Copyright troll of the week
Copyright troll Paul Lesko
Simmons Browder Gianaris Angelides & Barnerd LLC
One Court Street
Alton Illinois 62002
Tel. (618) 259-2222
Fax. (618) 259-2251
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.