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In July, 2010, this blog was started to address the at-the-time unknown problem of copyright trolling.  For years, myself and my staff wrote articles explaining the business model of copyright trolling, which at the time was an adaptation of patent trolling (where “patent trolls” would file [often frivolous] lawsuits against alleged infringers who refused to pay what appeared to be a “shakedown” of the patent holders [e.g., “pay us or else you will end up having to pay even more to defend the claims against you in a federal court”], even when the patent being asserted against the would-be infringer had absolutely nothing to do with the product the targeted company was producing).

There were common threads between patent trolls and copyright trolls, and as the cases developed, there were common themes of how a copyright troll must act to make his model of extorting the public (the bittorrent internet users) profitable.  At the time, that included questions of 1) where and how can a copyright enforcement company or lawyer sue a group of defendants (personal jurisdiction), 2) how to link non-related downloaders into a cohesive set of defendants into a cohesive set of “John Doe Defendants,” (joinder, and my controversial strategy to force a copyright troll to sue the entire bittorrent swarm when a defendant is named and served) and 3) how to avoid risking the potential settlements from hundreds or thousands of accused bittorrent users by moving forward and “naming and serving” one or more defendants.  There were also time limits they faced based on a) how long the ISPs retained the records of which IP address was leased to which account holder / subscriber, b) statute of limitations on how long a copyright holder has to file a lawsuit, and c) how long a copyright troll attorney may keep a case alive before a judge imposes the time limits described in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP Rule 4m, a.k.a. the “120 Day Rule”).

Then, over the years, there arose a confusion under the discussions of “net neutrality” asking questions such as whether an internet service provider (ISP) was governed under the cable act, and if so, under what title.  The reason for this was that there were allegations that various ISPs were outright sharing the contact information of its subscribers without valid court orders to do so, thus violating the privacy rights of its subscribers.

In sum, there were a lot of issues, and we tackled each one over the course of almost five years.  The goal was to educate the bittorrent user and the accused downloader about the issues so that they understand how to act, react, and in many cases, fight against a group of attorneys with questionable ethics.

The problem is that these articles — the ones that have been so helpful to tens of thousands of accused defendants — these articles have been buried by the search engines because they are simply now aging and many articles are now many years old.  An accused defendant can no longer search for a “copyright troll” on Google and find any of my older articles.  [And, enterprising attorneys (and good for them) have put up websites containing SEO-based content full of keywords in hackneyed sentences, but devoid of useful content (e.g., the “contact our law firm, we can help you with your copyright troll lawsuit issue” type of website), while what I consider to be the “useful” content (not only mine, but content written by other attorneys in their blogs, and proactive users [really, trailblazers such as “Sophisticated Jane Doe” of FightCopyrightTrolls and “DieTrollDie”] in their respective blogs) is no longer accessible by typing the name of the particular copyright troll, issue, or case that has been recently filed.

What I will be doing to remedy this as far as this blog is concerned — and I apologize up front to the thousands of you who get updated on each and every article that I or a staff member of mine writes — is that I need to rehash some of the “older” content on the educational topics that I have already covered in the blog ad nauseam.  The reason for this is that the older content explaining the legal concepts in terms of the bittorrent lawsuits (and now in terms of the DMCA letters being sent to subscribers through the ISPs) is just as relevant today as it was five years ago.  There has been little-to-no judicial or legal oversight of the copyright trolls from the attorney generals of each state and from the lawmakers (both federal and in each state), and the problem and issues surrounding “copyright trolling” is just as relevant today as it was almost five years ago.

For these reasons, I need to violate my own preference not to repeat information or content that has already been described or hashed-out in previous articles (my opinion is that one article describing a topic is enough, and writing multiple articles containing the same topic “waters down” or “cheapens” the content of a website).  The reason I now feel the need to rehash some of the older topics is to re-teach those who have not yet been victimized by the copyright trolls, as my older articles are no longer found, even by those looking for that particular topic.

ALSO.  Copyright trolls are now enjoying a seed of legitimacy by the courts, where once upon a time us defense attorneys were “winning” the cases by arguing concepts such as “an IP address does not equal a person,” or “my client had an open wireless router, it could have been anyone who downloaded this video,” the arguments themselves have also aged and are now increasingly being ignored by the courts, even though the arguments remain “an elephant in the room,” meaning, just as valid today as they were yesterday.  On the flip-side, faulty and failed arguments (e.g., “are you negligent if you let someone else use your internet connection to commit copyright infringement” [Answer: NO!]) are being reasserted by the copyright trolls, and to my utter disbelief, they are not immediately being dismissed by the judges as being a faulty argument.

Copyright trolling has not changed in the past five years, and the successful arguments defending a case do not deserve to be ignored just because they have been used successfully by defendants in older lawsuits which too are aging.  Ignoring good case law is contrary to law, as successful arguments in one jurisdiction are binding on all other judges in that federal district, and are persuasive on cases in the federal districts in other cases.  Yet, I see more and more lawlessness in judges who ignore the case law from not only other jurisdictions, but from their own jurisdiction as well (creating a “split” in the court), and they are denying a John Doe defendant’s ability to assert what was a successful argument in another court (even one binding upon them in their own jurisdiction).

In sum, judges are allowing plaintiff copyright holders to sue larger number of defendants each week, even though nothing has changed making this new trend permissible (in my opinion, whether 200 defendants were sued by a plaintiff attorney in one lawsuit or in ten cases [having 20 defendants in each case] filed in the same week still means that 200 defendants were sued; it does not matter that the plaintiff made the cases “appear” to be smaller, especially if they are implicating the same bittorrent swarm in each of the ten cases).

Remember, the underlying copyright troll business model of “shakedown, extort thousands of dollars from each defendant, but avoid moving forward against anyone [but pretend that you are prepared to move to trial]” is still the same as it was five years ago.  It should not matter whether the content of the lawsuit is a Hollywood movie or an adult film.

As a quick recap, the Dallas Buyers Club, LLC piracy lawsuits started in Texas and Ohio, and like a cancer, over the past year they have metastasized into the federal courts of Illinois, Florida, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, and even Hawaii.  Copyright lawyers employed by Dallas Buyers Club have even moved their copyright enforcement activities offshore into Canada, Australia, Finland, Denmark, and Japan.

Regardless of where they go, their business model is the same — Voltage Pictures, LLC or Dallas Buyers Club, LLC files a peer-to-peer lawsuit alleging copyright infringement against multiple John Doe Defendants (generally referred to by plaintiffs as “pirates”), they convince a federal judge to rubber-stamp a subpoena demanding that the ISP turn over the contact information of the accused account holders unless the accused account holders file what is known as a “motion to quash.”  The target of the subpoena is almost always the account holder, implying that the account holder is the actual downloader or infringer who downloaded the Dallas Buyers Club (2013) movie.  The plaintiff attorney then sends one or multiple settlement demand letters to the accused downloaders in each case threatening that each will be “named and served” as a defendant in the lawsuit unless they pay a settlement of thousands of dollars (settlement requests average $3,500 to $6,500 [and in one case, $14,000, really?] depending on the state in which the lawsuit is filed).

Where the settlement demand letters blur the line of ethics is that many plaintiff attorneys employ scare tactics, making the John Doe Defendant believe that the lawsuit has already been filed against them personally.  Various attorneys have sent accused downloaders “waiver of service” forms and questionnaires along with their settlement demand letters suggesting that the not-yet-named-defendants answer these questions voluntarily, or that they waive service effectively negating the need for the plaintiff attorney to name and serve them as a defendant.

What bothers me is that because Dallas Buyers Club is not an “adult film” copyright infringement lawsuit (but rather, a “real” movie with a valid copyright and without the stigma of being an adult film), the federal judges are giving them leeway to move in and out of the federal courts to “enforce” their copyrights.  In U.S. copyright law, there is a legal presumption of validity, which means that a judge will initially lean towards favoring the copyright owner until that copyright owner has been shown to be abusing the legal process through a pattern of abuse.  Attorneys for copyright holders who represent the plaintiff generally (in our blog and in the eyes of the courts) get increased scrutiny because they have represented other copyright holders in similar lawsuits employing the same strategy of “sue and settle, but try not to name and serve [and if you do, bluff to the judge that you are prepared to go to trial on the merits of the case].”

These lawyers who file Dallas Buyers Club lawsuits (these are those who sue defendants, NOT those who defend defendants) include a growing list of attorneys, such as: Keith Vogt (Texas), Michael Hierl (Illinois), David Stephenson Jr. (Colorado), Eric Osterberg (Connecticut), Richard Fee (Florida), Paul Nicoletti (Michigan), Carl Crowell (Oregon), Leon Bass (Ohio), and Gregory Ferren (Hawaii).

Many of these names are familiar to those who have followed our “copyright troll” / bittorrent lawsuit blogs over the years, and we often see these names representing one copyright holder after another in the same fashion.  Regardless of who the lawyer is, be aware of the motivation of the Dallas Buyers Club lawsuits — to create a ‘windfall’ profit for the company by pursuing those who download the movie without authorization, and to scare and intimidate the accused downloaders into paying large settlement amounts to avoid defending the claims against them in court.

Related: Dallas Buyers Club launches post-Oscar copyright salvo, sues 615 Does (ArsTechnica)

It occurred to me that there is some confusion as to the effect the amount of time ISPs keep IP address logs (linking a particular IP address to a particular subscriber) have on whether those records will be available to the copyright holder if a lawsuit is filed after that time period has elapsed.

The question that sparked this post is as follows:

If CEG-TEK hasn’t subpoenaed someones identity, but the ISP only retains IP information for one year, then after a year it would essentially be impossible for CEG-TEK to obtain the identity correct?

My answer:

In order to understand what is going on, it is important to know who-is-who, and who does what.

I: CEG-TEK (a.k.a. Copyright Enforcement Group):  CEG-TEK hasn’t sued anyone in two years, and thus there are never subpoenas sent to the ISPs.  CEG-TEK is hired by the copyright holders 1) to track the IP addresses of accused downloaders, 2) to maximize the settlement payment by establishing connections between current accused downloads and other “older” downloads that happened at that same location (using IP address geolocation data), 3) to elicit payment in the form of “settlements” from the accused users via their settlement website, and 4) to provide attorney enforcement for those who choose not to settle via the website.

How they do this: CEG-TEK establishes relationships with the ISPs (internet service providers, e.g., Charter, CenturyLink, Giganews, etc.) and they arrange for the ISPs to forward the DMCA settlement demand letters to their subscribers.  CEG-TEK has a website they use to elicit payments from accused downloaders.  Lastly, they have attorneys (e.g., Marvin Cable) who follow-up with accused downloaders (sometimes asking for increasingly larger amounts of money).  Contrary to what is said by the attorneys, neither CEG-TEK nor their lawyers [at the moment] sue people.

II: COPYRIGHT HOLDERS (generally, the production companies): After failing to receive a settlement via the CEG-TEK settlement process, the copyright holders themselves hire out attorneys who enforce their copyrights against those subscribers who “ignored” CEG-TEK’s offers to settle.  Sometimes the attorneys are no-name attorneys, and other times, they are prolific copyright trolls such as from the law firm of Lipscomb and Eisenberg (best known as the attorneys for the Malibu Media lawsuits).

III: ISPs (internet service providers, including Universities and select VPN service providers): ISPs generally hold IP address data (and to which subscriber it was assigned to, and on what date) for one year — check your ISP’s “IP retention policy.” Congress and the RIAA/MPAA are pushing to increase this amount of time to 18 months.  For comparison purposes, in 2010, IP address data was kept for only 6 months. 

NOTE: After the ISP’s “IP retention policy” time limit elapses, if there are no copyright infringement claims, legal claims or requests on a particular IP address assignment record, they will purge that record from their database, meaning that lawsuits, subpoenas, or requests filed AFTER DESTRUCTION will not reveal the subscriber’s identity because that data is no longer available.

HOWEVER, most ISPs have a SECOND DATABASE — this second database holds IP address assignment records which have had claims of copyright infringement asserted against the subscriber, and these records are often kept indefinitely. Thus, if a lawsuit happens YEARS later (even after the IP retention policy date has expired), the data indicating which subscriber was assigned what IP address on what date and time IS RETAINED and will be available to the copyright holders and their attorneys when suing subscribers.

Lastly, (and I did not include this in my initial response,) it is my experience that ISPs generally forward DMCA settlement demand requests LITERALLY WITHIN DAYS of the accused download actually happening.  For example, Charter literally pumps out letters to their subscribers FOUR DAYS after the downloads happen.  Now obviously there are hiccups where a subscriber will receive a pile of infringements at one time, or an infringement notice is withheld until after the CEG-TEK due date has passed, but in my understanding, when this happens, it is either a business-related issue between CEG-TEK and the ISP, or a staffing issue in the subpoena / abuse department at the ISP.

Thus, where CEG-TEK is concerned, I have never heard of a situation where CEG-TEK demands that the ISP forward a letter to a subscriber and the ISP denies that request based on the ISP’s IP retention policy making the subscriber’s information unavailable.

As far as copyright lawsuits in general, yes, the IP retention policy does factor in to when a lawsuit is filed.  I have personally seen a handful of copyright infringement lawsuits filed against John Doe Defendants fail because the ISPs were unable to identify the identities of the accused subscribers because the plaintiff took too long to file the lawsuit (or a judge took too long to approve the subpoena to the ISP demanding the identities of the accused subscribers), and by the time the request or subpoena was received by the ISP, the IP address assignment records were already purged.

Thus, even though a plaintiff copyright holder does have three years from the alleged date of infringement to file a lawsuit against an accused subscriber, they are still bound by the ISP’s IP retention policy if they wish to ever identify the accused subscriber.  That being said, it is the “SECOND DATABASE” which trips up most individuals, as many individuals accused of copyright infringement are not aware that ISPs keep certain IP address assignment records indefinitely (or for a prolonged period of time), and these IP address assignment records are those which have been flagged by a copyright holder, attorney, or other law enforcement agency prior to the expiration of the ISP’s IP retention policy.

I am observing “shifting sands” when it comes to the number of internet users who are getting caught in the web of CEG-TEK DMCA-based settlement demand letters.

For almost two years, I have been telling people that there are three internet service providers who are working with Ira Siegel — Charter Communications, SuddenLink, and CenturyLink. This has been true, and continues to be true.

I have also told people that if your ISP is participating in the “Six Strikes” anti-piracy system — specifically, Comcast (Xfinity), Verizon, AT&T, Time Warner Cable, and Cablevision — then there is nothing to worry about (because these ISPs are no longer forwarding Ira Siegel’s DMCA settlement demand letters, meaning that there is nothing at the moment to settle).  This is NO LONGER TRUE.

In recent weeks, I have observed Comcast (Xfinity) infringement notices sent to subscribers in spite of the “Six Strikes” system being in place.  [The Comcast notices contain relevant infringement information, yet only reference the “CEG-TEK Case Number;” Comcast has, however, neglected to provide the password so that the accused downloader could visit CEG-TEK’s website to determine what claims they have against him.  The unintended consequence is that in order to see what claim(s) CEG-TEK has against the accused subscriber, the subscriber would be forced to contact CEG-TEK directly to obtain the password corresponding to the Case Number (thus exposing his identity, and potentially incriminating himself when answering questions). Direct communication with copyright trolls is a big no-no, as you know it is my opinion that communicating directly with them is a bad idea because their goal is to extract a large settlement from you on behalf of their clients.]

As for the 100+ small and mid-sized ISPs who did not join the “Six Strikes” system, with hindsight, we now know that CEG-TEK has spent the last two years on an aggressive campaign to enroll as many ISPs to work with them as they could… “to stop piracy,” of course.  While it was surprising to us is that CEG-TEK went after Giganews and a growing number of VPN providers (finding the downloaders where the downloaders allegedly reside), the breaking news is that CEG-TEK has signed on COX Communications to send Ira Siegel’s DMCA letters to their subscribers.

Again, just in case you missed it — COX COMMUNICATIONS is now working with CEG-TEK.

Cox Communications has literally millions of subscribers.  They were almost expected to be part of the “Six Strikes” system, but then they declined to join keeping them free of the “Six Strikes” rules.

On a personal note, Cox used to annoy me when various copyright trolls would sue their subscribers. Instead of housing a subpoena department internally, they used to outsource all of their business relating to their subscribers to a company named NEUSTAR, a company that was complicit and merciless in turning over the records of hundreds of accused defendants in the copyright trolling lawsuits over the years.

In sum, with this article I take back a number of things that I thought almost two years ago, namely that the Six Strikes system would kill CEG-TEK’s business.  As you can see from the list below, CEG-TEK has responded to the “Six Strikes” system by focusing their efforts on growing the number of ISPs who are working with them.  Now that they have Cox Communications on board, this will be a problem for many thousands of users in the months and years to come.

Below is a list of ISPs who have been known to forward Ira Siegel’s DMCA settlement demand letters.  This list is obviously incomplete (and I have no intention of updating this list), but what is important is that two years ago, these ISPs were not working with CEG-TEK.  Now they are, and accused internet users are receiving notices of infringement instructing that they visit CEG-TEK’s website and settle the claims against them.

LIST OF INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDERS KNOWN TO WORK WITH CEG-TEK:
AeroSurf
AirtranNet
Arvig
Ashland Home Net
Bloom Broadband
Blue Ridge Communications
CenturyLink
Charter Communications
CondoInternet
DigitalOcean
EPB Fiber Optics
First Communications
GigaNews
Google Fiber
Hotspot Broadband
Internet Services of Cincinnati (ISOC.net)
MetroCast
Midcontinent Communications
Mid-Rivers Communications
Morris Broadband
NeoNova Network Services
OlyPen Cable
PenTel Data (another name for Blue Ridge Communications)
ResTech
SuddenLink Communications
ViaSat / Exede Internet
StrongVPN
Whidbey Telecom
WildBlue (service through ViaSat)

UNIVERSITIES KNOWN TO FORWARD CEG-TEK SETTLEMENT DEMAND LETTERS:
Rice University
Columbia University
Cornell University
Stanford University
University of Michigan
Wisconsin University
University of Alaska

The first rule of Usenet is “you do not speak about usenet.”  While writing something like this can upset those I would not want to upset, there is a bigger problem — what happens when the Usenet service provider (or more accurately, newsgroup service provider) fingers you as the internet user who is accused of committing a crime you did not do?

My mind can swirl with the possible implications of the above inquiry (oh what crimes can one commit), but in the context of this TorrentLawyer blog, there is a Usenet provider which is causing problems for their subscribers by identifying them as being the users who downloaded one or more copyrighted videos.

Many privacy-minded individuals flock to a service called Giganews because the content they provide is parallel to none.  The problem is that Giganews providers their subscribers with a Virtual Private Network (“VPN”) called VyprVPN (in conjunction with their Golden Frog service), where their VPN is supposed to hide the identity and the activities of the users while they are logged into the Giganews service.  This is effective for privacy-minded individuals who wish to communicate with others privately (e.g., stream a VoIP phone conversation over an encrypted connection) or mask their IP address from websites they visit.  Similarly, a VPN is useful when your ISP monitors your connection for the purposes of what is known as “traffic shaping” — making certain activities happen faster, and slowing down less-favored activities.

[To those that have been paying attention, VPN providers are not created equally.  Notoriously, some (e.g., HideMyAss) have turned over the identities of their subscribers causing their arrest and incarceration.  Giganews has also been implicated as being infiltrated by the FBI, and they are known to track and log all of their subscribers’ activities, even those activities apparently masked through their VyprVPN service.]

To the chagrin of those who have placed their trust in the VyprVPN service, many have received notices from Giganews implicating them as being the downloaders of copyrighted materials.  They are sent one or more DMCA settlement demand letters from companies (such as CEG-TEK), even when they have not done any downloading at all.

While in this case I cannot fault any of the parties (accused subscriber, CEG-TEK) who are now enmeshed in a “yes you did,” “no I didn’t” fight, I can fault Giganews / Golden Frog / VyprVPN for mistakenly pointing the finger at one of their users for activities that user did not partake in.

Now obviously as an attorney, I represent many accused internet users, many of whom “have always been downloaders, and will always be downloaders,” but specifically with Giganews, too often there is an inaccuracy where the wrong user is accused of downloading copyrighted media when that user was not even logged into the Giganews service at the time the downloads allegedly happened.

This is a problem with timekeeping and recordkeeping, something Giganews (or Golden Frog) should remedy ASAP.

After my “Dallas Buyers Club, LLC is a modern-day Icarus Story (TXSD)” article on August 13th, I called Keith Vogt, the plaintiff attorney for Dallas Buyers Club. In our call, I ascertained his motivations regarding how he plans to approach Judge Hughes here in Texas, and what he plans to do with the other cases (duck and run, or push forward).

As I suspected, he expressed no “duck and run” mentality (not even privately), as we have seen in similar past cases with other past “copyright troll” plaintiff attorneys. In fact, Vogt appeared to be undeterred considering the outcome of the case, mentioning that he has NINE (9) other cases alive and well in the Southern District of Texas, seven of which were in their INFANT STAGES and all of his cases are assigned to judges other than Judge Hughes.

Below is a list of those new cases:

Dallas Buyers Club, LLC v. John Does 1-25 (Case No. 4:14-cv-02119)
Dallas Buyers Club, LLC v. John Does 1-25 (Case No. 4:14-cv-02120)
Dallas Buyers Club, LLC v. John Does 1-25 (Case No. 4:14-cv-02121)
Dallas Buyers Club, LLC v. John Does 1-25 (Case No. 4:14-cv-02124)
Dallas Buyers Club, LLC v. John Does 1-25 (Case No. 4:14-cv-02217)
Dallas Buyers Club, LLC v. John Does 1-25 (Case No. 4:14-cv-02219)
Dallas Buyers Club, LLC v. John Does 1-25 (Case No. 4:14-cv-02220)

and of course, the two older cases:

Dallas Buyers Club, LLC v. John Does 1-31 (Case No. 4:14-cv-00248)
Dallas Buyers Club, LLC v. John Does 1-45 (Case No. 4:14-cv-00815)

Each of the newer cases were filed on either 7/24 or 8/2 (before Vogt’s problems with Judge Hughes surfaced). I have been watching these cases, and the judges in most of them have granted permission for Dallas Buyers Club, LLC to send subpoenas to the ISPs to ascertain the identities of the John Doe Defendants. These people will be receiving letters from their Comcast Xfinity Subpoena departments in the coming days and weeks.

Two interesting items to note: Plaintiff attorney Vogt has roughly 175 potential defendants, each of whom will likely be asked for a settlement of thousands of dollars. He has also not filed any new cases since the August 13th debacle with Judge Hughes, likely understanding that they will be assigned over to him, and this may or may not be a fight he wants to instigate just yet. On a more concerning note, on Thursday, Vogt named and served eight (8) John Doe Defendants in his 4:14-cv-00815 case. This is one of his older cases, and I understand that he needed to do so because Judge Gray Miller was pressuring him to do so before the upcoming hearing. Instead of posting the names of the named and served defendants, I have pasted a screenshot of the docket which lists the named defendants — you can see the named defendants referenced below in Documents 21 & 22.

Named and Served Dallas Buyers Club, LLC defendants

Dallas Buyers Club, LLC attorney Keith Vogt names and serves defendants in the 14-cv-00815 lawsuit.

In sum, on August 13th, I commented to a friend that I did not think the judges in Texas spoke to each other. I am still of the opinion that federal court judges appear to lord over their court as if their court is their own sovereign territory. It would be nice if one judge poked his head into another courtroom once in a while.  If he or she did, they would notice that the proper answer to cases such as these is CONSOLIDATION.

In a perfect world, Judge Hughes would consolidate all of the Dallas Buyers Club, LLC Texas cases into one case, since all of the cases relate to the same common questions of fact.   Doing this would prevent contrary rulings from neighboring judges, and it would create a common rule of how to handle, facilitate, and ideally to dispense with all forms of “copyright trolling” cases in the federal courts.

Dallas Buyers Club, LLC Texas-based lawsuits in my opinion tell a modern story of Icarus who flew too close to the sun with wings of feathers and wax and got burned. The reason for this is because these cases have caused one Texas federal judge to rule against their fictitious name “John Doe” lawsuits.

There was news today that affects the Dallas Buyers Club, LLC cases filed here in the Southern District of Texas (TXSD). The news is not only a black eye for the Dallas Buyers Club, LLC attorney, but as a result of today’s news, Dallas Buyers Club, LLC might never again file here in Texas.

Dallas Buyers Club, LLC cases have been rather docile here in Texas. Until ten days ago, they only filed two cases:

Dallas Buyers Club LLC v. Does 1-31 (Case No. 4:14-cv-00248), and
Dallas Buyers Club LLC v. Does 1-45 (Case No. 4:14-cv-00815).

Strategically, until now, the plaintiff attorney did not have local counsel, and it was almost certain that he would not fly down to Texas to appear for the hearings, so there was really nothing to talk about with these cases. Yes, of course he could have appeared by telephone, but I’ve been at those hearings, and they almost never end well for the absent attorney.

However, here the plaintiff attorney did hire local counsel and ten days ago, they filed Dallas Buyers Club, LLC v. Does 1-25 (Case No. 4:14-cv-02218); the case was assigned to Judge Lynn Hughes.

Now I’ve seen Judge Hughes rule in a number of cases. While many Texas judges typically allow bittorent cases to sit on their dockets for months at a time, I don’t think Judge Hughes had any interest in allowing this case to sit for any length of time. My understanding is that Judge Hughes was very aware of the copyright trolling problem from the previous copyright troll adult film cases we were fighting back in 2011-2013, and the new filings by Dallas Buyers Club, LLC across the U.S. was a problem that threatened to turn into a Malibu Media, LLC problem.

My guess is that Judge Hughes immediately identified the “John Does” copyright infringement case [filed by an out-of-state attorney] on his docket as a cookie-cutter copyright troll lawsuit. The complaint even read almost identical to the pornography cases we tried against Prenda Law Inc. and their local counsel Doug McIntyre just two years before this.  Within four days, Judge Hughes ordered the plaintiff to identify the defendants, I assume because he was not about to tolerate yet another “John Doe” lawsuit against fictional characters and putative defendants on his docket for months while the attorney shook down each putative defendant for thousands of dollars a piece.

The problem is that the plaintiff did not yet have the names of the putative defendants from the ISPs, and so when ordered to remove the fictional “John Doe” character names, he could only identify them as “Internet User (IU) subscribers having a particular IP address” thinking that would satisfy the judge. It didn’t.

For the rest of the story details, I invite you to read Sophisticated Jane Doe’s article on the case. What I can contribute, however, is that as a result of this case, any Dallas Buyers Club, LLC case filed in this district is ordered to be assigned to Judge Hughes, which suggests that it will die upon arrival. Similarly, moving forward, I suspect that the plaintiff attorney will likely be dismissing all cases which are assigned to Judge Hughes, which will no doubt raise suspicions of not “forum shopping,” but rather, “judge shopping,” a tactic that Prenda Law Inc. got in trouble for exploiting years back.

In sum, starting in 2010 with the Larry Flynt Production (LFP Internet Group, LLP) cases in the Northern District of Texas, and now ending with the Dallas Buyers Club, LLC cases in the Southern District of Texas, it is becoming apparent that Texas judges no longer tolerate copyright troll bittorrent-related cases.

On a personal note, I understand that this most recent Dallas Buyers Club, LLC filing was supposed to be one of many more cases to be filed here in Texas. And, just as Icarus flew too close to the sun, it was inevitable that this copyright holder would stumble upon a judge who dealt with the predatory bittorrent pornography cases we dealt with a few years ago. It was just a matter of time.

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