Tag Archives: copyright troll

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

Malibu Media, LLC cases facing hard scrutiny in California.

Malibu Media, LLC just stepped into mud.

Let’s take this one step deeper, and delve into the 100 most recent cases filed in October, because these are the Malibu Media, LLC cases most relevant to people now (the July-August batch of cases have likely been disposed of by now).

Of the 109 cases, roughly EIGHTY of them were filed in the California Northern District Court, and EACH AND EVERY CALIFORNIA CASE was assigned to Judge William Alsup (going back to even 2011, I referred to him as ‘Judge Rocket Docket’ by the way he handles and disposes of cases). In my humble opinion, it appears to me as if Malibu Media here stepped in the mud.

NOTE: BEFORE READING THIS ARTICLE: If you have not already done so, and you are implicated as a John Doe in a Malibu Media, LLC lawsuit, read these first:

1) “Everything You Need To Know in One Page About Your Malibu Media, LLC (X-Art) Lawsuit [FAQ]
2) “In-Depth Malibu Media.  Their Lawsuits, Their Strategies, and Their Settlements

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.

Which California Malibu Media cases are affected?

Here are a list of the cases. I’ll write my opinion about them in just a moment.:

80 CASES FILED IN 10/2016 IN THE CA NORTHERN DISTRICT COURT (CAND) — [I’m not formatting these.  Just note the filing dates.]
Malibu Media LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05741) Oct 06, 2016
Malibu Media LLC v. Doe (Case No. 4:16-cv-05742) Oct 06, 2016
Malibu Media LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05742) Oct 06, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05737) Oct 06, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05738) Oct 06, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 5:16-cv-05741) Oct 06, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05739) Oct 06, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 4:16-cv-05735) Oct 06, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05735) Oct 06, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 5:16-cv-05743) Oct 06
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05743) Oct 06
Malibu Media LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05825) Oct 09, 2016
Malibu Media LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05829) Oct 09, 2016
Malibu Media LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05827) Oct 09, 2016
Malibu Media LLC v. Doe (Case No. 4:16-cv-05828) Oct 09, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 5:16-cv-05826) Oct 09, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 5:16-cv-05829) Oct 09, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05826) Oct 09, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05828) Oct 09, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 5:16-cv-05824) Oct 09
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05824) Oct 09
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05823) Oct 09
Malibu Media LLC v. Doe (Case No. 4:16-cv-05850) Oct 11, 2016
Malibu Media LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05845) Oct 11, 2016
Malibu Media LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05848) Oct 11, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05847) Oct 11, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 4:16-cv-05845) Oct 11, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05849) Oct 11, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 4:16-cv-05848) Oct 11, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05850) Oct 11, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 4:16-cv-05849) Oct 11, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 5:16-cv-05855) Oct 11, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05855) Oct 11, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05843) Oct 11
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 4:16-cv-05843) Oct 11
Malibu Media LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05925) Oct 13, 2016
Malibu Media LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05926) Oct 13, 2016
Malibu Media LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05920) Oct 13, 2016
Malibu Media LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05927) Oct 13, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05921) Oct 13, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05922) Oct 13, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05923) Oct 13
Malibu Media LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05974) Oct 17, 2016
Malibu Media LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05976) Oct 17, 2016
Malibu Media LLC v. Doe (Case No. 5:16-cv-05975) Oct 17, 2016
Malibu Media LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05975) Oct 17, 2016
Malibu Media LLC v. Doe (Case No. 4:16-cv-05977) Oct 17, 2016
Malibu Media LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05977) Oct 17, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05970) Oct 17, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05972) Oct 17, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-05973) Oct 17, 2016
Malibu Media LLC v. Doe (Case No. 4:16-cv-06108) Oct 23, 2016
Malibu Media LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-06110) Oct 23, 2016
Malibu Media LLC v. Doe (Case No. 4:16-cv-06109) Oct 23, 2016
Malibu Media LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-06111) Oct 23, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-06106) Oct 23, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 5:16-cv-06110) Oct 23, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 5:16-cv-06111) Oct 23, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-06107) Oct 23, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-06108) Oct 23, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-06112) Oct 23, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-06109) Oct 23, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 4:16-cv-06107) Oct 23, 2016
Malibu Media LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-06160) Oct 25, 2016
Malibu Media LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-06146) Oct 25, 2016
Malibu Media LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-06147) Oct 25, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 5:16-cv-06160) Oct 25, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-06155) Oct 25, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-06141) Oct 25, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-06144) Oct 25
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-06143) Oct 25
Malibu Media LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-06241) Oct 28, 2016
Malibu Media LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-06242) Oct 28, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-06245) Oct 28, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-06239) Oct 28, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-06247) Oct 28, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-06240) Oct 28, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-06249) Oct 28, 2016
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 3:16-cv-06243) Oct 28

My opinion about Judge Alsup and the Malibu Media California Cases.

My first impression when reviewing these cases was… why did they file them in batches of 10-13 cases or less?  Were they trying to ‘play’ the case distribution game in order to make sure the cases were equally distributed between all of the California Northern District federal judges?  Because this backfired on them.  Judge Alsup has all of their California cases.

I actually smiled when I saw that each of the cases are now assigned to Judge Alsup, because he has been known to question Malibu Media’s tactics. Let me say this more clearly — Judge Alsup knows exactly who Malibu Media, LLC is, what kind of copyright trolls they are, and he makes no secret about it. He is even on the record in casting doubt on the reliability and the accuracy of the geolocation data that Malibu Media uses to file their lawsuits.

Most recently, on December 1st (see, Case No. 3:16-cv-05738 (Document 8), Judge Alsup denied 53 requests by Malibu Media to send letters to the ISPs ordering them to turn over the identity of the accused internet users, which means that 53 of the 80 California ‘John Doe’ defendants in these cases (maybe more by now) will be shielded from Malibu Media, LLC’s copyright infringement lawsuits and tactics.

In Summary, California Malibu Media, LLC days are over…

IN SUM, BECAUSE JUDGE ALSUP DENIED MALIBU MEDIA LLC’S MOTION FOR EXPEDITED DISCOVERY, MALIBU MEDIA LLC WILL NOT BE PERMITTED TO SEND SUBPOENAS TO THE ISPs ORDERING THEM TO HAND OVER THE CONTACT INFORMATION FOR THESE DEFENDANTS.

I have not checked whether anything has happened since 12/8, but in short, if you live in California, Malibu Media is not doing so well.

SOURCES AND KUDOS

Sources and Kudos to:
Fight Copyright Trolls, “Judge Alsup questions accuracy of Malibu Media’s geolocation technology, stays subpoena” on 6/20/2016, updated on 12/6/2016.

Fight Copyright Trolls, ““Malibu Media’s geolocation accuracy: more scrutiny” on 6/21/2016.

Techdirt, “Judge Calls Out Malibu Media For Its Attempt To Cut And Run When Faced With Challenge To Its Infringement Claims” on 6/27/2016.


FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT MALIBU MEDIA, LLC:Again, if you have been implicated as a John Doe defendant in a Malibu Media, LLC lawsuit, there are TWO (2) main articles you should read immediately:

1) “Everything You Need To Know in One Page About Your Malibu Media, LLC (X-Art) Lawsuit [FAQ],” and then
2) “In-Depth Malibu Media.  Their Lawsuits, Their Strategies, and Their Settlements.”

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: 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 else can you tell me about the Malibu Media cases?

[2017 UPDATE] The best way to learn about Malibu Media, LLC is to read what happened to them as it happened.  The list of stories below (in the order I listed them) tell the Malibu Media story in a way that you will understand them.

Why Being Served in a Bittorrent Case Can Lead To Settlement

DISCLAIMER: In this article I speak a lot about plaintiff attorneys cheating their own copyright holder clients, billing them “by the hour” (rather than the conventional method of accepting the copyright holder clients “on contingency”), and in some cases, wasting time to generate additional billing to their own clients.  It is my observation and opinion that this is happening, but short of a lawsuit like we saw with the Dallas Buyers Club copyright holders against their Voltage Pictures licensee, it is difficult to prove that such things are taking place.  However, “honor or dishonor among thieves” is not the topic or the point of the article — the point of the article is that plaintiffs are dragging defendants further into the federal lawsuits by naming and serving them, and it is my opinion that it is still possible to obtain a settlement, even after a client has admitted guilt in an answer to a deposition question.

It is a sad day when trolls force those they’ve accused to become legal experts and to stick their toes into the federal courts to defend themselves. In the attached article, DTD is correct that lawyers (myself included) can get expensive, and defending a case (e.g., answering a complaint, showing up and defending a deposition, answering the various requests for information that are required in a federal lawsuit, etc.) is often more expensive than simply paying a copyright troll plaintiff a few bucks to make them go away.

Unfortunately (at least in my Texas Southern District federal court), the copyright-troll attorneys appear to be billing their copyright-holder clients BY THE HOUR (which differs from the old model of a plaintiff attorney agreeing to take a case on contingency and only sharing in the settlement profits believing [the lie] that “they’ll make millions going after John Doe Defendants”), so these ‘hardened’ plaintiff attorneys seem to be running-up the bill by dragging the defendants through the mud — naming them, serving them, filing documents, and wasting everyone’s time.

In short, while I agree that IN NORMAL CIRCUMSTANCES doing what DTD suggested (filing an answer with the court and fighting your case) would normally not be something one would ever dare do [at least without a lawyer holding his/her hand, or sitting in and defending a deposition], in today’s evolution of the bittorrent cases, filing an answer and at least being willing to endure the legal process until a settlement is offered (and a settlement is usually offered eventually) has become a necessity.

WHY BEING FORCED TO ANSWER QUESTIONS IN A DEPOSITION MIGHT LEAD TO A SETTLEMENT:

Let’s take a quick example.  In the typical scenario, the goal in representing a client who wants to settle is to contact the plaintiff attorney on the client’s behalf and negotiate a settlement.  For a plaintiff attorney who is billing his copyright troll client by the hour (as is what appears to be happening in the Texas bittorrent-based copyright infringement cases), agreeing to a settlement is too easy of an outcome because the plaintiff attorney does not make the kind of money he could make “dragging the defendant through the mud while charging his client hourly to do so.”  (Remember, as we saw with the Voltage / Dallas Buyers Club cases, a crooked attorney steals not only from his victim [the accused defendant], but also from his client (as we saw in the Voltage / Dallas Buyers Club cases where Voltage was sued for failing to pay Dallas Buyers Club monies earned and owed to it through its copyright enforcement activities)).

More likely than not, the plaintiff attorney’s client (the actual copyright holder seeking to “monetize” or “enforce” the rights given to him via his copyright) is not aware that the attorney is over-billing (e.g., engaging in such “mud-dragging”, “revenue-producing” activities often cannot be proven, and thus it continues until the copyright holder gets tired of paying his attorney’s bill).  Thus, free of scrutiny from his client, the plaintiff attorney needlessly exacerbates the situation by demanding from the defendant something unreasonable (e.g., that unless the defendant is willing to agree to sign an explicit admission of guilt prior to being made aware of the kind or amount of settlement he will be offered, there will be no settlement).  [FYI, this is something no sane person would agree to.]  As a result, the defendant refuses to admit guilt, he gets named and served, and he is forced to spend thousands of dollars more to defend himself.  Why?  Because his plaintiff attorney figured out a way to milk not only him (the defendant), but his copyright-holder client as well.

There are a number of steps that happen after being named and served, but the point is that eventually, the plaintiff attorney is going to schedule a deposition (where the defendant will need to answer questions “under oath,”) and the defendant is going to tell the truth about what happened.  If the download indeed happened, this will come out in the deposition.

However, this “nightmare” fear that the defendant will “admit guilt” will only cause one result — the plaintiff will have proof that at trial, based on the information elicited from the defendant in the deposition, that defendant could be held liable for the $150,000 in statutory damages.  But then… how many of these defendants have $150K sitting around in their mattresses or in their bank accounts?  And if they do, don’t you think that instead of paying the judgment, they would rather hire a bankruptcy lawyer and file for a bankruptcy to discharge the copyright infringement judgment in bankruptcy?

In short, the worst-case-scenario in a deposition is that the defendant admits guilt, which is often what will likely happen if the defendant is the downloader of the copyrighted film.  But then after all this excitement, the plaintiff attorney and the copyright holder still want to get paid (and they know they are likely not going to collect anything by obtaining a $150K judgment against the defendant).  This is why the plaintiff attorney will likely initiate settlement talks with the defendant, taking his financial circumstances into consideration.

This is not to say that settling a case right away (and before being named and served) is no longer an option — there are multiple copyright holders filing in the Texas and New York courts, including Criminal Productions Inc., September Productions Inc., CELL Film Holdings LLC, the infamous Malibu Media LLC, Fathers & Daughters Nevada LLC, Dallas Buyers Club LLC, and the related non-bittorrent copyright holders which include DISH Network L.L.C. (not so much anymore) and Siemens Product Lifecycle Management Software, Inc. (a software company), each of whom have their priorities and specific instructions on how they would like their plaintiff attorneys to handle the lawsuits on their behalf.

But, what I do want you to glean from this commentary (really, it’s an article, but I did re-blog DTD’s article and I need to stick to that topic), is that plaintiff attorneys ARE naming and serving defendants, and it should be expected that this could happen — and if a defendant is named and served, they could still negotiate a settlement.  But be aware that in order to get to that point, the plaintiff attorney (who might be motivated by maximizing his billing to his own client [think, stealing from you AND stealing from his own client]) might drag you through a deposition and a number of steps before he accepts a settlement from you.

LAST NOTE: BILLING IN “BLOCKS.”

I agree that lawyers are expensive simply because we charge for the time it takes to complete each step of the legal process. However, many attorneys (myself included) already know how much time each step will take, so “flat fee” billing is an option (understanding that billing would happen based on timelines of where you are in the lawsuit).

Thus, it might make sense to hire an attorney who charges you a flat fee for a certain “block” or piece of the lawsuit (e.g.,

BLOCK 1: FROM GETTING NOTICE OF THE LAWSUIT THROUGH BEING NAMED AND SERVED [WITH THE INTENT OF NEGOTIATING A SETTLEMENT PRIOR TO BEING NAMED AND SERVED].

BLOCK 2: FROM BEING NAMED AND SERVED (E.G., FILING AN ANSWER WITH THE COURT, PROVIDING ANY NEEDED DISCLOSURES, FILING ANY PROTECTIVE ORDERS, SETTING DISCOVERY TIMELINES).

BLOCK 3: FILING INTERROGATORIES AND REQUESTS FOR PRODUCTION, AND ANSWERING INTERROGATORIES AND/OR REQUESTS FOR PRODUCTION.

BLOCK 4: PREPARING FOR AND DEFENDING A DEPOSITION.

BLOCK 5: SETTLEMENT NEGOTIATIONS AND RELEASE OF LIABILITY.  Or, BLOCK 5A: FILING A SUMMARY JUDGMENT MOTION TO RELEASE DEFENDANT FROM LIABILITY,

…AND SO ON, BLOCK 6: …TRIAL (my opinion, unlikely, unless the copyright holder figured out a way to prevent the deep-pocket defendant from filing for bankruptcy).

I have laid these out as a template, as each case and each copyright holder often needs to be handled differently.  Typically, clients were able to negotiate a settlement and be released from liability with just BLOCK 1.  However, as we discussed above, we are seeing more-and-more that plaintiff attorneys are taking defendants deeper into the lawsuits (“deeper down the rabbit hole, so to speak”), specifically past the “naming and serving” stage, past the answer stage, and into the discovery stages before considering or accepting settlements.  I am not one to advocate doing this on your own, and if you could afford an attorney (me, or anyone else), that is the safest way to go.  But if hiring me or another attorney is not an option, fighting this on your own (called, “pro se”) is the best alternative, and DTD’s article gives you a good first and necessary step in getting the ball rolling.

As I said before, good article, DTD!

Caveat – I’m not an attorney and I’m not practicing law. This is simply my thoughts and views based on what I see concerning BitTorrent (BT) Copyright Infringement Trolls. If you decide you need legal advice, please hire a knowledgeable attorney. IF you truly cannot afford an attorney, here at least is one possible option. […]

via Answering A BT Copyright Troll Summons/Complaint — DieTrollDie


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.

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

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 (FightCopyrightTrolls.com) and DTD (DieTrollDie.com), 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.