Tag Archives: copyright

Is Malibu “faking” the publication requirement in lawsuits?

BACKGROUND: Malibu Media, LLC is a copyright holder who has sued internet users for the download of their adult films under the “X-Art” brand name. In the lawsuits they file, they may sue for the download of one title (asking $150,000 statutory damages for that one title), but then they claim in an addendum that the defendant also downloaded multiple “copyrighted” titles, listing a bunch of other videos that were also downloaded.

When settling claims against that defendant, Malibu attorneys ask for settlement FOR EACH AND EVERY ONE OF THOSE ACCUSED DOWNLOADS (and not for just the one title claimed in the lawsuit). So instead of asking for a settlement of $1,000 for one title, they will ask for a settlement of $35,000 for 35 titles allegedly downloaded.

[HINDSIGHT: THEY WERE FAKING THE PUBLICATION DATES.]

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.

How Malibu Media, LLC is claiming infringements for unpublished films.

The problem is that of the 35 titles allegedly downloaded, many of them weren’t copyrighted at the time the download took place. Malibu Media, LLC gets around this requirement by stating that since the copyrighted adult film was “published” on their website, thus they have three-months to file the copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office in order to get copyright rights in that video.

Thus, Malibu Media is claiming copyright protection for videos that are not copyrighted at the time they were downloaded. Their logic is that their file was deserving of copyright protection retroactively, BEFORE THEY FILED FOR A COPYRIGHT WITH THE U.S. COPYRIGHT OFFICE, because the video was properly “published” on their website (plain meaning of the word is “posted” on their site), and filed with the copyright office within the three-month statutory period.

Malibu Media Leaks Videos on the Internet?

Not relevant to this discussion (but equally interesting) is the fact that the file somehow “leaks” from their website onto the bittorrent networks to be downloaded by the internet users who then download large .zip or .rar files containing sometimes 100+ Malibu Media videos (or one .torrent file containing multiple video files).  These internet users are then sued in the federal courts for copyright infringement in what are known as the “Malibu Media LLC v. John Doe” lawsuits.

Malibu Media fakes the copyright law’s “publication” requirement.

NEW MATERIAL (THIS IS THE ACTUAL ARTICLE):
Malibu Media, LLC has formed a habit of suing defendants for downloads that appear on the bittorrent networks literally a day or so after they are supposedly “published” on their website. The videos themselves are not copyrighted often for another three-months.

When questioned about this tactic, they claim that their activities are legitimate because U.S. copyright law (17 U.S.C. § 412) gives a content creator up to three months after “publication” to file their copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office. They are correct about this three-month rule.

Malibu Media’s Publication Scam

The scam is that Malibu Media, LLC is basing their “right” to solicit settlements for MANY videos because they “PUBLISHED” each video [according to the plain definition of the word] on their website before it was downloaded by the John Doe defendant. Thus, they claim that their copyright rights existed in each of the videos at the time the videos were downloaded, even though 1) the downloader couldn’t find the video as being copyrighted when searching the US Copyright Office’s copyright registry, and 2) even though the copyright was not yet filed for when the download took place.  Thus, they can ask for settlements for each and every video because they all were deserving of copyright protection retroactively at the time the downloads happened BECAUSE that video was “published” prior to being downloaded.

Why I believe Malibu Media is not properly satisfying the ‘publication’ requirement.

I am convinced that their stated “publication” is really no publication at all. It’s a scam to make the accused downloader think that Malibu Media, LLC has copyright rights over ALL of the videos they claim in their “list” of infringed videos, including even those videos that were “published” just a day or so before they appeared on the bittorrent websites.

Why do I think that Malibu Media is faking the “publication” requirement in their lawsuits? Because according to the statutory definition of “Publication,” posting a new porn video onto their website is more of a “public performance,” and that does not satisfy the requirement for “publication.” (see, 17 U.S. Code § 101 – Definitions).

Here is the text of the statute:

“Publication” is the distribution of copies or phonorecords of a work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending. The offering to distribute copies or phonorecords to a group of persons for purposes of further distribution, public performance, or public display, constitutes publication. A public performance or display of a work does not of itself constitute publication.

LEGAL DEFINITIONS of terms often do not correspond to the PLAIN MEANING of those terms.

Remember, in law, words do not always mean what they do according to the plain meaning of the word.  Tongue-in-cheek, stating, “I did not sleep with that woman” might be telling the literal truth, even if you had sexual intercourse with her.  The understanding to pull from this example is that the legal definition of “sleep” might be very different from the plain meaning of the term.

In the context of the Malibu Media, LLC lawsuits, it is not enough for a lawyer to look up the definition of “Publication” (defined above) in the statute and decide according to the plain meaning of the written definition whether publication is or is not taking place.  (By the way, looking up the definition of a word is a very good start, and is something that is often NOT done!  But the investigation of “the law” should not end there.)

To properly explain the term in the context of bitttorrent lawsuits, the terms “publication,” “to the public,” “distribution,” “public performance,” “public display,” etc. also have to be defined within their context.  How?  In addition to the plain meaning of the term, each term in the legal world has specific LEGAL DEFINITIONS which change as case law interprets them in the context of various situations (and if there is no case law, it is the job of the lawyer to carve out that changed definition for each particular context where justice sees it fit to do so).  These definitions can often be different, or even opposite to the plain meaning of the term. Again, the “legal definition” of a term is often not the same as the “plain meaning” of that same term.

Summary: There may be a legal argument that “publication” is not actually happening for Malibu Media, LLC’s videos.

In sum, I suspect that there is a legal argument that “publication” is not actually happening with the Malibu Media, LLC lawsuits (even moreso if they are found to be leaking their videos onto the bittorrent networks prior to their release, as is described in Sophisticated Jane Doe’s article, reblogged below). While I have not hashed this out yet completely, I have been working on this theory for some time now, and I believe it may be a viable argument. However, for those attorneys who troll this blog and will immediately jump on me saying “of course it is published,” step out of your box containing only plain meaning definitions, and come over to my side of the room. The view is a bit better here.

I am merely mentioning this issue as food for thought. Anyone who wants to contribute to this legal argument, I’m more than willing to hash this out. And of course, read SJD’s article because it demonstrates the publication issue very nicely.

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.


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 WITH 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.

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.

Contact a Cashman Law Firm, PLLC attorney about your Malibu Media, LLC case.

I Predict No Orange Jumpsuits For Prenda. Just sanctions.

It has been almost a full day since yesterday’s historic Prenda flop where the attorney for Prenda Law Inc. (formerly, Steele|Hansmeier, PLLC and before that, Steele Law Firm PLLC) appeared to be woefully unprepared to overturn the sanctions that were ordered against Prenda Law and their team. (Flashback: “The 12 minute hearing and the end of Prenda Law Inc.” on 4/3/2013)

For those of you who missed it, you can watch the entertaining video here (fast forward to the tall guy).

As a quick recap, two years ago, Prenda Law was caught forging the name “Alan Cooper” on the copyright assignment documents which gave them the apparent authority to sue on behalf of their clients. The “real” Alan Cooper (John Steele’s gardener) who was the victim of identity theft hired an attorney, showed up at one of Prenda’s hearings, and served John Steele with his own lawsuit.

I don’t know how to explain what happened in a recap other than that the whole “house of cards” that was Prenda Law Inc. was unraveled — not because of the Alan Cooper forgery issue, but because John Steele couldn’t stay away from the cases when he successfully made the courts believe that he sold his Steele Hansmeier PLLC law firm to Paul Duffy. Shortly afterwards, he resumed making phone calls and openly running things himself, and he started showing up at hearings and speaking to the judges. This is what tipped off Judge Otis Wright to ask who the real parties in interest were in these lawsuits.

Personally, it jaded me a bit to see that after being caught (having their grand scheme exposed by good lawyers), the lawyers for Prenda continued their stories of misinformation by lying under oath in their depositions and in court proceedings. Further, I was annoyed when I learned about the scheme unfold in its entirety, including the creation of various offshore entities created to funnel settlement payments, and where Prenda peddled the blatant lie that Mark Lutz (the paralegal) was the mastermind behind the lawsuits.

Being behind the scenes when all this was happening, I was also hearing about issues of Prenda Law lying to, not paying, and in one notorious case, turning against their own local counsel who put their law licenses in jeopardy to file the lawsuits on Prenda’s clients’ behalf. Lastly, there were even more issues that I was privy to that never even made it into the courtroom, namely what appeared to be a credible accusation that Prenda Law Inc. was uploading and seeding their own clients’ content on the bittorrent networks — the same bittorrent swarms in which they sued the internet users for downloading the content they uploaded.

My own thought process was that the proper judicial response was 1) for the federal judges to serve as the “guardians of the gates” of the federal courts [e.g., to kill the copyright infringement cases as they are filed based on principles of improper joinder, etc.], and 2) to prevent the attorney(s) at this point from practicing law through the remedies of suspension and disbarment through their local bar associations. If the attorney persists, the attorney(s) should be charged with the unauthorized practice of law. Yet none of this happened. A lawyer (who for the purposes of this article will remain private) filed ethical charges against John Steele to have him disbarred, and in return, Steele filed ethical charges against him [a story for him to tell, not my secrets to tell].  Then, Steele at some point appeared to have voluntarily disbarred himself and retired from the practice of law, and his organization went inactive in the Illinois state registry. Yet his involvement in the cases persisted.

Thus, I was not surprised when Judge Wright wrote his order sanctioning John Steele, the Hansmeier brothers, and all those involved in the conspiracy. What surprised me was their hubris in that they continued fighting after they already lost. This is why I call the Prenda Law fiasco a “circus.” Everybody continues to argue in circles, but nobody goes to jail.

So, getting back to yesterday’s hearing (YouTube Link), there were THREE ITEMS that I took note of in what was perhaps the most entertaining 3-panel judge hearing I have ever seen.

ITEM 1) John Steele and the Hansmeiers were quite upset that Judge Wright implicated them as having broken criminal laws, and even though they were never charged for the violation of those laws (which I could only guess include identity theft [forgery], extortion, perjury, fraud, and perhaps even money laundering and/or racketeering). [NOTE: There were other acts allegedly committed, including the unauthorized practice of law, violation of countless ethical rules including compensating a non-attorney as a partner of the law firm, alleged tax evasion, and misuse of corporate structures after they were dissolved, etc.] Many of these acts if looked into could make the principles of the law firm personally liable for any charges without the protection of a corporate entity.

They appear to have hired attorney Daniel Voelker for the sole purpose of disputing the $200K+ in sanctions awarded against them because Judge Wright implicated them in a lawsuit which they tried their darnedest to keep at an arms length through the use of legal structures, funneling money into offshore entities, using the paralegal as the “fall guy,” and through the use of local attorneys. But rather than arguing against the sanctions award on the merits of whether it was proper to award the sanctions, they appear to have been offended by the implication of having broken criminal law in what Judge Pregerson called “an ingenious extortion fraud [scheme].” Thus, they instructed attorney Voelker to request that the court REMAND (meaning, return to the lower courts as a “do over”) the case to the U.S. District Court so that they can properly defend the insinuation that they committed one or more crimes while running what was — at the time — the most successful copyright trolling extortion scheme in existence.

ITEM 2) Attorney Daniel Voelker appeared to be woefully unprepared for the hearing. When asked about the details of the various copyright troll lawsuits filed by Prenda Law Inc. / Steele Hansmeier PLLC / Steele Law Firm, PLLC, he was unaware of anything other than what was the subject of the appealed case. This was surprising to the judges, it was surprising to me, and I am sure it was surprising to the hundreds of “fans” who were watching the hearing live and streamed over the internet. How could this attorney not be aware of the hundreds of other filings that his client took part in?!?

I also want to point out that YET AGAIN, STEELE, HANSMEIER, AND MARK LUTZ THE PARALEGAL WERE NOTORIOUSLY ABSENT FROM THE PROCEEDINGS.

ITEM 3) Simplifying the discussions of damage multipliers and other damages issues that were discussed, the jist of what the judges needed to decide were 1) whether to uphold the sanctions award against Prenda Law and company, and 2) whether to remand the case so that the questions of criminal conduct could be hashed out.

IN MY OPINION, again, this whole Prenda Law fiasco is a circus. John Steele and his buddies have been “gaming” the system since they began, and even when their whole scheme came tumbling down around them, they turned to lying, cheating, and misdirection in order to get around the rules.

Nothing will right the wrongs that were inflicted on tens of thousands of internet users except seeing each of these attorneys disbarred and jailed for criminal conduct. Yet I cannot see this happening because notorious criminals today too often go uncharged. Judges too often find the “lazy” alternative of slapping an attorney with sanctions, and then not following up on their order when the attorney weasels their way out of paying those sanctions. This is a sign of a corrupt system, and as much as I have faith in the law, I do not have faith that the judges will inflict stern judgement (“fire and brimstone”) against a bunch of lawyers who look more like a**clowns in the courtroom.

Thus, it is my best guess that the sanctions will not only be upheld, but they will be strengthened and perhaps multiplied. However, as for the criminal prosecution of the clowns who perpetrated this grand heist of an extortion scheme, their activities will go unpunished. Maybe they’ll lose their law licenses (noting that in part, this has partially happened to some of them). Maybe they’ll be held personally liable without the shielding of the corporate entities they tried to use to hide their involvement in these cases. Maybe one or more of them will need to continue to hide their money indefinitely and file for bankruptcy. Maybe one or more of them will need to move out of the country and live out their days on a beach somewhere.

I don’t see orange jumpsuits in anyone’s future here. Not in today’s lawless society.

USEFUL ARTICLES ON YESTERDAY’S HEARING:


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.