Tag Archives: named defendant

Thinking about Malibu Media’s single “Doe” lawsuits.

With all the drama going on in the Prenda Law Inc. defamation cases (most recently, they have sent a subpoena to WordPress asking for every IP address who visited SJD or DTD’s website since 2011), I wanted to make sure the other lawsuits didn’t take advantage of this diversion.

Thinking about the Malibu Media, LLC single “John Doe” lawsuits article I wrote about last night, I wondered what would happen if the defendants were actually “named” and served (their attorneys historically have named and served defendants, so it is a possible outcome with these lawsuits as well).  I remembered earlier in the day, I was discussing issues affecting the “other” copyright trolls (the stock photo and Linda Ellis copyright troll letters) with an individual fighting that side of the copyright infringement “IP monetization / enforcement” issue (as you know, there is a whole other side to the copyright infringement “extortion letter” issue that we do not even discuss on our blogs), and someone mentioned to me the “double-tap” joinder strategy (phrase coined by DieTrollDie) relating to an article I wrote about last year.  I was wondering how interesting it would be to force Malibu to disclose all of the other bittorrent swarm participants and join them in under the federal joinder rules as co-defendants if they ever did go so far as to name one of my clients as a “named” defendant.

Obviously nobody wants to drag anyone into any lawsuit, but as a strategy — even months later — I still think the “double tap” is still a very good strategy, and at the very least, it is certainly fun to think about.

So revisiting the strategy, I visited my own blog and re-read the article from back in October. While reading, I noticed the “Like” button and instinctively clicked it (social engineering). Moments later, I received the following e-mail from WordPress.

double-tap joinder strategy for named defendants
double-tap joinder strategy for named defendants

LOL.  Sorry if you thought I was going somewhere with this post. 😉


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.

Hard Drive Productions lawsuit is DEAD and Prenda attorneys still calling.

The Hard Drive Productions, Inc. v. Does 1-1,495 (Case No. 1:11-cv-01741) case in the District of Columbia has been dead for almost a month now, and Prenda Law Inc. (now the “Anti-Piracy Law Group”) is still calling each and every dismissed defendant as if the case were still alive.

In my opinion, these calls to dismissed defendants are indeed very concerning. The threat is that unless a dismissed defendant settled, they will immediately name and serve them in the federal court in their home state.


HOW TO CHECK WHETHER THEIR THREATS HAVE ANY MERIT

I have literally been hearing about these threats from dismissed defendants for weeks, and there is a VERY EASY way to test whether their threats have merit or not — simply check to see whether Hard Drive Productions, Inc. has filed lawsuits naming individuals. The easiest way to do this is to visit http://www.rfcexpress.com, scroll down on the right-hand side, and check only the “copyright” button. Type “Hard Drive Productions” into the “Party Name” field, click submit, and you’ll see the last state and the last date they filed suit against defendants. [As of 6:45pm on 1/16/2013, there have been ABSOLUTELY NO FILINGS by Hard Drive Productions, Inc. since they tried to sue defendants here in the Southern District of Texas using Doug McIntyre as their local counsel — and you know how badly that ended for them.]


SHOULD YOU CALL THEM?

Now this should be common sense, but you NEVER want to be calling the attorney who is threatening to sue you. Especially when you already know that their game is to extort and solicit settlements from those they believe they can scare into settling.


CAN THEY FOLLOW-UP ON THEIR THREAT AND SUE YOU INDIVIDUALLY?

Obviously Prenda Law Inc. (now the “Anti-Piracy Law Group”) has the capacity to name and serve many individuals in many states.  However, they are lawyers just as we are lawyers. And, whatever Prenda Law Inc. does on behalf of a client, somebody needs to pay the bill (especially if there is local counsel involved). If they are suing on behalf of Hard Drive Productions, Inc., then Hard Drive Productions, Inc. needs to pay their bills (or, you do by way of your settlements). Lawsuits are not cheap for a plaintiff, and the up-front cost of filing one ($350 per lawsuit), plus all the time drafting and responding to motions in front of a judge for each case is quite an undertaking.


SHOULD YOU SETTLE?

Thus, if you have no reason to settle, then don’t settle. If you see that they are naming and serving individuals, then contact one of us lawyers. Depending on your circumstances and if I can figure out a way for you to fight your case without settling, that might be the cheaper alternative. Just please don’t try to respond to their calls thinking that you’ll negotiate your way out of this. The only way to get out of this is to back them into a financial corner forcing them to drop your case, defend your case on the merits, or to pay them to make the case go away. I like any option that does not include sending them a check.


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.

How Judge Beryll Howell’s Decision Affects “John Doe” Defendants.

Over the past few days, as a response to last weeks article where plaintiff attorneys Dunlap, Grubb & Weaver dumped thousands of defendants, Judge Beryl Howell wrote a memorandum indicating which issues the US District Court for the District of Columbia court will hear, and which they will not. In short, as the various articles describe (see here, and here), the judge has opined that any arguments of jurisdiction, joinder, or first amendment defenses are not relevant until a John Doe defendant is named as a defendant in the case.

For the most part, when reading this 42 page memo, I was unimpressed. Her motivations and proclivities in favor of the plaintiff copyright holders were apparent, but her opinion was unmoving. I shrugged my shoulders and thought to myself that this was not a controversial opinion. It wasn’t until I started reading the forums in ArsTechnica.com that the users realized that the judge had some serious bias issues. Some were even of the opinion that the judge should not have heard the case in the first place because of conflicts of interest and violations of rules of recusal.

As for her opinion, plaintiff attorneys and courts for months now have been holding that a defendant does not have standing to contest jurisdiction (e.g., “Dear Court, I was sued in the District of Columbia. I live in New York. Court has no personal jurisdiction.”) until they are named in the lawsuit (e.g., John Doe #123 -> Real Name Defendant). This is the reason defendants have been unsuccessful in filing motions to quash the various subpoenas issues by the courts against the internet service providers ordering them to surrender over their subscribers’ information.

The change in this Judge’s opinion was that while many cases (e.g., the various Larry Flynt Productions cases and the Far Cry lawsuits, just to name a few) over the previous months have been severed and dismissed because of improper joinder issues (e.g., one accused defendant downloading a copyrighted file on Monday should not be joined in a lawsuit with a defendant he does not know who downloaded that same copyrighted file on a Wednesday, or “subsequent acts of copyright infringement by unrelated defendants are not sufficient to justify the joining of the defendants together in one John Doe lawsuit.”), here Judge Howell has stated that she will not even entertain a misjoinder argument from a defendant until that defendant is named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

In my opinion, the court is simply ‘kicking the can down the road’ for matters of simplicity. This opinion was nothing fantastic, and it did not affect our clients because none of them have been named in any of these lawsuits.

However, as a result of Judge Howell’s decision, articles on TorrentFreak (“BitTorrent Case Judge Is a Former RIAA Lobbyist and Pirate Chaser“) and ArsTechnica.com (“RIAA lobbyist becomes federal judge, rules on file-sharing cases“) have surfaced pointing out obvious ethical issues regarding her even sitting on the bench for these cases given her past intimate connection with copyright lobbying groups, including past employers, conflicts of interest, issues of bias, and issues of recusal which have raised a flare of users’ objections to her adjudicating these cases.

As far as my clients need to worry, this is simply an opinion by a judge (biased or not) giving the plaintiffs free reign to go after John Doe defendants and to continue to solicit exorbitant settlement fees in the amount of thousands of dollars all while the plaintiff attorneys continue to tell the judges that they are conducting “discovery.” The issues have not changed, and there is no new law with this opinion. For my clients who are defendants in these cases, this opinion simply means that the court will likely not sever the case on its own as it did in the Far Cry case, but rather, it will wait until the plaintiff attorneys begin naming defendants before they consider whether the defendants are properly joined together with the thousands of other defendants.

NAMED AND SERVED | When a Defendant Stops Being a John Doe

When is a bittorrent user “named and served”?

QUESTIONS ASKED ON BEING NAMED AND SERVED:

  • At what point is an accused torrent user ‘named and served’ in a lawsuit? Is it once the ISP turns over his information to the attorneys?
  • What do I do if I am ‘named and served’ in such a lawsuit?
  • Can your firm still represent me if I am ‘named and served’ in a lawsuit?
  • What if I am named and served in a jurisdiction in which you are not licensed?

ANSWER:
All of the proceedings that have been taking place with these copyright infringement cases have been in the pretrial stages while the defendant is still a John Doe represented merely by his accused IP address. Even after the internet service provider hands over the defendant’s identifying information, he or she remains a John Doe Defendant until the plaintiff attorney decides whether to name and serve the defendant or dismiss him or her.

2017 UPDATE: I am including this article as part of the TorrentLawyer University set of fundamental topics which are relevant to bittorrent-based copyright infringement lawsuits.

Am I ‘Named and Served’ when the ISP complies with the subpoena asking for my information?

No.  The ISP was under a duty signed by a federal judge to hand over your information.  If your attorney did not file a motion to quash the subpoena, then your ISP likely complied with the judge’s order.  This means that they forwarded over your account information, along with the account information of the other “John Doe” Defendants in your case.  It is easiest to think about this as if the ISP sent over a spreadsheet with a bunch of lines on it — your account information was included in one of those lines.

You are not named and served when your ISP complies with the subpoena.  You remain a “John Doe” defendant — anonymous to the world, but only known to you, the ISP, and now, your plaintiff attorney (and his copyright troll client).

Being ‘Named and Served’ Happens When the Complaint is Amended

Amending the Complaint (“Named”)

A plaintiff attorney ‘names’ a bittorrent defendant when he amends the copyright infringement complaint, replacing the John Doe placeholder with the real defendant’s name.  In a bittorrent-based copyright infringement case, the plaintiff attorney names a defendant when he changes the name of the accused defendants from “John Does 1-200” (or however many “John Doe” putative defendants there are) to “John Does 1-199, and Jim Smith” (Jim Smith being the named defendant).

Service of Process (“Served”)

Upon naming a defendant, the plaintiff attorney then must ‘serve’ a defendant with a copy of the complaint.  The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) gives him a few ways to do this.  The easiest (and costliest method) is to hire a process server to stop at the defendant’s house and serve him with a copy of the complaint.  Other methods include using the U.S. mail (asking the defendant to waive service of process in return for receiving a longer time period to file an answer with the court), etc.  The complaint must conform to both the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the court’s local rules (more on this in a future post).

Status of the former “John Doe” Defendant upon being Named and Served

If the plaintiff attorney names and serves the defendant, the named defendant ceases to be a John Doe and must immediately file any motions (e.g., motions to quash if still relevant, motions to dismiss, etc.) with the court. The defendant is advised if he has not already done so to hire local counsel (or if he is already represented by an attorney, to have his attorney hire local counsel to file motions on his behalf) to defend the case.

In short, upon being named and served, the defendant’s attorney (or local counsel) must file an answer to the complaint with the court, send a copy to the plaintiff, and must start evidentiary proceedings (e.g., discovery) if he is to properly defend his client.

Can your firm still represent me if I am ‘named and served’ in a lawsuit?

Absolutely.  A bittorrent lawsuit is simply a copyright infringement lawsuit.  It is filed in one of the many federal courts spread across the country, and any attorney who knows how to navigate the federal courts can represent you in your case.  Our Cashman Law Firm, PLLC practice focuses in federal court practice, so we can represent you in any federal court, even if we are not licensed to practice in that state.

What if I am named and served in a jurisdiction in which you are not licensed?

Not a problem.  Copyright law is exclusively federal law.  Thus, copyright infringement lawsuits belong exclusively in the federal courts.  Now obviously some courts will require that we hire local counsel in that state, but we already know which courts require this and are prepared to defend you in your case.

Where the cases are (as of writing this article).

Our firm has been gearing up for full-fledged copyright infringement lawsuits since September of 2010, but as of writing this article (Feb., 2011), so far the cases have not moved past the John Doe stages of the lawsuits. It just seems to me as if the plaintiffs are nervous that if they start suing, then we will start defending the cases diligently and we will start creating bad case law for them (which is exactly what they have been trying to avoid). If they move the case down this road of naming and serving defendants and we start winning on the merits of the case rather than having them dismissed based on procedural defects (as has been the case in most of the dismissals to date), we will shut down their operations and will make it almost impossible for them to continue their cash machine of suing John Doe Defendants without naming and serving the underlying defendants and scaring them into settling, only to dismiss and repeat with a whole new set of defendants.

Warm regards,
Rob Cashman, Owner
Cashman Law Firm, PLLC


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

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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.