Tag Archives: smaller bittorrent cases

UPDATE 3: More of Mike Meier bittorrent cases consolidated.

*** UPDATE (3/13, 11:45am CST): I might need to backpedal a bit here. I received word from an attorney who had ears in yesterday’s hearing that Judge Forrest is not going to bust these cases as I thought she would. The reason for the consolidations is to treat them as one larger case so that the rulings in each of the cases will be consistent throughout his many cases. I am editing yesterday’s blog posts with cross-outs (example) and underlines (example) so you can see where I am changing the tone of the blog post from overly optimistic to slightly somber. I will obviously post about the judge’s order [UPDATE 3/14: HERE – see comments below for commentary] once it becomes available. ***

*** UPDATE (3/12): As we initially discussed last week, *new cases* have been handed over to Judge Forrest so that she can adjudicate the smaller bittorrent cases together. I have added them to the list below. They are not yet listed as part of the “consolidated” case list (in Case No. 1:11-cv-09705), but if you look at the case dockets for each case, the notations that Judge Forrest is now handling them should tip you off that these cases too are now in trouble are now under her scrutiny. ***

New Cases Now Handled By Judge Forrest:

Combat Zone Corp. v. Does 1-63 (Case No. 1:11-cv-09688)
Digital Sin, Inc. v. Does 1 – 179 (Case No. 1:11-cv-08172)
Media Products, Inc. v. Does 1-55 (Case No. 1:11-cv-09550)
Media Products, Inc. v. Does 1-36 (Case No. 1:12-cv-00129)
Media Products, Inc. v. Does 1-142 (Case No. 1:12-cv-01099)
Next Phase Distribution, Inc. v. Does 1-138 (Case No. 1:11-cv-09706)
Patrick Collins, Inc. v. Does 1-115 (Case No. 1:11-cv-09705)
SBO Pictures, Inc. v. Does 1-92 (Case No. 1:11-cv-07999)
SBO Pictures, Inc. v. Does 1-154 (Case No. 1:12-cv-01169)
Third Degree Films, Inc. v. Does 1-216 (Case No. 1:11-cv-09618)
Third Degree Films, Inc. v. Does 1-217 (Case No. 1:11-cv-07564)
Zero Tolerance Entertainment, Inc. v. Does 1-56 (Case No. 1:11-cv-09703)

This is obviously relatively good news for the roughly 1,200+ John Doe Defendants who can now breathe a bit more easily knowing that their plaintiff attorney’s cases are in trouble because 1) we now know that the judge is VERY aware of the MANY cases pending against the many Doe Defendants, and 2) rulings across the board will now be consistent — you will no longer have one judge letting one bittorrent case move forward, and another judge dismissing his bittorrent case for lack of joinder or improper jurisdiction. You can read about the judge’s order regarding the original consolidated cases in our “New York Judge consolidates and freezes SMALLER BITTORRENT CASES for plaintiff attorney” article. No doubt similar orders will in time be written for these additional cases.

On a related note, Judge Forrest is not the only New York District Judge who has figured out what is going on with these copyright infringement (“copyright troll”) cases.

Judge Colleen McMahon (no doubt these judges talk to each other about their cases) has issued an order in two cases (so far; response due 3/30) demanding that Mike Meier tell the court why his cases should not be dismissed due to the inherent joinder issues in his cases (e.g., how bittorrent users can be sued together under the theory that they committed the “same crime at the same time” theory [when according to the plaintiff’s complaint, the bittorrent users committed the illegal act of downloading and/or seeding the copyrighted materials sometimes weeks if not months apart]).

What I enjoyed most in the order was that Judge McMahon accused Mike Meier of [essentially] CHEATING the court out of the $350 fees for each of the 138 defendants (e.g., theft from the court of $47,950) who, according to the judge’s opinion should have been sued in SEPARATE cases. In addition, she states that the “misjoinder has resulted in an undercounting of the number of cases filed in this court and a concomitant distortion of the size of the court’s docket.” To make matters laughable, in response to a request from Mike Meier regarding one of the cases, she wrote, “[u]ntil I have decided whether joinder of these 139 defendants is proper-which I very much doubt-there will be no discovery. Motion denied. Get to work on responding to any order to show cause.”

Cases involved:

Patrick Collins, Inc., d/b/a Elegant Angel v. John Does 1-139 (Case No. 1:12-cv-01098)
Media Products, Inc. v. Does 1-59 (Case No. 1:12-cv-00125)

I don’t know about you, but when a judge accuses you of stealing $47,950 from the court, wouldn’t you worry that your cases won’t win? I expect to see more of these in the coming days and weeks with his other cases. More significantly, I’d be surprised if I saw any more filings from Mike Meier in the Southern District of New York. The last thing a copyright troll wants is a judge as an enemy who aggressively goes after his cases.

What to do about these smaller Doe bittorrent cases?

The bittorrent cases are speeding up, both in number of cases filed, and in the issues relating to the cases. Judges are smartening up to what is going on, and I am seeing the smaller “Does 1-23” cases ripped to shreds in the courts. But, because they are so small, the activities in each case are falling below the radar.

These smaller cases are now filed in the multiple courts across the country — the correct courts — with the John Doe Defendants often living in the states in which they are sued. Thus, there are no more motion to quash issues, and there are no more “wrong jurisdiction” arguments.

However, while NEARLY ALL the smaller lawsuits still have “improper joinder” issues (meaning, suing Does together in the same lawsuit who did not participate in the same swarm; thus, they did not take part in the same transaction at the same time), THE CASES ARE SIMPLY NOT GOING TO TRIAL and thus defendants are not getting the chance to contest improper joinder.

The problem with these smaller cases is that 1) the settlement amounts are elevated, and 2) the risk of being named as a defendant goes through the roof because all that is required to name defendants in these smaller cases is that the plaintiff merely needs to amend the complaint against a particular Doe (thus the case will change from Patrick Collins, Inc. v. Does 1-30 to Patrick Collins v. “Elliot Hendel” and Does 1-29 [this name is merely fictitious]), and then someone comes knocking at Elliot’s home and serves him a copy of the complaint. At that point if he has not already done so [and he should have hired an attorney immediately upon having notice from his ISP that he was one of the Does in this case], he has to hire an attorney to respond within 20 days with his answer and his counterclaims, or he will default (which means the court can enter a default judgment against him for the full $150,000).

However, the BIG SECRET is that for the most part, these defendants do NOT get named as defendants, and they remain anonymous as far as what is visible from the court’s eyes. Instead, the plaintiff attorneys scare the b’jeebies out of them and cause them in some cases to sign [in many cases] an “I’m guilty, I’m sorry, I’ll never do it again” settlement agreement. The end result is that they end up paying significantly more than they would have if they merely called an attorney and had that attorney negotiate on their behalf. To make matters worse, defendants do not realize that there are really three-tiers of settlement prices (not two) — 1) the plaintiff attorney’s asking price (the “pay us $X by this date or else we’ll name you as a defendant in this case” amount), 2) defendant-negotiated price, and 3) attorney-negotiated price.

When the defendant tries to negotiate his settlement on his own, the likelihood is that he will probably say something incriminating about his case. (For example, not knowing the case law, he may say, “it wasn’t me; it was probably my son — he uses the internet all the time; I keep telling him not to watch that porn,” or “I let my neighbor / son / guest / roommate use my internet,” or “I didn’t realize it was illegal to download — I thought it was only illegal to upload!” etc.) The result is that the plaintiff says, “thank you for telling me you are guilty; the offer is now off the table and I will see you in court <click>,” only to call back shortly afterwards and, in the graces of his heart, he will offer a new settlement amount which is nearly double the asking price of the original settlement amount.

It is not only important to have an attorney negotiate your settlement amount 1) because he can, and 2) he won’t incriminate you while you would likely incriminate yourself, but also, the attorney knows the case law [which is not so obvious], and he knows what to put into a settlement agreement so that the settling defendant does not later get sued for the same claim, attorney fees, etc. It kills me to see so many people turn around and try to settle on their own without reading what they are agreeing to. What burns me more is when attorneys don’t read the contracts they have their clients agree to.

…In short, the plaintiff attorney mops up the floor with the defendants, and many of the defendants (if not most of them) turn over and lay dead while they capitulate and settle their cases. Had they lawyered-up, they would have known how to protect themselves. Better yet, their lawyer would have stepped in their shoes and the plaintiff attorneys would not have even been allowed to contact the defendants in the first place. No letters, no scare tactics; no threats.

Everything being said, one thing that most don’t even bother to find out is who exactly their plaintiff attorneys are. In more cases than not, the plaintiff attorney is merely a guy in a room with a laptop and a phone. Sometimes there is a second lawyer guy in the room making phone calls scaring the defendants into settling — a two-man show. …Do you really think this one or two-man show actually has the ability to sue more than just a few defendants, and if you defendants lawyered-up, do you think the plaintiff attorneys would have the time to name each and every one of you? AND if they named each and every one of you (which is literally impossible because to serve each one of you with service of process would be nearly impossible to track and there are bound to be significant errors), do you think they would have time to respond to each and every one our discovery requests?

As your attorney, when I defend you, I have a duty to properly protect your interests. That means that us attorneys must establish evidence that calls into question their so-called experts’ methods in collecting IP addresses (see here for just a taste). We need to call into question their methods of suing multiple Does in one lawsuit. We need to fight them procedurally with motions to dismiss, motions for summary judgement, and in some cases, motions for sanctions.

Do you think that the one-man show attorney and their underlying plaintiff (too often, the porn production company) can handle the hours of deposition time that EACH OF YOU DEFENDANT would be entitled to? What about their so-called experts? Do you think they have the time to answer all our in-person depositions for each defendant? What about our interrogatories? What about our other discovery motions? Do you really think the one-man show — the attorney guy in the room with a laptop — has the time to spend going after each one of you when he can instead go after the unrepresented defendants who roll over and settle their cases?

To make these cases merely insulting, these plaintiff attorneys have been hiring no-name local-counsel attorneys to file their cases on their behalf (no disrespect to any of them; I understand they are doing it solely so that they can make a commission off of those who settle). As far as I understand, the local counsel often know absolutely NOTHING about these cases, but they talk a big game and then sheepishly refer you to someone else — an “in-house” negotiator, or the attorney behind the curtain — so that they can “close” the deal for them and scare you into settling. If you actually had us attorneys defend your cases rather than merely have us settle them, do you really think the BIG-8 ATTORNEYS (listed below) would have the time and the patience to babysit these local counsel when they ask for assistance after we file our own motions for discovery?

Thus, a client in these smaller Does 1-20 (or 1-50, or 1-80) cases does not need to settle, especially if they do not live in the jurisdiction in which they are sued. This is true regardless of whether the plaintiff attorney is Dunlap Grubb & Weaver (Nicholas Kurtz or Ellis Bennett), Steele Hansmeier (John Steele or Mark Lutz), Gill Sperlein, Ira Siegel, Keith Lipscomb, or even Marc Randazza.

We do know how to defend these smaller cases.