Lightspeed Media Corporation v. John Doe: a quick Q & A
Disclaimer: This post in a way constitutes legal advice but is being submitted for discussion purposes only.
I wanted to write my first post and try to keep it simple about the case entitled Lightspeed Media Corporation v. John Doe currently pending in the Circuit Court of the Twentieth Judicial Circuit, St. Clair County, Illinois (complaint is embedded below). Don’t let the title deceive you : this is not a lawsuit against a single malicious hacker, but a mere fishing expedition, which has a sole goal to obtain contact information of 6,500 Internet users and start extortion racket. Naming one person and burying hundreds, and (like in this case) thousands, of subscribers in a complaint is one of the new sleazy tactics employed by trolls in order to deceive both courts and public.
Who is Lightspeed Media Corporation?
Lightspeed Media Corporation (LMC) is a pornography enterprise located in Phoenix, Arizona. It is owned by Steve Jones, a former computer consultant who, along with his wife,
…publishes photos and videos of youthful models, and has long used terms such as “barely legal” and “barely 18″ in its marketing. Users pay between $30 and $40 a month, depending on how many sites they want to access.”
(According to Wall Street Journal.)
Today Steve Jones charges (NSFW link) either $34.95 or $39.95.
Who is LMC’s troll?
LMC is being represented by an attorney affiliated¹ with Prenda Law by the name of Michael O’ Malley, who until August 2010 was a judge in the court where this lawsuit is pending. Undoubtedly he is on friendly terms with the judge who has been assigned to this case in what American Tort Reform Foundation has identified as being in the top list of “judicial hellholes” in the USA.
Who is LMC’s Forensic Computer Expert?
Quick answer: Steve Jones. According to the complaint at paragraph 14,
Plaintiff retained Arcadia Data Security Consultants, LLC (“Arcadia”) to identify IP addresses associated with hackers that use hacked passwords and the Internet to access Plaintiff’s private website and content.
[to do this] Arcadia used forensic software named Trader Hacker and Intruder Evidence Finder 2.0 (T.H.I.E.F.) to detect hacking, unauthorized access, and password sharing activity on Plaintiff’s websites.
Arcadia‘s address is the same address for LMC. Arcadia’s sole member is Steve Jones (likewise Matthew P. Collins is the Organizer of Arcadia and Attorney of Record for LMC).
Furthermore, guess who owns, markets and likely commissioned the creation of the forensic software? Yup, Steve Jones (www.arcadiasecurity.com ²). So a more accurate statement of paragraph 14 would be “Plaintiff’s principal, Steve Jones, retained Steve Jones to use Steve Jones’s forensic software to identify…”. No reports, investigations or testimony would be admissible in an honest court because they would be found to have been issued or given by a “biased expert” or one who has a financial interest in the outcome of the lawsuit.
What is the Amount of Money Involved In This Lawsuit?
LMC is claiming damages in excess of $100,000 plus attorney’s fees and costs. Back to reality, Buffy the Pirate Hunter (a.k.a. John Steele) has threatened to sue individuals and if that is the case then, in my opinion, LMC’s damages would be the cost of a lost monthly membership ($34.95 – $39.95) if a case actually went to trial.
What of Earth is Going on With Count I of the Complaint?
LMC’s troll is bringing lawsuit in a state court based upon a federal statute known as the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) on the ground that John Doe and his 6,500 co-conspirators used hacked passwords to access his websites (how this could happen to a former computer consultant who has been working in online porno business since 1999 is beyond me). On its face it looks a little scary but I do not believe the troll has pleaded a claim that would survive a motion to dismiss. This is because to make such a case the troll has to prove that his client sustained “damage” or “loss” of at least $5,000 which I think is not realistic.
The CFAA states that “damage” means any impairment to the integrity or availability of data, a program, a system, or information and “loss” means any reasonable cost to any victim, including the cost of responding to an offense, conducting a damage assessment, and restoring the data, program, system, or information to its condition prior to the offense, and any revenue lost, cost incurred, or other consequential damages incurred because of interruption of service. In plain English and within the context of this lawsuit it means that the Troll has to show that LMC spent at least $5,000 to repair and/or re-secure his websites. The complaint claims it can reach this amount “in the form of actual damages, statutory damages, and reputational injury” but there are no statutory damages contained in the CFAA and as to reputational injuries to a pornographer that uses models/actresses who are barely 18… good luck with that.
What About the state claims of conversion, unjust enrichment, breach of contract and civil Conspiracy?
The simpler ones (conversion and unjust enrichment) are arguably valid but the damages are small ($34.95 – $39.95). The other two causes of action (breach of Contract and civil conspiracy), in my opinion, are laughable under the circumstances of this lawsuit.
I will keep an eye on these cases and, if the need arises, write a post about personal jurisdiction and removal under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. In the meantime, do not feed the trolls.
Thanks to On2ndthought for unearthing some interesting facts presented in this post.
A resource and discussion page dedicated to Lightspeed “hacking” cases.
4/16/2012: A follow-up post: Attorney’s opinion: Lightspeed’s claim is a farce.
5/5/2012: Another follow-up post by Raul: Lightspeed Media Corporation v. John Doe: a quick follow-up Q & A.
Here is an interesting blog post about St. Clair county and its public servants.
¹ Pay attention to the address where deposition is set to take place: this is the official Prenda Law headquarters (a.k.a Troll Central).
² Initially I linked to www.arcadiasecurity.com, but it was brought to my attention that Steve Jones redirects to a Google image search for “gay love”. Is this how a mature individual behaves? You decide. Update: now it redirects to the Facebook main page; also, Steve Jones’s name is not listed in the domain name registration anymore: don’t worry, we have plenty of screenshots.
841 responses to ‘Lightspeed Media Corporation v. John Doe: a quick Q & A’
This site has been very useful in gaining an understanding of what’s going on in this case, but I’m still not quite sure what the current status is (I’m not at all versed in legal talk). I just received a letter from my internet provider notifying me that there’s a subpoena for my information. I’ve contacted a lawyer and am meeting with them next week to go over the specifics of the case, but I was hoping someone could help me understand what’s currently going on with this case before that meeting. If I don’t live in Illinois, do I have anything to fear? Is it known how much lightspeed is asking in damages at the individual level for people who are actually being targeted?
Thanks in advance for any information you can provide.
they have named individuals in several state courts so just because you are not in IL does not necessarily mean you are “safe” however there is a low percentage that you will be named. the prudent thing to do (as the plaintiff) would be to let the state cases play out and see if you can actually win. one real win will mean loads of future victories. but if prenda and lightspeed have shown anything it is that they are far from prudent. they are claiming that they will name every person they have info on within the 2 year statute of the cfaa, but still have not been able to come through with the required numbers of lawsuits to show they are serious. infact a good majority of the people they are threatening are already half way through that statutory period. that means in the next year they will have to file over 3000 suits. (about 10 per day) and that is just not feasible with the number of lawyers they have. according to steel they will be filing over 300/month by the end of October. seems doubtful but hey since they are all cut and past motions they might pull it off. so that is where these cases are at.
as far as damages go they will be trying to seek hundreds of thousands from each defendant as they claim that the material that was dl’d through the breached pw’s was then deceminated through p2p and other networks thus invoking copyright law (can anyone say preemption) there is no way to offer ANY proof of this without a forensic examination of the defendants computers, and as such realistically if they can get a court to agree that they have experienced over 5k in loss (doubtful) the most they will be able to win in an open trial is probably in the 10k range if the jury buys their bs that it cost them so much to re-secure their systems.
this is all speculation but should give you some basic insight into these cfaa/hacking cases.
The people that allegedly hacked in early August 2011 are now over 13 months into the 24 month statutory period and thus have 11 months to go. I think the folks on the tail end of the original 11-L-683 IP list were in the 2nd week of December so they have ~15 months to go. To my knowledge, in addition to Anthony Smith (ie John Doe, the alleged “master hacker), they’ve named less than 20 of the 6600+ alleged co-conspirators in various state courts from what was 11-L-683. OK, let’s be generous. Less than 100 of the 6600 have been named so far. Let’s assume 10% settled so far (could be higher or lower in reality), that means they still have to name just shy of 6000 people in an 11-15 month time window to keep their promise. Chances are, if you were going to settle, you would have done so by now.
If you assume Steele is telling the truth and Prenda can name 300 per month as an organization, that gets 4500 individual cases over the next 15 months. That’s far more to go than the double digits that have been named cumulatively thus far. Then you have ALL their other current, non-Lightspeed subpoena cases (Bit-Torrent) and Guava (password, which could be in the 5-digits for co-conspirators) which will be even bigger than Lightspeed. So where is the capacity to juggle their entire “portfolio” if they are tapped out with Lightspeed alone and still fall short? Then, where’s the capacity to name victims from cases yet to be filed during that time frame? Now they have Comcast and AT&T to deal with in SDIL and the appeal of Howell’s ruling in DC
Let’s assume it’s $100-$200 to file in state court PER INDIVIDUAL CASE and given that it’s $350 to file PER INDIVIDUAL CASE in federal court, the filing fees alone will chip heavily into their settlement returns.
For all of the above reasons, I think John Steele is full of shit when it comes to the numbers behind his promises. It’s easy to just say he’s full of it because we don’t like him, but when you factor in the variables of what he/they have going in the present alone and then factor in the impending and future case load over the next year, it makes it easier for me to see that.
Just my $0.02. But if you are one of the few who do indeed get named, then life will suck until your case gets resolved. That’s all John wants to do. He wants you to realize and be fearful of that chance which does exist. The key word is “chance” so all you have to do is remind yourself of the odds. If you’re a troll it’s simple: $$ in (settlements) – $$ out (fees, expenses, etc) = profit. This is all about profit for these lawyers and not about principle or copyright protection. It may be partially about the latter for a very few of the plaintiffs (benefit of doubt), but it’s all about the profit for these troll lawyers.
If settlements are drastically down from where they were a year or two ago (I believe they are due to sites like this and uptake of these stories in the press, but can’t know for sure) then the only way to maintain profit is to reduce $$ going out. Naming people individually as they “promise” vs naming en masse adds up significantly in terms of $$ going out, which further reduces profit (not the goal).
None of the above is legal advice to anyone. It’s just some of my ramblings, thoughts and opinions about the trolling business model and how it may apply to Prenda and Lightspeed in particular.
I think the disclaimer is off a bit. Seems it should read “This post in *NO* a way constitutes…”
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