Posts Tagged ‘Malibu Media’

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

The Eighth Amendment to the US Constitution

 


US Federal Judge
Thomas Rice

On 10/31/2014 Washington Eastern District Judge Thomas Rice decided not to sanction copyright trolls Maureen VanderMay, David Lowe and Carl Crowell in Elf-Man v. Lamberson (WAED 13-cv-00395), yet he granted the defendant’s attorney fees (the amount is yet to be determined). On the same day Judge Rice ruled on the motions for default judgments in two APMC-driven cases: Elf-Man, LLC v. Does 1-29 (WAED 13-cv-00115 — the case Lamberson was spawned from) and a very similar copyright shakedown case The Thompson Film, LLV v. Does 1-35 (WAED 13-cv-00126):

 

In these two cases the plaintiff requested $30,000 from each of the 11 defendants who failed to answer to the complaints. This would result in $330,000 — a 14x return on the $23,700 investment ($700 in filing fees plus $23,012.57 attorney fees as costs, as determined by the judge).

This request was not granted: while the judge couldn’t simply deny default judgments as the defendants were properly served, he awarded just the allowed minimum to the trolls: $750 per defendant (plus $2,250 in attorney fees).

Similar to the Lamberson ruling, these two orders are both bad news and good news. I’m utterly disappointed by the judge’s unwillingness to address the stink of abuse these lawsuits exude: in the first order (embedded below) trolls’ dances around the truth were taken for granted, and Lamberson’s attorney’s well-pled accusations were brushed off. Even the fact that Ms. VanderMay defrauded the court by filing a forged declaration of Darren Griffin was not mentioned at all.

At the same time, these orders addressed the issue I’ve been bringing up for three years — that insanely high statutory damages run afoul of the Eighth Amendment to the US Constitution. I’m sure I was not first to point to the obvious: for example, Stephan Kinsella argued against excessive fines in copyright. Yet to the best of my knowledge, this is the first time a federal judge brings this topic in a mass Bittorent case¹.

This Court finds an award of $30,000 for each defendant would be an excessive punishment considering the seriousness of each Defendant’s conduct and the sum of money at issue. Although Plaintiff contends the minimal revenue lost from each Defendant’s single transaction does not account for the extent of damages, this Court is unpersuaded that the remote damages — “downstream revenue” and destroyed plans for a sequel due, in part, to piracy — justify an award of $30,000 per defendant, even in light of the statute’s goal of deterrence. Instead, this Court finds Plaintiff has not made a showing justifying damages in excess of the statutory minimum. Accordingly, the Court, within its “wide latitude” of discretion, grants Plaintiff the minimum statutory award of $750 against D. & B. Barnett, jointly and severally and $750 against each remaining defaulted Defendant in the case.

In the footnote, Judge Rice further explains:

In Austin v. United States, the Supreme Court held that the Excessive Fines Clause of the Eighth Amendment applies in civil, not just criminal, proceedings. Austin v. United States, 509 U.S. 602 (1993). As the Court explained, the purpose of the Eighth Amendment is to limit the government’s power to punish, and “civil sanctions that cannot fairly be said solely to serve a remedial purpose, but rather can only be explained as also serving either retributive or deterrent purposes, is punishment, as we have come to understand the term.” Id. at 607-09 (applying the amendment to civil forfeiture proceedings). Undoubtedly, the statutory damages imposed for violation of copyright infringement are intended to serve a deterrent purpose, see e.g., Nintendo of Am., Inc. v. Dragon Pac. Intern, 40 F.3d 1007, 1011 (9th Cir. 1994) (recognizing the punitive and deterrent effect of the Copyright Act’s statutory damages), and thus can properly be characterized as punishment.²

Proportionality of punishment is the cornerstone of any civilized society. I can’t imagine anyone to disagree with this statement. I want to look into the eyes of an individual that claims that sharing a $20 movie warrants a fine that may result in abandoning college education or losing a house.

And yet the travesty continues.

I’m saddened and tired of observing a huge moral blind spot this country developed regarding the insanity (and unconstitutionality!) of civil fines in copyright cases. The astronomical numbers currently serve the sole purpose of threatening alleged infringers in order to wrestle them into paying a ransom. The law, created in pre-digital age to combat large-scale commercial infringement, was perverted by greedy crooks with opaque eyes. Unless the statutory damages are not abolished or at very least drastically reduced for non-commercial infringement, the international troll Mafia will continue destroying people’s lives.

 

 


¹ In Sony v. Tenenbaum, Judge Nancy Gertner in 2010 cut a jury’s damage award against the defendant from $675,000 to $67,500, saying it was “unconstitutionally excessive” and “wholly out-of-proportion,” but this decision was later reversed by the First Circuit, and the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal.

² Furthermore, the judge compares Kafkaesque civil fines with the criminal copyright infringement liability, and this comparison (again, to the best of my knowledge) is unprecedented in a Bittorent case ruling:

As a comparator, if one of the named Defendants was found criminally liable under 17 U.S.C. § 506 for the same act of infringement, i.e., infringement in an amount less than $2,000, the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines recommend a fine between $1,000 and $10,000. USSG §§ 2B5.3, 5E1.2. Further, if that Defendant were to plead guilty with contrition, the fine would be reduced to a range between $500 and $5,000. Id § 5E1.2

Media coverage
I was astonished to find out that a teen pornography purveyor and the most litigious copyright troll in the US history Malibu Media filed 25 lawsuits in NYSD on 11/7/2014 and 11/10/2014 for the first time in more than two years.

Jacqueline M. James
Porn troll Jacquline M. James

The local troll is a solo practitioner from White Plains Jacquline M. James. I didn’t find any reputational hiccups in her career, which suggests that she was simply lazy to do a diligent research before stepping into this pile of manure. I’m willing to give her a benefit of doubt: let us see if she is willing to correct her mistake.

This move is bold and astonishing because historically New York has not been exactly friendly to trolls. Lipscomb and Co tried to shake down this state’s citizens in the past — only to be admonished by judges here and there.

The most important event was Magistrate Brown’s Order, Report and Recommendation that essentially ended mass extortion lawsuits in this state in 2012. Granted, Lipscomb ceased filing mass Doe suits long time ago, but the extortionate nature of his today’s “business” remains unchanged.

Other copyright trolls (Mike Meier, Marc Randazza) didn’t find much love in New York either. Judge Harold Baer called trolls “copyright locusts [that] have descended on the federal courts.” And Judge Victor Marrero even suggested that pornography may not be entitled to copyright protection.

So, it will be interesting to observe New York judges’ reaction to the return of the infamous porn troll.

Below is one of the cookie cutter complaints written either in the Miami Troll Central or Karlsruhe.

 

Dear trolls, today is the Veterans Day. In case you have a quantum of soul not eaten by the greed cancer yet, it’s time to reflect on your conduct. Our fathers didn’t die so you would make dirty money on selling US citizens to the German Mafia over obscene material.


US Federal Judge
Thomas Rice

A very eventful case Elf-Man v. Lamberson (WAED 13-cv-00395) is coming to its conclusion (See the extensive coverage of this case by DieTrollDie). Because of the defense counsel’s titanic investigative effort (which resulted in overwhelming evidence of ongoing brazen fraud upon the US courts by a German extortion concern Guardaley), plaintiff’s counsel Maureen VanderMay resigned citing “ethical concerns,” and finally the trolls attempted to cut and run — dismissed the entire case with prejudice — to avoid potentially devastating scrutiny.

When Judge Thomas Rice approved the dismissal, he hinted that the defense might request attorney fees.

In July Lamberson filed three post-dismissal motions: for attorney fees and costs (asking around $200,000) and two motions for sanctions: pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1927 and Fed. R. Civ. P. 11.

Those motions prompted a flurry of opposition, including the declarations by Lipscomb’s discredited expert Patrick Paige and two German nationals (purportedly real people): unlicensed, uneducated “investigators” Michael Patzer and Daniel Macek. The only person whose declaration was missing was Guardley’s own “Alan Cooper” — an invented “expert” Darren Griffin of a non-existing Crystal Bay Corporation: this time the Germans seemingly didn’t dare to forge a signature as they did on numerous occasions in 2013.

We expected a lot from the judge’s ruling on these motions: as time passed, we hoped that he had been preparing an Otis Wright-like smackdown, but alas, I had rather mixed feelings reading the October 31 order.

Sanctions

I start with bad news: both motions for sanctions were denied, mostly on procedural grounds: applicability of certain sanctions to certain documents (“section 1927 sanctions are unavailable for complaints”), timing and clarity of defendant’s accusations in frivolousness, etc. The judge’s analysis of requested sanctions starts on p. 11 and, while it clearly communicates his hesitancy to sanction the plaintiff’s attorneys, it nonetheless reads like an instruction to future defendants, namely what they should do in order to keep ethically handicapped attorneys accountable.


Darren Griffin

The judge absolutely ignores the accusations of champerty, forgery, fraud… He apparently doesn’t want to deal with this dirt. Maybe he is right in his own way: it is up to DOJ to investigate the racketeering enterprise, yet we know that a concerned judge has a tremendous power of nudging such investigation, which otherwise is prone to death by prioritization. Alas, not this judge, not this time.

Attorney’s Fees

This part is good news. While the amount of fees is yet to be determined (the judge found that “other than to recite the total hours expended, counsel has not provided a sufficiently detailed justification for the hours claimed,” giving defense counsel Chris Lynch a chance to submit an itemized claim), we know that the copyright law is seriously skewed towards the rights holder, and to win a fee award is anything but easy even if a defendant prevails and even in the post-Fogerty world. This unfairness is one of the pillars of the widespread abuse of judicial system by copyright trolls.

Here, Judge Rice analyses the following factors:

In determining whether fees should be awarded, courts may consider a nonexclusive list of factors, including degree of success obtained, frivolousness, motivation, objective unreasonableness (both in the factual and legal components of the case), the need in particular circumstances to advance considerations of compensation and deterrence, and whether the chilling effect of attorney fees may be too great or impose an inequitable burden on an impecunious party. […]

…and he finds that the fees must be awarded to the defendant:

First, Plaintiff dismissed all its claims against Mr. Lamberson; thus, Defendant is the prevailing party. Moreover, Defendant’s success was unqualified, as the dismissal against him was with prejudice.

Second, from this record, the Court has no basis from which to determine that Plaintiff’s claims were frivolous. The case was dismissed short of trial, so all the evidence is not before the Court.

(Well, this is the reason why trolls flourish: they fight with tooth and nail to avoid trials, so their “evidence” won’t be cross-examined in front of a jury.)

Third, Defendant contends the case against him was baseless, but the Court notes that Plaintiff has obtained stipulated relief against others on virtually the same allegations as Plaintiff asserted against Defendant.

(No, judge. “Stipulated relief” by no means proves defendant’s guilt or that the case is not baseless: the predatory lawsuits like this are calculated to extract settlement amounts slightly less than the cost of mounting a viable defense, hence even innocents settle.)

Fourth, whether Plaintiff’s claims were therefore unreasonable is likewise not determinable from this record. Plaintiff requested damages of $30,000—the full amount of statutory damages available under the Copyright Act for Lamberson’s alleged infringement. In the end, Plaintiff received nothing from Mr. Lamberson, and now nothing more can be said.

As a final point, I can’t agree more with the following:

Finally, awarding fees to Defendant will not have a chilling effect on Plaintiff’s other copyright claims. Plaintiff can pursue its valid and well-founded copyright claims with vigor, seeking both damages and fees where warranted. But Plaintiff cannot exact a pound of flesh simply by making defendants caught in its wide net expend attorney fees to defend themselves, perhaps unjustifiably. This factor weighs in favor of an award of attorney fees.

I feel that the previous paragraph will be widely quoted and I hope this somewhat toothless order will however make troll’s racket harder and costlier. And of course I hope that Lynch and Lamberson will win substantially more than a symbolic sum.

 

Update

11/24/2014

On 11/21/2014 Chris Lynch filed his Supplemental declaration in Support of defendant’s motion for Attorneys’ fees (doc. 100) asking for $215K.

If you haven’t been following this case (and the German-driven copyright trolling judicial plague in general), you may want to read the entire declaration as it contains a condensed yet illustrative and comprehensive history of the ordeal.

 

Update 2

12/13/2014

On 12/5/2014 Plaintiff (David Lowe) filed his opposition to the defendant’s fee request. Interestingly, he, redefining the meaning of the “out of touch” phrase, made a counter-offer of… 5K (see his email in the Exhibit A):

 

Defendant (Chris Lynch) responded on 12/12/2014:

 

Note that the Exhibit D is a printout of the article about very interesting developments in Australia, where our German trolls currently test the water. Of interest is that yet another Guardaley shell — Maverick UG — is listed as an “investigator” (while the “expert” is a painfully familiar Daniel Macek). The judge, despite the troll’s vocal objections, ordered the plaintiff (Dallas Buyers Club LLC, which is a member of the same shakedown gang as Elf-Man LLC) to fly the witness (Macek) to Australia for cross-examination. It will be interesting to watch Guardaley trying to weasel out of this situation.

12/17/2014

Lowe filed a motion to strike the Supplemental Declaration of J. Christopher Lynch in Support of Defendant’s Motion for Attorneys’ Fees (104 – linked above). Reminds me how Prenda hysterically denied the Alan Cooper fraud two years ago:

Inter alia, Lynch has no evidence or basis for fraud allegations whatsoever. There is no evidence that Griffin is a “fake person” or Crystal Bay Corporation is a “fake company.” There is only Lynch’s wild speculation, and Plaintiff has no obligation to respond to such wild and purely inflammatory allegations, let alone prove a negative. Lynch has no basis, let alone an ability, to make criminal allegations in this civil proceeding. The entirety of Lynch’s baseless arguments should be stricken.

Seriously, Lowe? Just point us to Mr. Griffin, a “real person,” and let him speak for himself. That simple — everyone will be happy. But you obviously can’t.

 

A couple of months ago I wrote about an interesting development in Michigan (Malibu Media v. Gerald Shekoski, MIED 13-cv-12217). When it came to discovery, the defendant’s attorneys, Derek W. Wilczynski and Lincoln G. Herweyer, were reasonably distrustful to the prospect of porn trolls rampaging through the defendant’s hard drive, accessing sensitive information and other files that have nothing to do with the plaintiff’s pornography.

Defendant would have to essentially trust [Malibu]. Yet, pornographers with an industry-sized litigation practice of coercing settlements from blameless individuals do not instill the confidence necessary to such trust.

Mr. Wilczynski wanted to engage a local independent expert to avoid a fishing expedition that would result in blackmail based on findings of possible unrelated wrongdoings.

As we will shortly see, the defense’s fears were all but unfounded.

Blackmail

While Judge Victoria Roberts didn’t agree to an independent expertise, she was apparently wary of the defense’s concerns and wrote a compromise order. Although she ordered that the hard drive examination would still be performed by Malibu’s own expert Patrick Paige, she set very strict safeguards:

If the examination does not reveal evidence of the copyright infringement alleged in the complaint, and if there is no evidence that infringing files have been deleted, Malibu Media will dismiss its claims against the Defendant. Malibu Media must report the results of the forensic examination immediately to counsel for the Defendant.

The order was issued on 7/21/2014, and it seems that the drive examination was performed shortly after that. Apparently, neither XArt’s smut nor evidence of spoliation was found. Nonetheless, in violation of a clear language of the order, plaintiff’s lawyers not only didn’t dismiss the case, but were concealing the results from the defense for more than a month:

On September 11, 2014, Plaintiff’s counsel, by omission, made Defendant’s counsel aware that the forensic examination of Defendant’s hard drive had not revealed evidence of the copyright infringement alleged in the complaint, and had not revealed any evidence that the infringing files had been deleted. However, instead of directly confessing the same, Plaintiff’s counsel stated that Plaintiff’s expert had found evidence of unrelated possible copyright infringement of a completely different than that at issue in this case.

Here is the defendant’s motion (for permission to file motion to dismiss and/or to dismiss with liability for attorneys’ fees):

 

As we read through, we can see that our trolls started a nauseous blackmail campaign despite the absence of any evidence that XArt’s smut was ever located on the defendant’s hard drive. Here is Nicoletti’s email threatening the defendant with sanctions, offering a walk-away with unacceptable terms:

 

Nicoletti
Porn troll Paul Nicoletti

What did the trolls try to leverage? Apparently the fact that the defendant’s daughter used to share music using popular free peer-to-peer software LimeWire, which took place… 5 years ago, when she was a minor. In addition, Nicoletti/Lipscomb claim that the defendant lied when answering an interrogatory about his knowledge of this fact.

First of all, Mr. Nicoletti, let me educate you, an ostensive IP attorney: the statute of limitation for copyright infringement is three years.

Secondly, as for the false statements (of not knowing that a file-sharing software was installed), the threats are beyond douchy as they suggest that the defendant should have actively policed his daughter’s computer usage.

Thirdly, the fact of buying a new computer as an evidence of wrongdoing is not even a stretch, it’s a fiction.

And finally, I challenge you to find a then-teen who either didn’t use LimeWire or didn’t know someone who did: not only it was extremely popular, it was perceived legal by the majority of its users before it was shut down by the music industry in 2010. We don’t have to dig too deep to find a good example of an innocent infringement of this sort: plaintiff’s co-owner Colette Field publicly acknowledged pirating music using a similar peer-to-peer system Napster in the past.

You know when I was 19 years old I used to download from Napster and I didn’t even know it was wrong. And then I saw some lady getting sued for $30k and I realized what I was doing was illegal and I stopped. I joined itunes, I pay for my music, I pay for Sirius. Why should people not pay for what we spend most of our time and money making. I want to get out the message that I learned about Napster, can you understand that? Thank you for reading. ~ Colette from X-Art

So, why not to blackmail your own plaintiff, Mr. Lipscomb? Obviously, she is quite capable of paying — despite her laments about evil pirates destroying her business, XArt reportedly declared more than five million dollar revenue on its 2013 tax return.

Where are you, Mr. Lutz Paige?

Basically, Lipscomb/Nicoletti/Paige violated every paragraph of the 7/21 court order.

The judge was not happy, and after a short telephone conference on 9/16/2014, she gave our trolls one more chance (or a rope?) to do what the previous order unambiguously said:

Patrick Paige must supplement his affidavit by September 23, 2014. The affidavit must answer the questions: (1) Did Mr. Paige find evidence of copyright infringement as alleged in the Complaint? (2) Did Mr. Paige find evidence of deletion of infringing files?

On 9/23 however, Malibu filed a motion for extension of time for one day, claiming that

2. Because of a clerical calendaring error, Plaintiff did not notice the deadline until after business hours, which made it impossible to secure the supplement from Patrick Paige.

3. As such, Plaintiff requests one (1) additional day for Patrick Paige to supplement his affidavit.

Well, no matter how phony this excuse sounded, the judge granted a one-day extension, as asked: no more, no less. Since then — silence. At the time of the writing, i.e. four days after the extended deadline, no affidavit can be found on the docket. I bet that the crafty young lawyers at the 2 South Biscayne Drive are still restlessly brainstorming a graceful exit from this Prenda-like situation.

I can’t help drawing a parallel with the games Prenda played in the Minnesota and California courts when the purported boss of bogus corporations Mark Lutz was ordered but failed to appear in judges’ courtrooms.

 

This is not the first time when Lipscomb & Co threatens an obviously innocent person. One of the most egregious examples is Malibu Media v. Pelizzo, a case that is currently on appeal.

Given the Kafkaesque disconnect between actual and statutory damages in the Copyright Law and the general hostility of the judicial process to an individual, it is quite disgusting when trolls twist defendants’ hands even based on more or less plausible proof of wrongdoing. It is way more troublesome when porn trolls behave as Mafia and attempt to extort money from people who haven’t wronged the plaintiff in any way.

Update

10/6/2014

Today we finally heard from the court. Judge Roberts issued an order granting defense’s request to file a motion to dismiss and for fees (reminder: the judge put a moratorium on motions, and the motion featured above was technically a request to leave to file a motion to dismiss). She also set the reply-response schedule:

1. Plaintiff’s Motion to Dismiss must be filed by: 10/16/14
2. Defendant’s Response Brief must be filed by: 11/10/14
3. Plaintiff’s Reply Brief must be filed by: 11/20/14

The absence of Paige’s supplement on the docket is puzzling: I guess this issue was discussed during the 10/2 phone conference and the trolls seemingly got away with breaking the judge’s order. This time.

Followup

11/17/2014

Would you hire an attorney who is afraid to pick up the phone when an opposing counsel is calling? Me neither.

Last week I was happy to find out that Jason Sweet for the first time appeared on behalf of a defendant in one of the myriad shakedown cases filed by Guardaley / Keith Lipscomb “on behalf” of a hardcore pornography purveyor X-Art/Malibu Media.

There was a good motion to quash subpoena filed in Malibu Media v. John Doe (OHSD 14-cv-00493) on 8/22/2014. The crux of the argument is, in my opinion, bulletproof: if the Doe is represented and his/her attorney is willing to accept service and otherwise be a buffer between the plaintiff and the defendant, there is no need for Lipscomb to prematurely know the defendant’s identity. Hence, the subpoena is moot.

The most interesting part of this motion, however, is Exhibit A — the email exchange between Jason Sweet and Malibu’s Yousef Faroniya.

The leitmotif of this exchange is the defense’s repeated attempts to establish a dialog and Faroniya’s irrational fear of the telephone. This eyebrow-raising behavior made Sweet believe that it was not actually Faroniya who was on the other side of the conversation:

Atty. Sweet, counsel for the Defendant, first reached out to Malibu Media’s counsel on July 31, 2014 to inquire about a possible settlement. From the outset, Malibu Media’s counsel refused to speak via the phone, requiring communication via email—which left Defendant’s counsel dubious as to who he was conversing with.

Looking at the style of the writing, I rather think that it was indeed Faroniya, but I can’t vouch for that. I think that it was Faroniya because: first, I have not seen this style in the writings by his bosses from the Miami Troll Central; secondly, a snarky attempt to lecture an attorney who was instrumental in Prenda’s demise is a hallmark of a young arrogant prick such as Yousef.

Just look at this:

The language in this Complaint has been attacked by dozens of defendants and Malibu Media has never lost a motion to dismiss. The case law on this is extensive. If you feel that you have an angle that could result in dismissal prior to ISP discovery on all the Malibu Media cases, then nothing I can say will dissuade you from eventually doing so. It is my strong belief that you will fail in this pursuit, and the costs incurred by Malibu in defeating your motions will eventually be borne by your clients.

Compare this overconfidence to the arrogance of infamous John Steele: here is one of his comments on this blog at the time his racket was going smoothly:

When Freetards file their silly MTQ. and they keep getting rejected, its [sic] because your [sic] telling the judge, “Judge I know you looked at this case, and issued an order. But let me tell you (in a completely conclusory, non-legal argument) why you are a fool that made a mistake. Here is a news flash, the judges know from day one all about our cases, and have spoken amongst themselves about these cases in judicial conferences. They know when they sign a discovery order what it means.

I’m sure that sooner or later we will laugh at Libscomb’s young crafty attorneys’ hubris as we laugh at Steele’s today.


Copyright troll Yousef Faroniya
is looking at the phone with fear

Later in the email chain we see threats of sanctions (of course! — threats is the language of extortion) over Sweet’s alleged interference with subpoena — a controversy that would be easily resolved if Faroniya overcame his phobia and picked up the damn phone.

And finally,

[…] once Defendant’s counsel began asking pointed questions, Plaintiff’s counsel ceased any meaningful communications.

Note that during the course of correspondence, the plaintiff kept attempting to learn the defendant’s identity: as I understand, to figure out if the Doe is capable of paying the ransom.

 

It is hard not to admire Booth Sweet’s style:

The settlement demand:

As you can see in Plaintiff’s Complaint, your client infringed a total of 30 separate works. Plaintiff is willing to settle for $22,500 (750*30). My client believes this is a fair offer given the $2250 per work decisional authority in the Malibu Media Bellwether case.

…was met with a counter-offer:

My client is willing to pay $449.95 — the cost of filing the Complaint and a one month subscription to Plaintiffʼs website.

While chuckling over this hilarity, I want to note that Jason Sweet is too generous: X-Art subscription with unlimited downloads is only $19.95 per month now, and if a subscriber gets bored with repetitive scenarios (or, more precisely, the lack thereof) and cancels the subscription, he is offered a promotional rate of $9.99, or 1.8 cents per flick if the subscriber has enough bandwidth and desire to download them all, a long shot from $750 the trolls demand, much less than $150,000 they threaten with (0.0024% and 0.00001% respectively). This is the travesty of the freedom to choose statutory damages even when they parsecs apart from the real ones.

Update

9/29/2014

The appearance of Booth Sweet understandably alarmed the trolls. On 9/12/2014 Lipscomb filed a long and winding opposition to the motion to quash discussed above. The entire opposition is rather a laughable attempt to legitimize Malibu’s abuse of the court system.

Of course, the trolls employed an appeal to emotion — a tearful story of poor pornographers who can afford neither Bugatti nor a castle in Nice and doomed to languish in a 16-million Malibu mansion and hide their Ferrari from the neighbors in shame — all because of evil, evil pirates. In addition, Lipscomb never fails to brandish the bellwether trial myth.

Jason Sweet’s 9/26/2014 reply was, as expected, sharp and fun to read. It starts with the debunking of the said myth:

As an initial matter, Malibu Media often touts the aforementioned “bellwether trial” to distinguish itself from other copyright trolls. Invariably though, they overstate the significance of what has been described as little more than a show trial, and avoid mentioning the facts that led to it.

…and proceeds to thoroughly expose Lipscomb’s poor argument why he needs the defendant’s identity when the defense counsel is ready to accept service. More than once Lipscomb affirmatively stated that the express purpose of the subpoena is to serve the defendant. While the troll was lying, his words nonetheless ricocheted.

Malibu Media has not been honest with the Court. It pushed for expedited discovery on the grounds it was necessary to complete service, but when presented with an alternative method — namely, serving the Defendant’s attorney — it refuses to effectuate service.

Instead, we learn that Malibu Media seeks the information not to serve the Defendant, but rather so it may conduct an unfettered assessment of the strength of its case and ostensibly, the assets of the Defendant before proceeding any further. Neither instance falls within the intended purpose of expedited discovery or the Copyright Act.

 

Update 2

10/03/2014
The trolls are seriously scared by the prospect of creating a precedent that courts would allow serving an anonymous defendant through his/her attorney. So on 10/3/2014 Lipscomb & Co filed a motion for leave to file a sur-reply claiming that Jason Sweet raises new arguments in his reply. It is both sad and funny that paragraph 6(A) is exactly the argument that Prenda’s racket was largely based on, namely that defendant has no standing to question the subpoena:

[…] Further, Defendant does not have standing to raise this argument because he is not facing any inconvenience, burden, or expense. Indeed, the ISP is the one responding to the subpoena and they have not objected to compliance. […] (“The Sixth Circuit has observed that ‘[o]rdinarily, a party has no standing to seek to quash a subpoena issued to someone who is not a party to the action unless the party claims some personal right or privilege with regard to the documents sought.”)

Sounds familiar?

Yesterday defense attorney Francisco Ferreiro appealed a federal court’s decision denying attorney fees in Malibu Media v. Leo Pelizzo (FLSD 12-cv-22768).

To the best of my knowledge, this is the first appeal (CA11 14-11795) of a court decision in a Guardaley-driven lawsuit. M. Keith Lipscomb and its “client” X-Art are slowly but surely following Prenda’s footsteps. Prenda’s appellate experience so far was a total disaster for its disgraced attorneys, and I hope the same fate is awaiting Keith Lipscomb, Michael Hierl, Paul Lesko et al (the list is depressingly long).

To refresh your memory, the Pelizzo case was probably the most disgusting porn troll’s assault on an innocent citizen. 100% knowing that Mr. Pelizzo had absolutely nothing to do with the alleged infringements, Lipscomb continued twisting the defendant’s arms for months.

The apogee of douchebaggery was an email to the defense counsel (again, keep in mind that at that time Lipscomb knew with absolute certainty that the defendant is innocent):

[…] you should counsel [your client] that when he loses, he will lose everything he owns and owe my clients hundreds of thousands of dollars. Mark these words, your client’s decision to reject a walk away will be the worst decision he will ever make.

The reason behind this stinky vitriol was the defense’s rather modest request for attorney fees. While making millions on selling out his compatriots to the German Mafia, Lipscomb went postal over about five thousand dollars.

Why didn’t Lipscomb cut and run earlier, as soon as he realized that he targeted a wrong person, when hostilities didn’t go that far and when it was much cheaper to buy his way out of the looming PR disaster? I have no idea. I can only speculate that he thought that admitting a mistake would endanger his future shakedown activities, or the enormously swelled ego of our insecure ostensive Christian was the actual decision maker.

Unfortunately, Judge Patricia Sietz only partially granted attorney fees to the de-facto prevailing party — defense. The defendant didn’t think it was fair, hence the appeal:

 

While federal judges continue buying copyright troll’s lies and closing their eyes to the obvious fraud, I want to believe that appellate judges think not only about following the letter of the law, but care about its spirit, about the negative societal impact of decisions made by the lower courts.

I wish Francesco Ferreiro and his client to prevail.

Update

9/16/2014

On 9/15/2014 the troll filed the appellee’s brief and a motion for attorney fees (which is unusual and inexplicably douchy, IMO).

tl;dr: Lipscomb is a good guy who didn’t shake down a clearly innocent person over barely legal, illegally produced pornography. Even more, Keith went to great lengths to save defendant’s money (furthering the purposes of the Copyright Act in the process)! On the other hand, Leo Pelizzo and his counsel Francisco Ferreiro are bad guys who have been trying to shake down our paragons of ethics by frivolously multiplying proceedings. Well… Hypocrisy is a bottomless pit.

 

Update 2

10/9/2014

Today Francisco Ferreiro filed defendant’s response in opposition to Appelee’s motion for attorney’s fees and costs.

There are many good responses to copyright trolls’ activities these days. This opposition to Malibu Media’s attempt to game the courts by filing a last-minute motion for enlargement of time to complete discovery caught my attention for the reasons described below, especially the last one — the one that gave the title to this post.

The motion was filed on 8/4/2014 in Malibu Media v. Eric Siegel (PAED 13-cv-06252) by a New Jersey attorney Darth Newman.

Protective order gamesmanship

First, Mr. Newman describes a painfully familiar Lipscomb’s modus operandi: trolls drag their feet till the last moment (often declining defendant’s offers to examine his/her hardware), and then suddenly request an extension. Rinse, repeat.

This case wasn’t different:

The Court’s April 25, 2014 scheduling Order set forth a bifurcated discovery plan whereby Malibu was obligated to complete certain discovery, primarily focused on Mr. Siegel and his computer hard drives, before moving on to the expansive third party discovery initially sought by Malibu. Malibu has failed to timely pursue even this first category of discovery.

In the several months since the initial conference, Malibu has only pursued document requests and interrogatories, to which Mr. Siegel provided timely responses.

Then, what supposed to be simple protective order negotiations, turned out to be a delay tactic: Malibu kept insisting on unacceptable terms:

On July 14, Mr. Fiore finally sent an alternative protective order but this draft was both limited to the examination of Mr. Siegel’s computers and purported to expand the materials Mr. Siegel had agreed to produce to include his tenant’s personal property. The July 14 draft failed entirely to protect Mr. Siegel’s confidential and personal information.

One-way discovery

We witnessed many times in the past: the crooks want to know everything about the defendant (including his/her purported porn habits), but when it comes to production of plaintiff’s relevant information, all we see is desperate attempts to obstruct the due process.

Not only has Malibu been slow with respect to making discovery requests, it has also been sluggish to respond fully to Mr. Siegel’s discovery requests. Mr. Siegel propounded requests for documents and, although it timely responded, Malibu interposed a number of frivolous objections and seemingly arbitrary limitations on the materials it would agree to produce.

Malibu offered to produce some documents and counsel have traded correspondence about Malibu’s objections and limitations, but, to date, the only documents Malibu has actually produced are copies of copyright registrations which are publicly available online.

Jessica Fernandez
Porn troll Jessica Fernandez
A side note: who is in charge?

If you look into the Exibit A (email correspondence between Malibu’s local Chis Fiore and Darth Newman), you will find yet another proof that Fiore is simply a pawn: he merely forwards documents to and from the Troll Center (Lipscomb’s associate Jessica Fernandez curated this litigation):

 

Where is the evidence?

The apotheoses of plaintiff’s thuggery, and the fact that prompted this post, was the admission that the troll don’t even have the most critical information handy:

Malibu agreed to produce a limited portion of the electronic materials it intends to rely on to prove its case but has indicated that doing so will take an additional four weeks. Did Malibu not have this information when it filed suit?

Read it again and try to believe your eyes: these charlatans file lawsuits en masse indiscriminately and don’t even possess the information that forms the basis of their cases:

In particular, Malibu agreed to produce a subset of the data it claims shows Malibu’s investigator’s alleged connection(s) to Mr. Siegel’s IP address and the data allegedly downloaded from Mr. Siegel. This data forms the basis of Malibu’s case and Mr. Siegel and his expert(s) must have a fair opportunity to analyze all of it.

In my opinion, this is yet another visible sign of a gross abuse; it is very frustrating that courts around the country continue to swallow trolls’ bluff so eagerly.

The reason I use the word bluff is in part premised on recent events in a case involving another Guardaley-driven lawsuit, Elf-Man v. Lamberson (WAED 13-cv-00395). It appears that the trolls in that case simply don’t have any incriminating data beyond a TCP/IP handshake and transmission of a part of a movie that is shorter than an average wink. It is not a big stretch to suggest that the same game is being played here. Moreover, no one ever saw any Guardaley’s evidence: all we saw was a smokescreen of “PCAPs,” “WORM tapes” and “German government issued timestamps.”

There is simply no valid reason why producing the most essential evidence can take an entire month. Not only is the king naked, he doesn’t even wear sunscreen to withstand the sunlight of even a casual scrutiny.

 

Copyright shakedown is a disease that affects a vital organ — federal courts, and we are currently in the midst of an epidemic. Some virus mutations, like Prendavirus, have been successfully contained, but currently there is no effective cure against another family of viruses that originated in Germany (especially Libscombema palladium).

Some areas of the US are affected the most: Illinois, Pennsylvania, Colorado… Yet others, as we will see in a moment, try to maintain a good hygiene, and although it is impossible not to get sick, those who at least understand the pathogen’s potential harm and think about the ways to contain the illness, are better off.

M. Keith Lipscomb (via its NJ agent Patrick “Moving Lips” Cerillo) started contaminating New Jersey district in June after a year-long lull (since 8/5/2013). 27 cases were filed on June 17-20, another batch — 19 cases — were initiated on July 10-11. What’s interesting, the judges kept silence for more than a month: in other jurisdictions requests for ex parte discovery are usually rubberstamped in days.

Tonianne Bongiovanni
US Magistrate Judge
Tonianne Bongiovanni

Today we saw the first order, which, alas, has granted the discovery request, but with a twist. When the order starts with

Once again, a veritable orgy of lawsuits involving the alleged infringement of Plaintiff’s copyrighted material have been filed in this Court,

trolls should know that the joy ride to the US citizens’ pockets won’t be quick and easy.

Magistrate Tonianne Bongiovanni‘s concern is well articulated:

This Court has generally granted these types of motions in the past, in many instances simply rubber-stamping the requests. However, since the first round of filings approximately two years ago, courts in this District as well as around the country have grown warier that allowing copyright holders access to all the information requested in Plaintiff’s Motion could result in abusive litigation tactics because of the potential embarrassment defendants could experience given the nature of the copyrighted work.

While the judge reluctantly partially granted the subpoena request (and the blame for it should be placed on lawmakers, not on judges like her), a clear message was sent: pornographers and their greedy lawyers are not very welcome in New Jersey.

I hope some defendants will give a good fight, which should be a bit easier in hygiene-wary New Jersey than in jurisdictions heavily affected by Libscombema palladium.

 

This is a quick post: even though we discussed it on Twitter, I’m afraid many defense attorneys missed the following GFY comment discovered by Raul.

GFY is a very active message board for adult webmasters and producers. One of the last year threads there (NSFW) discussed Prenda’s fiasco in Lightspeed v. Smith. Amid some local boneheads’ denial of the obvious, there were many rational voices calling Prenda’s practice by its real name: extortion. But the comment in question is not about Prenda at all. It’s more about German puppeteers that run Malibu Media, Voltage Pictures, Vision Films and other American shakedown theaters.

 

it was common practice in germany some years ago to set up a trap, have people download the stuff by P2P, track them down and send them nasty letters
some companies had specialized on that, they offered me a deal where that company, the lawyers and me get 33% each from the money they extorted from people that downloaded content from the trap in place
i refused, many others didnt.

Third Third and Third

The author is apparently the owner of amazingcontent.com (NSFW) — a wholesale adult content distributor, seemingly the rights holder. It’s heartwarming to see that even those who are understandably pissed off by proliferation of unauthorized copies of their content on the web, are not blindfolded by their anger and capable of telling right from wrong. It is ironic that smut producers have more dignity than certain purported Christians who easily take the golden bait from the fishing Satan.

Mounting proof of trolls’ seeding stuff in order to lure hapless file-sharers is troubling yet not unexpected. For example, the evidence of Guardaley seeding the Elf-Man movie is very compelling:

A list of the Vision Films movies uploaded to bittorrent by “HeroMaster.” Turns out the allegations at paragraph 45 of our Second Amended Answer, Affirmative Defenses and Counterclaims were just the tip of the iceberg. Not only did “HeroMaster” initially seed Elf Man and Blood Money before their public release, he/she also uploaded the majority of the Vision Films movies on the “APMC/Vision Films Schedule A” prior to their public release. So,it appears our suspicions are correct and coming to light: Vision Films uploads the movies and then Vision Films hires APMC to track and sue every one who takes the bait. You said our allegations of “barratry” were scandalous, but it appears they are true.

Also, Malibu’s clips appear in the wild merely 4-10 minutes after the release, and the XArt’s owners apparently close their eyes to this Baden-Württemberg sized hole.

So, I just wanted to draw attention to yet another red flag and suggest that Doe defenders and federal investigators start talking to rights holders and attorneys who had been approached by German racketeers to mount the final counter-action that will eventually wipe copyright trolls off.

This development in one of the porn trolling cases — Malibu Media v Gerald Shekoski (MIED 13-cv-12217) — is not too dramatic, yet interesting.

Defendant’s motion for protective order regarding his hard drive

This motion was filed on 7/2/14 by attorneys Derek W. Wilczynski and Lincoln G. Herweyer on behalf of the defendant who claims absolute innocence. While not opposing to his hard drive examination in principle, the defendant was justifiably concerned about possible fishing expedition to his sensitive data. The plaintiff (Keith Lipscomb / Paul Nicoletti) insists that the drive examination should be performed by its expert Patrick Paige, whose reputation was tainted by his sloppy (and maybe even deliberately biased) declaration in Malibu Media v. Kelley Tashiro (INSD 1:13-cv-00205). In addition, given the overall infamy of the shakedown artists, the defendant reasonably doesn’t trust that the forensic analysis will be performed honestly and that unrelated data found on the drive won’t be misused to press the defendant to settle:

From Defendant’s perspective, however, the procedure contemplated by Plaintiff is needlessly invasive and lacks adequate safeguards, among other problems. In truth, Defendant welcomes another opportunity to demonstrate that he did not engage in peer-to-peer file sharing of Plaintiff’s works, and fully expects that a forensic examination of his computer’s hard drive will bear witness to that fact.

[…]

Moreover, Defendant understandably distrusts the particular persons who want to subject his confidential information to such exacting scrutiny. Defendant does not have the resources to monitor Malibu or IPP (the German IT firm on whose work Plaintiff’s case is based) and hold them accountable should they violate the protective order contemplated by Plaintiff. Instead, Defendant would have to essentially trust them. Yet, pornographers with an industry-sized litigation practice of coercing settlements from blameless individuals do not instill the confidence necessary to such trust. Nor does a foreign IT company that may be a shell for a previously discredited firm instill such trust. While Plaintiff may be heard to shout its own bona fides, one must remember that Defendant knows that he did not infringe Plaintiff’s copyrights and, therefore, he knows that Plaintiff is the kind to sue innocent people and attempt (from his perspective) to extort money from them.

So, the defendant wants

[…] the moral equivalent of an in camera inspection of his computer’s hard drive, by using a licensed but neutral expert in computer forensics (paid for by Plaintiff) who can provide the information to both parties that is relevant to Plaintiff’s claims, but who will not otherwise divulge the contents of Defendant’s computer to Plaintiff or anyone else.

…and he wants a local expert, arguing that

[…] in Michigan those who engage in computer forensic investigations for a fee must be licensed, and doing so without a license is a felony punishable by up to four years in prison.

 

Order on this motion

US Federal Judge
Victoria A. Roberts

Today Judge Victoria A. Roberts ruled on this motion, and while she ordered to hand out the mirror of the defendant’s hard drive to Malibu/Paige, she agreed with the other safeguards that the defendant asked for (emphasis is mine):

Counsel for Malibu Media is to supply defense counsel with copies of protective orders entered in similar cases pending in this district, to be used as models in fashioning this protective order. As basic parameters, Defendant is to provide a mirror image of the hard drive at issue to Malibu Media, at Malibu’s expense, as soon as the terms of a protective order have been agreed upon. The protective order will specify the material that Malibu’s forensic expert is looking for; anything else on the hard drive is off limits for discovery purposes.

[…]

If the forensic examination does not reveal evidence of the copyright infringement alleged in the complaint, and if there is no evidence that infringing files have been deleted, Malibu Media will dismiss its claims against the Defendant.

 

Like the defendant, I do not trust anyone associated with Lipscomb’s division of Guardaley. Therefore I’m not confident that the crooks won’t find a way to maintain the lawsuit, ramping up the legal costs and increasing the pressure to settle, even if no evidence of infringement is found.

Nonetheless, this is a welcome development and good news amid the ongoing legal epidemic of copyright trolling. At least this defendant will avoid embarrassing questions about his purported porn habits, and his Internet bandwidth usage won’t be a subject to Orwellian insinuations.

Followup