Tag Archives: ISP Subpoena

Why the US Court of Appeals’ ruling that “an IP address is not enough to identify a defendant” will not deter the copyright trolls.

Unless this case will stop forcing the ISPs to reveal account holders’ identities, this ruling is useless.

Everybody is cheering about the news in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals (this is a higher court) “Cobbler Nevada, LLC v. Thomas Gonzales,” a lawsuit filed against Gonzalez (originally a Cobbler Nevada, LLC v. Doe-24.21.136.125 (Case No. 3:15-cv-00866) case filed in the Oregon District Court) for the download of the Adam Sandler movie, “The Cobbler.”  In this appeal, the Court of Appeals just ruled that an IP address is not enough to identify the subscriber as being the downloader.

However, my opinion is that unless federal judges will apply this ruling to prevent a copyright holder from forcing the ISP to release the identity of the account holder (which I believe they will NOT), this ruling will be useless.

Cobbler Nevada Appeals Case still does not solve the ISP subpoena issue.
3dman_eu / Pixabay

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Judges rubber-stamp copyright infringement lawsuits.

For YEARS, I saw literally hundreds of cases fly past the judges who rubber stamped expedited discovery motions forcing the Internet Service Providers (ISPs, e.g., AT&T, Comcast, Verizon) to hand over the names and addresses of the subscriber — why?  Because the assumption was that the account holder was most likely the downloader.

Cobbler Nevada, LLC was only one of MANY copyright holders employing this tactic — sue a “John Doe” downloader having an accused IP address, convince the judge to allow the plaintiff attorney to send a subpoena to the ISP to unmask the identity of the account holder.

Copyright troll attorneys do not state in the complaint that the ACCOUNT HOLDER is the DOWNLOADER.

I remember rummaging through one case after another asking, “Did ANY copyright holder PLEAD that the subscriber was the infringer?”  The fact that the answer was NO made my face contort into a Picasso-styled painting.

Copyright holders like Cobbler Nevada, LLC filed copyright infringement lawsuits which spoke all about the ‘theft’ that occurred when someone connected to a bittorrent network and downloaded a pirated copy of their movie.  They spoke about the harm, and how terrible piracy was for their business.  However, they never wrote that the account holder (the subscriber) was the downloader.  So kudos to the judge for finally making this part of the permanent case law which we will certainly use when defending a client accused of copyright infringement… But wait.

WILL this ruling stop judges from approving expedited discovery?  Will this ruling stop judges from issuing that MOST DESTRUCTIVE ORDER which permits the copyright troll to send a subpoena to force the ISP to hand out the name and address of the account holder?  I suggest the answer is NO.

Expedited Discovery and ISP subpoenas allow a shakedown scheme to occur.
Perlinator / Pixabay

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Cobbler Nevada ruling misses the fact that by the time we file a motion to dismiss, it is already TOO LATE.

Looking at Cobbler Nevada‘s pleadings for a moment, failing to identify the account holder as being the infringer (the “pirate” / bittorrent downloader) suggests that a defense attorney such as myself could file a motion to dismiss the complaint for failing to state a claim.

Our argument based on this ruling is that the plaintiff attorney never said in his pleading that the account holder is the one who downloaded the copyrighted film.

By that time, however, the ISP already handed over the name and address of my client, and the plaintiff attorney has already amended the complaint against my client forever memorializing the fact that my client was accused of copyright infringement.

The damage has already been done.

[Further, realistically, if my client downloaded the copyrighted video, we would never have gotten the chance to plead that the plaintiff attorney did not properly state anywhere in the complaint that my client was the downloader.  Why?  Because by the time the ISP handed over my client’s information to a copyright troll like Cobbler Nevada, my client hired me, told me that he did the download, and we settled the claims against him (before his name was forever memorialized on the court’s docket as being the accused defendant).]

Innocent account holders are victims in copyright infringement lawsuits.

But what happens if my client did NOT do the download?  The ISP would have handed over my client’s information to Cobbler Nevada LLC’s plaintiff attorney, I would have sent over a letter of representation to the plaintiff attorney informing him that my client did not do the download and thus we are not settling (I refer to this as the “ignore” route representation, [not because we are ignoring anything, but because we are not paying a settlement if my client did not do the download, and thus there is nothing to do except to explain to the plaintiff attorney that my client — the account holder — was not the downloader]).

The plaintiff attorney will still try to shake down my client and solicit a settlement, regardless of whether he did the download or not.

With some copyright holders (e.g., Malibu Media, LLC and Strike 3 Holdings, LLC), the plaintiff attorney is not even the attorney of the copyright holder (the “copyright troll”), but rather, a local counsel hired to file the documents in a particular federal court.  The local counsel for these specific copyright holders might not even have autonomy to release an innocent account holder without a settlement.  Regardless of guilt, the local counsel might even be under instructions to “name and serve an account holder who is not settling, regardless of whether or not they did the download.”

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The plaintiff attorney will NAME AND SERVE the innocent account holder (starting the pattern of abuse).

The plaintiff attorney’s logic for naming and serving the subscriber, even if the subscriber is not the downloader is twofold. 

Firstly, once the plaintiff attorney names and serves the account holder, 1) they hope the account holder will hire a settlement factory attorney (a defense attorney who pre-arranges inflated settlement prices with copyright trolls to settle all cases at a premium (so-called “anonymous” settlements) and pay to settle the claims against him, regardless of whether the account holder did the download or not

Thus, the plaintiff attorney will “score” a multi-thousand-dollar settlement from an innocent account holder defendant (sometimes $2,500, sometimes $10,000+). 

An innocent account holder is a victim of the legal system even if he is dismissed.

However, even if the innocent account holder defendant hires an attorney such as myself (or someone like me) and we do NOT settle the claims against my client [because my client — the account holder — did NOT do the download], that plaintiff attorney still reasons that the case will never go to trial.  They figure that they could drag the innocent defendant through the legal system, force him to hire an attorney, force the attorney to file an answer in the case denying the claims, showing up to one or more case management hearings, and force the defense attorney and his innocent client to cooperate while he abuses the legal system (forcing them to submit to searches and temporary seizures of their computers and electronic devices, and forcing the defendant to answer questions under oath.  IF THEN (after discovery) the plaintiff attorney determines that the account holder is not the downloader, he can dismiss the lawsuit against the defendant.

Have you read enough? Contact me with your questions. > > >

Even a dismissal leaves an the account holder violated.

Receiving such a dismissal might sound good as you read this, but remember, the account holder was not the downloader.  His information was shared with a set of attorneys who are doing nothing other than drooling for a settlement

There is an involuntary set of threats thrown against the defendant that he must settle or his name will be exposed to the world as being an accused downloader (guilty or not).  That innocent account holder then has to decide whether to settle the claims against him (pay even though he did not do the download) or defend the claims against him in litigation. 

He then has to pay a defense attorney to represent him. 

Then he has to endure the legal process (which is all new to him, even though the plaintiff attorney has done this hundreds of times to other innocent account holders). 

Then he has to show up at the plaintiff attorney’s office, enter a room with a court reporter, and be put under oath (risking being found guilty of perjury if he makes a misstatement).  The innocent account holder’s testimony is then FORCED FROM HIM (he cannot “plead the fifth amendment” not to testify, because this is a CIVIL case, and the fifth amendment applies only in CRIMINAL cases). 

His computer and cell phones are then searched by someone who is looking to find something “illegal” on his computer. 

Then even after a deposition where the innocent account holder answers truthfully, the plaintiff attorney STILL threatens him that if he does not settle, he will still need to defend himself all the way to trial. 

Then the plaintiff attorney dismisses the innocent account holder (“without prejudice,” meaning that he can be subject to this lawsuit AGAIN).  Yet, with the dismissal, the identity of the innocent account holder is forever linked with the lawsuit, which is forever searchable on Google when a prospective employer (or even his children or grandchildren) search for his name.  

I don’t know about you, but I would still feel violated even if I was found “not guilty” or if I was dismissed by the plaintiff attorney after a deposition.

Have you read enough? Contact me with your questions. > > >

The innocent account holder paid his defense attorney $17,222!

Putting all of this emotion trauma aside, in the Cobbler Nevada, LLC v. Thomas Gonzales case, the innocent account holder (Gonzales) PAID HIS ATTORNEY LEGAL FEES OF $17,222 (whereas Cobbler Nevada, LLC likely asked for a settlement of $4,500, and an attorney could have settled the claims against him at the time for $1,750-$2,000).  Gonzales chose to “fight,” and as a result, he paid his attorney $17,000+ …and he was INNOCENT all along.

Cobbler Nevada solution - deny expedited discovery.
qimono / Pixabay

The only solution is to prevent copyright holders from obtaining the account holder’s identity.

So the only way to truly apply this US Court of Appeals ruling is to have judges begin to DENY EXPEDITED DISCOVERY unless the plaintiff attorney explicitly states in the complaint that the account holder is the infringer.  However, in truth, a plaintiff attorney can state this, and plead (in the alternative) that he is not the infringer, or he could lie in his pleadings.  There is no practical consequence in law for falsely accusing a defendant of a civil claim and then later dismissing the claim when he realizes that the innocent account holder did not do the “crime” for which he was accused.  Thus, the only way to properly use this ruling is to DENY EXPEDITED DISCOVERIES. DO NOT LET THE PLAINTIFF ATTORNEYS SEND SUBPOENAS TO THE ISPs TO FORCE THEM TO HAND OVER THE IDENTITY OF THE ACCOUNT HOLDER.  Because once this happens, even if that account holder could later hire an attorney to file a motion to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim, the whole “settlement extortion scheme” has already taken place and that innocent account holder’s name is already memorialized on the docket as being the accused defendant (guilty or not).

[CONTACT AN ATTORNEY: If you have a question for an attorney about what you have read and how it applies to your particular lawsuit, you can e-mail us at info[at]cashmanlawfirm.com, you can set up a free and confidential phone consultation to speak to us about your case, or you can send a Text/SMS to 713-364-3476 (this is our Cashman Law Firm, PLLC’s number)].

The life of a subpoena, and at what point you are no longer anonymous.

TIMELINE: ISP SUBPOENAS AND ANONYMITY

Any “copyright troll” bittorrent-based copyright infringement lawsuit really revolves around the subpoena which moves from the court to the accused John Doe Defendants.  Tracking a subpoena can help an accused defendant understand the timelines of when they can fight, when they can settle, when they can ignore, and whether they are anonymous or not at each step.

A Subpoena is first introduced to the court for approval.

A subpoena is first introduced to the court when the plaintiff attorney files the lawsuit and asks the court for permission to obtain the identities of the various internet users accused of downloading the copyright holder’s movie or copyrighted work.

The Subpoena, once approved by the court, is sent to the ISP.

The federal judge approves the subpoena (usually by rubber stamp), and the subpoenas are then sent to the “abuse” department of the various ISPs (e.g., AT&T U-verse, COX Communications, Comcast, etc.).  These ISPs in receipt of the subpoena are ordered to hand over the accused subscriber’s information to the plaintiff attorney.  They send a notice to the account holder that a subpoena has been received, and that they are under a duty to comply with the subpoena by a certain date unless the account holder files a Motion to Quash the subpoena before the arbitrary deadline they set (usually the deadline is 30 days from the notice sent to the subscriber).

The ISP forwards the Subpoena to the accused account holder giving him a chance to file an objection with the court.

You (the account holder) receive the notice containing the subpoena, and you learn that you are implicated as a “John Doe” (an unnamed defendant) in the Copyright Holder Corporate Entity v. Does lawsuit.  Here, you learn that you can supposedly stop the ISP from handing out your information to the plaintiff attorney by filing an objection with the court, a.k.a. a “Motion to Quash.”  At this point, you are still anonymous.

The ISP complies with the Subpoena and hands over your contact information to the plaintiff attorney.

Assuming you do not file the Motion to Quash (there are many articles on this website explaining why you might not do so), the 30-day deadline set by your ISP will lapse, and your ISP will comply with the subpoena.  They turn over your information to the PLAINTIFF ATTORNEY (but not to the court or anyone else).  You are still anonymous.

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The exact moment your anonymity expires.

At this point, the life of the subpoena is over, as it has served its purpose and the plaintiff attorney is in receipt of your contact information (and whatever other information your ISP was forced to hand over to it).  At this point, you are a “John Doe” defendant in the lawsuit, and only your plaintiff attorney knows your real identity.  YOU ARE STILL ANONYMOUS at this point (as to the court and the world, as the plaintiff attorney is not going to share your information unless he decides to name and serve you as a defendant in the lawsuit).

Your anonymity expires once the plaintiff attorney realizes that he or she cannot get a settlement from you, and based on their evidence that you are the downloader of their client’s copyrighted movie, they file an amended complaint with the court with your name as a defendant, and they serve you with a copy of the complaint.  At this point, you have been “named and served,” and you are no longer anonymous.  At this point, you need to decide whether it makes more sense to stand and defend against the claims against you (consider the attorney fees issue), or to negotiate a settlement and amicably step away from the lawsuit.

NOTE: If you choose to fight, be aware of Prof. Matthew Sag’s paper entitled “Defense Against the Dark Arts of Copyright Trolling,” and the considerations surrounding using what are otherwise “valid” defenses to copyright infringement which likely DO apply to your case.

[CONTACT AN ATTORNEY: If you have a question for an attorney about your lawsuit and options on how to proceed, you can e-mail us at info[at]cashmanlawfirm.com, you can set up a free and confidential phone consultation to speak to us about your case, or you can call us at 713-364-3476 (this is our Cashman Law Firm, PLLC’s number].

ISP Subpoena Timeline & Anonymity Timeline