WAWD Chief Judge Ricardo Martinez knows what’s going on in his district with a flurry of copyright infringement Bittorent lawsuits steered by foreign criminals and unscrupulous US attorneys. Well, maybe the judge does not know the exact details of the racket, but he obviously smells rampant abuse.
Today Judge Martinez ruled on the motions for default judgment against 28 defendants in five cases, awarding minimum statutory damages ($750) per case, $550 in attorney’s fees per defendant, and various per-defendant costs (in the $90-150 range):
- LHF Production v Does 1-9 (WAWD 16-cv-01175) – 6 defaulted defendants
- LHF Production v Doe 1, et. al. (WAWD 16-cv-00731) – 8 defaulted defendants
- LHF Production v Doe 1, et. al. (WAWD 16-cv-00864) – 7 defaulted defendants
- LHF Production v Doe 1, et. al. (WAWD 16-cv-01017) – 3 defaulted defendants
- LHF Production v Doe 1, et. al. (WAWD 16-cv-00551) – 4 defaulted defendants
The copyright troll attorney (David “He said Griffin!” Lowe) asked for $2,500 in damages along with $2,605.50 in attorney’s fees – per defendant. He didn’t get what he wanted by a large margin.
Judge Martinez wasn’t impressed by an overboard demand:
LHF argues that a statutory damage award of $2,500 per defendant should be awarded. The Court is not persuaded. Statutory damages are not intended to serve as a windfall to plaintiffs, and enhanced statutory damages are not warranted where plaintiffs do not even try to demonstrate actual damages. Additionally, the Court notes that LHF has not shown that any of the Defendants is responsible for the “seed” file that provided LHF’s copyrighted work on the BitTorrent network, and LHF has not presented evidence that Defendants profited from the infringement.
So, the judge awarded the very minimum ($750), which becomes increasingly common these days. However, there is something new that I never saw in the past (emphasis is mine):
[…] Because the named Defendants in this action were alleged to have conspired with one another to infringe the same digital copy of LHF’s motion picture, the Court will award the sum of $750 for Defendants’ infringement of the same digital copy of London Has Fallen. Each of the Defendants is jointly and severally liable for this amount.
You read it correctly: the judge ruled that each case’s minimum statutory award should be split among the defaulting defendants, which effectively yields $94-$250 per person.
Indeed, if the troll lumps together multiple Does to pay a single filing fee, and he justifies this conduct by claiming that the defendants were a part of a single transaction, he should accept the consequences: the award will also be “a single transaction.”