Archive for May, 2011

If any of those people, whom Sperlein has already named on the case, are reading this, you definitely need to start actively looking for attorneys. (Those who are not yet named might want to start talking to attorneys as well.) I would suggest that you start calling those California attorneys, who are on the list provided by EFF. (There is also a List of Attorneys from Subpoena Defense Alliance, but I am not sure whether it is up to date.) Ask those attorneys if they would be willing to represent several people with the same defense (I have listed several defense categories below). This way people with similar defense argumentation can get together, polish arguments, and hopefully save on attorney fees. If you find an attorney for a particular category, please list his information in a comment to this post. Then we’ll discuss this attorney, and people in the
relevant defense category will decide whether they would like to join the group represented by this attorney. I suggest taking part in this discussion before committing to one particular attorney: it will be more efficient if people in one defense category will end up in one group. If people in one group like two or three attorneys, they can try asking those attorneys to work together for the entire group – like EFF and Public Citizen attorneys did.

Here is my list of possible defense categories. If I forgot something, or if you have better ideas, please comment.

1. Those who never used or downloaded the eDonkey client and have an unsecured wireless router. Note that the troll is accusing you of negligence and states that “AT&T requires in its Terms of Use that subscribers secure wireless routers with a password.” (See case Docket 41, p.22.) Please look at the Terms of Use and make sure that this fact is not misrepresented. Also note that you will likely have to submit all your computer equipment for technical investigation: the troll will be looking for traces of IO Group’s products and eDonkey client.

2. Those who have been using eDonkey but did not intend to download any copyrighted product or any pornography (as indicated by the innocent file name listed above the title of the allegedly infringed movie on p.2 of the ransom letter). I believe that your defense should claim (and you will need evidence to substantiate this claim) that one can find plenty of legally free files on eDonkey and you were looking for one of such files, as the file name listed in the letter indicates. In order to entrap you, someone renamed one of IO Group’s products to make the file name look like the name of the free file that you were searching for. Under your circumstances, Sperlein’s conspiracy argument sounds ridiculous. Note, however, that he may claim that it was a negligent or accidental distribution and you are still liable under 17 U.S.C. § 504 and 505. I believe that if you were entrapped, you should not be liable, but only an experience copyright attorney can give you a credible opinion on this matter.

3. Those who have been using eDonkey and were looking for freely distributed (i.e. not copyrighted) pornography (as indicated by the file name listed above the title of the allegedly infringed movie on p.2 of the ransom letter). All the arguments for group 2 above hold for you, but I hope that you understand that the defendants in group 2 would prefer not to be associated with pornography. In addition, your attorney will need to explain how you were going to distinguish free pornography from copyrighted one.

4. Those who were looking for some particular copyrighted non-pornography product. The troll will probably do his best to claim civil conspiracy to infringe copyright (in general). Note how he claims that “the eDonkey2000 Network is used almost exclusively to locate, reproduce, and distribute infringing content” (Docket 41, p.18). Your attorney will have to work on this issue.

5. Those who were looking for some particular copyrighted pornography product. I don’t really know whether it will make a difference whether it was IO Group’s product or some other copyrighted porno, but, even though I hate the idea of feeding trolls, settling is probably your best option, unless you can find an attorney who will agree to defend you pro bona. I don’t hope. However that you will find such attorney.

6. Those whose ransom letters show the file name that cannot be interpreted (for example, -江蕙 酒候的心聲.rar). In your place, I would consult a cryptographer to see whether this unreadable sequence actually means something, and after this consultation see whether you fall into one of the categories listed above.

Please limit the subjects of comments in this thread only to discussing the categories and attorneys that could work with those. I suggest using other posts for other topics. If you’d like to see a post with a new topic, please send me an e-mail with the text that you suggest for this topic.
A reminder: try to limit your communications with Mr. Sperlein to an absolutely necessary minimum, and avoid disclosing your defense to him. He will do his best to turn your words upside down and use them against you.

The troll started naming people. First amended complaint was filed. He also voluntary dismissed 51 Does, which means that he collected ransom ) (~90K) from about 20% of the crowd (http://www.scribd.com/doc/56205389/310-Cv-03647-WHA-Docket-40-Partial-Dismissal).

This guy is cunning, relentless and dangerous. If this situation slips under EFF’s radar (and I’m afraid it will – they don’t have time even to read emails), a dangerous precedent can be set.

He must be stopped. Please share ideas how.

AT&T finally succumbed to troll’s threats and coughed out our identities. People started receiving threatening letters. All the letters have perfect wording that humbles kidnapper’s ransom demand notes in many ways.

Mr. Sperlein gives ridiculously short time to come up with ransom, so people wouldn’t understand what’s going on and pay out of uncertainty and fear. Giving just a couple of days while the case was initially filed almost a year ago is unsurprisingly brutal.

I’ve been receiving many e-mails from the victims. All of them except one said that they never downloaded movies in question. Unproportionally large number of those e-mails came from women. Given the accusations in GAY PORNOGRAPHY, that’s another red flag pointing to large-scale scam launched by Mr. Sperlein. Some people indicated that they never heard about this issue before, probably because they have not seen AT&T’s February email, it could be filtered as spam, or just overlooked – AT&T sends many junk letters to its subscribers.

While being cunning and smart lawyer, Mr. Sperlein is absolutely ignorant in technology. He made one huge mistake in those letters, I will explain it in due time.

I have no moral right to ask victims to fight and not to pay ransom, but in my personal opinion, for those who did not download IO Group’s gay pornography, the defense arguments are pretty strong. I would wait for more information: in particular, for the outcome of the case management conference scheduled for June 2, and for developments in other IO Group’s cases.

Note that in his letter, Mr. Sperlein threatens to name you on his complain, thus making your name publically associated with gay pornography, if you don’t contact him by Monday, May 23rd. It is up to you if you want to communicate to Mr. Sperlein that you are innocent, but keep in mind that Mr. Sperlein is brutally cunning, so keep your communication to an absolute minimum: you never know how your extra words can be turned against you by a troll.

Also, try to hide your identify when posting case-related materials and comments online – Sperlein is famous for selective prosecution of those who dared to threaten his extortion business. Publicity is a serious threat. Among the privacy techniques are using anonymous e-mail address created specifically for this case (yahoo, aol etc.) and using an anonymity network Tor.

I have uploaded a recent document from a similar case (IO Group, Inc., v. Does 1-50 Inclusive) at a more advanced stage: Sperlein has named 26 defendants, and he is really pushing his idea of conspiracy. Since many Bit-torrent cases and two Sperlein’s cases were dismissed because of improper joinder (see my Dockets 25 and 38), I believe that it makes a lot of sense to fight against this ridiculous conspiracy claim.

The motion to dismiss had been struck on procedural grounds, which is fair: a serious judge won’t allow violations of court rules.

The idea of my motions was to inform the judge on what’s going on and create some publicity, I did not expect to be treated seriously as an anonymous party: I was even surprised that my motions were filed at all.

So I feel fine at this moment, despite the fact that I expect threatening letters and calls from the troll will start arriving soon.

Good article on TechDirt: Judge Slams Copyright Troll Lawyer John Steele’s Latest ‘Fishing Expedition’

Another major publication, ArsTechnica, posted an article on the same topic: After botched child porn raid, judge sees the light on IP addresses

There are some comments about case in discussion sections of both articles.

Uploaded major 2011 dockets to Scribd