Cook Productions now ‘dipping toes’ into federal courts.

Rights Enforcement | screenshot with Mr. Church (Cook Productions) outlined.

Cook Productions (“Mr. Church”) Movie Lawsuits are filed across the US.

How many cases have been filed in each federal court?

At the time of writing this article (Feb. 2017), Cook Productions, LLC has sued John Doe Defendants in following US District Courts*:

Arizona District Court (2)
Colorado District Court (1)
Hawaii District Court (4)
Illinois Northern District Court (14)
Indiana Northern & Southern District Courts (1, 1)
Kentucky Western District Court (1)
Maryland District Court (1)
Nevada District Court (1)
North Carolina Eastern & Middle District Courts (1, 5)
Ohio Northen & Southern District Courts (1, 1)
Oregon District Courts (3)
Pennsylvania Eastern District Court (1)
Washington Western District Court (3)

*I have included the number of filings so that you can see in which states these plaintiffs are focusing their efforts.

All About the Mr. Church Movie Lawsuit

Cook Productions, LLC is the legal entity suing Comcast ISP subscribers for the download of the “Mr. Church” movie with Eddie Murphy and Britt Robertson.  The movie itself looked like a feel good drama, although the movie itself got dismal ratings (which is probably why someone agreed to start suing downloaders of this movie to make up for their shortfall.)

  • COS (Consequence of Sound) rated the movie as a D-, referring to it as “unusually bad melodrama…. about as enjoyable as a plague of locusts.”
  • Indiewire rated it as a C-, claiming that the movie “flails for the heartstrings, but instead of reaching them, it only tugs at that muscle that makes you roll your eyes at its old-fashioned, melodramatic attempts at emotion.”

In sum, this is yet one more movie that failed at the box office, which made it a target for some company to snatch it up in some licensing deal, and then turn on its fans by suing each one in the federal courts.  Even the number of downloaders interested in pirating this film is laughably small.

What do I do if I receive a subpoena from my Internet Provider?

For someone who received a subpoena claiming that they should file a motion to quash to stop their ISP from disclosing their contact information, speak to an attorney because most likely, you live in the state in which you were sued, and the court has jurisdiction over you.  

I’d be happy to explain this further if you would like, because the last time I taught anyone about motions to quash may have been back in 2012 (by the way; although those articles are many years old now, the law explained in them is still good, so please feel free to revisit older articles as I did a lot of ‘teaching of concepts’ back when bittorrent case law was not yet “hashed out,” pardon the geeky pun).

Is there anything you can share to help me understand this case?

I have four items that I can contribute to these lawsuits which might be of assistance to someone who is looking for some free legal help or tips on how to understand these lawsuits.

1. The lawsuits are smaller than they should be.

The Cook Productions copyright holders do not have many lawsuits.  While it is scary to see multiple lawsuits in your court, in many cases, there are a small handful of defendants in each case (sometimes only including 5-7 John Doe Defendants in one lawsuit).  

This suggests to me a fear that they might lose a significant pool of their defendants to a dismissal.  

On the flip side, you could also say that the attorneys expect to maximize the money they make by extorting as much as possible from one or more defendants, but I have reasons why [for the most part] this is not the case.

2. The lawsuits appear to be filed in ‘untested’ states.

The Cook Productions lawsuits are sprinkled a few here, a few there, as if they are ‘dipping their toes’ into the various federal courts to see which jurisdictions end up being favorable to them.

In my experience, this is simply an indication that Cook Productions is either inexperienced or lazy, because if they did their research into what has already happened over the years with other bittorrent lawsuits, they would have learned which jurisdictions are favorable to so-called copyright trolls, and which are not so favorable.

Why file lawsuits in federal courts where judges are known to be unfriendly to copyright trolls?

Placing 14 cases in the Illinois Northern District Court (Prenda Law Inc. / John Steele’s former home court) is simply a mistake because there are too many judges there which will laugh when they see this lawsuit hit their case list.  At least they knew to stay out of Texas.

3. New “no-name” copyright troll attorneys are being tested in these cases.

There are many well known ‘copyright troll attorneys’ in each of the states Cook is filing in.  These attorneys have filed countless lawsuits against many John Doe Defendants over the years.  

However, in a handful of states that I have reviewed for the Cook Productions LLC lawsuits, I am seeing “no-name” attorneys represent the copyright holder.

Let me be clear — if I were to hire an attorney to pursue downloaders, I would hire experienced attorneys who have filed lawsuits in these courts, who know the judges, and who know copyright law.  

Rather, I am seeing random attorneys take on these clients who have websites that reference the plaintiff attorney’s areas of expertise to be “insurance law,” “employment law,” “construction law,” …but where is the intellectual property law specialty? Where is the “copyright law” specialty?

Answer: There is none.  These fields of expertise are STATE-BASED areas of law, and in my humble opinion, a number of these local attorneys have never stepped foot in a federal court.

4. If the local plaintiff attorneys have no experience in copyright law, then they must be following instructions of someone higher.

How have they filed these cases then?? Funny, I thought the same thing.  The case filings look IDENTICAL to me, suggesting to me that there is SOME COMMON ENTITY WHO IS FEEDING TEMPLATES TO THESE ATTORNEYS, and these attorneys file them in the federal courts.

My final thoughts about the Cook Productions, LLC lawsuits.

In sum, Cook Productions, LLC appears to me to be yet another copyright troll.  If I was a betting man, I would suggest that some entity licensed the rights to the failed “Mr. Church” movie, and is now suing John Doe Defendants across the US using each state’s local attorneys as straw men to act as if they are the ones who are representing the client to enforce that client’s copyright rights.

For an analysis of the other Cook Productions, LLC bittorrent-based cases [as they start to develop past the subpoena phase of the lawsuit], click here.

What are the actual names of the Mr. Cook lawsuits filed in each court?

Cases filed in the Arizona District Court:
Cook Productions LLC v. Unknown Parties (Case No. 2:16-cv-04478)
Also, Case No. 2:16-cv-04481

Case filed in the Colorado District Court:
Cook Productions, LLC v. Doe 1-23 (Case No. 1:16-cv-03198)

Cases filed in the Hawaii District Court:
Cook Productions, LLC v. Does 1 through 15 (Case No. 1:17-cv-00034)
Cases also filed against small-number Doe Defendants:
Does 1-8 (Case No. 1:16-cv-00637)
Does 1-4 (Case No. 1:16-cv-00639)
Does 1-5 (Case No. 1:16-cv-00638)

Cases filed in the Illinois Northern District Court:
COOK PRODUCTIONS, LLC v. DOES 1-24 (Case No. 1:16-cv-11338)
Cases also filed against small-number Doe Defendants:
v. DOES 1-15 (Case No. 1:17-cv-00522)
v. DOES 1-12 (Case No. 1:17-cv-00536, 1:17-cv-00526)
v. Does 1-29 (Case No. 1:16-cv-11337)
v. DOES 1-12 (Case No. 1:17-cv-00535)
v. Does 1-13 (Case No. 1:17-cv-00523)
v. DOES 1-14 (Case No. 1:16-cv-11347)
v. DOES 1-15 (Case No. 1:16-cv-11345)
v. DOES 1-18 (Case No. 1:16-cv-11341)
v. DOES 1-25 (Case No. 1:16-cv-11340)
v. DOES 1-13 (Case No. 1:16-cv-11350)
v. Does 1-21 (Case No. 1:16-cv-11344)
v. DOES 1-23 (Case No. 1:16-cv-11339)

Cases filed in the Indiana Northern & Southern District Courts (respectively):
Cook Productions, LLC v. Does 1-11 (Case No. 3:16-cv-00773)
COOK PRODUCTIONS LLC v. DOE 1 et al (Case No. 1:16-cv-03158)

Case filed in the Kentucky Western District Court:
NOTE: The “Inc.” is probably a silly typo from a sloppy attorney.

Cook Productions, Inc. v. Does 1-9 (Case No. 3:16-cv-00838)

Case filed in the Maryland District Court:
Cook Productions, LLC v. Doe 1 et al (Case No. 8:16-cv-03873)

Case filed in the Nevada District Court:
Cook Productions, LLC v. Does (Case No. 2:17-cv-00069)

Cases filed in the North Carolina Eastern & Middle District Courts:
Cook Productions, LLC v. Doe 1, et al. (Case No. 5:16-cv-00910)
Also Filed:
Case No. 5:16-cv-00909
Case No. 5:16-cv-00924
COOK PRODUCTIONS, LLC V. DOES 1-5 (Case No. 1:16-cv-01369)
COOK PRODUCTIONS, LLC V. DOES 1-11 (Case No. 1:16-cv-01375, 1:16-cv-01374)
COOK PRODUCTIONS, LLC V. DOES 1-7 (Case No. 1:16-cv-01372)
COOK PRODUCTIONS, LLC V. DOES 1-9 (Case No. 1:16-cv-01373)

Cases filed in the Ohio Northern & Southern District Courts (respectively):
Cook Productions, LLC v. Does (Case No. 3:16-cv-03045)
Cook Productions LLC v. Does 1-15 (Case No. 2:16-cv-01192)

Cases Filed in the Oregon District Court:
NOTE: OK, this one concerns me. Look at the attorney and the “single Doe” case lawsuit style. These might play out differently than the others [just my gut feeling].

Cook Productions, LLC v. Doe- (Case No. 3:16-cv-02086)
Cook Productions, LLC v. Doe- (Case No. 3:16-cv-02085)
Cook Productions v. Doe- (Case No. 3:17-cv-00162)

Case filed in the Pennsylvania Eastern District Court:
COOK PRODUCTIONS, LLC. v. JOHN DOES 1-13 (Case No. 2:17-cv-00705)

Cases filed in the Washington Western District Court:
Cook Productions, LLC v. Doe 1 et al (Case No. 2:16-cv-01884)
Also filed:
Case No. 2:17-cv-00252
Case No. 2:17-cv-00101

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

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

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    ME2 Productions Bittorrent Lawsuits Have Come To Houston, TX

    UT ME2 Productions | Utah ME2 Settlement Letters Sent by Todd Zenger

    Introducing the ME2 Productions (“Mechanic:Resurrection”) Move Lawsuits

    Because the “ME2 Productions, Inc.” copyright infringement lawsuits appear to be the ‘third leg’ to the “September Productions, Inc.” (leg 1) and the “Cell Film Holdings, LLC” (leg 2) lawsuits, I felt compelled to write something about it.

    This third leg of cases, each of which have been filed by Gary Fischman and Josh Wyde consist of four cases (and counting), each filed here in the TX Southern District Court. ME2 Productions, Inc. itself [through their local counsel across the US] has filed 112 cases so far, and each case appears to be following the same template. There are 10-20 John Doe Defendants per case, and the cases are spaced apart when filed, hoping that no proactive judge receives and consolidates all of the cases in one federal district (this has not yet happened in Texas).


    In Texas, the ME2 cases are still in their infancy, and all that has happened is that judges have rubber stamped what are called “expedited discovery” requests to allow the plaintiff attorneys to force the ISP(s) to send subpoenas to the account holders of those IP addresses where unlawful downloading is claimed to have happened.

    As of writing this message, the Comcast / XFinity ISP has received three subpoenas, and has sent letters to the accused account holders (the “John Doe Defendants”) indicating that they should file an objection to the subpoena with the court before the ISP is forced to hand out the subscriber information to the plaintiff attorney.

    As of now, there are three known ‘deadlines’ to file an objection (e.g., motion to quash) with the court — 3/2, 3/16 and 3/20 — corresponding to three of the four cases so far filed in Texas. I’ll update this article with the fourth date as soon as I get it.


    More generally, ME2 Productions, Inc. is suing for copyright infringement based on the the illegal download of the Mechanic: Resurrection movie, starring Jason Statham and Jessica Alba. (NOTE: If you are considering downloading any of the Transporter movies also with Jason Statham, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see lawsuits from the production companies for those movies as well in the near future based on a trend I’ve noticed in the past. Also be on the lookout for lawsuits for the ‘Transporter’ movies as well for this same reason).


    Based on my conversations with the plaintiff attorneys who are attempting to sue downloaders of the Mechanic: Resurrection title, I understand that a number of those implicated in these lawsuits may have also been implicated in the September Productions, Inc. v. Does lawsuits for the download of the Septembers of Shiraz video and possibly also the Cell Film Holdings, LLC v. Does lawsuit for the download of the “The Cell” video.

    For some reason, these three videos appear to be a trio, perhaps because they were shared on the piracy websites or Popcorn Time software platforms at the same time, or that there is some ‘contractual’ connection between the three movies (e.g., perhaps Voltage Pictures has signed an agreement with each of the three copyright holders giving Voltage a right to take on the movie production’s company name as they did with Dallas Buyers Club, LLC, to act and to sue on their behalf in order to ‘monetize’ and enforce the copyright rights those productions companies have from the creation of the copyrighted films).

    I wrote this last paragraph very quickly, without much explanation. Do you even care if the company suing you is really Voltage Pictures, Inc. who has contacted the movie companies and said, “sign a contract with me — I’ll sue in your name and get lots of settlement money for you”? Bottom line, you are implicated as a John Doe Defendant in what looks to be a copyright troll lawsuit, Comcast is about to hand over your information to plaintiff attorneys Joshua Wyde and Gary Fischman, and you are staring down the barrel of a $150,000 copyright infringement for clicking and possibly watching a movie that may not have been any good.


    In sum, whether this lawsuit indeed falls under “copyright troll” status or not, the plaintiff attorneys have taken great strides to mask the true nature of this lawsuit, namely, that this lawsuit will likely not go to trial for any of the defendants, because it is not economically profitable for the copyright holder (or Voltage Pictures, if this is the case) to spend the money to chase some student in Houston, TX and force a $150,000 judgment on them that the student will never and could never pay. Yet based on the documents I have seen these attorneys file in the court (sometimes even quoting this blog), they seem to want to litigate.

    Whether they are paid hourly by their copyright holder clients (the production companies) or whether the simply take a commission based on a percentage of the settlement amount they elicit from the defendants (my gut feeling is that they are actually being paid hourly by their clients which gives them an incentive to spend more time filing documents in the court) they do spend significant amounts of time drafting motions, and they do spend the money to name and serve defendants, and they DO fight the case *as if* they were taking each John Doe Defendant to trial. Whether this is because they are trying to overcome the bias the federal judges in Texas have against the pornography bittorrent cases which wasted the past seven years of the court’s time or because they are trying to prove the legitimacy of bittorrent based copyright infringement lawsuits, bottom line, they are fighting these cases differently from the way other plaintiff attorneys have fought them in recent years.

    What to do if you are sued for a movie you did not download?

    So here is the solution. If you did not download the Mechanic: Resurrection movie, then fight back. Hire an attorney (me, or any other attorney) to fight your case. If you did the download, well, there are also solutions found with an attorney, but you knew this already, and it will require both sides to be reasonable to come to an amicable solution.

    I did not mention this before, so I am mentioning this here since it is relevant — it is not profitable for a movie company to bring a copyright infringement lawsuit to trial. This gives us on the defense side leverage to either come to an amicable solution, or to fight back and force them to dismiss. The plaintiff attorneys Josh Wyde and Gary Fischman will fight back, but facts are facts, and justice is for the most part blind. If they cannot prove that it is more likely than not that you were the downloader of the copyrighted movie, then they cannot find you guilty for copyright infringement.

    An unintended consequence of fighting back.

    NOTE: An unintended consequence of fighting back from a purely academic perspective is that doing so forces the copyright holders to focus their set of John Doe Defendants to those downloaders to whom they can prove did the download, because each ‘misfire’ (meaning, each John Doe Defendant who did not do the download and who fights back) costs the copyright holder severely, and we have said for years that this would be the demise of the ‘copyright troll’ model if they sue without vetting their data as to which John Doe Defendants apparently did what and when. Make it too expensive to blindly name and serve (without vetting the John Doe Defendants first), and their model falls. However, fight back, and they will focus and limit their list of John Doe Defendants to those who subscribers (or their family members) who actually did the downloading, and this will only feed back into their cash stream by encouraging settlements to avoid being named and served, sued, and found liable for copyright infringement. It’s a messy problem.

    Known Mechanic Resurrection Movie Lawsuits Filed in TX

    KNOWN Texas Southern District Court ME2 Cases [Filed in 2017]:
    Attorney: Gary Fischman (Fischman Law PLLC)

    ME2 Productions, Inc. v DOES (Case No. 4:17-cv-00695)
    Filed: March 4, 2017, Judge: Vanessa D Gilmore

    ME2 Productions, Inc. v. DOES (Case No. 4:17-cv-00501)
    Filed: Feb 15, 2017, Judge: TBA

    ME2 Productions, Inc. v. Does 1-12 (Case No. 4:17-cv-00404)
    Filed: Feb 09, 2017, Judge: TBA

    ME2 Productions, Inc. v. DOES (Case No. 4:17-cv-00275)
    Filed: Jan 27, 2017, Judge: TBA

    ME2 Productions, Inc. v. Does (Case No. 4:17-cv-00143)
    Filed: Jan 17, 2017, Judge: TBA

    For an analysis of the other ME2 Productions, Inc. bittorrent-based cases filed across the US, click here.

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

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

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      John Steele & Prenda Law Caught Lying. Sanctioned $500,000.

      Photo of John Steele while running Prenda Law Inc.

      Monday’s order against John Steele / Prenda Law Inc. / Steele|Hansmeier (no matter which of these entities hurt you through their “copyright trolling” activities) is nothing other than a wonderful victory for justice, and I thank and commend the lawyers involved in bringing justice to one of the worst sets of copyright infringement (bittorrent-based) cases I have seen in my law career.

      My apologies for leaving attorneys out of this (as there were many who were involved in making this happen) and for my lack of recollection of the details, but immediate kudos goes to Paul Godfread who served John Steele while he got off of an elevator as soon as he realized that his client Alan Cooper (who did landscaping for Steele) had his identity stolen by Steele and his signature forged as the mastermind behind all of the bittorrent cases.

      This was a common theme in Steele’s lawsuits — pick a patsy (whether it was Alan Cooper, Mark Lutz [his paralegal], or Paul Duffy [rest in peace]), elevate that patsy to be the “mastermind” behind all of the lawsuits, hire local counsel across the U.S. to file lawsuits, and run every lawsuit like the captain of the ship while being tied to none of the lawsuits for liability purposes.

      The story goes much deeper and it involved many twists and turns, but bottom line, through the hard work of Paul Godfread, Morgan Pietz, Jason Sweet, Erin Russell, Steven Yuen, David Madden, and so many more attorneys that I cannot even remember, AND the almost daily blogging by bloggers such as Sophisticated Jane Doe ( and DTD (, none of this would have happened and these guys would still be suing hundreds of John Doe defendants at a time in their newest scheme (whether that be accusing defendants of violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (“CFAA”), or shaking down companies for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), etc.).

      As a result of the judicious reporting of the Steele|Hansmeier / Prenda Law Inc. activities, their scheme has been halted, and the crew are being investigated by the FBI, and (I’ve heard, maybe even) by the IRS for tax evasion.  Paul Hansmeier (one of the Hansmeier brothers) has been disbarred, Steele (I believe) still has his law license (although I remember Steele withdrew from the practice of law himself before being disbarred), and Mark Lutz (the “paralegal” or the “mastermind,” depending on when you ask him) is “in the wind.”

      Most importantly, as of Monday, the “Alan Cooper / Paul Godfried” case defending against Steele and Prenda Law Inc. (Case No. 1:13-cv-01569 in the ILND Court) [also known as “Prenda v. The Internet”] has been won.  Judge John Darrah (IL) awarded the defendants $162,448.74 in attorney fees and costs, $11,758.20 in sanctions, AND $500,000 in punitive damages (see Judge’s Order).

      Now I am no longer sure whether Prenda Law Inc. has the assets to pay these fees (because if I remember correctly, as part of their scheme, they siphoned the $4-5 Million or so in settlement monies out of the law firm and into an offshore trust in Nevis.

      My opinion is that justice is slow to act, and while this is a good result, it does not benefit any of the thousands and tens of thousands of defendants who had their lives destroyed and their savings decimated by these attorneys.  I still think that the justice system failed its people because judges got lazy for years and failed to stop the racket, even when they knew of their activities.  Even today as an outgrowth of the Prenda Law Inc. / Steele|Hansmeier empire, we find Malibu Media LLC lawsuits, Voltage Pictures lawsuits [including Dallas Buyers Club LLC, Fathers and Daughters Nevada LLC, Cell Productions, Criminal Productions Inc.], and too many other “copyright troll” lawsuits which are still rubber-stamped DAILY in the federal courts by judges who ARE AWARE and who WERE AWARE of the “mass bittorrent lawsuit / copyright trolling” problem when the cases initially were filed as early as 2010.

      In short, on 5/6/2015, I wrote an article entitled,

      No Orange Jumpsuits Predicted For Prenda Law Inc. Just sanctions.

      I hate to see that it has been almost seven years since these cases started showing up (six years for team Prenda), and nobody has been jailed.  Judges have failed to guard the gates leading into their courtrooms.  Attorney Generals have sat on their hands and done nothing.  Lawmakers have done nothing.  Bar associations have done nothing.  Thus, I continue to defend these cases in whatever form they have changed into, but I too remain jaded.  This result is a good result, and the FBI/DOJ/IRS so-called investigations are nice to see (referring to SJD’s web logs of individuals visiting her blog), but I am not moved nor is my heart [on behalf of all those who have been affected by this] made whole by this ruling.

      Okay, I didn’t expect to go here with the blog article, but in short, awarding $500,000 in damages against Prenda Law Inc. is one wonderful step in the right direction.  I just still want to see orange.

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

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

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        Piracy is a ‘Black Market’ Symptom of Mispricing Content.

        [NOTE: I might be accused at a later time of stating that piracy is a black market SOLUTION to the copyright problem using the URL title of this article as “proof” that my initial thought was that it was a solution, not a symptom.  Rather, this was a mistyping error (I was looking at a “Group Buying is one SOLUTION to fix the broken copyright system,” note and correspondingly used that word in the title.  Because I did not want to interrupt the publication of this blog (in which the old URL was posted to Twitter, Facebook, etc.), I left it as it is.]

        This blog post is a response to the “Close to Anonymity” author who is proposing a “group buy” solution to the copyright problem. It is also a follow-up article to my “Group Buying” Through The Eyes of Piracy article written on August 24th, 2016.

        [To the author:  Once again, I want to reiterate to the author that I wholeheartedly support the concept of group buying as he proposes it. It is clear to me that he has put a tremendous amount of time and effort thinking this through, specifically on how to implement it. I support him 100% and there needs to be more individuals like him to speak out to fix the broken copyright system.]

        The running theme of this blog has been that the copyright advocates (MPAA / RIAA) and copyright holders are over-exerting power given to them by the copyright statutes. Further, the copyright holders are focusing their efforts not on the creation of new and useful content, but on the extreme monetization of old and recycled content, often using unethical means (unconstitutionally high [$150,000] statutory damages for copyright infringement) to achieve their financial goals. I would suggest that while piracy is a legitimate problem, it is a symptom of greed, dishonesty, and an unwillingness to make content reasonably available to the consumer at a price the consumer is willing to pay for that content.

        Instead of fixing the problem, those in power have called our side names, e.g., the “copyleft,” or the “pirate party,” whereas most of us who fight copyright holders believe staunchly in copyright, but disagree in the way their enforcement has been applied, often lobbying politicians and lawmakers and asking them to increase penalties and punishments to those caught infringing their copyrighted content, while at the same time clamping down on providing avenues for those same consumers to purchase or view the content lawfully at a reasonable price.

        The reality is that a media company selling a piece of software for $100 would in fact claim that [of the 9 individuals who came together to purchase that piece of software at $10 a piece,] if the “group buy” were not available, *IF at least two* would have purchased the software product at full price, they would have lost profits under the group buy model.


        Assume for a moment that you are correct in that there would not be two purchases, possibly NOT EVEN ONE at full retail price. The copyright holder would rather make ZERO sales ($0 profit) rather than risk that multiple (here, 9) individuals would group together to make ONE purchase because they would see that as a disaster for their bottom line and they would count each group buy as a loss (here, of 9 potential sales).

        Realistically, the answer is that the market should determine the price of a product, and not a copyright monopoly, threats under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) or statutory damages for copyright infringement. The existence of a “black market” for their copyrighted products (here, through piracy) is a strong indication to the copyright owners that they are either 1) mispricing their products, or 2) that they are failing to make them adequately available to the paying public.

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

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

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          Off Topic: “Group Buying” Through The Eyes of Piracy.

          I was reading an article called “Collaborative Intellectual Property Purchasing” by a blogger called Close to Anonymity. In his article, he clearly describes the concept of “group buying,” and suggests that it is one method to provide a solution to the piracy problem. The problem is that in many circumstances [as the copyright laws and DMCA statutes are in their present form] “group buying” is illegal.

          NOTE: While he approaches the topic from an honest and upstanding discussion on how to provide a “fix” to the copyright statutes, this article is a dark, cynical, and corrupted view of the topic from a jaded view of the law. This article approaches the merits and faults of group buying, but it does so by viewing it through the eyes of a “pirate.” Up front, I ask for the forgiveness from the author.

          Collaborative buying, or “group buys” is something that you will find on various bittorrent websites (not public websites like Pirate Bay or what was KAT, but more often on “private” file sharing websites which host “private” trackers). To get access to these websites, you usually need an invitation and need to know someone who knows someone, etc. The private tracker sites are often topic-specific, so if you are looking for art-related books, you’ll go to one bittorrent website which hosts this kind of content, and if you are looking for business-based torrents, you’ll go somewhere else.

          The idea as I have seen it in practice is that someone posts a proposed “Group Buy” on a forum for a digital product. This can be a DVD course, a piece of software, or anything that can be copied and shared online. This digital product costs, say, $100, so to get the price down to $10 per person, the user proposing the group buy will ask for ten people to commit to spending $10 a piece. I am not aware of how the funding happens (e.g., through an intermediary website), but one person will purchase the product on behalf of the group, and they will share it with the other users who participated in the purchase. I suppose the group buy participants believe that they are not “pirating” the software or the media because they each contributed a few dollars to purchase it, and in a way, they are right.  However, the law disagrees.

          As for the legality of group buys, copyright licenses for multimedia products and software often think in “one purchase, one license, one copy, [or, one purchase, one installation]” terms. You see this concept of “one purchase, one copy” on full display when trying to view a digital copy of a book purchased by your local library via the Overdrive app.  If a library has purchased one copy of an ebook or an audio book, they can only allow that one digital copy to be “taken out” by one user at a time, even though the technology is there to share the ebook or audio book with all of their patrons at the same time.  It’s a silly model for a library to prevent all of their patrons from accessing the copyrighted content at the same time, and my best guess is that if they were to negotiate unlimited licenses, then the cost of licensing the content to the library would be significantly higher, perhaps on the level of a scribd, or a  Thus, they opt to buy the “one copy” and they strictly adhere to the “one copy owned, one copy available for use” copyright model.

          In the context of piracy and group buys, when one end user purchases the product and shares that product with ten other individuals (each of whom paid a proportional share of the cost of the product, and each of whom install the software product on their machines and use the same serial code to activate the product), when the software “phones home” to authenticate the same serial number for the ten computers, the software developer sees the 9 users as “infringers” and the original purchaser as someone the one who is responsible for the piracy, and they’ll deactivate the software for everyone.

          Similarly, when group buying something as simple as a movie or a DVD title, the individual who breaks the copy protection on the DVD and provides copies of the cracked DVD to a number of his friends who contributed to the purchase is seen as both violating the DMCA laws (breaking copy protection), and violating the copyright statutes because that user copied the DVD without authorization from the production company.

          Thus, the copyright rules and the DMCA rules do need to be updated to stop piracy. I commend the author of the “Close to Anonymity” blog for proposing a viable solution to making products more affordable to end users while at the same time providing the content creators (the copyright holders) with extra money and sales through the group buy. The solution will not stop the “piracy problem,” but allowing for group buys on a large scale can at least mitigate (somewhat) the damage that copyright holders claim to suffer at the hands of piracy.

          I am jaded somewhat, however, and I cannot stop the nagging feeling that group buying will never be legalized. The content producers will claim that group buying would hurt their sales, in that if the nine (9) users were unable to get together to purchase the $100 piece of software, if at least two (2) of them paid the full $100 for it, then the content producer would have made $200 in sales, whereas with group buying they would only be making a $100 sale. Thus, they would not go for such a concept.

          Similarly, I cannot imagine the lawmakers [who are showered with benefits for voting in line with the MPAA / RIAA lobbyists] would ever try to make content more readily available to end users. If you look at the way lawmakers have voted over the years, copyright statutes only get worse and worse for the public, not better. Case in point (and I am going by memory here without checking this fact) — the statutory damages for copyright infringement were not always $150,000 in the US. This ever-increasing statutory damages limit is the doing of the lawmakers who I can only think had their pockets lined for voting in favor of harsher and harsher penalties for copyright infringement.  Between you and me, I am already of the opinion that the statutory damages for copying one video, music, or copyrighted work are already unconstitutionally high, but good luck getting a judge to rule this way.

          Lastly, in the author’s article, he mentions the idea of a group buy for a $1.29 hypothetical song called “Hey Moe.” If the copyright holders knew that multiple individuals could purchase their same song in a group buy settling (e.g., increasing the price to $1.34 by having one purchaser pay $1.24 [a discount] and the other purchaser pay $0.10), while the solution proposed by the author would provide the copyright holder with a $1.34 sale, the “greedy” copyright holder would sulk at the $1.24 in lost profits by claiming that if such a group buy were not available, both purchasers would have paid $1.29 each for the song.

          [How would they see lost profits? $1.29 x 2 sales = $2.58 in sales – $1.34 for the group buy sale = $1.24 in lost profits.]

          Thus, the realistic result [if a “group buy” framework were legalized and made possible when purchasing copyrighted media] is that the “greedy” copyright holders would steeply increase the price of the media so that the “net” amount they make is the original $1.29 per copy that they would have made were there no group buy in the first place.

          In sum, group buying is a great idea and it should be considered when revising the copyright statutes. But practically, because copyright holders in my experience are profit-driven to a fault (greed), and lawmakers are corrupt to a fault, I do not think we will ever see group buying being made legal in the near future.

          However, for the pirates out there on private trackers, “group buying” will remain a viable method of obtaining new content to be shared first with the participants of the group buy, and then later with the members of the website. I am by no means encouraging or endorsing the practice, but with things as they are, group buying seems to be the most “ethical” (and still yet illegal) way to obtain content without paying full price for it, and bittorrent websites seem to provide the perfect forum for allowing such a practice to happen. In my opinion, if the bittorrent website only shared content with members who “bought in” to the group buy without sharing it with anyone else, that would be the closest to an ‘ethical’ solution (and yet it would still be illegal). A less ethical solution is to allow each user to buy in after the fact, making the product progressively cheaper-and-cheaper with every downloader “buying in” to the group buy, and thus crediting every previous purchaser’s account every time a new downloader “buys in” to the group buy after the fact.

          But then again, through this example, I just made the point of the copyright holder. Eventually with group buys [after-the-fact], the product price would become infinitesimally small, and the copyright holder would only have made one sale of the product, which would then be shared with potentially hundreds or thousands of downloaders. This is copyright infringement in the classic sense — the unlawful copying or duplication of a copyrighted work, and one sale through a group buy would not adequately compensate the copyright holder for the purchase of his work.

          In sum, the copyright system is broken, there is piracy, and until the content producers work with end users to make their content more readily available, or they price their products correctly to the point where they could capture the sale of a majority of those who would purchase their product, there will remain end users who might have purchased the product if it were more available or priced lower, but who instead turn to piracy to obtain that media because of the unavailability of that content for a price that the “market” can bear.

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