits.”  In other words, they deprive the successful defendant from obtaining attorney fees by dismissing the defendant as soon as they realize he has a winning case.

Counterclaims as a strategy to “lock-in” a copyright troll (to prevent dismissals)

Several accomplished attorneys have filed counterclaims trying to “lock in” the plaintiff attorney / copyright troll into the lawsuit, so that if they try to dismiss the defendant from the lawsuit, the defendant can still proceed on his counterclaims and collect the attorney fees he paid to his attorney when they win the case.  However, as glorious as a strategy as this is — and I credit the attorneys who thought of this strategy (and I am willing to share their names here if they allow me to) — to my own dismay, I have seen this strategy in practice fall on its face in a number of places.

My weekend.

This was the subject of my weekend research — reviewing cases filed across the US where the defense attorney filed a counterclaim against the copyright holder, and watching to see the plaintiff attorney try to squirm out of the counterclaim.  In some places they are successful and in some places they are not.  However, this is the disheartening reality I saw over the weekend — regardless of whether the plaintiff attorney succeeded in “locking-in” the plaintiff with his or her counterclaim, the judge months later still forced the parties to attend a settlement conference, and days later, a stipulation of dismissal was filed with the court indicating that the parties settled out of court.

“After all those months of fighting!” I thought.  I couldn’t believe it, but I saw it with my own eyes.  So, as glorious as it is to fight the case, I still see the cases settling out of court months or years later because neither party is willing to take the case to trial because of the costs involved.

In short, seven years later, the bittorrent lawsuits are still a “game of chicken.”  [Two cars drive at each other head on and full speed, and the first car to swerve out of the way loses.]  The game is still the same.  We’ve just had each side drive the metaphorical “car” deeper into the lawsuits.  Now plaintiff attorneys name-and-serve defendants.  Now plaintiff attorneys force accused defendants into discovery (forcing them to answer questions under oath via interrogatories, depositions, etc.) before dismissing them.  However, in the “olden days,” defendants did not need to pay any attention to the lawsuits.  Now the louses have figured a way to force defendants “neck first” into the litigation, so they are going to spend their hard-earned money either defending themselves or settling.

Defense Against the Dark Arts of Copyright Trolling and "Playing Chicken."
Netsyscom / Pixabay

The Grim Reality — More lawsuits are coming.

In sum, the ‘bad’ that Matthew Sag’s Defense Against the Dark Arts of Copyright Trolling paper did is that it exposed a harsh reality — that unless people fight back, these cases will prevail like a cancer on the court system, and many thousands more will be sued.   He also exposed that although the plaintiff’s case is weak, changing the minds of the judges en masse can only happen if people call the bluff of the copyright trolls and fight them on the merits of the case and oppose being dismissed when they are dismissed from the lawsuit.

If we want to see these cases disappear, we still have to fight the cases.  We need to file answers with the courts, and we need to expose the weaknesses of the cases to the judges.  Eventually, the plaintiff attorney will need to drop Guardaley or improve their tracking capabilities to remove accidentally implicating non-guilty defendants as John Doe Defendants in these cases.  They will need to do a whole slew of things which I can outline in another article when I have the time.  Most importantly, however, the issues surrounding the cases will need to be hashed out *in* the courtroom.  The cases will never go away until this happens.

What I found out this weekend is that even those who fight back eventually settle.  Whether the settlement is “plaintiff takes nothing,” who knows, but the cases all settle.

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

CONTACT FORM: Alternatively, sometimes people just like to contact me using one of these forms.  If you have a question or comment about what I have written, and you want to keep it *for my eyes only*, please feel free to use the form below. The information you post will be e-mailed to me, and I will be happy to respond.

NOTE: No attorney client relationship is established by sending this form, and while the attorney-client privilege (which keeps everything that you share confidential and private) attaches immediately when you contact me, I do not become your attorney until we sign a contract together.  That being said, please do not state anything “incriminating” about your case when using this form, or more practically, in any e-mail.

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.


Genbook Reviews | Cashman Law Firm, PLLC

Turnkey ‘Settlement Factory’ Defense Attorneys and Malibu Media LLC

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

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

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

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

“TURNKEY” / “SETTLEMENT FACTORY” DEFENSE ATTORNEYS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

CONTACT FORM: Alternatively, sometimes people just like to contact me using one of these forms.  If you have a question or comment about what I have written, and you want to keep it *for my eyes only*, please feel free to use the form below. The information you post will be e-mailed to me, and I will be happy to respond.

When is it too late to hire a lawyer in a John Doe lawsuit?

The best time to hire an attorney in a “John Doe” copyright infringement lawsuit is when you receive a subpoena notice from your ISP.

Even if you are not planning on filing a motion to quash, this is a copyright infringement case, and you need time to prepare for what will happen should you be named and served.

Hiring an attorney while you are still a “John Doe” gives you plenty of thinking time to get your affairs in order (for example, managing your online reputation by adjusting privacy settings on your social networking sites), and it gives you time to get your financial affairs in order.

DO NOT WAIT TO HIRE AN ATTORNEY UNTIL AFTER THE ISP HANDS OVER YOUR INFORMATION TO YOUR PLAINTIFF ATTORNEY.

There are a lot of things that you can accomplish before your ISP hands out your information.  You are anonymous at this point, and you can take advantage of that anonymity.

If you want to negotiate a truly anonymous settlement, when you receive your subpoena notice from your ISP is the time to do it.  The plaintiff attorney has done almost no research on your John Doe entity, and thus the settlement amounts will be low because there are no legal fees the attorney will want to add to the settlement amount to be paid for time spent trying to proceed against you.

Also, if your attorney is successful in negotiating an anonymous settlement (this may or may not be a good idea; talk to me and I’ll explain why), the benefit of doing it now when nobody knows who you are is that your plaintiff attorney will cancel the subpoena as to your John Doe entity once the settlement is complete.  That way, even he won’t ever know who you are (and thus you won’t have to worry about follow-up lawsuits, or the ‘copyright troll’ attorney asking you for more money later on, etc.).

ABSOLUTELY DO NOT WAIT UNTIL YOU ARE NAMED AND SERVED AS A DEFENDANT IN THE LAWSUIT.

Once you are named as a defendant in the lawsuit, your “John Doe” status is over, as is your anonymity.  Not only will the court know who you are, but at this point, the INTERNET will know who you are.  Forever, spiders and crawlers who search and index the legal sites and the lawsuit sites will index your name as being implicated as a defendant in that particular lawsuit.

Even if you settle the case, your reputation will be forever tarnished.

Even if you fight the case AND WIN, your reputation will forever be tarnished.

Once you are named and served, you have a ticking time bomb deadline waiting around the corner, where you will be forced to file an “Answer” with the court, or else you will be in DEFAULT.

Trying to negotiate a settlement after being named and served is like trying to negotiate with a gun to your head.  It is doable (and we have done it many times), but there is NO LEVERAGE.  The plaintiff attorney at this point is emboldened because there is nothing that he needs to do except wait.  He is under no pressure to negotiate at this point, because the law gives his client statutory damages if the infringement is willful.  Even if his client does not get the $150,000 statutory damages jackpot, if the named defendant defaults and the court awards minimum damages ($750), because the plaintiff attorney is the prevailing party, he will be awarded his attorney fees (which in most cases will be over $2,000 — higher than the commission he would have received had he accepted a settlement from you).

THUS, THERE IS A FINANCIAL INCENTIVE FOR THE PLAINTIFF ATTORNEY *NOT* TO SETTLE AFTER NAMING AND SERVING A DEFENDANT

Lastly, if you hire an attorney after you are named and served, practically, the attorney will be under pressure to get everything in order and filed before the deadline.  Please do not do this to your attorney.

We do not do this, but most attorneys will charge a premium or a higher hourly rate if there is a “days to a default” deadline associated with the work to be done.  The reason for this is that the attorney will need to drop whatever he is already working on and throw your case to the front of the pile (usually at the cost of accepting other business).

If you hired an inexperienced attorney after being named and served, the work you will get in return for the money you paid will be lower quality, because the attorney will not have the time to research the best legal strategies, arguments, or defenses available to your case, and in copyright infringement lawsuits, your defenses need to be raised in your answer or else you waive them.

For these reasons, for your own sanity, for your lawyer’s sanity, and for your own benefit — please DO NOT wait until you are named and served before hiring an attorney.  Do it immediately when you learn about the lawsuit from your ISP.


THIS HAS BEEN A LAWSUIT-NEUTRAL ARTICLE WRITTEN FOR THE TORRENTLAWYER UNIVERSITY.

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

CONTACT FORM: Alternatively, sometimes people just like to contact me using one of these forms.  If you have a question or comment about what I have written, and you want to keep it *for my eyes only*, please feel free to use the form below. The information you post will be e-mailed to me, and I will be happy to respond.

NOTE: No attorney client relationship is established by sending this form, and while the attorney-client privilege (which keeps everything that you share confidential and private) attaches immediately when you contact me, I do not become your attorney until we sign a contract together.  That being said, please do not state anything “incriminating” about your case when using this form, or more practically, in any e-mail.

A Thank You! to bloggers who have made our site possible.

This week we moved past 1 MILLION views of this website, and yet, I missed it.  As we head into the weekend, I realize that a lot has happened this week, and I wanted to take a moment to give credit where credit is due.

Were it not for an active community of attorneys, bloggers, and activist associations such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF.org), most of us would still be in the dark, unaware as thousands of families have their life savings taken.

I want to especially thank “Sophisticated Jane Doe” of Fight Copyright Trolls (https://www.fightcopyrighttrolls.com), who has been an endless supply of information, support, and behind-the-scenes research into everything that is going on with the copyright trolls.

I also want to thank DTD from the Die Troll Die website (https://www.dietrolldie.com), because without his efforts, his entertaining blog posts, and the time he has taken to read so many cases and rulings, much would have been lost.  I also want to comment that when these cases began in 2010 and there were thousands of “John Doe” Defendants filed in one bittorrent-based copyright infringement case, it was DTD who filed endless “anonymous John Doe” motions with the court that not only educated judges, but broke a number of cases simply by telling the truth of what those copyright troll attorneys were doing when the judges were not looking.

I also want to thank the attorneys with whom I speak to regularly, and with whom I correspond with and e-mail both over Twitter, over WhatsApp, and over various Listservs.  You know who you are.  You are an amazing resource, and without you, there are countless examples of where I would have been stumped without your assistance.

And to the growing list of attorneys who practice in this area of law who contact me asking how to do something, or ask me to explain who is who, I appreciate being of service.  It is a pleasure working with each of you, teaching you what I know, and sharing news about various copyright holders, ‘copyright trolls’, and strategies which have worked and flopped for each.

Lastly and possibly most importantly, there are many of you on Twitter that I would like to thank, and you know who you are.  Our area of law creates an ‘echo chamber’ on Twitter.  In that echo chamber, I read every post you write, I appreciate your feedback, I appreciate your insight, and without you, I would have missed out on a number of lawsuits and topics which happened in one set of courts while I was representing clients in another set of courts.

So thank you, from the bottom of my heart.  I appreciate everything you do.

-Rob


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 either e-mail me at [email protected], or 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.

SHOULD I IGNORE A “RIGHTSENFORCEMENT.COM” DMCA NOTICE?

In short, the answer is clearly NO (and I have a good reason for this answer which is not meant to scare you).

[This article is a continuation of the “WHAT DO I KNOW ABOUT RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT” article.  It made sense to separate out the topics and keep them short and to the point.]

With CEG-TEK, when someone asked “what are my chances of being sued if I ignore,” I would have told you “LOW,” because CEG-TEK typically did not file lawsuits if a recipient of one of their “DMCA scare letters” was ignored.  RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT IS DIFFERENT.

Because Carl Crowell (the puppet master behind the RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT site) is an active ‘copyright troll’ himself, AND BECAUSE HE HAS A TEAM OF ‘COPYRIGHT TROLLS’ ACROSS THE U.S. WHO ARE ACTIVELY SUING DEFENDANTS, I would likely suggest that the chances of being sued are “VERY HIGH.”  Again, this is not to scare you, but it is based on simple logic.


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.

WHAT IF MY RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT DMCA NOTICE DUE DATE EXPIRED?

*IT IS NOT TOO LATE.*  If the DMCA notice that you received and/or ignored or threw in the trash has expired, the copyright holders have THREE YEARS from the alleged date of infringement to file a lawsuit against you in a federal court.  So there is time to solve the problem, if it has not already escalated into a lawsuit.

[This article is a continuation of the “WHAT DO I KNOW ABOUT RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT” article.  It made sense to separate out the topics and keep them short and to the point.]

If the DMCA notice had a deadline which has expired, since RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT is a knock-off of the CEG-TEK system, my best guess is that following the expiration of whatever date you were given in your notice (likely 30 days), a second letter will be forwarded over to you stating that “because you did not settle, now we want $3,500 for that one title,” or whatever they are asking for.  This too can be negotiated by an attorney.

NOTE: Why $3,500?  Marvin Cable used to ask for $1,850, if I remember correctly, and that was back in 2012.  Also, CEG-TEK’s business model was not to sue anyone, so their settlement letters lacked ‘teeth’.  However, RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT settlement letters are made with an explicit threat that they will follow-up with a lawsuit against the internet subscriber of your account if you do not settle.  For this reason — because their threats have ‘teeth’ — you can expect to see higher follow-up settlement amounts, akin to a settlement if a lawsuit were filed.


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.

WHAT IS THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT AND YOUR ISP?

As I described last year, there are THREE POSSIBLE RELATIONSHIPS between a copyright enforcement company (Carl Crowell’s RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT entity is one such company) and your Internet Provider (“ISP”).

[This article is a continuation of the “WHAT DO I KNOW ABOUT RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT” article.  It made sense to separate out the topics and keep them short and to the point.]

WHY IS THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN YOUR ISP AND RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT RELEVANT TO YOU?

RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT uses the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) to send DMCA abuse / copyright infringement violation letters directly to subscribers.  This method of contacting a subscriber accused of ‘piracy’ directly avoids the need to file a lawsuit and pay a $400 filing fee to uncover the identity of the accused downloader.  Instead, the copyright holder can simply send a notice saying “you were downloading our movie, cut it out or we can sue you” as a mechanism to stop the alleged piracy with minimal fees charged to both the copyright holder policing his copyright, and to the ISP (who gets to avoid complying with costly subpoenas forced upon them by judges in federal copyright infringement lawsuits).

The DMCA is supposed to be the best solution, but copyright enforcement companies have found ways to misuse these DMCA notices.  Instead of telling the user to “cut it out,” they claim that unless they settle the claims against them and pay the copyright holder money via their website, the copyright holder will file a lawsuit against them for $150,000 under the copyright infringement statutes.

If you received a DMCA notice from RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT, chances are they are asking you for multiple thousands of dollars for infringement of their titles, priced at $300 per instance of infringement.

WHAT ARE THE THREE RELATIONSHIP TYPES BETWEEN A COPYRIGHT ENFORCEMENT COMPANY AND THE ISP?

There are three types of relationships between a company such as RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT and your ISP.  I am only listing them in summary form because I have already written about this topic in depth here.  The reason I am rehashing this topic is because RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT is an “evil twin” of what CEG-TEK is, and thus knowing the character of the attorneys involved, I come to different conclusions here than I did last year when reviewing this same topic when it came to CEG-TEK.

Here are the three types of relationships:

1) A RELATIONSHIP OF FORCE AND THREATS AGAINST THE ISP (where RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT threatens, and the ISP complies),

2) A RELATIONSHIP OF PROFIT FOR BOTH SIDES (where RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT pays, and the ISP cooperates), and

3) A RELATIONSHIP OF PURE MOTIVE (both RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT and the ISP hold hands and cooperate, to “fight piracy”) — UNLIKELY.

Most likely, the relationship between Carl Crowell and the ISPs are 1) a relationship of force, threats, and control.

WHY DO I BELIEVE THE RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT AND THE ISPs ARE BASED ON FORCE AND THREATS?

There are a number of ISPs on Crowell’s list of ISPs who are explicitly NOT FRIENDLY to companies such as RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT (e.g., COX, Frontier, Hawaiian Telecom, and Windstream).

These ISPs are known for protecting the privacy of their subscribers, and I understand that they were staunchly against CEG-TEK’s attempts to get them ‘on board’ with the 3) RELATIONSHIP OF MOTIVE (“holding hands and cooperating to fight piracy”), and I understand that they were likely not willing to even join them in a 2) RELATIONSHIP OF PROFIT FOR BOTH SITES.  They were simply against any participation in the DMCA settlement notice scheme.

However, seeing that these ISPs are working with RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT, I must assume that they have apparently caved in to what I believe are threats of lawsuits by Carl Crowell that if they do not comply and forward the DMCA settlement demand letters to their subscribers accused of downloading Crowell’s titles via bittorrent, he will sue these ISPs and claim they are in violation of the DMCA Safe Harbor rules.  COX is already in a similar lawsuit, and it is possible that they may lose based on the current state of the DMCA statues.

SHOULD I CANCEL MY ISP ACCOUNT AFTER RECEIVING A NOTICE FROM RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT?

NO.  In the RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT case, it appears to me as if your ISP is being forced to comply with Crowell’s demands.  They are possibly just as angry about these DMCA notices as you are.

Many of you will be shocked and upset when you learn that your ISP forwarded the DMCA settlement notice to you, and you will likely call me asking whether you should cancel your ISP.

As a general rule, no, there is no benefit to cancelling your ISP.  Emotionally, even if they were not forced to send the DMCA settlement notices to you, they do believe that piracy is bad, and even if they do not believe this, piracy does put a terrible strain on their servers.  So they have a financial benefit to cooperating with the copyright holders to stop piracy.

For more details, I invite you to read the article I wrote last year when it was CEG-TEK sending the DMCA notices, not RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT.  There, I hashed out the various relationships in a way that you could understand that the ISPs are almost never a partner encouraging this sort of copyright enforcement.

For that reason, it is almost never needed to cancel your ISP because you learned that they forwarded a DMCA notice from a copyright holder.


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.