Archive for the ‘Lesser trolls’ Category

An antiquated Florida’s Pure Bill of Discovery allows plaintiffs to obtain courts’ leave to perform discovery (including ex parte) without filing a lawsuit. Since the action based on this bill is not a lawsuit per se, the exclusive federal subject matter jurisdiction over copyright cases doesn’t apply, so discovery can be ordered by a local court. And because the evidence threshold for initiating such action is very low, it is inevitable that copyright trolls would exploit this easy way to harvest personally identifiable information of alleged file-sharers for subsequent shakedown.

John Steele and Keith Lipscomb obtained thousands of names using this loophole in the Miami-Dade county court years ago. In addition to this abuse-prone law, clueless judges, underfunded staff and lack of transparency make local courts a perfect breeding ground for the vermin. Trolls love local courts and always seek to take advantage of specific state loopholes: some tried to exploit a similar antiquated law in Pennsylvania, others attempted to masquerade copyright infringement claims as trademark ones in Oregon. The most infamous instances of local court abuses happened in Illinois.

We thought that the exploitation of this ancient law by the by copyright trolls is in the past: seemingly, the gullibility of judges in the Miami-Dade court was exhausted. Publicity also played its role. Alas, the cockroaches are very difficult to get rid of: they tend to move to other grounds when there is too much light.

As attorney Leonard French reports, Pure Bill of Discovery is currently being abused in another Florida local court — Brevard county court.

Since this lawsuit was hidden from the public eye in a county court, we didn’t know about it for more than a year! Only last week, after ISPs started warning their customers of the impending release of their names to the troll, we became aware of this case.

Alec D. Russell
Copyright troll
Alec D. Russell

The plaintiff is Canal Street Films — yet another failed movie producer who agreed to participate in this travesty to compensate for deservedly poor sales (“Scary or Die“). The scam is run by Alec D. Russell, an attorney employed by a large firm GrayRobinson. It is estimated that 150 victims will soon start receiving deceitful mailings, in which Mr. Russell will make hollow threats that if the recipient won’t part with his hard-earned money, a lawsuit will be filed in a federal court.

So, a clueless judge ordered ISPs to cough up personally identified information entrusted to them by their customers. In the past ISPs stood up for what is right (although on rather rare occasions), it is not clear if they will seriously fight for their customers in this case. I think they should: there is a chance to bury the zombie of the Pure Bill of Discovery and punish wannabe filmmakers with attorney fees, like it happened in the Prenda’s Lighspeed v Smith.

In the meantime, ransom letters will soon start to arrive. If you received one, do not freak out: you are not being sued yet (and most likely won’t ever be). If you can’t afford a lawyer, waiting out is a valid option (which is not advised when an actual lawsuit is filed against you). Talking to a lawyer is advised in any case: the majority doesn’t charge for the phone conversation: contact an attorney who knows the topic, not just any lawyer: refer to one in your state — they are all good.

If you are in Florida, it probably doesn’t make sense to contact Bill Wohlsifer: not because he is not good, quite the opposite. I just assume that he is busy with his election campaign: Mr. Wohlsifer is challenging the sitting Florida Attorney General. As an attorney, William actively fought with the plague of copyright trolling, so I’m pretty sure trolls won’t be comfortable (to put it mildly) in Florida if he is elected. You have a chance to make a difference by voting.

(The document was obtained by Leonard French.)

Florida attorney Cynthia Conlin also wrote about this case.

Update

7/10/2014

Today Cynthia Conlin brought a good news — partially of her own making as explained in her tweets below.

Today the Pure Bill of Discovery case in Brevard County filed by Canal Street Films was dismissed. No John Doe info will be released!

It was voluntary. The ISPs helped. After my motions to vacate the judgment, the ISPs moved in and applied further pressure.

Keith Vogt
Copyright troll
Keith A. Vogt

On 3/14/2014 copyright troll Keith Vogt filed a motion to intervene in Malibu Media v John Doe (ILND 13-cv-06312), finally designating himself as a porn troll and a Lipscomb’s goon. Robert Redford will be delighted, I’m sure.

The following documents show that Lipscomb panics. Long awaited news.

Update

3/17/2014

On Friday, a reply to Phillips’ motion (why Malibu shouldn’t be held in contempt of the court for failing to respond to comply with discovery) was filed. It is worth noting that this “masterpiece” was signed by Paul Nicoletti, who did not appear in Illinois for a long time, after Mary “judge is an assholeSchulz was hired more than a year ago. Apparently, Lipscomb needed a deputy in Illinois with a higher rank of scumbaggery.

The argument is beyond laughable:

TCPDump is the only software in Plaintiff’s possession, custody, or control responsive to the Court’s Order. Further, it is the only software Plaintiff would possibly use at trial.

Yeah, this is the only software that proves infringement. And I’d like to use notepad.exe to substantiate my counterclaims if I ever decide to sue XArt for numerous occasions of breaking the law…

 

Update

3/29/2014

On 3/28/2014 Jonathan Phillips filed defendant’s opposition to Excipio’s motion to intervene, arguing that Excipio’s intervention is not necessary and only intended to “raise the cost of innocent infringers’ defenses,” i.e. a textbook definition of a frivolous act.

Phillips informs the court about a very disturbing fact: that

[...] Mr. Türbach, Excipio’s CEO, is also the President of Copyright Defenders, Inc., a Nevada Corporation. See Exh. A. It’s Director, Mattihas Schroder-Padawet provides declarations, like those of Tobias Feiser in this case, for many different plaintiffs and companies. [...] (wherein Mr. Padawet claims to work for Excubitor USA, Inc.).

I wrote about Copyright Defenders in September 2012.

 

Yesterday Judge Robert S. Lasnik granted a motion to dismiss the case Elf-Man v. Does 1-152 (WAWD 13-cv-00507). This motion was filed on 10/30/2013 by Michael P. Matesky on behalf of three named defendants. The parties presented their oral arguments in front of the judge on 1/15/2014; even though I was not there, I can imagine the judge’s attitude towards the troll by merely looking at the order (embedded below).


Federal Judge
Robert S. Lasnik

Why did I say that it is a big news? The reason is that federal judges don’t often rule that a trolls’ pleading falls short of the threshold set by the Supreme Court of the Unites States in Bell Atlantic v. Twombly in 2007 and Ashcroft v. Iqbal in 2009. The only other order I’m aware of was issued in a CASD Prenda case a year ago: Judge Moskowitz dismissed the case for a similar reason.

I know lawyers immediately realize the significance of this event, but those who don’t know the history of pleading standards should read numerous legal articles, written in many languages — from Legalese to plain English.

In short, prior to those pivotal rulings, pleading standards were much more liberal: plaintiffs were only required to literally follow the Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, i.e. to only include “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”

After the Twombly/Ashcroft rulings, the requirements were tightened:

To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. The plausibility standard is not akin to a “probability requirement,” but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully. Where a complaint pleads facts that are “merely consistent with” a defendant’s liability, it “stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of ‘entitlement to relief.’”

According to Judge Lasnik, the main defect of the complaint is that the plaintiff conflates an ISP subscriber with an infringer, a common troll’s modus operandi that was thoroughly addressed in Massachusetts last year. Also, the plaintiff’s attorney Maureen VanderMay tried to argue negligence, which is laughable: the negligence liability tugboat sank a long time ago.

Pursuant to plaintiff’s allegations, a particular defendant may have directly and intentionally stolen plaintiff’s copyrighted material, or she may simply have “facilitated” unauthorized copying by purchasing an internet connection which an unidentified third party utilized to download “Elf-Man.” Plaintiff provides no factual allegations that make one scenario more likely than the other: both are merely possible given the alternative allegations of the complaint.

Plaintiff argues that such alternative pleading is permissible under Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(d)(2) and that “[i]f a party makes alternative statements, the pleading is sufficient if any one of them is sufficient.” The critical defect in this case is not the alternative pleading of claims of direct, contributory, and indirect infringement. Rather, the problem arises from the alternative pleading of the facts that are supposed to support those claims. The effect of the two “or” conjunctions means that plaintiff has actually alleged no more than that the named defendants purchased internet access and failed to ensure that others did not use that access to download copyrighted material. For the reasons set forth below, these facts do not support any of the alternative claims asserted. Rule 8(d)(2) does not, therefore, save plaintiff’s complaint.

If the above quote sounds a bit cryptic, here is Mike Matesky’s explanation:

Judge Lasnik had issued a veiled warning last August (before the plaintiff had named specific defendants) that he questioned whether there was a Rule 11 basis to allege that a subscriber engaged in the infringement, simply because they are named as the subscriber.

To get around the risk of Rule 11 sanctions, the plaintiff’s attorneys filed an amended complaint carefully structured to avoid unequivocally alleging that the defendant actually shared the movie. Rather, they alleged that the defendant shared the movie (thereby committing direct and contributory infringement) and/or they signed up for an account and failed to prevent direct infringement from occurring (thereby committing an unspecified “indirect infringement” that plaintiff argued was a new form of liability that should be recognized).

That equivocal pleading left them particularly vulnerable to a motion to dismiss.

However, the order could potentially apply to standard bittorent complaints if they don’t allege facts making it reasonable to infer that the subscriber/defendant was personally involved in the sharing of the movie.

This is yet another nail (and a pretty sharp one) in the coffin of copyright trolling.

Granting the motion to dismiss, the judge ordered the plaintiff to amend its complaint to present plausible facts, yet he is doubtful that VanderMay / Elf-Man will be able to come up with any:

Given the procedural posture of this case, it is doubtful that plaintiff has facts to support the allegations of personal involvement and/or intent on which its claims rely. Nevertheless, it may have additional information regarding individual defendants that would provide the necessary heft to its factual allegations and should be given an opportunity to remedy the deficiencies identified by the Court. Plaintiff shall, therefore, have fourteen days from the date of this Order to file a Second Amended Complaint that pleads factual content that allows the Court to draw the reasonable inference that the named defendants are liable for the misconduct alleged. Failure to file a timely and adequate pleading will result in the entry of judgment against plaintiff and in favor of defendants.

Such judgment means attorney fees. I have little doubt that an inevitable defendants’ motion for fees won’t be granted.

 

Elf-Man/VanderMay’s cases are interesting for other reasons too. Make sure to read a recent DieTrollDie’s post.

Thanks to other lawyers who represented defendants on this case: John Whitaker, Benjamin Justus and others.

Media coverage
While concentrating on porn mega-trolls like Prenda or Keith Lipscomb/Malibu Media, we neglect other opportunists — those who pursue easy cash by shaking down alleged file-sharers of low budget non-porno movies, the majority of which happens to be box office disasters. Attorney Rob Cashman calls them “baby copycat trolls” — a nice term to express both pity and disgust.

To catch up, I decided to introduce one of such filmmaking fiascoes and its lawyers who, most likely, took the bait and replied to one of the spam-like offers promising loads of money for little work. Well, people still fall for the Nigerian scam, so it is not too surprising. What is surprising (and sad) is that otherwise respectable attorneys decide to wander into the shady world of the trolling business model, the model that is “essentially an extortion scheme,” according to Judge Otis Wright.

Meet Breaking Glass Pictures and its “masterpiece” — a horror movie “6 Degrees of Hell” (IMDB rating: 2.8 out of 10). We don’t know the exact price tag¹ and box office numbers, but simply reading a couple of user and critic reviews, we can conclude that producers have been able to collect just a fraction of what they invested into the production:

My take away here is simply walk away, enuff said. (6 degrees of boredom…) — HorrorNews.net.


Alexandra Capachietti
of Burson and Levinson LLP

But you know… you can always blame the consequences of lame filmmaking on bloody pirates. So, a trolling lawsuit has been filed by Alexandra Capachietti of Burson and Levinson LLP in the Massachusetts District: Breaking Glass Pictures v. Swarm (MAD 13-cv-10735). Another attorney listed in the complaint is Shepard Davidson of the same firm.

The complaint lists 91 Does, and the timestamps of alleged infringements span two months. This lawsuit dead on arrival in my opinion: in light of the last year rulings, swarm-based joinder is a no-go in Massachusetts. Recently this case was referred to Judge Leo Sorokin, which makes me almost certain that 90 Does will be severed from this case rather soon. But what really made my day (and what explains the title of this post) is the first paragraph of the complaint, where the second sentence is all-capital and bold:

THE MOTION PICTURE IS NOT A PORNOGRAPHIC FILM.

One cannot make it up. Reading this yell-out, I can’t help hearing:

  • Since this lawsuit is not about “Teen anal sluts,” your honor must ignore the solid case law regarding joinder, and allow me to rob the court district of $31,500 in filing fees ($350 for each Doe if filed individually).
  • Since this lawsuit is not about “Big Black Beef Stretches Little Pink Meat #7,” it is not a shakedown campaign, so it is appropriate to send out letters threatening $150,000 statutory damages and demanding a couple of thousand dollars to make this nightmare to go away (which is less than the cost of defense even if a Doe is innocent).
  • Since this lawsuit is not about “Mom’s Black Cock Anal Nightmare 2,” it is OK to lie in these letters that “unless you send us money, you will be named as a defendant.”
  • Since this lawsuits is not about “Jeff Cums in Colby’s Mouth,” a subscriber can be treated as an infringer and it is fine to threaten and harass him or her.
  • Since this lawsuit is not at all about pornography, we only protect the rights of starving artists, and do not abuse the loopholes in the copyright law. Not at all.

 

I want to conclude this post with a quote from the abovementioned Rob Cashman’s post:

[...] If I’ve offended anyone, I’m not sorry — new attorneys shouldn’t be taking on copyright trolling cases. If you are really interested in stopping piracy of your copyrighted content, then there are better ways to police your client’s copyrights than to let the infringement continue and then sue the downloaders. Try a DMCA take down letter one day. You might find that it works.

Making awful movies does not make you entitled to profit. There is a sad correlation: the majority of movies that are subject to copyright trolling lawsuits are box office failures, and while I do not advocate illegal downloading, only a cynical, lying, hypocritical troll can argue that piracy is a major contributor to those failures. This and similar lawsuits are about easy money at the expense of disturbed lives, damaged careers and relationships, as well as serious overall harm to the productive society.

Shame on you, Alexandra Capachietti and Shepard Davidson, — baby copycat trolls.

Updates

04/07/2013

  • Thanks to John Henry for a nice catch: it happens that these two troll attorneys are not strangers to this shakedown “business”: NGN Prima Productions, Inc. v. Swarm and Does 1-17 (MAD 12-cv-11877) was filed on 10/05/2012, nothing has been happening on this case since then. A copycat complaint alleges infringement of “Recoil” — a movie by NGN Prima Productions, a Canadian company that also targets Canadian Internet subscribers.
  • Another John Henry’s nice catch: the complaint is plagiarized from Horny Black Baby Sitters #3 (Texas crooks Chalker Flores LLP, who, in turn, plagiarized it from Marc Randazza’s pleading). Paragraph after paragraph verbatim. Judging on the title, it is a pornographic movie, which doubles the irony of the fact that “combatants against piracy” Alexandra Capachietti and Shepard Davidson don’t think twice before pilfering others’ pleadings.

 


¹ A commenter claims that, according to the BGP Facebook page, the movie’s budget was 133K.

Copyright troll of the week

Recently I wrote about a copyright infringement monetization outfit “Copyright Defenders” that uses unlicensed “experts” to harvest IP addresses from bittorent trackers and solicits help from lawyers across the country in filing mass lawsuits and sending demand letters on behalf of various pornographers. The majority of recipients of such “lucrative offers” smells the scam and ignores attempts to draw them into a reputation-damaging endeavor. Nonetheless, some underemployed attorneys are eager to trade their dignity for a handful of shekels.

Meet a Colorado attorney Sanjin Mutić, who took the bait and filed two mass bittorent lawsuits in Colorado on behalf of a purveyor of fine arts — romantic movies with poetic titles (link NSFW!) — West Coast Productions Inc., essentially embracing a virtual company of an infamous attorney, who used to represent WCP, now convicted Kenneth Ford.


Copyright troll
Sanjin Mutić

    Sanjin Mutić
    Mile High Law Office, LLC
    621 Seventeenth St., Suite 1101
    Denver CO 80293
    Direct 303-204-6141
    Office 303-296-6456
    Fax 888-572-6456
    Sanjin@MileHighLawOffice.com
    Attorney for Plaintiff West Coast Productions, Inc.

 

Why did I decide to give some bad publicity to a minor underemployed opportunist? So far, he filed only 2 cases (12-cv-02642 and 12-cv-02644) that list 75 Does, and there is a long list of other trolls waiting for my attention¹. I’ll tell you why I’m so mad at this particular troll: Sanjin Mutic is on the Triskеle Foundation board of directors. What is Triskеle Foundation? It is a non-profit with a noble goal of providing “a high school equivalency for all those who want it, first in Colorado, then in the nation”:

Our focus at the Triskеle Foundation is to help those Americans for whom high school is no longer an option. Our agenda not only humanitarian, it is economic.

For 10 years, we’ve been told to be vigilant. We’ve been encouraged to show our patriotism through yellow ribbons, bumper stickers, flag waving, and catchy phrases. As the world economies recover, our society needs to be competitive. Now is the time to prepare our ‘human capital’ for success in the global economy.

Yes, Mr. Mutic is a senior member of a foundation that wants our nation to be a nation of educated people: prosperity is premised on the high level of education. Yet he is also a porn copyright troll. You may ask why these things cannot coexist and why I compare them. I’ll explain. I receive tons of personal emails, and more than once I heard stories about how victims’ education was jeopardized by copyright trolls. Many troll targets succumb to fears of being publicly named in a lawsuit that alleges sharing of a movie such as Mom’s Black Cock Anal Nightmare 2 (yes, this is a “work of art” at the center of one of the two lawsuits filed by Mr. Mutic). So they often settle regardless of guilt. They pay using the money that was set aside for college — their own or their kids’. Even if a teenager indeed shared those “works,” isn’t the price paid not only by a victim, but also by the society as a whole, too high? On one occasion (and it’s the only one I’m aware of) a girl accused of sharing a cheap porno flick couldn’t withstand harassment and agreed to pay, but the only way she could do it was to postpone her college education for a year and find a low-paying job to pay installments. She claimed that she is innocent.

So, now we witness a double-faced man, who is listed among the leaders of the organization that solicits donations to provide education to everyone, yet at the same time, he is a part of an extortion conspiracy that in many cases results in depriving young men and women of continuing their education, because their savings have been diverted to greedy parasites.

I hope that the Triskеle Foundation board will take a note: if potential donors learn about one of the organization directors’ shenanigans, it will hardly help their obviously honorable work.

 


¹I have not written about a serial scammer, new Prenda’s goon Daniel Ruggiero, for example.

The lucrative business of copyright trolling has its limitations. One of the main limitations is lawyer manpower. It is relatively easy to harvest IP addresses from Bittorent swarms: poorly written software is cheap to maintain, especially given zero incentive to reduce the high number of false positives. On the other hand, when it comes to filing and maintaining dozens of cases, no software can replace actual licensed attorneys, and a single attorney cannot jump over his head and handle dozens of cases at once, albeit those cases are based on the same template. We have been witnessing what happens when a troll lawyer does not have enough self-respect to curb his greed and is overwhelmed with the number of frivolous cases he filed. Monster lawsuits that list thousands of Does were relatively easier to maintain, but they are a matter of the past: the probability of a judge busting such a case is too high, so trolls are forced to divide Does into smaller chunks to diversify their forum-shopping portfolio.

So what’s the problem? Hire more underemployed third-rate lawyers! Not so fast: finding a lawyer who is willing to bring his reputation to the altar of the Mammon is not that easy. Prenda’s Brett “Pinocchio” Gibbs’s job posting is still up for more than a month, and we witness lawyers that were conned into collaboration by master trolls running away after they realize what kind of manure they stepped in and decide that they don’t want to live with the stink.


Ralf Pytlik, Sales manager
at copyrightdefenders.com

Today I had a chance to look inside of the troll kitchen: embedded below is an email sent by one of the “troll wholesalers”, copyright-defenders.com, to various IP lawyers across the country in a hope that some would agree to be a part of a lucrative shakedown conspiracy.

Copyright-defenders.com is a German mob operation, same as Excubitor. All shakedowns they architect are based on a dubious super-secretive software and disingenuous declarations of its president Matthias Schröder-Padewet, who also supplies his “impeccable evidence” to Randazza. These fraudsters were “lucky” to work with the cream bottom slime of troll lawyers: Kenneth “Felon” Ford, Evan “Chutzpah” Stone¹ and Paul “Anal” Lesko.

As one of the attorneys who received this email commented,

…it was interesting that they are very misleading to the attorneys they are trying to recruit in that they affirmatively claim that all persons whose names are turned over are identified infringers. I think this is where some less sophisticated attorney could really get tripped up as it has already been judicially determined that an IP address does not actually identify a human let alone an infringer. I also think it is interesting that there is no indication that the attorneys have to do anything other than send “letters.” No talk about litigation, defense, discovery etc… Apart from the obvious abuse of process aspects, and I am not an expert on this, but at first glance this would seem to be a false and misleading business practice which is generally illegal under various state laws.

I hope that any lawyer who receives such email will do his research and inevitably stumble upon this post. I’m sure he will think twice before associating himself with this mob-like business and damaging his career (and karma).

Another interesting document: Excubitor service contract — it was sent to various US lawyers last year (although this contract is clearly specific to Germany, for some reason it has been written in English and distributed here).

Thanks to the readers who provided leads and links for this post.

Featured comment

houstonlawy3r says:
September 6, 2012 at 7:07 pm

I have heard about their recruitment attempts from other attorneys who were contacted by them. Apparently, even hungry lawyers can see through their pretty little website and smell a scam. I’d be surprised if the copyright troll attorneys who sign on would ever get paid. As a rule, anyone who courts you and tells you that you’ll make a million bucks (and they’ll do all the work) — RUN.


¹Mick Haig (Michael Heinz) is not only a troll pornographer but also the director/secretary of Excubitor USA. Remember the meme created by Raul: “Plaintiff’s principal, Steve Jones, retained Steve Jones to use Steve Jones’s forensic software to identify…”?

“At the Simmons Law Firm we treat our intellectual property clients as partners.”
(From the Simmons Law Firm website)

 


John Simmons,
Simmonns Law Firm chairman

One of the worst copyright trolling cases that I have been tracking, 4:Twenty Media Inc v. Swarm et al (6:12-cv-00031), is finally over. Magistrate Judge C. Michael Hill has finally made up his mind and killed all the Louisiana mass bittorent lawsuits, including this monster suit (1341 Does at the time of the filing), the first Louisiana’s porn shakedown fishing expedition initially conceived by Joseph C. Peiffer of a New Orleans’ law firm. After the unexpected and unwanted publicity, Peiffer’s partners pressured him into resigning from this case, and while he indeed resigned, instead of dismissing the lawsuit, he handed out this lucrative extortion undertaking to Paul Lesko of Simmons Browder Gianaris Angelides & Barnerd LLC, an Alton, IL law firm. Unlike Peiffer, Lesko happened to be immune from any reputational loss (in other words, Lesko’s parents failed to teach him telling good from bad). In addition, the chairman of his law firm, John Simmons, deliberately gave this racket a green light with a full knowledge of the details.

To the best of my knowledge, it was Lesko’s first porn bittorent shakedown lawsuit (based on a movie with a classy name Teen Anal Sluts), but soon he got addicted to easy money, even if it smelled like something that Lesko’s favorite human body part oozes: believe it or not, the next two cases filed by Paul Lesko were based on the following “works of art”: Super Anal Black Cougars and Phat Black Juicy Anal Booty 8. That’s how Paul “Anal” Lesko got his nickname.

Although this case’s docket featured motions that explained the fraud in irrefutable details — masterpieces from Nick Ranallo and Morgan Pietz, unfortunately, no Fantalises came forward to file counterclaims in order to destroy the shakedown enterprise. Alas, scumbags got away not only unpunished, but carrying a hefty loot extorted from uneducated citizens (in large cases like this, the money trolls receive in settlements is orders of magnitude higher than money spent to produce a filthy movie like Teen Anal Sluts).

With all due respect and cheers, the judges’ order is also kind of dull: all the Does except one were dismissed based on improper joinder, and not because this lawsuit is evidently frivolous and even potentially criminal. Why criminal? In addition to the fact that extortion is not exactly a lawful activity, the age of “teens” in this movie was never scrutinized. This film is foreign-made, and its rights holder 4:Twenty Media is registered by an individual named Christoph Petznick in Seychelles with a sole purpose to extort file-sharers and innocent people alike. The “masterpiece” Teen Anal Sluts was never legally distributed, and may even have been seeded by the perpetrators themselves to entrap bittorenters. Pornography is illegal in Seychelles; if this fact did not stop the fraudsters, it is unreasonable to expect that they would be concerned about teen porn.

Currently Lesko continues to file cases in Missouri (Mark Twain must be turning in his grave) and Southern Illinois with blessing from his boss John Simmons. Until the legal system recovers from the epidemic of copyright trolling, these walking insults to the legal profession will keep bringing tons of misery to thousands of undeserving families daily.

How can we contribute to stopping these terrorists? Last week a weasel named Jason Kotzker accused us in inducing harassment. We did not expect a liar not to lie, but nonetheless, the perverted power of a wrong accusation can bring a lot of damage: no need to look hard for examples: the entire copyright trolling business model is based on baseless allegations, most of which cannot be proved. Therefore, please avoid stooping lower than trolls do. I urge you to refrain from harassing and threatening these scoundrels, their colleagues and especially families: this is illegal, immoral and counter-productive as it gives ammo to the enemy. Nonetheless, contacting authorities (lawyer associations, media, attorneys general) or using publicly available information to inform Simmons Law Firm’s personnel and its clients politely about the unethical, bordering with criminal, conduct that is taking place in this allegedly reputable firm, is not harassment, but protected speech, and rather a duty of any concerned citizen.

Finally, I cannot agree more with a comment by Jen from Texas, a copyright troll victim who succeeded in triggering a troll investigation in the Florida Bar:

I’d like to add one more thing to this post. The best possible action any John Doe can make is going to be legally. Going through the proper channels, such as state bars and the court system shows the trolls and the courts that John Does are not crazy, volent, or sleazy. If you can’t afford to retain an attorney, you can research and file complaints with the state bars for free. Check and make sure the film you are accused of downloading and sharing are copyrighted. (In my case, it is not). And remember, YOU have the POWER, DO NOT give it to the trolls by stooping to their level.

Previous coverage
I wrote many (admittedly not that many) posts keeping in mind a casual web surfer who never heard of copyright trolls, so I did my best to tell the story in such a way that he could understand what the hell I’m talking about, and feel our grievances.

This short post is the total opposite, and it targets those who know about the topic and who can pass the History of copyright trolling in the USA exam with at least solid “B.” And instead of grievances, sometimes I must share lulz. To keep us sane.

Searching the Internet for “bittorent litigation,” I found a May 2011 print issue of XBiz World (pdf). It was beyond my control not to post one particular page (61).

I’m actually going to print this page and hang over my desk with two quotes highlighted:

Randazza is filing suits in jurisdictions where the defendants are located because he wants to give them a fair shot at defending themselves.

“I don’t believe in bullying people into writing checks,” he said.

and

A judge has already granted Time Warner’s motion to quash. Stone said the judge went beyond his authority.

“We will move to have the issue reviewed by a district judge,” Stone said.” We will file an appeal, and we want this addressed by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.”

Have fun:

Copyright troll Evan Stone

This is a quick post to break the news. I expect ArsTechnica to come up with a detailed article later today. For those who don’t know who Evan Stone is, read an earlier ArsTechnica’s article “Sanctioned: P2P lawyer fined $10,000 for ‘staggering chutzpah’” by Nate Anderson. “Staggering chutzpah” indeed: although Stone is not active on the porn scene, he did not abandon his greedy habit and currently shakes down anime fans. Not for long, not for long…

Update 07/113/2012: of course ArsTechnica came up with a good story.

Just one quick note. Looking at the following paragraph, I have a warm feeling that this event will reverberate beyond the bridge, under which Evan Stone dwells:

Stone committed those violations as an attempt to repeat his strategy of suing anonymous internet users for allegedly downloading pornography illegally, using the powers of the court to find their identity, then shaming or intimidating them into settling for thousands of dollars — a tactic that he has employed all across the state and that has been replicated by others across the country.

Why am I so excited? Because it is clear that the Fifth Circuit is aware of the copyright trolling plague and obviously not happy about it: just re-read the quote.

Enjoy the feast of common sense:

Thanks to Steve Glista for breaking the news.

Media coverage
Copyright troll of the week


Copyright troll Paul Lesko

Paul Lesko
Simmons Browder Gianaris Angelides & Barnerd LLC
One Court Street
Alton Illinois 62002
Tel. (618) 259-2222
Fax. (618) 259-2251
plesko@simmonsfirm.com
Attorney for Plaintiff 4:Twenty Media Inc.

 

On January 11, I wrote about the only Louisiana mass bittorent copyright infringement (a.k.a. copyright trolling) lawsuit over a pornographic movie with a classy name “Teen Anal Sluts” (LAWD 6:12-cv-00031). That lawsuit was filed by a New Orleans’s attorney Joseph C. Peiffer on behalf of a shady company 4:Twenty Media, which is registered on Seychelles (where, by the way, pornography is illegal — 05/15/12 update). Copyright on that movie was registered in the USA, yet it seemingly impossible to legally obtain this “masterpiece” — online or offline. Joseph Peiffer has resigned from this case in the beginning of March: a lawyer from Illinois’ Madison County Paul Lesko replaced him.

I strongly believe that we, a community that fights this type of lawsuit abuse, caused this resignation at least in part. First, since I posted about this lawsuit, searching Google for “Joseph C. Peiffer” started returning a link to this site’s article with an embarrassing title “Attorney Joseph C. Peiffer and ‘Teen Anal Sluts’ ” on the first page of the search results.

As I stated in that article, I deliberately chose such an embarrassing title. Adult industry cries foul when something happens because of social stigma attached to pornography¹, yet the very same industry (well, a part of it) has no problem with leveraging the very same social stigma to wrestle settlements from alleged copyright infringers. Therefore, I don’t see any wrongdoing in reflecting the shame using a publicity mirror and beaming this shame back to the troll.

This Google exposure was not the only reason for Mr. Peiffer resignation: as it is clear from the blog comments, many readers and victims wrote to partners and clients of the “Fishman Haygood Phelps Wamsley Willis & Swanson”, a reputable firm that employs Mr. Peiffer. No doubt, his partners pressured Peiffer to drop this embarrassing and reputation-damaging lawsuit. In addition, it is possible that Loyola School, Peiffer’s alma mater, also was flooded by e-mails explaining their alumni’s and visiting lecturer’s shenanigans. It is rumored that even Loyola’s dean received a notice. “Teen Anal Sluts” is not the kind of title that a Jesuit school will cheerfully accept.

Peiffer had something to lose — his reputation, and he made a right choice by resigning from this case. I hope he learned his lesson and if he is at least somewhat remorseful, I wish him all the best. It is beyond any mortal’s power to remove his name from the Internet though.

Simmons Browder Gianaris Angelides & Barnerd LLC, a lawfirm that specializes in asbestos litigation, a lucrative legal business that is quite controversial these days, employs Peiffer’s replacement, Paul Lesko. According to American Tort Reform Foundation, Madison County, where this firm’s main office is located, is one of the worst “judicial hellholes” in the USA and the epicenter for national asbestos litigation. This type of litigation is not necessarily evil per se, yet it is quite abused these days as explained in the articles linked above. Thus, this firm may or may not be immune to any reputational loss. In addition, I don’t know if Lesko represents his firms’ new turf or he is just a rogue attorney.

The case is still active: just last week Lesko dismissed more than 100 defendants with prejudice, which usually indicates settlements. Since the ransom amount is $3,500, so far extortionists were able to collect $350,000 from uneducated, scared Does. That alone makes my blood boil: a “masterpiece” like the movie in question usually has a budget that does not exceed $20,000-$40,000. Therefore, the proceeds from this ugly “business” probably topped the entire movie budget more than 10 times! If you are a part of this case — defendant or lawyer — please make sure this egregious abuse of the copyright law spirit is pointed to the judges. They have a power to request the information from the trolls, specifically how much settlement money they received. Until then take my calculations with a grain of salt: there may be different reasons for dismissing with prejudice, e.g., to create an impression that so many people settle. On the other hand, 10%-30% settlement rate is believed to be accurate (it is declining as people get educated about the scam).

Just look at the ransom letter sent by Lesko to his victims: it makes me so sad that this hogwash document, compiled from the pieces lifted from other trolls, caused so much irrational fear. “As you can see, the evidence we have in our possession against you is quite compelling.”: impudent, shameless lies.

There are also some good news for those Does who let their common sense prevail over irrational fears and either file numerous motions or wait the entire ordeal out. It seems that the judge on this case, C Michael Hill, is not impressed with this case’s merits and ordered all the defendants’ motions to be filed under seal, or their real names to be redacted. Though I may be wrong in my predictions, but over the last year I developed some intuition, and I have some good feelings about the judge.

A letter to 4:Twenty Media

Back in January one of our mates wrote an email, which, while being funny and entertaining, at the same time was up to the point and showed why this lawsuit is an ultimate piece of crap. It’s not a surprise that he did not receive a reply.

From: John Doe
To: 4twentymedia@googlemail.com
Sent: Friday, January 27, 2012 2:13 PM
Subject: Inquiry for legal purchase

I would like to purchase a copy of your wonderfully touching film: Teen Anal Sluts for my own personal viewing enjoyment.

I understand from the copyright registration that this is the email address of the individual owning the copyright to this heartwarming tale of sluts who are teens and do something with anals.

I must admit, I have a certain weakness for teen anal sluts, and consider myself to be quite the connoisseur of media containing them.

I have spent WEEKS trying to find this movie, which was reportedly published less than a year ago. I simply cannot find it ANYWHERE, and think that it is a real shame your legally registered movie cannot be found in my area. I have many friends across the country who are also searching for legal copies of this film, and they cannot seem to find it at any legal store either, whether it be an actual storefront, or a virtual one.

Can you please instruct me as to how I could go about purchasing a copy of this movie legally? I will need to know where to purchase the movie from, and how much it will cost as my budget does not allow for blank checks to be written, no matter how amazing the experience may be.

Also, be aware that if this title is NOT for public sale, nor has ever been legally published in the United States, your copyright registration could have very well been fraudulently submitted². Fraud is a felony.

Thank you for your time,

A paying customer.

Related

Attorney Joseph C. Peiffer and “Teen Anal Sluts”: the previous coverage.
Louisiana: discussion thread.
Multiple Hash Files In A Single Troll Case — Ripe For A Motion To Quash / Dismiss — Louisiana : DieTrollDie’s article.

Updates

05/01/2012
The other Louisiana trolling case, filed by Paul Lesko on behalf of West Coast Productions is over the “work” Super Anal Black Cougars, I’m not making it up! As an attorney, Paul Lesko apparently has very narrow (I would even say “tight”) specialization.

05/03/2012
Nicholas Ranallo and Carlos Zelaya filed an omnibus motion to quash. This is a must-read, must-consider document. Written in good English, not Legalese, it is a very good document.

05/18/2012
This story has yet another interesting dimension: pornography is illegal in Seychelles, where the rightsholder of the “work” in question is registered. I notified various Seychelles ministries about possible criminal activity of 4:Twenty Media, as well as reputational harm to their country, which heavily depends on tourism. So far I received a notification that my complaint was officially forwarded to a relevant agency for investigation. I’ll post an update once I get more information.

8/29/2012


¹For example, recent firing of a schoolteacher over her acting in a porn movie years ago caused quite a stir in the adult industry. To be clear, my opinion sides with adult industry in this case, I point to this story only to illustrate the hypocrisy.

²Disclaimer: Technically failure to market a work does not constitute fraud in a legal sense. In colloquial terms if is still a fraud as the spirit and purpose of copyright were shamelessly perverted. The demand letter may be fraudulent because it lists 150K figure, yet failure to market a work most likely renders statutory damages inapplicable.