IO Group v. Does 1-244 case, which I have been a part of, is effectively over. Today federal judge William Alsup ruled in plaintiff’s favor and entered the final default judgment against the two remaining defendants, Mariusz Pralat and Malgorzata Frazyk. Defendants were ordered to pay, jointly and severally¹, $20,000 to plaintiff.
This is not the first pyrrhic victory of this kind. Motions for default judgment were granted in this type of cases previously. Why “pyrrhic”? Firstly, it is not a judgment based on merits, but rather a technical decision. As stated in the order,
The fact that defendants refuse to participate in the judicial process renders a decision on the merits virtually impossible
Secondly, good luck to plaintiff collecting the abovementioned sum from the two who live in Wisconsin and Illinois. Maybe Sperlein will negotiate a nominal amount to be paid: his buddy troll Marc Randazza loves to brag about one particular default judgment, but conceals the fact that the actual payment he is receiving in installments is lower by orders of magnitude than the one awarded.
Though judge Alsup’s decision did not surprise me, I was disappointed by his shortsightedness and formalism. A judge of his rank should be capable of seeing the forest for the trees. He had an opportunity to crash the shakedown scheme in a way judge Gibney did, but decided to close his eyes on the bigger picture and concentrate on technicalities. Misled by Sperlein’s twisted assertions, he made numerous questionable statements in his ruling, especially while applying Eitel factors. I may go over each point of his analysis later, but for now I want to repeat: it was not the judgment based on merits, because no sane judge could possibly admit the “evidence” provided by a sleazy German company as a proof of wrongdoing.
Update: As I learned later, judge Alsup’s reputation is not that high among lawyers and litigants: read what they think about him.
If those two defendants had indeed received the summons and then deliberately did not answer to the complaint, I must admit that they brought this misery on themselves. I have been repeating over and over again that while ignoring ransom letters from a troll is the only right thing to do, not responding to official summons is plain stupid. Even if that’s the case, I still feel sympathy for these two: while reduced 3 times, the punishment is still grossly disproportionate.
Also, I’m not convinced that the two defendants have indeed received the papers. I have my reasons for this doubt, and I will elaborate on them in a separate post later.
I’m worried that this judgment can potentially prompt Sperlein’s return to copyright trolling arena: he has just obtained a BFG-9000 of fear that can be effectively used against poor students and closeted gays in order to extort settlements from them, though the likelihood of his return is rather low: Sperlein is obviously more clever than other trolls, and I don’t believe that he is blind and does not to see the growing opposition among victims, judges and the public in general. I was virtually alone when I confronted him half a year ago, now I have many good people on my side, including experienced and talented attorneys.
¹Under joint and several liability or all sums, a claimant may pursue an obligation against any one party as if they were jointly liable and it becomes the responsibility of the defendants to sort out their respective proportions of liability and payment. This means that if the claimant pursues one defendant and receives payment, that defendant must then pursue the other obligors for a contribution to their share of the liability.