Judge Alsup grants 20K default judgment against two alleged file-sharers

IO Group v. Does 1-244 case, which I have been a part of, is effectively over. Today federal judge William Alsup ruled in plaintiff’s favor and entered the final default judgment against the two remaining defendants, Mariusz Pralat and Malgorzata Frazyk. Defendants were ordered to pay, jointly and severally¹, $20,000 to plaintiff.

This is not the first pyrrhic victory of this kind. Motions for default judgment were granted in this type of cases previously. Why “pyrrhic”? Firstly, it is not a judgment based on merits, but rather a technical decision. As stated in the order,

The fact that defendants refuse to participate in the judicial process renders a decision on the merits virtually impossible

Secondly, good luck to plaintiff collecting the abovementioned sum from the two who live in Wisconsin and Illinois. Maybe Sperlein will negotiate a nominal amount to be paid: his buddy troll Marc Randazza loves to brag about one particular default judgment, but conceals the fact that the actual payment he is receiving in installments is lower by orders of magnitude than the one awarded.

Though judge Alsup’s decision did not surprise me, I was disappointed by his shortsightedness and formalism. A judge of his rank should be capable of seeing the forest for the trees. He had an opportunity to crash the shakedown scheme in a way judge Gibney did, but decided to close his eyes on the bigger picture and concentrate on technicalities. Misled by Sperlein’s twisted assertions, he made numerous questionable statements in his ruling, especially while applying Eitel factors. I may go over each point of his analysis later, but for now I want to repeat: it was not the judgment based on merits, because no sane judge could possibly admit the “evidence” provided by a sleazy German company as a proof of wrongdoing.

Update: As I learned later, judge Alsup’s reputation is not that high among lawyers and litigants: read what they think about him.

If those two defendants had indeed received the summons and then deliberately did not answer to the complaint, I must admit that they brought this misery on themselves. I have been repeating over and over again that while ignoring ransom letters from a troll is the only right thing to do, not responding to official summons is plain stupid. Even if that’s the case, I still feel sympathy for these two: while reduced 3 times, the punishment is still grossly disproportionate.

Also, I’m not convinced that the two defendants have indeed received the papers. I have my reasons for this doubt, and I will elaborate on them in a separate post later.

I’m worried that this judgment can potentially prompt Sperlein’s return to copyright trolling arena: he has just obtained a BFG-9000 of fear that can be effectively used against poor students and closeted gays in order to extort settlements from them, though the likelihood of his return is rather low: Sperlein is obviously more clever than other trolls, and I don’t believe that he is blind and does not to see the growing opposition among victims, judges and the public in general. I was virtually alone when I confronted him half a year ago, now I have many good people on my side, including experienced and talented attorneys.

¹ Under joint and several liability or all sums, a claimant may pursue an obligation against any one party as if they were jointly liable and it becomes the responsibility of the defendants to sort out their respective proportions of liability and payment. This means that if the claimant pursues one defendant and receives payment, that defendant must then pursue the other obligors for a contribution to their share of the liability.

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27 responses to ‘Judge Alsup grants 20K default judgment against two alleged file-sharers

  1. Well..to be honest, if you are in the right jurisdiction, named and served in a suit you better deal with it or be willing to take a summary judgement. Even if the defendant was improperly served, if you KNOW that you are named you need to take action.

    Although…20K jointly owed is 10K a head. I wonder how much in attorney fees you would have to pay to fight it? It may still be the cheaper option. But IMO (as uneducated on the law as I am) I think that the judge should demand to “see watcha got” in terms of evidence before he simply assigns fines.

    • Those two are not in the right jurisdiction and could be easily dismissed if they bothered to file motions – everyone who responded in this case was dismissed. Maybe they thought that they were immune to prosecution because they live in Illinois and Wisconsin, but it seems that the location did not matter in the end of the day….

      Or maybe they did not know? I wouldn’t easily get Sperlein’s word as granted…

      • How the hell could this judge not address the jurisdiction issue? That seems strange. Most of the other Judges, including Beryl Howell addressed the issue of jurisdiction and forced the Trolls to explain themselves. But this judges allows a naming and summary judgement against people outside of his jurisdiction. Is there a way for these people to fight having to pay this based on the fact that they do not live in Ca?

        Unless of course there is something going on like they used to live in Ca, have family in Ca etc….

    • Effectively they were dismissed. Seems that when amended complaint that named 10 defendants was filed, all the remaining Does (including yours truly) were automatically dismissed. I don’t know if its true though. 8 out of 10 were explicitly dismissed later. “the only 2 remaining defendants” phrase was mentioned many times in latest filings, so I assume my understanding is correct.

  2. I have to wonder what screening process these Trolls use when they actually name people. It obviously isn’t based on assets and ability to pay. They just throwing darts at a list of names???

    • If you look at the table, Sperlein just took the first movie, Breakers, probably and named everyone who allegedly shared it.

      There are 2 misjoinders discussed at that time: jurisdiction based, and swarm based (different titles). He had to join some people but couldn’t avoid breaking at least one joinder type. So he came up with a bizarre conspiracy argument (see document 41: First Amended Complaint) to explain why defendants from different jurisdictions were lumped together.

      Actually he probably could select a “clean” sample – all Californians and the same title, but it seems that he was playing – pushing the limits, looking if courts could buy his conspiracy argument.

    • But I heard that other trolls select they prey by analyzing the wealth factor to increase the probability of settlement. Definitely it was not the case here – as I mentioned, those two defaulted are most likely young and poor. And one of than is female – how does it align with the genre of plaintiff’s movies?

      • Actually even if they had purchased a home, in the current economic meltdown it is possible they were evicted and the bank has yet to finish the paperwork showing them as the owner.
        Also the names on the ownership look to be similar yet typo’d.

        The fact that those 2 names repeat back and forth on the history leads me to think it was being sold to get a mortgage. So it is possible the unit is actually bank owned at this point and the target no longer resides there.

        I remain…

  3. This judge probably has limited experience in technology cases. Cases based on certain type of classification should be assigned to judges with the right back ground experience. Like most lawyers that try to get into the trolling business with a background in divorce or ambulance chasers, they obviously have very little knowledge of what they are going to court for when it comes to trolling that is why most blunder their way into case dismissals. I guess the logic is the same for judges. There should be a screening process for the class of filed cases to the background of judges accepting the cases.
    But some judges are too arrogant or just don’t care to admit that they know nothing and proceed blindly, either way they get paid.

  4. @all, quick question:

    What was the so called “anti-piracy-company” in this case again (the company collecting the IP-addresses)?

    Thanks and many greetings from Cologne, Germany


  5. OK, thanks. Now I remember… 😉 We are talking about Mr. Michaeal Eichner and Mr. Rainer Strassmeir again.
    With regards to MediaProtector, I have to admit that I forgot to send some information about this Company to you… Sorry about that – I’ll catch up on it.

    But I have some more question, please:
    How is the amount of $ 20k exactly calculated? And based on what exact evidence8s) ? Doesn’t the amount need to be comprehensible? Well, it’s inexplicable to me… Furthermore, their principle (“Turn Piracy Into Profit”) is a “no-cost”-project and if there were no costs for the copyrightholder, then why should anyone pay money to replace charges or fees?
    I would be very happy, if someone is able and willing to explain the costs.

    I am also asking myself, why noone presses charges against MediaProtector or at least report relevant details to the police?


    Until I have summerized the promised information for you, you can check their (other) website, if you like (but please don’t believe everything… 😉 ):


    By the way: Did you know that Titan Media “works” with “PornGuardian”? For details, see (e.g.) this website (or just google for “pornguardian”): http://newswire.xbiz.com/view.php?id=130735

    “Content removal services were also well-represented at CPR2, as attendees were afforded the chance to discuss the services offered by the technology-based take-down service Degban, the digital rights management and watermarking service vendor BuyDRM, manual site review and take-down service provider Take Down Piracy, European end-user monitoring and litigation firm Media-Protector, and PornGuardian.”

    Good night, Baxter
    P.S. @sophisticatedjanedoe: Have you received my email couple of days ago?

    • Yes, I did receive your email, sorry for not replying – it is on the top of my list, while I was busy at work recently. Generally if I don’t reply to an email instantly, it means that it requires time to think, research and answer, so my silence is rather a sign of respect 🙂

      As for the civil law in US, default judgement is awarded when defendant does not show up. And the proof of service barrier is extremely low – defendant is served when summons are deposited in a mailbox. No proof of delivery is required, regular first-class mail is OK. It is very unfair in my opinion, as although mail is very good in US, it is not perfect, and packages get lost sometimes. I don’t like many features of US legal system, but since I live here I have no other choice than adapt and live with it. So when defendant does not appear in front of the judge, plaintiff can be awarded with whatever is asked, also judge can look at the ceiling, scratch his balls and come up with any other number. No question about evidence, jurisdiction and such are ever raised – you did not show up? liable! From the other hand, judge is powerful enough to raise those questions and question the validity of the lawsuit in general, but he did not – so Sperlein was awarded instead of being sanctioned. That’s why I personally think that this particular judge is a coward – he has chosen the easiest way out, disregarding the damage he inflicted on public’s belief in judicial fairness .

      Sperlein asked for 30K for each, but got 20K for both. Look at my thoughts about defendants below: why I doubt that at least one of them never received summons.

      Greeting to Germany from Germany 🙂 (that’s where my VPN server is located, so I’m used to see many pages like Google in German)

  6. A couple of thoughts about defendants:

    Both defaulted defendants did receive the original summons. There is a proof of service: one signature is unreadable, the other clearly states a different name, so it may be a case that Malgorzata Pralat of Greenville, Wisconsin has never received the summons.

    According to the order displayed above, Sperlein mentioned to the judge that one of the two packages he sent to defendants later, this time by first class mail, had bounced. He did not specify which one, but I’m sure it was the one sent to Malgorzata Fraczyk: the other defendant lives in Buffalo Grove IL, and owns property, so it is much less likely that a package sent to his address would bounce. Sperlein said that he talked to her over the phone, but since he was caught lying in the past, I wouldn’t take his word for granted.

    So, most likely one of the defaulted defendants, Malgorzata Fraczyk, is not aware about the scam he was involved with.

    Malgorzata lived in an apartment complex with many units, most likely with a roommate(s), thus someone using her network, wired or wireless, is the most likely scenario, and since she is a woman, I don’t believe that she knowingly downloaded gay pornography.

    You don’t have to be a Sherlock Holmes to come to these conclusions… while Sperlein did not believe that she was sharing his movies, at least intentionally, he went after her just because he could, because she was an easy target. What a slime. Every time I think about Sperlein, I have an acute desire to wash my hands.

    Also I want to remind you an mysterious story about the other victim, Mariusz Pralat.

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