Prenda Law Inc. sues the anti-troll internet community.

“Oh what a tangled web we weave, When first we practise to deceive!”
– Sir Walter Scott, Marmion: Canto VI. (1771 – 1832)

My greatest effort in this blog is not to decide what to write about, but what NOT to write about. I’ve been very aware of John Steele’s issues in Minnesota (where he made an appearance for one of his cases, and was served by Paul Godfread’s process server on the Alan Cooper identity theft issue). I’ve also been aware of the issues as to whether AF Holdings, Guava, (and we won’t mention Ingenuity 13, or the older MCGIP lawsuits) are in fact entities or whether there is an bit of sham involved in their formation and/or the enforcement of the intellectual property they appear to hold. I have also noticed the clear trend from the smarter lawsuits where Steele moved from suing hundreds of John Doe Defendants to him suing smaller numbers of John Does (20-75) in smaller “under-the-radar” lawsuits, and then finally to the “John Doe” individual lawsuits, some of which ended up with named defendants who were not served, others where the defendants were actually served, and finally others where a defendant and his attorney agreed to allow Prenda to add hundreds of unrelated defendants to the lawsuits as potential co-conspirators.

Then when even the individual lawsuits looked to no longer be fruitful for him, I noticed the move from copyright enforcement to absurd tactics, some of which involved having Mark Lutz pose as a representative for a production company.  I noticed when Prenda had their own local counsel (Joseph Perea) shift titles to avoid unauthorized practice of law issues (e.g., in Florida), and I noticed when local counsel Brett Gibbs ended up as “of counsel” for Prenda Law Inc., only to later disavow association from the firm when federal Judge Otis Wright mentioned the word “jail.” These absurd tactics have gone even farther, most recently with the creation of the Livewire Holdings, Inc. entity (see, Part I; Part II) using fake pictures on their website for their so-called “partners,” and reports that Mark Lutz (Prenda Law Inc.’s former paralegal, now pictured as “partner” in the Livewire Holdings, Inc. site) is back at it, calling dismissed defendants using a fake name.  I almost fell off my chair when I read local counsel Brett Gibbs’ most recent declaration [under oath] that [he has been informed that] Mark Lutz was the CEO for AF Holdings, LLC (p.4, paragraph 7), and that he was also the CEO for Ingenuity 13, LLC (p.4, paragraph 8).  Really?!?

All of this drama (including the Minnesota lawsuit and the so-called fake Alan Cooper issue) are topics I have purposefully chosen NOT to write about for the sole reason that they do not help my clients or potential clients understand the issues surrounding the copyright infringement lawsuits they face when they receive a subpoena notice from their ISP in the mail.

Behind the scenes, as owner of the Cashman Law Firm, PLLC, I and my staff have spent literally months building up local counsel networks and researching each federal court’s rules to properly defend clients who are named as defendants in their copyright infringement lawsuits. I personally warned a number of copyright trolls that if they named my clients, myself and the attorneys I work with would find a way to make defending these cases affordable. So you can understand why I was amused when the principals at Prenda Law Inc. shifted from what looked to be a trend towards individual lawsuits against former John Doe Defendants to their more recent “world domination” shenanigans which led to widespread questions as to the identity of the “real” AF Holdings, LLC Alan Cooper, which of the copyright troll entities are real and which are shams, and then once caught, which led to the finger-pointing which began between their local counsel and other defense counsel, and then ultimately to the finger-pointing towards the principals at Prenda Law Inc. I’m happy that their lawsuits have gone nowhere these recent months, but personally I feel that their focus has shifted to “doubling down” on what appear to be outright lies rather than representing their clients to stop the piracy of their copyrighted films.  I often stop myself from asking, “wasn’t that the whole purpose of this grand charade?”  At least the war I thought I was fighting was to defend internet users from being subjected to copyright extortion-like lawsuits for the downloading or viewing of copyrighted movies and videos.

For these reasons, I really have nothing to say or comment because what Prenda Law Inc. / formerly, Steele|Hansmeier PLLC/ or more recently, the Anti-Piracy Law Group / John Steele / Paul Duffy / Brett Gibbs / former paralegal Mark Lutz (and their local counsel, many still disgruntled) have been doing and their antics have little-to-nothing to do with the so-called “rampant piracy” and the copyright infringement I thought they were here to stop.

So now John Steele and the entities he supposedly has nothing to do with are suing Paul Godfread, the real Alan Cooper (as opposed to the one they have not yet produced), along with all of the anti-copyright troll internet population, probably most notably, Sophisticated Jane Doe (http://www.fightcopyrighttrolls.com), Die Troll Die (http://www.dietrolldie.com), and probably a handful of others who have been hugely helpful to our law firm over the years through their reporting on Twitter. I could easily be part of this group of anti-copyright troll “Does” from all the posts I have written on his cases.

The problem with the “sue everyone for defamation” approach is 1) the elements of defamation are simply not there (as Forbes Magazine might report, John Steele is clearly a “public person” who has cast himself forth as being one of the foremost and first copyright trolls), 2) his lawsuits likely invoke the anti-SLAPP laws because they appear to have been filed to “create chilling effects and to stifle speech,” and most importantly, 3) people like Sophisticated Jane Doe, Die Troll Die, and the others blog and tweet anonymously. Thus, even if they figured out which IP addresses did the posting or the tweeting, the IP address will likely point to a private VPN service who have no ability to even know who these anonymous bloggers are.

In closing, there is not much to say about these lawsuits. Techdirt wrote about them here.  ArsTechnica wrote about them here.  Sophisticated Jane Doe wrote about them here. Copyright Clerk wrote about them here. Jordan Rushie wrote about them here. No doubt there will be many more articles, and no doubt there will be much more drama. However, as far as these lawsuits affect his copyright infringement and “hacker” lawsuits (the purpose for which I write this blog), I cannot see them affecting his lawsuits positively, and if anything, this was a misstep for Steele and his affiliates.


UPDATE (3/9/2013): DENIED.  Automattic, Inc. letter to Prenda Law Inc. (on behalf of WordPress.com sites) rejects Prenda’s attempts to ascertain the IP addresses of the anti-troll community citing five (5) deficiencies in their subpoena.  Other notable reasons for non-compliance with the subpoena include: 1) rights under the First Amendment to anonymous speech; 2) right to privacy; 3) subpoena (“outrageously”) overly broad; 4) subpoena seeks information that is not likely to lead to discoverable information.

DING, DONG, THE HARD DRIVE PRODUCTIONS CASE IS DEAD!

I don’t know how to say this other than in my field of work, it is not often that I am shocked.  I often speak to local counsel who get excited that they are handling a “porn” case.  Just a few days ago, I called one of Steele’s (a.k.a., “Anti-Piracy Law Group”) local counsel.  When I introduced myself, he said to me (with a boyish excitement), “Aren’t you the porn lawyer?” to which I responded, “Aren’t YOU the porn lawyer?!?”

Anyway, I cannot help but to generalize these cases into “okay, one more production company suing a college kid or husband for clicking on a link and viewing copyrighted materials.”  What I often forget is that there is usually some guy behind the scenes who has trailed so far into the world of pornography that he has opened up his own company, produced some porn videos, and now is suing defendants for their download.

The motive is usually the same.  Instead of “let’s punish these pirates” as they would like you to believe, their motive is rather, “let’s hit up as many people for thousands of dollars each until we get shut down by the courts.”  In my opinion, this was the motive of the Hard Drive Productions, Inc. lawsuits.

Digressing, the epic news of the day is that the Hard Drive Productions, Inc. v. Does 1-1,495 (Case No. 1:11-cv-01741) case has been dismissed.  Congratulations to the Cashman Law Firm, PLLC defendants who have been released from this case.  

I don’t need to go into details about the case history — it has been riddled with controversy since they started suing internet users 2+ years ago.  As far as the legal issues were concerned, this was a typical copyright infringement lawsuit plagued with the same procedural issues that most of the other cases of its time suffered from — improper joinder (defendants were not part of the same “swarm”), and improper jurisdiction (defendants were sued in a court which did not have personal jurisdiction over them because the DC court’s reach could not decide the case against most of the defendants who were implicated in the lawsuit because they lived outside of the court’s jurisdiction).

What surprised me about the Hard Drive Productions, Inc. case was not Hard Drive Productions, Inc., but the District of Columbia judges who made a political mess of these cases.  Judge Beryl Howell came on the scene making pro-copyright troll rulings, such as 1) “you don’t need to decide jurisdiction or joinder until a defendant is named and served in a lawsuit,” 2) an ISP cannot file a motion to quash on behalf of their subscribers, and 3) accused John Doe Defendants cannot file motions to quash until they are named as defendants in the case.  Mind you, she was a copyright lobbyist before she was appointed a federal judge.

Then in February, 2012, Judge Facciola came in with a ruling in the West Coast Productions, Inc. v. Does 1-1,434 (Case No. 1:11-cv-00055) case which I was sure was going to kill the Hard Drive Productions, Inc. case and all the other bittorrent cases in DC.  In his order, he ruled that “a defendant who does not live in the District of Columbia cannot be sued in the DC court because the DC court lacks jurisdiction over those defendants.”  However, at some point, it appears to me as if the RIAA/MPAA copyright lobby (probably by using Judge Beryl Howell as their mouthpiece) pressured Judge Facciola into giving into the copyright lobby’s pressure, and with a few contradictory rulings, he transitioned over to being Judge Beryl Howell’s sidekick in these cases.

Judge Bates also came in appearing to protect the procedural rights of the accused defendants who lived outside of DC, but once again, after what appeared to be some pressure from the RIAA/MPAA copyright lobby (once again, my educated guess is that Judge Beryl Howell was the force behind what happened), he was removed from the case which Judge Facciola took over.  Then, after some time, it appears as if Judge Bates too eventually caved in to the RIAA/MPAA copyright lobby (some refer to them as the “mafia,” or the copyright police), and on my September 27th, 2012 post, Judge Bates reversed his decision in Hard Drive Productions, Inc. case and let the “extortion” of the John Doe Defendants at the hands of John Steele and Co. (a.k.a., Steele Hansmeier PLLC, a.k.a., Prenda Law Inc., and now a.k.a., the “Anti-Piracy Law Group”) continue.

So.  The story with this dismissal is not necessarily a Hard Drive Productions, Inc. story, but a story of the forces behind the public interest groups and lobbyists who pressure Washington to always rule in favor of the copyright holder, regardless of whether the copyright holder is a pornography company, or whether the copyright holder is involved in making B-movies.  Bottom line, these lobbyists insist that WASHINGTON MUST CONTINUE TO BE PRO-COPYRIGHT AND MUST CONTINUE TO RULE IN FAVOR OF THE COPYRIGHT HOLDERS, regardless of who the copyright holder is, or at what cost.

So as things stand in DC, there is still a split as to the rights of unnamed John Doe Defendants between the rulings of Judge Wilkins (relating to the “motion to compel” lawsuit by Prenda Law Inc. against Comcast relating to their Millennium TGA, Inc. cases [BTW, dismissed last week]) and the rulings of Judge Beryl Howell, because as you read, Judge Howell certified an interlocutory appeal to answer questions relevant to these cases, but it appears to me that someone is dragging their feet there in DC and hoping for a dismissal so that they don’t have to decide the issues.

Lastly, there is a lot of activity on Twitter as to the 28 or so defendants who have settled their case, and some anger directed at these anonymous defendants who have settled.  Quite frankly, they are not all anonymous.  What happened with these is that without warning, Prenda Law Inc. turned around and sued one of these defendants (or threatened to imminently sue these defendants) in lawsuits in their home states.  I understand that many, if not most of the defendants in the “Hard Drive Productions, Inc. v. John Doe” cases which were filed towards the end of 2011 probably settled (I’ve listed a few of the named defendants in the “At What Point Does a Copyright Troll Stop Being a Troll” article.)

In closing, people are asking me whether I think Hard Drive Productions, Inc. is dead, or whether this is just the next logical progression before a slew of defendants being named.  I must note that Hard Drive Productions, Inc. got their butts kicked quite a few times, especially with the Hard Drive Productions, Inc. v. John Doe, 3:11-cv-05634-JCS (Seth Abrahams) case and the Hard Drive Productions, Inc. v. John Doe, 4:11-cv-05630-YGR (Liuxia Wong) case, both in California.  If you look at the http://www.rfcexpress.com website, there have been ZERO filings since March, 2012.  A defendant must also understand that with the egos of these copyright troll attorneys, there is the saying, “As the ego of the attorney inflates, so does his hourly rate.

We also know there have been squabbles between Prenda Law Inc.’s local counsel and Steele, and we know that their own attorneys have been jumping ship (and in some cases even testifying against Prenda Law Inc. in their attempts to withdraw as local counsel.)  Thus, there are problems all around, so my best advise is to watch the http://www.rfcexpress.com website and see whether Hard Drive Productions, Inc. starts a flurry of lawsuits across the U.S. or not.  And remember — behind every lawsuit there is a person (joking using the term “person” to mean a human, a fictitious person (who might not exist), or an offshore entity) who needs to pay Steele’s legal fees so that he can pay for his Las Vegas lifestyle of traveling the country “not” representing his clients in these matters.


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.

    shalta boook now cta nowhitespace

    AF Holdings, LLC v. Does 1-1,140 — Dismissed, but according to the plaintiff’s plan.

    On Friday I wrote a scathing review of the AF Holdings, LLC v. Does 1-1,140 (Case No. 1:11-cv-01274) case dismissal, but I did not post it.  In short, congratulations to the Cashman Law Firm, PLLC clients (and all the others implicated in this case) who have been dismissed from the case.

    The difficulty I am facing is that while being dismissed is the goal of any John Doe defendant in a bittorrent case, in my opinion, I am uncomfortable with the way the dismissal happened. 

    As many of you know, there was new precedent set by Judge Facciola’s ruling in the West Coast Productions, Inc. v. Does 1-1,434 (Case No. 1:11-cv-00055) case, and as a result, Judge Reggie Walton gave the plaintiffs until March 9th, 2012 to start naming or dismissing defendants.  In short, instead of admitting improper jurisdiction, yet another D.C. judge opted to invoke the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 4(m) which gives plaintiffs 120 days to either name or dismiss defendants.  Understanding that the Prenda Law Inc. plaintiff attorneys had no interest in continuing the lawsuit against individual Doe defendants, they dismissed the case.

    Now while it is always nice when opposing counsel opts to kill a case rather than move forward against defendants, Prenda Law Inc.’s local counsel revealed more than he probably should have to the court.  In a move which probably angered Paul Duffy and his superiors, Tim Anderson wrote the following paragraph:

    Plaintiff acknowledges the Court’s busy docket; Plaintiff is currently engaged in settlement negotiations with a substantial number of putative Doe Defendants.  Rather than prematurely initiate litigation against individuals who may ultimately wish to resolve Plaintiff’s claims via settlement — and thus needlessly burden the Court — Plaintiff believes that dismissing the claims against the remaining non-settling Doe Defendants in this action without prejudice in lieu of filing actions against non-settling individuals strikes a favorable balance between preserving Court resources and safeguarding its intellectual property rights.

    In other words, “Court, we are dismissing the case so that you do not need to waste your time looking over us watching what we are doing.  We would prefer not to have you watch us anyway because you will force us to do something we don’t want to do (e.g., “name” defendants), which would make our extortion scheme much more costly to us and thus we wouldn’t be able to sustain our operation if we had to actually go after defendants.  So thanks to you, since we now have all the names we need from the ISPs of the putative Doe Defendants, we will continue to call and harass those who haven’t settled without having you worry about what we are doing.”

    In short, I would have liked to see the judge issue an order indicating that since they have dismissed the case, they are no longer permitted to use the names they acquired from the subpoenas and collect settlements from putative defendants.  The legal system is not a tool to discover private information about internet subscribers only to dismiss the case and continue their extortion scheme offline.

    For this reason, I suspect that you understand why I am not so happy with this case dismissal.  Getting your names only to dismiss the action was simply part of their plan all along.

    [scribd id=83966226 key=key-1r0x2xsvqe2ermu1aas2 mode=list]

    Judge Facciola new ruling could kill Hard Drive Productions, AF Holdings, and West Coast Productions all at once.

    Today I received a bunch of what are commonly known as “scare” letters from Prenda Law Inc.  What is interesting is that all the letters I received were for the AF Holdings, LLC v. Does 1-1,140 (Case No. 1:11-cv-01274) case. While at first I thought the timing to an order by Judge Facciola was too much of a coincidence (read on), it turns out that something is going on with this case which has gotten the law firm sending out letters.  In my experience this usually coincides with a dismissal.

    When I looked into it, I found what appeared to be my answer in a judge’s order in the West Coast Productions, Inc. v. Does 1-1,434 (Case No. 1:11-cv-00055) case filed in the District of Columbia District Court, where the judge refused to allow Dunlap Grubb & Weaver, PLLC to add new accused IP addresses to the case and then get the subscribers’ contact information from their ISPs.  Even better, for the FIRST TIME, this DC judge ruled in line with the other district courts that a defendant who does not live in the District of Columbia cannot be sued in the DC court because the DC court lacks jurisdiction over those defendants.  The exciting piece of this news is that DC has been notorious for allowing cases to proceed against thousands of John Does who lived outside of DC.  Any motions to quash summarily fail.

    Even better, the judge who made this order was Judge Facciola, the judge in the controversial Hard Drive Productions, Inc. v. Does 1-1,495 (Case No. 1:11-cv-01741) case.

    No doubt this has gotten the Steeles, the Hansmeiers, and the Duffys nervous because their cases are in the District of Columbia.  As far as I am concerned, this order — even though the West Coast Productions, Inc. order has nothing to do with Prenda Law Inc., I suspect it will be a death nail in all three cases — West Coast Productions, AF Holdings, and Hard Drive Productions.

    [scribd id=80718642 key=key-i6u9yggmwraov2adr86 mode=list]

    EFF takes on Judge Facciola in the Hard Drive Productions, Inc. v. Does 1-1,495 case.

    Hard Drive Productions, Inc. v. Does 1-1,495 (Case No. 1:11-cv-01741) has been a controversial case from the beginning.  Judge Bates immediately noticed the faults with the case and he stayed the subpoenas.  Magistrate Judge Facciola (who has since taken over the case) is now facing scrutiny for every step he makes — not only in this case, but also in the AF Holdings, LLC v. Does 1-1,140 (Case No. 1:11-cv-01274) case. 

    In short, Judge Bates told putative defendants that they could file their motions under seal (meaning the defendants’ identities would remain anonymous), the Doe Defendants relied upon Bates’ order and following his instructions, they filed their motions under seal, and Judge Facciola reversed Judge Bates’ order.  [Facciola’s order essentially stated that motions to quash that were filed under seal will be filed publicly on February 1, 2012, revealing the anonymous defendants’ identities to the world (and consequently to Prenda Law Inc., where we all now know what they will do with these).]

    Based on the volume of calls that must be coming into Judge Facciola’s chambers [(202) 354-3130], he is no doubt now stepping on eggshells based on the hundreds of defendants who are actively tracking this case and I’m sure he does not like it.  No judge would.

    To make matters worse for the Judge Facciola, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (“EFF”) filed for its attorney to appear in the case and file an amicus brief, (a “letter to the court informing them of the law and the issues,”) on behalf of the various Doe Defendants. 

    The attorney also requested that the judge “stay” the case (which essentially means to put the case on hold until the issues are resolved).  In short, if EFF is successful, all of the motions to quash which tomorrow are set to become public will be kept private. 

    At the very least, Judge Facciola will be educated as to the issues surrounding this case (first amendment issues, personal jurisdiction, improper joinder), and perhaps it will inspire him to sever and/or dismiss it [and its sister AF Holdings case].

    My favorite part about EFF getting involved in the case is the technology-based declaration which every bittorrent user accused in these cases should be aware of.  While the technology-based arguments of non-infringement may be over the head of Judge Facciola, they no doubt in my opinion provide enough information to kill any bittorrent case, if any Doe Defendant is named.

    To hit the nail on the coffin, so to speak, the EFF asked the court to take judicial notice of (meaning, to recognize and hopefully adopt the opinions of) other bittorrent cases which you have been reading about since this blog started back in 2010.  You can read the orders of the other cases in a neatly filed package here.

    While this motion as far as I’m concerned should be a “one-two knockout punch” for this case, we must also realize that the character of the judge and his leanings (dare I say bias) also play a factor in whether he’ll allow this motion to move forward.  DC has never been a defendant-friendly state as we saw with the Dunlap Grubb & Weaver, PLLC lawsuits last year, and they have historically been known to disclose the identities of Doe Defendants who filed motions to quash filed under seal when they reject them. 

    This is why I am both optimistic that EFF has gotten involved, but I am also very cautious when it comes to how Judge Facciola will react to yesterday’s motion which is a clear affront to his previous order.  Again, no judge likes it when someone openly disagrees with his order.

    [P.S. – Here is the link to Prenda Law Inc.’s response requesting that the court not allow EFF to intercede in the case based on their “anti-intellectual property” nature.  Other websites covered the topic just fine (see, SJD’s article here).]

    Skip to content