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Chowdhury Appeal. Opening Brief Due.March 17, 2014Chowdhury appealBRIEFING schedule set. Brief due 03/17/2014 for appellant Paul A. Duffy, Paul R. Hansmeier and John L. Steele. Appendix due 03/17/2014 fo r appellant Paul A. Duffy, Paul R. Hansmeier and John L. Steele. Pursuant to F.R.A.P. 31(a), appellee's brief will be due 30 days following service of appellant's brief and appellant's reply brief will…
Lightspeed Appeal: Oral ArgumentsApril 7, 2014 at 10:30 – 12:30Argument set for Monday, April 7, 2014, at 9:30 a.m. in the Main Courtroom, Room 2721. Each side limited to 15 minutes.   [13-3801] (RS)
Oral Arguments in the DC Appeals case.April 14, 2014 at 09:00 – 10:00the DC Appeals case.http://www.archive.org/download/gov.uscourts.cadc.12-7135/gov.u scourts.cadc.12-7135.01207571075.0.pdf
I’m glad to report a significant victory in the Eastern District of California: on Wednesday Magistrate Judge John F. Moulds granted a Motion for Protective Order and Reconsideration in one of Prenda’s lawsuits that employ a slimy trick of suing a single Doe but trying to obtain personal in formation of numerous co-conspirators in order to harass them later (Pacific Century International, Ltd v. Unknown, 2:11-cv-03479).
We don’t often witness a judge changing his opinion. For some reason many perceive this as a weakness, while I think that changing an opinion under compelling arguments is a sign of courage and wisdom. In this case judge finds that troll Brett Gibbs’s “arguments” were erroneous and he shouldn’t have allowed early discovery back in January.
One of the predatory features of this type of shake-down lawsuits is that at the time when fishing expeditions are approved by judges, there is no one to oppose worm-tongued trolls, and in many cases they experience no resistance up to the point when Doe identifying information is handed out to them. Fortunately for the Does in this case, an experienced attorney was able to crush trolls’ lies into pieces in the judge’s eyes. Moreover, judge went an extra mile and barred Prenda from contacting even those Does, whose information may have been already released.
Given the apparent mess in Prenda’s bookkeeping (need a proof? — read about their disastrous robocalling campaign), one of the alleged “co-conspirators” in this case will receive a call from an intelligent robot or not-so-intelligent Mark Lutz — it is just a matter of time. Stay alert, record and report to the court when it happens.
At least one more Prenda’s case is pending before this judge (CP Productions v. Unknown, 2:12-cv-00616), and it is a no-brainer to predict its outcome.
One thing worth noting: in this case subpoena was issued by another court, and judge denied an earlier motion to quash because “federal courts do not have authority to quash or modify a subpoena issued from another district, Fed. R. Civ. P. 45(c)(3)(A).” We can’t blame him for that. In my opinion, it’s the Illinois Bar Association who should investigate a clear violation of the rules of professional conduct:
4.4 (a) In representing a client, a lawyer shall not use means that have no substantial purpose other than to embarrass, delay, or burden a third person, or use methods of obtaining evidence that violate the legal rights of such a person.
Prenda (and some other trolls) very often secure subpoenas out of a court other than the one where their mass lawsuit is pending. This is per se a legitimate tactic: many respectable lawyers would use the same technique if they had to obtain testimony from a witness who lived in another state. The federal rules only permit a court to have personal jurisdiction over those persons and entities that are within 100 miles of the court according to FRCP 4(k)(1)(B). Where Prenda’s tactic falls apart is that entities, such as Comcast, Verizon or AT&T, generally are registered to do business in multiple states (and of course in California). Therefore, the subpoena could be issued out of the court where the action is pending without prejudicing anyone.
As we see, as soon as a motion to quash is filed by a pro se party in the court where the case is filed (and that’s a natural thing assume that this is the right court, isn’t it?), Prenda’s lawyers immediately point out that the movant should have filed that motion in the court that the troll chose to issue the subpoena, and they almost always succeed in getting the judge to deny the motion. So, it can’t be clearer that the reason to issue subpoena out of a different court is a dirty trick with the sole purpose to create confusion and burden defendants and their attorneys with necessity to argue different defenses in two courts rather than one.
This tactic does not go unnoticed though: Judge Wilkins recently expressed his concern in his recent historic ruling:
…there is nothing in the record showing why this forum was appropriate to issue a subpoena for personal identifying information for all 351 Comcast subscribers. Engaging in “one stop shopping” in the District of Columbia for the personal identifying information for all Comcast subscribers may be convenient, for whatever reason, to the Plaintiff. Nonetheless, this approach hardly demonstrates compliance with the Plaintiff’s affirmative duty pursuant to Rule 45 to take “reasonable steps” to avoid undue burden and territorial inconvenience to the 348 (among the 351 total) subscribers residing outside of the District of Columbia.
Forcing the Comcast subscribers to litigate their objections in a distant forum is completely unnecessary, since the Plaintiff can serve a subpoena upon Comcast in any judicial district where Comcast subscribers reside.
In the meantime, the Illinois Bar Association remains silent as usual: it’s hard to talk with the head deep in the sand.
This is a story of a John Doe from Pennsylvania, who was an extortion target in a mass trolling lawsuit K-Beech v. Does 1-78 (5:11-cv-05060) filed by a pornotroll Christopher Fiore. As it happens with any such lawsuit, it was dismissedwithout prejudice after trolls extorted enough money from those who succumbed to fear, those who did not realize that they were duped by a con artist and virtually nothing would go differently if they decided not to pay. To create a smokescreen of legitimacy and in a hope to wrestle more payments, trolls sometimes file individual lawsuits. So, Fiore filed 9 such lawsuits against IP addresses that were dismissed earlier. Our Doe was targeted in one of those.
Armed with the fact that the truth is on his side, John Doe picked up the fight and filed motions in both lawsuits (mass and individual), and, although the judge sided with K-Beech and denied the motions, finally the troll dismissed this lawsuit with prejudice and moved forward to shakedown fresh meat.
I don’t want to go into too many details, you will hear them. In addition, DieTrollDie wrote a post about this case around the time of its filing: reading the comments to this post, you will get the details of this story unfolding.
Hacker Public Radio is a podcast radio that runs community-contributed shows every weekday, and our Doe recorded a very articulate story about his ordeal. I like it in its entirety, but one particular analogy is hilarious in its precision:
Picture yourself driving in the city at night and you stop at a traffic light and there is a prostitute standing on a corner; and she just turns her head and looks in your car. Just as she does, there is a guy across the block who takes a picture of the two of you, and then later on he gets a hold on you and threatens you: that if you don’t pay him, he’s going to tell everyone that you are soliciting a prostitute, and that may be embarrassing. So, whether you were or weren’t, it does not matter: since he says he has a picture of the whole thing. So, you just give him the finger and say “you don’t have a proof, you just have a picture, that does not prove anything.” But what would your family think if they heard about you involved with a prostitute, or what would your neighbors think, what would your boss think? Or, you just may pay him to go away. And enough people pay: that’s the business model of the copyright trolls.
I hope that those victims who are still confused will find comfort and encouragement to stand against bullies. For a curious passerby who wants to understand the anatomy of the legal plague, which we call copyright trolling, this is a very good introduction. Enjoy!
At any given moment, tens of thousands share porn using bittorent.
Somewhere in Minnesota, a “forensic expert” spends sleepless nights in front of his monitor, tracking down evil porn pirates, writing IP addresses on a stained notepad with an obtuse pencil, and, opening a new box of Kleenex, carefully comparing downloaded flicks with master copies provided by pornographers, scene by scene, to make sure there is no mistake.
Given the faulty collection methods of such “experts” and their dontgiveafuckness about high collateral damage rate, it does not matter whether you are guilty or not: even if you never heard about bittorent, you are not immune to finding a scary letter in your mailbox one day. Wiping sweat from the forehead with a shaking palm, you, a “winner” of the “reverse lottery,” will learn about the prospects of selling your house, forgetting about your children’s education, and working years and years for free in order to pay $150,000 to the creators of the most useful of arts, low budget pornography.
But wait! The author of this letter, Joseph Perea¹, is not a douchebag, as fightcopyrighttrolls.com and dietrolldie.com try portraying him! He is a Santa Claus, bringing a gift of relief in a form of small, almost nominal fee to make this nightmare to go away! Just pay $3,400 and this ordeal will turn into an educational story you will tell your grandchildren many years down the road, a story about a wise choice.
It is difficult to get rid of the following question though: what happens to you if you refuse to pay? As the letter suggests, a lawsuit will be commenced against you personally and you will lose, sell your house, work for free… Right?
Wrong! Given the history of Prenda Law (as well as any other troll), out of 300,000 targets, not a single person was found liable based on merits. All the “victories” either resulted from default judgments (when a person ignores court orders — not wise) or instances when a not litigation-savvy defendant incriminates himself by talking too much.
Yes, we know, there were individual lawsuits filed, but most of them went nowhere, and two even turned against the crooks. A defendant-turned-plaintiff in one of those two lawsuits, Liuxia Wong, not only managed to be left alone, but also received some money from the blackmailers. Recently Prenda attempted a new round of FUD, filing more than 50 “individual”² lawsuits in three states, but it was too late: the majority of targets, after spending a day on the Internet and understanding the anatomy of the scam, started openly laughing at the trolls and replying to the hollow threats properly:
Needless to say, the author of this response never heard from Prenda again.
Thanks to the author for making my (and, I hope, yours) day.
The document is mirrored here for those who can’t access Scribd.
Apparently I was overoptimistic: this gentleman has heard again from the crooks, which provoked an expected result. I simply fail to understand a masochist Steele, who keeps deliberately inviting pain into his ass.
¹Perea recently broke from Prenda to pursue a solo troll career Update: it’s just another dirty game: Perea still signs Prenda’s papers.
²All these cases are filed against a “Doe,” not a named individual.
This spring Comcast, to our pleasant surprise, started consistently refusing to hand over names, phone numbers and addresses of its customers, accused of copyright infringement, to the infamous copyright troll Prenda Law (John Steele). Prenda, formally represented by Paul A. Duffy, sued Comcast, trying to wrestle ISP into compliance with subpoenas.
Whatever the outcome, Comcast’s protest is part of a growing trend in which Internet providers object to handing over subscriber data in mass-BitTorrent cases. Previously, Verizon did the same, successfully arguing that it has an obligation to protect the privacy of its customers.
After getting admonished by Judge McMahon as explained in a recent post, copyright troll Mike Meier has an audacity to file another passel of lawsuits in the Southern District of New York. One of these lawsuits, Combat Zone, v. Does 1-34 (12-cv-4133) gets assigned to the troll’s nemesis, Judge McMahon (you know this will not end well for the troll). Meier moves for expedited discovery which Judge McMahon denies and she orders Meier to show cause, in light of her earlier Order in Digital Sins, why she should not sever Does 2-34 in this new lawsuit. Meier puts in his response and on 6/18 Judge McMahon hands down her Order severing Does 2-34. Excerpts:
First, Counsel argues that I should permit these defendants to be joined because I have been inconsistent on this issue…To which I say, with Justice Holmes, that a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds…
Second, plaintiff calls my attention to the fact that my colleagues Judges Forrest and Nathan have reached a different conclusion in “swarm” cases… I respectfully disagreed with my learned colleagues then and I continue to do so now, having concluded that other precedents were more persuasive in light of the Second Circuit’s holding-never overturned, despite advances in technology-that permissive joinder is not authorized when a large number of people use the same method to violate the law.
finally, and to get the full flavor you need to recall that Meier always seems to find a convenient excuse not to pursue Doe 1 after severance (in discussing the reliability of Meier’s geolocation technology),
In Digital Sin, I allowed plaintiff to proceed against Doe 1 (after severing the other 246 John Does), only to have plaintiff’s counsel file a discontinuance in short order; the cited ground was that plaintiff had learned that Doe1-his geolocation technology notwithstanding-was not a New York resident and was not amenable to suit in the Southern District of New york! I commend counsel for his candor in admitting the want of jurisdiction once it was uncovered, but he makes my point: the amenability of these defendants to suit in this district is suspect.
Remember how Texas judge Lynn N. Hughes lashed copyright troll McIntyre over his sloppiness (and, although judge never said it explicitly, douchbaggery)? Remember an amusing line “The court is not an ex-girlfriend’s Facebook wall” that went mini-viral (retweeted by many famous tweeps)?
After obtaining some information about Does from ISPs, crook McIntyre was getting ready to send out blackmail letters, and, to avoid further scrutiny, tried to silently dismiss the case without prejudice on 5/25/12 — a normal troll modus operandi. Fortunately for Does, judge noticed that, and, clearly understanding that his court was cynically used as an instrument of extortion, issued an unprecedented order:
The case was finally dismissed on 6/15 as McIntyre wanted, but with prejudice by judges’ order, and the troll was left empty handed. Kudos to judge Hughes, I wish all federal judges were as straightforward and intolerant to abuse as he is. I’m puzzled though: why wasn’t McIntyre slapped with sanctions?
To those who can’t read the embedded document:
Case 4:11-cv-04431 Document 21 Filed in TXSD on 06/08/12
First Time Videos, LLC, Plaintiff, versus Does 1-46, Defendant.
Order to Prevent the Misuse of Discovery
First Time Videos sued 46 Does then used pre-trial discovery to search for actual defendants. After it had obtained the personal information of 15 people, it did not tell the court what it had discovered or how it had used this information.
first Time has abused its opportunity for discovery. It has insufficiently cooperated with the court and now wants to abandon its claims without explanation.
It may not use the information it has received; it must destroy it.
Prenda law, one of the sleaziest law firms in the US history, a brainchild of a divorce-lawyer-turned-copyright-troll John Steele, uses a super-secret homebrewed software, written by unlicensed wannabe forensic experts, to monitor bittorent traffic and harvest IP addresses of internet users who allegedly share allegedly copyrighted pornographic movies that belong to allegedly¹ legitimate rights holders. As soon as courts order Internet Service Providers to hand over the actual contact details of both hapless file-sharers and completely innocent people, this information is subsequently used to wrestle people into paying a “small” settlement amount, usually $3,000-$4,000, to avoid allegedly impeding costly litigation and the embarrassment of being publicly associated with pornography. Threatening letters and never-ending harassing phone calls comprise mostly lies, induce fear and suppress logical thinking in targeted citizens. As an unfortunate result, despite the obvious hollowness of the threats, many pay, regardless of guilt. Those who do not pay are almost never pursued in the court (although harassment calls continue for months). There are extremely rare cases when Prenda reluctantly files individual cases in an attempt to maintain an illusion of legitimacy.
Prior to the last week, these hollow threats and fear mongering were the responsibilities of Prenda’s paralegal Mark Lutz, who made tens of thousands of calls, reiterating the same script repeatedly. I bet that Mark stopped using phone to order pizza or taxi: if he would call those services, it would be very difficult for him not to tell a person on the other end of the line that he or she is named in a federal lawsuit, and should pay, or else… Anyway, these “live person” calls are considered an acceptable practice, and, despite sleaziness and lies featured in every call, technically are legal and not even in conflict with legal ethics.
However, as of the last week, Prenda Law started placing pre-recorded phone calls (“robocalls”) to the entire list of phone numbers they were able to acquire over the last year or so. If you read this blog’s comments and DieTrollDie’s blog, you are already aware of these developments. Today DieTrollDie posted a transcript of a Prenda’s automated call. So, Prenda’s fear-inducing engine was “upgraded” from a friendly-sounding dummy Lutz to an emotionless female-voiced robot: too much for Steele’s promise to hire an army of attorneys.
In other words, as automating legal threats is probably unprecedented, Steele finally loudly proclaimed that he and his “law firm” rather belong to the crooked world of scammers, spammers and debt collectors than to the sophisticated legalese-speaking crowd. We knew that from the day one, but it is always nice to hear the confirmation from the subject himself.
Society tolerates unsolicited robocalls more reluctantly than “live” ones, and therefore many states regulate such calls. Every state has its own rule, and in some states certain types of robocalls are illegal. I received many emails from people all over US, for example from California, where automatic calls “may be made to those with whom you have an ‘established relationship’.” It would be quite a cynical stretch for a blackmailer to claim an “established relationship” with its victim. One email came from Indiana, where “automated calls are prohibited without prior consent or unless a live operator comes on first.”
As I mentioned above, it seems that the entire database of phone numbers that Prenda managed to compile using courts as their private goons, made its way into the auto-dialing system. As a result, not only Does in currently pending cases started receiving calls, but also those who were previously dismissed, even with prejudice. Another category of people who is not supposed to receive any calls, less automatic, is those who retained an attorney: it is a big no-no to contact a represented party directly. Lastly, the recorded message claims, “at first, you will receive time sensitive documents,” nonetheless I’m aware of one guy who is already being individually sued, and who received such a call: threatening him with the impending lawsuit is bizarre to say the least.
In addition to dubious legality, lawyers who automate legal threats seemingly violate the Illinois Registration and Disciplinary Commission’s Rules of Professional Conduct (Remember: Prenda Law is incorporated in Florida and Illinois, and both John Steele and Paul Duffy — the actual and the fake boss, respectively — are Illinois-licensed attorneys, thus these rules are mandatory for them to follow). According to IARDC’s Rules,
4.3 In dealing on behalf of a client with a person who is not represented by counsel, a lawyer shall not state or imply that the lawyer is disinterested. When the lawyer knows or reasonably should know that the unrepresented person misunderstands the lawyer’s role in the matter, the lawyer shall make reasonable efforts to correct the misunderstanding. The lawyer shall not give legal advice to an unrepresented person, other than the advice to secure counsel, if the lawyer knows or reasonably should know that the interests of such a person are or have a reasonable possibility of being in conflict with the interests of the client.
A robocall is an explicit acknowledgement that an intended recipient is unrepresented. Otherwise, Prenda would brazenly violate one of the most enforced rules by deliberately bypassing a person’s attorney. Regardless of the wording of the call (and current wording violates both the letter and the spirit of the rule quoted above), “one-size-fits-all” one-way call inevitably runs afoul of this rule.
4.4 (a) In representing a client, a lawyer shall not use means that have no substantial purpose other than to embarrass, delay, or burden a third person, or use methods of obtaining evidence that violate the legal rights of such a person.
Sounds familiar? No comments necessary. I believe that other rules are violated as well (namely, 3.1 and 3.3). There is an interesting analysis of this subject posted by our friend on Current.com long time ago. Although this analysis may sound naïve from a legal pro’s viewpoint (and I admit that many of my speculations on the legal subjects may also be ingenuously dumb), the thoughts behind it are worth considering. In addition, ethics is not something that is easily codified, and common sense should always prevail over the letter of the rule if there is a conflict; in this respect, one does not have to have a formal legal training to tell right from wrong. When it comes to ethics, the principle “everything is allowed unless explicitly prohibited” is not applicable.
IARDC is an organization with a stated goal “to promote and protect the integrity of the legal profession.” So far, given apparent ostrich position when it comes to copyright trolling, IARDC deserves a solid B-. To the best of my knowledge (and according to John Steele’s words), many people complained to this organization, pointing to John Steele’s obvious disregard of ethics and immense harm to the reputation of the legal profession that he and his firm inflicts; nonetheless those complaints were either ignored, or declined². Probably prior to caring about the legal profession as a whole, IARDC should take care of its own integrity. I hope that the current event is a good (and maybe a critical) opportunity to crash trolls, as IARDC’s foreign colleagues, British regulators, did recently. If IARDC remains silent this time, many, including legal professionals, overwhelming majority of whom unambiguously condemns and despises the plague of bittorent “litigation campaign,” may perceive it really badly.
There is a funny bit in the message: Prenda’s geniuses could not master a simple call script, and placed the intended recipient’s name where it should not be: “This is [name] with Prenda Law.” As a result, every call implies that Prenda employs each callee. This blooper leads to a not-so-funny observation: the very same people, who cannot figure out how to use a one-line script, claim that the software they produced to collect IP addresses is impeccable! Moreover, it is just a tip of the iceberg: for example, who will believe in a company’s expertise if they cannot fix the contact form on their website for more than half a year?
What should I do if I receive such call?
An educated robot demonstrates how to properly respond when Prenda’s robots call
Many readers probably came here not to read these lengthy speculations, but rather in search for an answer to an important question: how do I react to these calls? A quick answer: ignore, and do not even think about calling back unless your lawyer does it for you. A long answer is distributed over posts and comments of this and other blogs. Your situation may be unique, and education is the key.
If you think that your time is too expensive to spend on research, you are probably rich enough to hire a lawyer. Hiring a lawyer is always a good thing, but if you cannot afford it, it is OK not to. Naturally, no lawyer would give you an advice to be on your own, and that is perfectly natural. Nonetheless, most attorneys who deeply understand this type of lawsuits would silently agree with me: unless your situation is complicated (e.g., you are a teacher, and your employment can be terminated if your name is associated with a teen porno case, even if you have nothing to do with it), spending money on a lawyer at this moment is as unreasonable as paying a ransom. Of course, if you are individually targeted, i.e. a lawsuit was filed against you personally or a very small group, and you have been served with summons, hiring an attorney is strongly advisable.
As always, I repeat: my advice is just a drop in the ocean of common sense: take my words with a grain of healthy skepticism, do your own research, weigh on opposing opinions, and act only when you clearly understand the situation.
If you are pissed off enough to strike back, you can help yourself and others by suing a robocaller in a small claims court. Since you are not found liable by any court (and most likely will never be), you owe absolutely nothing to Prenda. There are some encouraging precedents: for example, in the EDPA in Watson v. NCO Group, Judge Davis found that, in accordance with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, an individual can sue the owner of a robocaller that harassed him over a debt he did not owe. Unfortunately, TCPA violation fee is only $500. Class action is also an option.
This is undoubtedly a very dumb move by Prenda. Another dubious move: Prenda recently filed more than 50 “individual” cases in California, Illinois and Florida, though, as expected, they did not name defendants: all the cases are “[Pornographer] v. Doe.” Same boring fear mongering, nothing serious, but it is a theme for a different post. Looks like Prenda is on a final looting spree before authorities shut them down for good and close a very embarrassing chapter in the history of the US jurisprudence.
Thanks to those who replied to my request and sent me their stories, Raul and every one who commented about these developments: you’ve provided a treasure trove of information and insight! Special thanks to TexJenM who provided the call recording.
¹I couldn’t avoid using so many instances of the word “allegedly” because every step of the moneymaking scam has its own, in most cases unacceptable, flaws:
“Allegedly share.” the false positive rate is huge, which derives from many factors: poor quality of the detection software, ever-growing use of wireless internet coupled with intentional or unintentional lack of password protection and relative ease of hacking even protected wireless routers, human errors etc. Some researchers estimate the error rate as high as 30%; my opinion — about 15%.
“Allegedly copyrighted.” Although recently Prenda and other trolls pay more attention to making sure that their clients’ “works” are properly registered with the US Copyright Office, there are plenty of cases in which said “works” were improperly registered, therefore rights holders are barred from claiming statutory damages (up to $150,000). Needless to say, trolls always request statutory damages, which is fraud.
“Allegedly legitimate.” Some clients (Lighspeed Media, hard Drive Productions, CP productions) are registered in Arizona, where pornography production is illegal. Many other companies are registered offshore with an apparent sole goal to facilitate mass lawsuits.
As a result, this “litigation campaign,” portrayed as the only way to fight piracy and reclaim revenues lost allegedly (sorry!) due to it, appears to be a sleazy, error-ridden, unethical, and, in some instances, illegal moneymaking conspiracy, sometimes compared to a Mafioso operation.
²Actually, I do not know what is worse: a careful troll who quietly terrorizes population and keeps low profile, or someone like John Steele, who, being emboldened by regulators’ indifference (which is mistakenly perceived as approval), earlier or later loses the sense of reality and commits irreversible and self-destroying actions that are too gross to be ignored even by hard-butted IARDC bureaucrats.
The document that prompted this movie to be produced is embedded below. It is a response in opposition to motions filed by Nick Ranallo in the “CP Productions v. Unknown.” case. This intensity of lies is not even funny anymore. I could go point by point, but that’s most likely what Gibbs, Steele and their clique want. This is probably a new strategy the trolls have unleashed: to pack as many lies in a single court document as possible, so an honest defense lawyer would get sick of disbelief how low his colleague can fall, and subsequently either experience a writer’s block or spend months debunking each and every lie.
If you follow my tweeter feed and read this site’s comments, many facts in the mini-post series I plan to write are not new (maybe except for the actual demand letter presented below), yet I just wanted to register the latest developments in one of the most brazenly frivolous trolling lawsuits — Ligtspeed Media Corporation v. John Doe. This lawsuit was ill-conceived by one of the most hated US troll gangs led by John Steele in conspiracy with a well-known pornographer Steve “Lightspeed” Jones, whose market niche is showcasing very young girls. If you are new here, in order to gain some traction and enjoy the soap opera, please read the previous coverage:
Yes, even if you are a victim of this extortion plot, you still can enjoy this circus if you dedicate some time to learning why you should be intrigued, pissed off, amused, entertained… — you name it: anything but scared.
1. Early Halloween scare: Unusually lame demand letter
Thanks to a Prenda/Lightspeed’s extortion target who shared this letter with me. To be honest, I expected a better job from the “mega troll.” The main difference from copyright cases, where insane statutory damages apply, Computer Fraud and Abuse Act lacks such a provision, so given the absence of the $150,000 boogieman, the following attempts to scare recipients into paying are extremely weak, the threats are hollow, and the entire letter is simply unimpressive, good only for… (you’ll find out at the end)
This letter cites an old 2000 lawsuit for the preposition that widened the applicability of CFAA to cover non-protected computers (i.e. virtually any business) and equating Internet access with the interstate activity. Yet this demand letter is conveniently shy to mention that the cited precedent did not lower the $5,000 threshold of the actual damage that plaintiff is supposed to suffer in order for this law to become applicable. Therefore, the threat is hollow: even the Kafka disciples reunion would be unable to stretch their collective wild imagination to claim that a single Doe has damaged Lightspeed’s obscene business for more than $5,000 a year by simply accessing its member-only area, given the $40 unlimited access monthly fee.
The “spoliation of evidence” piece is especially laughable: Prenda always argues that Does are not parties to their lawsuits and have no standing to challenge the subpoenas yet the “formal notice” demanding to not delete or modify any files undeniably implies the opposite. You cannot have a cake and eat it too, scammers!
OK, I do not want to repeat all the points of insanity this father of all frivolous lawsuits managed to amass, please read the previous posts on the subject (linked above) if you have not read them yet.
The right way to use such a document was hinted by a community member (CTVic) long time ago:
You know what impresses me the most about their demand letters? The paper quality. 25% cotton bond with a beautiful watermark … it’s so soft to the touch, and doesn’t cause any abrasions or release any ink when I wipe my ass with it.
(Thanks to Raul who shared his thoughts about this document.)