Default judgment may threaten trolls’ “business” (troll Ryan Stevens gets whooping $1500 from both defaulted defendants)

Posted: February 13, 2012 by SJD in Lipscomb
Tags: , , , , , , , ,


Copyright troll Ryan Stevens

A porn copyright troll Ryan Stevens of Arizona filed the case 11-cv-01604-NVW against 54 John Does¹ in August 2011. Later the complaint was amended to name five individuals, and the court issued summons on December 12. Three of the named defendants replied to accusations (one of them even went on offensive and filed a request for production of multiple documents by plaintiff²), but the other two did not bother to reply. Not surprisingly, defaults were entered for those two, and on Thursday February 9, Judge Neil V. Wake ordered each of two defendants to pay plaintiff $750, the lowest allowed award.

Although the copyright law’s maximum statutory awards are unconstitutionally high when considered against individuals — $30,000 or even $150,000 (if infringement is willful) — judges have the power to lower the amount to $750 (or even to $200 for innocent infringement).

Using this power, judges can easily damage trolls’ “business” by simply awarding the minimum $750 in each case that manages to make it all the way to a judgment (and the only such cases are those in which defendants ignored court summons). If other judges adopt this practice, suddenly it will be obvious to anyone how hollow trolls’ threats are. It’s a no brainer that if the worst-case scenario is parting with $750 (and the probability of such an event is extremely low), settling is outright stupid.

Trolls claim that their cases are as strong as brick houses, but a reasonably curious person discovers in an hour of research that instead of mortar, those seemingly solid buildings use fear. Once no one is scared anymore, a spectacular collapse of trolls’ creations is inevitable.

It is fair to note that other judges across the country ruled differently in similar cases, thus there is no established case law, so maybe my optimistic speculations look like wishful thinking. Well… I call it “hope”.


¹K-Beech, a porn company run by a convicted criminal’s goon Kevin Beechum, who organized vandalizing of adult bookstores in the past.

²Both the request and the answer have been later stricken by the judge.

Comments
  1. JohnD says:

    Maybe a dumb question, were the two default judgements against Arizona residents?

    • I don’t know: after the last quarter Pacer bill I’m reluctant to download documents. Documents 23 and 27 should have addresses, but they are not in Recap yet.

      • DieTrollDie says:

        I know the PACER feeling. :( This good news in a sense as new potential trolls may see that it isn’t as lucrative as they are told. Can’t wait to see what the three remaining Does do. Thanks

        DTD :)

  2. Raul says:

    in another development Judge Williams in the District of Maryland (11-cv-01776) on 2-8-12 denied an award of damages against two defaulting defendants because, at this juncture, the plaintiff, Patrick Collins, had not posited proof that it holds a valid copyright registration for its movie “Anal Fanatic 2″. Likewise the Judge denied an award of attorneys fees, at this juncture, because plaintiff’s counsel failed to explain the amount requested in any detail. Plaintiff and its counsel have 10 days to cure the defects.

    • Anonymous says:

      Wow, these guys really aren’t prepared to follow through with these cases. As long as they’re winning one would expect them to be ready with this stuff.

      At least in this case, the work in question appears in the Copyright Office’s database, which is bad for the defendants as it does open them up to statutory damages. Unlike many cases these guys at least bothered to register, that might be something to look for in cases where Trolls go after individuals, I would assume cases they follow through with have the highest chances of actually being registered works. FYI you can always check if a work is registered at the Copyright Office’s site, if everyone does this for the case or cases they are watching, we can keep an eye on where the Trolls are committing fraud:

      http://www.copyright.gov/records/

  3. johndoeanonymous09878 says:

    Shrieber – Mesa, AZ, Valdez – Glendale, AZ

  4. SleeplessinSodomyofLaw says:

    I really hope the judges see the scam and shake down this whole issue is. I counted 5649 cases filed since Jan 1. If these trolls were really interested in stopping piracy they would be working with ISP to warn and block the thieves.
    With reasonable judgements, I think even 750 is high for a $1 rental porn – but is is ok to detter the real culprit, the trolls will soon realize it is not worth their time, especially if they are asked to file individual cases.
    If their real intent is piracy, they will work with a different and more acceptable approach. I am not for piracy, and have been names as a John Doe. I have never downloaded any movie and this whole thing as messed up my life for the last week. I don’t know how many times these trolls will keep coming after me just because they say my IP address showed up on some list. I have taken down my wireless router and soon will have to disconnect my internet connection if I have pay the extortion. I just don’t have the money or means to feed the greedy pigs.

  5. SleeplessinSodomyofLaw says:

    I mean 5649 defendents (John Does) since Jan1.

  6. FWIT says:

    Deciding to take a default judgment is like driving down the wrong side of the street. These cases are good news as far as they go. They imply that you would be doing it at 2am rather than rush hour, but it is not a good idea in either case.

  7. Scared 'n Sad says:

    Great article. Would you describe those other judges’ judgements you mentioned. I’m one of those scared ones who settled: hurt locker.

  8. [...] a total damage award of $1500. The good folks over at FightCopyrightTrolls.com wrote a great little piece about how such a small damages award jeopardizes the entire copyright plaintiff business model. [...]

  9. [...] a total damage award of $1500. The good folks over at FightCopyrightTrolls.com wrote a great little piece about how such a small damages award jeopardizes the entire copyright plaintiff business model. [...]

  10. trolltrash says:

    Does anyone know or have any idea what will happen to Hasmi’s cases if he is not allowed to practice law in Florida?

    Will they all just be thrown out?

    • FWIT says:

      Not necessarily. While everybody talks about the lawyers these cases are on behalf of the clients. The clients might not actually know the lawyer is practicing law illegally (and its a pretty decent bet they don’t). They could substitute counsel and press onward.

      • trolltrash says:

        Thanks FWIT.
        So they (Third Degree Films) would not have to start all over say from the subpoena process with another attorney?

        If Hasmi is not permitted wouldnt all his paperwork filings be tossed?

    • Anonymous says:

      He can still dump them to another lawyer, so long as he doesn’t receive some sort of compensation for the referral.

  11. Watching the fall says:

    Looked back at the 4 cases that RS filed on 8/15/11. Of the 2 cases he got default judgements. Each default judgement was for the minimum $750. There were 3 defendants ensnared. In the one case he was awarded $60.XX in attorney’s fees. So that is like 1/2 hr. of work. Got to love it. In actuality using the templates he probably only invested that much time. Google mapping the drive time from Flagstaff to Phoenix shows it to be about 2 1/2 hrs each way. So for his appearances in the Phoenix courtroom he really put in a lot of time on the road and was not compensated for it. I’m sure he spent most of the default judgements on gas and food. Silly troll, tricks are for kids.

    Now I did not add up the total number of settlements in all these cases, but I imagine it would put him in the $40K / year salary range. Probably not to lucrative so he went back to chases ambulances and defending DUI cases from where he came.

  12. […] conduct, it is plausible that the lowest statutory damages ($750 per work) would be awarded. We saw $750 default judgments in Arizona, which, in my opinion, seriously damaged troll operations in this […]

  13. […] to devalue this fear factor: with rare exceptions (mainly default judgments), judges tend to be reasonable and issue judgments close to the low end of the range, which is $750 per […]

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