Marisol Malibu: an illegal porn production capital of Ventura County
11802 Ellice Street, Malibu, CA 90265. The showcase property of the posh Marisol Malibu community, located in unincorporated Ventura County, was designed by a renowned architect Barry Berkus who died in 2012 — before the house was sold to Brigham Field and Colette Pelissier — “barely legal” hardcore pornographers and probably the most infamous copyright trolls. To some extent, Mr. Berkus was lucky: he didn’t have to watch how his masterpiece was used as a porn production warehouse for three years.
In 2014, the Brigham and Colette intended to buy an adjacent empty lot, but for some reason didn’t. Instead, two weeks ago they listed their house for sale — for $25 million.
It is rumored that our once successful pornographers are currently falling into a financial abyss, which prompted the sell (I was told that the Fields are selling other property). Lacking solid facts, I don’t want to speculate why and how it happened. Yet all the signals (including the attorney situation described in the next section) suggest that the troubles are real.
As I wrote in my 2014 story, the porn production at this house was illegal for two reasons: first, commercial filming is not permitted in the coastal residential area at all; second, filming without permission and/or shooting porn without barrier protection violates Ventura County Ordinance 4452, which provides for criminal penalties:
Any person or entity who produces or films an adult film for commercial purposes in the County without a valid permit, or any person, who violates any law, ordinance or regulation governing any activity regulated by this chapter, or who, upon demand of the Director, refuses or neglects to conform to a lawful order or directive of the Director pertaining to conduct regulated by this chapter, is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $1,000, imprisonment in the County jail for a period not exceed six months, or both. Each such act is punishable as a separate offense.
So, why did X-Art continued filming with impunity even after I broke the story about the illegal activity? Because no one seemingly cares: while this ordinance was sponsored by the county superintendent Linda Park in 2013, it looks like this law was never meant to be enforced. When I contacted Ms. Park’s office, I received the following reply:
Thank you for your e-mail. We contacted the County Code Compliance Department and the Director informed us that that Code Compliance would need to be provided “a filming schedule or be contacted when filming is occurring” so they can respond and document the violation, and that unfortunately the screen shots are not adequate proof for them to take criminal action.
Right, the screenshots are not adequate proof. Look, during the last month only X-Art posted eight porn flicks. Six of them were filmed at the Marisol mansion. Click the (NSFW!) links below to see screenshots and compare them with the photographs from the property listing.
- 5/4/2016: Rub Me The Right Way
- 5/13/2016: Deep in Love
- 5/16/2016: Roller Girl
- 5/21/2016: In the Garden of Ecstasy
- 5/26/2016: While You’re Away the Kitty Will Play
- 5/28/2016: The Artiste
I’ll leave it here. It is not my job to build a case for the Ventura’s AG. If the laws in this county are applied selectively, it’s not my business: I neither pay taxes nor vote there.
All I wanted was to stress one more time that the trolls can’t claim a moral high ground regarding “losses due to illegal file-sharing”: copyright infringement is a tort, yet the nature of violations we witness from the “victims of piracy” is criminal.
I don’t want to be a buyer who spends $25 million only to find out later that dozens and dozens of porn shoots took place in the new home. One can clean up bodily fluids, but the reputational stench stays forever.
This new buyer should blame the sales office / community management: they deliberately chose to assume an ostrich position. When I tweeted to @marisolmalibu about the situation, their response was… to block me from following.
Keith Lipscomb, Emilie Kennedy, and Pillar Law Group, APLC
I already wrote about the surprising crack in the relationship between X-Art and Keith Lipscomb. Given the latest events, an opinion that a lawyer shared with me on what could possibly happen gained a new weight:
Typically, attorneys are not required to state with specificity why they are withdrawing apart from the generalized statements you saw in Lipscomb’s filings. This is because often times, revealing the reasons might implicate privilege issues. Unless the case is close to trial, or there is some other irregularity in the case, most requests to withdraw are granted.
Now, as for the reasons. In the vast majority of cases, motions to withdraw are based on the client’s failure to pay. If Lipscomb et al., are trying to withdraw only from cases that are approaching trial, this might indicate that he has some type of tier fee structure with Malibu Media. My guess would be that Lipscomb et al., will take the case on contingency up to a point, after which Malibu has to start paying some part of their fees/cost (experts, travel, court reporters etc…). For example, if Malibu was responsible for all fees related to the trial but didn’t pay, Lipscomb could seek withdrawal for those reasons.
The only other reasons that a lawyer will typically withdraw representation are if: 1) the client stops cooperating with, or lying to the attorney or asks that he withdraw; or 2) the client is requesting that the attorney commit some action that would violate the law, or the rules of professional conduct.
My best guess would be money is the issue.
There is more than that. All the three attorneys, who helped Keith Lipscomb to part productive citizens from their hard-earned money, are not listed on the Lipscomb, Eisenberg and Baker’s website any longer:
- Daniel Shatz found a new job at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP;
- Jessica Fernandez (Malibu Media v Raleigh in Michigan and Florida cases) did not update her LinkedIn profile yet;
- Emilie Kennedy is now employed by a Beverly Hills law firm Pillar Law Group, APLC and de facto became the Troll Grandmaster.
Pillar Law Group became the destination for settlement checks sometime in April. The firm’s founders, Art Kalantar and Henrik Mosesi, hastily added “copyright” to the firm’s specializations, and Kennedy seemingly physically moved to California (as I deducted from her tweet):
Five hour flight with two cats. What an adventure.
— Emilie Kennedy (@emiliekennedy05) May 24, 2016
As I understand, this firm’s attorneys (Henrik Mosesi in particular) were acquainted with X-Art for a while, but were not involved in the copyright shakedown aspect of X-Art’s business. Now they are.
The other attorneys, who work for Pillar Law, are:
- Edgar Sargsyan
- Anthony C. Williams
- Anthony H. Lupu
I don’t know if those guys will be helping Emilie to keep the enormous Malibu Media nationwide caseload afloat. Since Florida is ironically now the only state where Malibu doesn’t have a local counsel, Ms. Kennedy herself already appeared in the Malibu Media v. Rodlan appeal (I’ll report on this case in the following days). There was also some help attempt from local attorneys: the lawyer-playing kids Brian Heit and Brenna Erlbaum unsuccessfully tried to salvage Malibu Media v Raleigh (by immaturely emailing the MIWD chambers on the deadline to replace Malibu’s counsel), and Heit is currently seeking a pro hac vice admission to pick up Malibu Media v. Weaver (FLMD 14-cv-01580). I guess he will attempt to appear in Malibu Media v Curt Vandenheuvel (FLMD 13-cv-01579) as well. [6/3/2016 update: today was a deadline for the plaintiff’s counsel replacement in Weaver, and Emilie Kennedy decided to pick up the case herself.]
Of course, no new Malibu Media cases were filed since April 14, and I predict that the existing ones will die slowly — given the lack of experienced lawyer workforce (like the Miami’s team was) and X-Art’s apparent financial troubles. This is both good and bad news. Obviously good for those sued who are currently sitting and waiting, and not-so-good for those who expect to get attorney fees back from the troll if the troll goes bankrupt.
It seems to me that Colette’s ill-gotten wealth came and went, and with thousands of lives unnecessarily steamrolled over minor copyright violations, the world became a slightly colder place.
Nouveau riche means “newly rich” in French. One who has recently become rich, especially one who flaunts newly acquired wealth.
Nouveau riche is a term, usually derogatory, to describe persons who acquire wealth within their generation, and spend it conspicuously. The implication is that, being of lower- or middle-class origin, these individuals lack the taste to properly use wealth. Hence, this class of people is sometimes ill-regarded by old money as culturally inferior, comparatively lacking in pedigree and subtlety.
The benchmark of the “nouveau riche” is their acquiring possessions which are touted to them as being the sort of things that rich people would possess. “Old money” in traditional European societies has inherited a large house filled with well-built furniture acquired over the centuries. Their cars are not necessarily the most expensive and capable, but have a bit of restraint, or else they disguise their social position in cars of the middle rank. During the Great Depression, Chryslers, for example, were sold to such people for this reason. They fit within a social milieu in which everyone knows everyone else and has for generations. The “nouveau riche” in essence tries to crash this party by buying everything they need to show that they have money not merely within one generation but within a few years.
Looks like Colette is back at her pre-pornography occupation — real estate brokerage — at least as a part time job.
Agents: Colette Pelissier, Sotheby’s International Realty, (310) 481-6262
Debts won’t pay for themselves, and filming 10-min skin flicks using the the same “sophisticated plot” over and over again apparently didn’t turn out to be a bottomless gold mine as Brigham and Colette initially thought. Porn consumers crave novelty, and if there isn’t any, no matter how professional camera work is, paying subscribers eventually lose interest. In addition, I was told that Colette’s vanity project colette.com was a huge money burner an didn’t even break even. That’s my opinion on the reasons behind the recent events. I expect to hear Colette blaming piracy — an ever-convenient scapegoat — for her own bad decisions. Well, while unauthorized file sharing did have a certain negative impact, one needs to to be gullible to the point of idiocy to believe it was the reason behind the downfall.