Judge Alvin Hellerstein of the Southern District of New York just did the right thing in denying “expedited discovery” which would allow Malibu Media, LLC to send a subpoena to the Time Warner Cable ISP, thus preventing Malibu Media from learning the identity of the John Doe Defendant.

The copyright troll blogosphere is no doubt about to erupt with this story — in fact, the Twitter feed is already bustling with comments from Sophisticated Jane Doe (@FightCopytrolls), Raul (@Raul15340965), and other bloggers. Bottom line, a United States District Court Judge just said “no” to allowing Malibu Media’s extortion scheme to proceed.*

Judges are the gatekeepers of the law, and the reason these cases have been allowed to fester and infest our legal system is because judges [until now] have been asleep. They have blindly allowed the plaintiff copyright trolls the ability to wreak havoc on the accused downloaders by allowing the copyright trolls access to them so that they can intimidate, harass, embarrass, and threaten to deplete all of the funds of the accused defendant’s [sometimes life] savings in order to avoid the costly alternative of litigating a copyright infringement lawsuit.

For the purposes of this article, I am focusing on two points which I found to be interesting in today’s Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:15-cv-04369; NYSD) ruling (see Judge’s order here).


This ruling (based on Judge Marrero’s Next Phase Distribution, Inc. v. John Does 1-27 (Case No. 284 F.R.D. 165, 171 (S.D.N.Y. 2012)) case is the “third rail” issue in copyright troll litigation. Do copyright rights extend to pornographic materials? What if they are considered “scenes a fair,” or scenes which contain the same “roles” and “characters” as in other films — are these considered copyrightable (keep the same story, scene, genre, and roles, but switch the actors)? Are these works considered art? And, what happens if the copyrighted film violates one or more obscenity laws — does that film still have copyright protection?

These are just questions, and to date, they are unresolved. However, the fact that Judge Hellerstein brought it up means that he is seriously considering whether this should be a basis to deny copyright infringement claims against John Doe Defendants.

Reference: See my 8/14/2012 article entitled, “How to make bittorrent cases go away once and for all…” (Reason 3)


This has always been a blatantly simple, and yet tough argument to describe. But when you think of it, the simplicity — once it jumps out at you with the “aha!” moment — is charming and unforgettable.

In short, Malibu Media can prove that SOMEONE downloaded one or more of their titles. However, they do no prove (or even assert any evidence) to indicate that it was the account holder who downloaded the copyrighted film… so what legal basis does Malibu Media have to sue the account holder?? Judge’s answer: None.  In order to make a “prima facie” case that would convince a judge to rubber-stamp a subpoena permitting the copyright holders to force an ISP to turn over the identity of the account holder (whether or not he is the actual downloader), the copyright holder needs to provide some “link” identifying the actual downloader as being the account holder. No link is ever provided in Malibu Media’s pleadings, and thus in legal terms, the pleading “fails” and the copyright holder’s request for expedited discovery should be denied.

That’s it.  My two cents, for what it is worth.

Congratulations to District Judge Hellerstein for a brave and correct ruling on the law. Now if all of the other judges in the Eastern District of New York would fall in line with this ruling and abandon the “my court, my world, my rules” mentality, we can put an end to these cases once and for all.

Additional Reference:
Fight Copyright Trolls (SJD): Citing previous Malibu Media’s sheer abuse of court process, New York judge denies early discovery

*UPDATE (7/7, 6:30am): I am surprised that there are not more articles on this topic.  This should be all over the news for other NY judges (and judges in other federal district courts) to see.  Unfortunately, if other judges do not see [and act on] this ruling, then it gathers dust and it has little-to-no effect on future Malibu Media, LLC lawsuits. …and the scheme continues unhindered.

Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:15-cv-04713)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:15-cv-04717)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:15-cv-04720)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 7:15-cv-04725)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 7:15-cv-04728)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:15-cv-04729)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:15-cv-04730)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:15-cv-04731)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:15-cv-04735)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:15-cv-04736)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:15-cv-04738)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 7:15-cv-04732)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 7:15-cv-04733)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 7:15-cv-04734)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:15-cv-04741)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:15-cv-04742)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:15-cv-04743)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 7:15-cv-04739)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 7:15-cv-04740)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 7:15-cv-04744)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 7:15-cv-04745)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 7:15-cv-04367)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 7:15-cv-04374)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 7:15-cv-04370)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 7:15-cv-04377)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:15-cv-04368)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:15-cv-04369)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:15-cv-04371)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:15-cv-04373)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:15-cv-04378)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:15-cv-04380)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:15-cv-04381)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:15-cv-04382)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:15-cv-03130)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:15-cv-03135)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:15-cv-03137)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:15-cv-03138)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:15-cv-03143)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:15-cv-03144)
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:15-cv-03134)

Copyright Enforcement Group (a.k.a. CEG-TEK) and RightsCorp at first glance look alike, but they are different animals. While they both use the DMCA laws (or with CEG-TEK, their foreign-country’s equivalent) to send letters to internet users accusing them of copyright infringement, and while they both attempt to force account holders to pay a “settlement fee” to settle all claims claimed against them, the mechanisms of how they operate are quite different.

True, both CEG-TEK and RightsCorp send DMCA notices to ISP subscribers (internet users). CEG-TEK (currently) asks for a settlement of $300 per title (C$225 for account holders in Canada), and RightsCorp asks for $20 per title.

The big difference between CEG-TEK and RightsCorp is that CEG-TEK releases the accused downloader from liability when the settlement is paid; in CEG-TEK’s contract, there is NO ADMISSION OF GUILT (UPDATE: CEG-TEK recently updated their settlement agreements and now they have an inflammatory “admission of guilt” provision, speak to your attorney about this), whereas RightsCorp contracts explicitly have the settling party admit guilt in an “I did it, I’m sorry, I’ll never do it again” fashion. This ‘admission of guilt’ issue was the initial reason I wouldn’t work with RightsCorp.

There are obviously other issues with CEG-TEK settlements that we’ve discussed before, just as there are obvious issues with RightsCorp settlements (namely, with RightsCorp, many have reported that after paying one $20 settlement, they received 10-40 additional infringement notices, whether or not the downloads actually happened).

Lastly, there are customer service differences between CEG-TEK and RightsCorp. CEG-TEK retains multiple individuals who respond to inquiries and convince those who call in [with inquiries, objections, and website troubles in processing payment] to pay the requested settlement amount or face a lawsuit. They have been known to claim that they record the conversations (watch out for this, as an admission of guilt here can be used against you, as can a lie later be used against you later in a perjury claim).

The important thing to note about CEG-TEK is that CEG-TEK DOES NOT SUE PEOPLE. Rather, they are a SERVICE PROVIDER providing COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT SERVICES TO THEIR CLIENTS (namely, the copyright holders). CEG-TEK has also been known to scrape the list of callers to ascertain their identities (although this used to happen before we learned that they are now able to obtain [from select ISPs] the geolocation data identifying where the download took place). Thus, if a settlement is not reached, they forward the file over to the copyright holders to allow them to follow-up with the accused downloader using their own attorneys.  At this point, CEG-TEK is out of the picture.

Well, to be accurate, first CEG-TEK has their own attorney Marvin Cable send out settlement demand letters asking for $1,750 per title, and only after he is unable to obtain a settlement from the accused downloader, only then do they forward the file over to the copyright holder(s) for their own attorneys to do what they will with it. This is where in my opinion the “ignore” route can result in an accused downloader being contacted by an attorney requesting a settlement, this time asking for a significantly higher amount. Again, depending on the COPYRIGHT HOLDER [namely, whether they have sued in the past (you can look this up on http://www.rfcexpress.com), and whether they intend to sue again in the future], this is how to best determine whether to ignore or settle the claims listed on the CEG-TEK website.

In my opinion, this CEG-TEK policy of “we forward your file over to the copyright holders” is where the misuse of that information *can* originate. Not all copyright holders are upstanding citizens (note to self to write about how a particular action might be illegal or unethical, but we see lawyers doing it anyway, unpunished — “LEGAL, BUT NOT LAWFUL”), especially considering that most of Ira Siegel’s clients are adult entertainment companies (pornography), and their lawyers do not think twice before reminding the accused downloaders that they could be involved in a lawsuit for the download of pornography.

RightsCorp has its own set of problems. First of all, aside from the settlements having accused downloaders admit guilt to one or more downloads, there is a difference in the validity of the claims between RightsCorp and CEG-TEK.  RightsCorp’s initial claim may be valid, but the many follow-up claims have been said to be fabricated.  Contrast this to CEG-TEK — CEG-TEK sends an infringement notice within days of a download taking place, but when the internet user logs in to CEG-TEK’s site, CEG-TEK’s computers have already searched and found any older downloads somehow linked to that internet user (based on the geolocation provided to CEG-TEK, presumably by the ISPs themselves, and also based on the list of IP addresses leased to the subscriber over how long the ISP keeps these lists of past IP addresses based on their “IP retention policy”).

NOTE: There is more to say here, but the jist is that CEG-TEK uses fuzzy science (same geolocation, same bittorrent software, same port number) to link cases together.  This causes problems when CEG-TEK’s system links together multiple tenants’ downloads in an apartment complex or dorm, or when an unlucky VPN subscriber receives an infringement notice containing all of the downloads from the hundreds of other users connecting through that same VPN IP address.

And, while CEG-TEK provides what they call “Customer Service” (a.k.a., “tell me about what a bad boy you were so that I can thank you for admitting guilt and force you to settle or face a lawsuit”), last I checked (and admittedly, it has been some time) there is ABSOLUTELY NO CUSTOMER SERVICE from RightsCorp. Yet, RightsCorp won’t hesitate calling you with their Robocalls all day and night.

Lastly, the biggest difference between CEG-TEK and RightsCorp is that whereas RightsCorp is financially a “sinking ship,” and last I checked, their stock price dropped to $0.06 per share on the stock exchanges, CEG-TEK has only been *expanding* their operations, growing in size, expanding into other counties (most recently, sending copyright infringement notices in Canada), openly speaking about hiring foreign attorneys to enforce their clients copyrights, and they even have been going into other areas of intellectual property (e.g., going after those who sell counterfeited goods over the internet).

In sum, Copyright Enforcement Group in my opinion is the “big bad wolf” of copyright infringement, yet they do everything they can to keep their “paws” clean. What has always bothered me about them (other than that former plaintiff attorney Ira Siegel‘s name appears on each of their settlement demand letters), is that with their growth comes the ability to push around attorneys and internet users with boilerplate settlement agreements, (recently) new terms on their settlement agreements which are less friendly than the former friendly terms, and the ability to continually raise the settlement amount (which was initially $200, then $250, then $300), and nobody can do anything about it.

“Settle or ignore,” it does not matter to CEG-TEK.

As for RightsCorp, I still hold by what I said almost 24 months ago. I see no reason to get involved with them, as they have always been a sinking ship. It is only a matter of time before they are bought out by someone else.

Rightscorp’s Red Bottom Line Gets Larger and so Does its List of Copyrights to Protect (8/19/2014)
Rightscorp Scores More Copyrights to Protect from The Royalty Network (7/11/2014)
Rightscorp, ‘We Aim to Protect Millions of Copyrights as we Continue to Lose Money’ (5/14/2014)
Rightscorp Sets its Sights on the Pay-Up or Else Program for UK Pirates (5/7/2014)
Rightscorp Scores Again, Gets 600 Copyrights from Rotten Records to Protect (4/16/2014)
Rightscorp Adds 13,000 More Copyrights From Blue Pie Records to Protect (3/31/2014)
Rightscorp Publishes its Full-Year & Fourth-Quarter 2013 Financial Report (3/26/2014)
Downloaders Beware; Rightscorp Now Monitoring Billboard Hot 100 Songs (2/28/2014)

Canada begins receiving CEG-TEK DMCA settlement letters. (3/12/2015)
How time limits / purged records stop a copyright holder from learning a downloader’s identity. (12/18/2014)
CEG-TEK’s growing list of participating ISPs, and their NEW alliance with COX Communications. (11/12/2014)
The Giganews VPN Problem (11/12/2014)
CEG-TEK is now your friendly “photo” copyright troll. (6/13/2013)
CEG-TEK’s new “you didn’t settle” letters sent from Marvin Cable. (3/22/2013)
CEG-TEK’s DMCA Settlement Letters – What are my chances of being sued if I ignore? (2/22/2013)
Why CEG-TEK’s DMCA settlement system will FAIL. (2/22/2013)

It has been almost a full day since yesterday’s historic Prenda flop where the attorney for Prenda Law Inc. (formerly, Steele|Hansmeier, PLLC and before that, Steele Law Firm PLLC) appeared to be woefully unprepared to overturn the sanctions that were ordered against Prenda Law and their team. (Flashback: “The 12 minute hearing and the end of Prenda Law Inc.” on 4/3/2013)

For those of you who missed it, you can watch the entertaining video here (fast forward to the tall guy).

As a quick recap, two years ago, Prenda Law was caught forging the name “Alan Cooper” on the copyright assignment documents which gave them the apparent authority to sue on behalf of their clients. The “real” Alan Cooper (John Steele’s gardener) who was the victim of identity theft hired an attorney, showed up at one of Prenda’s hearings, and served John Steele with his own lawsuit.

I don’t know how to explain what happened in a recap other than that the whole “house of cards” that was Prenda Law Inc. was unraveled — not because of the Alan Cooper forgery issue, but because John Steele couldn’t stay away from the cases when he successfully made the courts believe that he sold his Steele Hansmeier PLLC law firm to Paul Duffy. Shortly afterwards, he resumed making phone calls and openly running things himself, and he started showing up at hearings and speaking to the judges. This is what tipped off Judge Otis Wright to ask who the real parties in interest were in these lawsuits.

Personally, it jaded me a bit to see that after being caught (having their grand scheme exposed by good lawyers), the lawyers for Prenda continued their stories of misinformation by lying under oath in their depositions and in court proceedings. Further, I was annoyed when I learned about the scheme unfold in its entirety, including the creation of various offshore entities created to funnel settlement payments, and where Prenda peddled the blatant lie that Mark Lutz (the paralegal) was the mastermind behind the lawsuits.

Being behind the scenes when all this was happening, I was also hearing about issues of Prenda Law lying to, not paying, and in one notorious case, turning against their own local counsel who put their law licenses in jeopardy to file the lawsuits on Prenda’s clients’ behalf. Lastly, there were even more issues that I was privy to that never even made it into the courtroom, namely what appeared to be a credible accusation that Prenda Law Inc. was uploading and seeding their own clients’ content on the bittorrent networks — the same bittorrent swarms in which they sued the internet users for downloading the content they uploaded.

My own thought process was that the proper judicial response was 1) for the federal judges to serve as the “guardians of the gates” of the federal courts [e.g., to kill the copyright infringement cases as they are filed based on principles of improper joinder, etc.], and 2) to prevent the attorney(s) at this point from practicing law through the remedies of suspension and disbarment through their local bar associations. If the attorney persists, the attorney(s) should be charged with the unauthorized practice of law. Yet none of this happened. A lawyer (who for the purposes of this article will remain private) filed ethical charges against John Steele to have him disbarred, and in return, Steele filed ethical charges against him [a story for him to tell, not my secrets to tell].  Then, Steele at some point appeared to have voluntarily disbarred himself and retired from the practice of law, and his organization went inactive in the Illinois state registry. Yet his involvement in the cases persisted.

Thus, I was not surprised when Judge Wright wrote his order sanctioning John Steele, the Hansmeier brothers, and all those involved in the conspiracy. What surprised me was their hubris in that they continued fighting after they already lost. This is why I call the Prenda Law fiasco a “circus.” Everybody continues to argue in circles, but nobody goes to jail.

So, getting back to yesterday’s hearing (YouTube Link), there were THREE ITEMS that I took note of in what was perhaps the most entertaining 3-panel judge hearing I have ever seen.

ITEM 1) John Steele and the Hansmeiers were quite upset that Judge Wright implicated them as having broken criminal laws, and even though they were never charged for the violation of those laws (which I could only guess include identity theft [forgery], extortion, perjury, fraud, and perhaps even money laundering and/or racketeering). [NOTE: There were other acts allegedly committed, including the unauthorized practice of law, violation of countless ethical rules including compensating a non-attorney as a partner of the law firm, alleged tax evasion, and misuse of corporate structures after they were dissolved, etc.] Many of these acts if looked into could make the principles of the law firm personally liable for any charges without the protection of a corporate entity.

They appear to have hired attorney Daniel Voelker for the sole purpose of disputing the $200K+ in sanctions awarded against them because Judge Wright implicated them in a lawsuit which they tried their darnedest to keep at an arms length through the use of legal structures, funneling money into offshore entities, using the paralegal as the “fall guy,” and through the use of local attorneys. But rather than arguing against the sanctions award on the merits of whether it was proper to award the sanctions, they appear to have been offended by the implication of having broken criminal law in what Judge Pregerson called “an ingenious extortion fraud [scheme].” Thus, they instructed attorney Voelker to request that the court REMAND (meaning, return to the lower courts as a “do over”) the case to the U.S. District Court so that they can properly defend the insinuation that they committed one or more crimes while running what was — at the time — the most successful copyright trolling extortion scheme in existence.

ITEM 2) Attorney Daniel Voelker appeared to be woefully unprepared for the hearing. When asked about the details of the various copyright troll lawsuits filed by Prenda Law Inc. / Steele Hansmeier PLLC / Steele Law Firm, PLLC, he was unaware of anything other than what was the subject of the appealed case. This was surprising to the judges, it was surprising to me, and I am sure it was surprising to the hundreds of “fans” who were watching the hearing live and streamed over the internet. How could this attorney not be aware of the hundreds of other filings that his client took part in?!?


ITEM 3) Simplifying the discussions of damage multipliers and other damages issues that were discussed, the jist of what the judges needed to decide were 1) whether to uphold the sanctions award against Prenda Law and company, and 2) whether to remand the case so that the questions of criminal conduct could be hashed out.

IN MY OPINION, again, this whole Prenda Law fiasco is a circus. John Steele and his buddies have been “gaming” the system since they began, and even when their whole scheme came tumbling down around them, they turned to lying, cheating, and misdirection in order to get around the rules.

Nothing will right the wrongs that were inflicted on tens of thousands of internet users except seeing each of these attorneys disbarred and jailed for criminal conduct. Yet I cannot see this happening because notorious criminals today too often go uncharged. Judges too often find the “lazy” alternative of slapping an attorney with sanctions, and then not following up on their order when the attorney weasels their way out of paying those sanctions. This is a sign of a corrupt system, and as much as I have faith in the law, I do not have faith that the judges will inflict stern judgement (“fire and brimstone”) against a bunch of lawyers who look more like a**clowns in the courtroom.

Thus, it is my best guess that the sanctions will not only be upheld, but they will be strengthened and perhaps multiplied. However, as for the criminal prosecution of the clowns who perpetrated this grand heist of an extortion scheme, their activities will go unpunished. Maybe they’ll lose their law licenses (noting that in part, this has partially happened to some of them). Maybe they’ll be held personally liable without the shielding of the corporate entities they tried to use to hide their involvement in these cases. Maybe one or more of them will need to continue to hide their money indefinitely and file for bankruptcy. Maybe one or more of them will need to move out of the country and live out their days on a beach somewhere.

I don’t see orange jumpsuits in anyone’s future here. Not in today’s lawless society.



3/17 UPDATE: Judge Matthewman filed the identical “order to show cause” as described in yesterday’s “Florida ‘Manny Film LLC v. John Doe’ cases suffer a black eye (FLSD)” article. (Thanks to SJD @fightcopytrolls’ Twitter post [and link] for tipping me off to this trend.)

What this means is that as of this afternoon, the judge has begun to scrutinize the other Manny Film, LLC cases filed in the Florida Southern District Court (this time, Case No. 9:15-cv-80298). This one is due April 1st, 2015. I would not be surprised if the judge continues to go down the list of “Manny Film” cases filed in the Florida Southern District Court and kills each one, one “order to show cause” at a time.

It is also important to note that in my estimation, the Manny Film LLC lawsuits are “cut-and-paste” lawsuits copied from the Malibu Media, LLC lawsuits filed across the United States.  Unfortunately for Keith Lipscomb (the mastermind behind each of the Malibu Media, LLC lawsuits, and now, the mastermind behind each and every Manny Film LLC lawsuit soon-to-be-filed across the U.S. District Courts), these ‘orders to show cause’ pose an existential threat to not only the Florida-based federal cases, but also to the other Manny Film LLC cases filed in the other federal district courts (upon which these Florida federal cases [when considered by the other federal judges] will be PERSUASIVE).

EDUCATIONAL NOTE: Even if all of the Manny Film LLC cases go away, the “Florida ‘Manny Film LLC v. John Doe’ cases suffer a black eye (FLSD)” article is still helpful to discuss the concept that “an IP address (even one tracked to a particular defendant’s address using “solid” geolocation software) is INSUFFICIENT to identify and sue the account holder as the defendant in a bittorrent copyright infringement lawsuit.” Using the geolocation data alone as their source of “evidence” to support their claim of copyright infringement, a plaintiff cannot properly state that the defendant 1) lives in the district for venue purposes, and 2) the plaintiff arguably even “fails to state a claim” against the accused defendant (FRCP Rule 12(b)(6) language) because such geolocation software “evidence” does not prove (or sufficiently state) that the accused defendant is the downloader.

Manny Black EyeIt appears to me as if the Manny Film LLC bittorrent piracy lawsuits in Southern Florida have just received their first black eye.

The Federal District Court in Florida has been grappling these past few years with the question of whether geolocation software is sufficient to identify the accused downloader. In short, federal venue rules (according to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1391(c) and 1400(a)) state (in the context of a bittorrent piracy lawsuit) that in order for a copyright holder to file a lawsuit against a John Doe Defendant, the copyright holder must assert that the accused John Doe Defendant a) lives in the federal district in which the lawsuit is filed, and b) that a substantial part of the downloading and/or uploading happened in the federal district. The purpose for this is so that the defendant is sued in the right court.

However, in following the “bouncing ball” of the legal argument at play, the Florida federal court has realized that the plaintiff and all of its complicated geolocation software cannot prove the identity of any defendant. Not even one.

The Manny Film plaintiff can prove an IP address was connected to a bittorrent swarm that was downloading and distributing an unlicensed copy of the copyrighted film. They can prove that the IP address can be traced to a location (e.g., the accused downloader’s house). However, there is a logical gap between knowing the location where the download happened, and knowing that the accused defendant [most frequently, the account holder] was the downloader.

HERE’S THE KICKER… if the geolocation software cannot assert who the downloader is, how can the Manny Film LLC copyright holder assert 1) that the accused downloader was the one who was using the computer to download the copyrighted film (they have not placed him at the keyboard at the time of the download), and 2) if the Manny Film LLC copyright holder cannot bring any proof through their geolocation software — their only source of evidence — to determine who the accused downloader is, how can they competently state for the purposes of satisfying the venue requirement that the the accused downloader (whoever he or she might be) lives in the state in which the lawsuit is filed?

“Judge, I don’t know who the downloader is, but if I did know, he would live in your district!” – Copyright Troll

This brings me back to this nuanced argument where I was trying to frame it in the context of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. Here is an e-mail that I wrote on November 8th, 2012 (remember, our older articles are still relevant even today):

I don’t know how to put this more plainly, and I HATE a “silver-bullet” argument, but I fail to see the weakness in a [Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 12(b)(6)] motion for failure to state a claim where the plaintiffs only know a) that an IP address downloaded the stuff, and b) that the named defendant is the account holder. It’s a fine point [which in my mind can be hammered home in the courts] but I understand the argument to be that assuming everything in the plaintiff’s complaint to be true, there is nothing that implicates the named defendant to be the person who did the download. In other words, there is no conclusive link [perhaps I need to do more research as to how strong the link needs to be to survive a 12(b)(6) motion] between the real defendant as referenced in the complaint [or who this person should be], and the named defendant [the ISP account holder].

Two analogies — 1) someone makes an incriminating phone call; there is no proof that the person who pays the phone bill (subscriber) made the call; 2) someone’s car does damage — [barring the negligence claim, which other attorneys here have done a wonderful job of killing] is the owner liable for torts that are committed with his car if the plaintiff cannot prove that he was in the car when it caused the damage?

In short, an IP address is NOT a person, and proving that an IP address did the download does not prove that the subscriber was the one who did the download. 

So, turning back to the Manny Film LLC (Case No. 9:15-cv-80290) case in the Southern District of Florida, U.S. Magistrate Judge William Matthewman references various Malibu Media LLC films lawsuit orders, and in turn orders the Manny Film LLC plaintiff to answer the same questions which killed the Malibu Media v. John Doe (Case No. 14-cv-20213) case and related cases.  In the Malibu Media, LLC 14-CV-20213 case, (just for completeness,) Judge Ungaro stated “there is nothing that links the IP address location to the identity of the person actually downloading and viewing Plaintiff’s videos, and establishing whether that person lives in this district.”

The plaintiff has until March 31st, 2015 to do so, or else his Manny Film LLC cases filed in the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Florida will all be in jeopardy (remember, a ruling in one case in a particular district is BINDING on other cases in that district).

Also see: Manny Film LLC bittorrent lawsuits are really a story of defense attorney betrayal.” (3/13/2015)


In the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida (FLSD)
Plaintiff Attorney: M. Keith Lipscomb of Lipscomb Eisenberg & Baker PLLC

Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 0:15-cv-60454)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe, subscriber assigned IP address (Case No. 0:15-cv-60455)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe, subscriber assigned IP address (Case No. 0:15-cv-60456)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe, subscriber assigned IP address (Case No. 1:15-cv-20923)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe, subscriber assigned IP address (Case No. 9:15-cv-80306)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 9:15-cv-80307)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:15-cv-20924)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 9:15-cv-80301)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 9:15-cv-80302)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe, subscriber assigned IP address (Case No. 9:15-cv-80303)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe, subscriber assigned IP address (Case No. 1:15-cv-20920)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe, subscriber assigned IP address (Case No. 1:15-cv-20921)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe, subscriber assigned IP address (Case No. 0:15-cv-60444)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe, subscriber assigned IP address (Case No. 0:15-cv-60445)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe, subscriber assigned IP address (Case No. 0:15-cv-60446)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 0:15-cv-60447)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:15-cv-20905)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 9:15-cv-80298)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 0:15-cv-60448)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:15-cv-20907)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 9:15-cv-80297)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 0:15-cv-60453)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 0:15-cv-60438)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 0:15-cv-60440)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 0:15-cv-60441)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 0:15-cv-60442)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe, subscriber assigned IP address (Case No. 1:15-cv-20894)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe, subscriber assigned IP address (Case No. 1:15-cv-20895)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:15-cv-20896)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 1:15-cv-20899)

In the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida (FLMD)
Plaintiff Attorney: Daniel F. Tamaroff & David F. Tamaroff of Tamaroff & Tamaroff

Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 3:15-cv-00262)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No.3:15-cv-00263 )
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 3:15-cv-00265)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 3:15-cv-00266)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 6:15-cv-00366)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 6:15-cv-00368)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 6:15-cv-00370)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 6:15-cv-00371)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 6:15-cv-00373)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 6:15-cv-00374)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 6:15-cv-00377)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 6:15-cv-00378)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 6:15-cv-00380)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 6:15-cv-00381)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 6:15-cv-00382)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 3:15-cv-00264)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 6:15-cv-00365)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 6:15-cv-00367)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 6:15-cv-00369)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 6:15-cv-00372)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 6:15-cv-00375)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 6:15-cv-00379)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 8:15-cv-00506)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 8:15-cv-00507)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 8:15-cv-00508)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 8:15-cv-00509)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 8:15-cv-00510)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 8:15-cv-00495)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 8:15-cv-00496)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 8:15-cv-00497)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 8:15-cv-00498)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 8:15-cv-00499)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 8:15-cv-00500)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 8:15-cv-00501)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 8:15-cv-00502)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:15-cv-00145)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 8:15-cv-00503)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 8:15-cv-00504)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 8:15-cv-00505)

In the U.S. District Court of New Jersey (NJD)
Plaintiff Jordan Rushie sometimes misspelled on the court record as, “Jordan Rusie of Flynn Wirkus Young PC”

Manny Film LLC v. Doe (Case No. 1:15-cv-01497)
Manny Film LLC v. Doe (Case No. 1:15-cv-01498)
Manny Film LLC v. Doe (Case No. 1:15-cv-01529)
Manny Film LLC v. Doe (Case No. 1:15-cv-01530)
Manny Film LLC v. Doe (Case No. 1:15-cv-01531)
Manny Film LLC v. Doe (Case No. 1:15-cv-01533)
Manny Film LLC v. Doe (Case No. 1:15-cv-01534)
Manny Film LLC v. Doe (Case No. 1:15-cv-01539)
Manny Film LLC v. Doe (Case No. 1:15-cv-01564)
Manny Film LLC v. Doe (Case No. 1:15-cv-01565)
Manny Film LLC v. Doe (Case No. 2:15-cv-01482)
Manny Film LLC v. Doe (Case No. 2:15-cv-01483)
Manny Film LLC v. Doe (Case No. 2:15-cv-01484)
Manny Film LLC v. Doe (Case No. 2:15-cv-01487)
Manny Film LLC v. Doe (Case No. 2:15-cv-01488)
Manny Film LLC v. Doe (Case No. 2:15-cv-01495)
Manny Film LLC v. Doe (Case No. 2:15-cv-01503)
Manny Film LLC v. Doe (Case No. 2:15-cv-01504)
Manny Film LLC v. Doe (Case No. 2:15-cv-01517)
Manny Film LLC v. Doe (Case No. 2:15-cv-01518)
Manny Film LLC v. Doe (Case No. 2:15-cv-01520)
Manny Film LLC v. Doe (Case No. 2:15-cv-01521)
Manny Film LLC v. Doe (Case No. 2:15-cv-01522)
Manny Film LLC v. Doe (Case No. 2:15-cv-01523)
Manny Film LLC v. Doe (Case No. 2:15-cv-01528)
Manny Film LLC v. Doe (Case No. 2:15-cv-01532)
Manny Film LLC v. Doe (Case No. 2:15-cv-01535)
Manny Film LLC v. Doe (Case No. 2:15-cv-01536)
Manny Film LLC v. Doe (Case No. 2:15-cv-01537)
Manny Film LLC v. Doe (Case No. 2:15-cv-01538)
Manny Film LLC v. Doe (Case No. 2:15-cv-01540)
Manny Film LLC v. Doe (Case No. 2:15-cv-01541)
Manny Film LLC v. Doe (Case No. 2:15-cv-01542)
Manny Film LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:15-cv-01489)
Manny Film LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:15-cv-01490)
Manny Film LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:15-cv-01545)
Manny Film LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:15-cv-01552)
Manny Film LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:15-cv-01553)
Manny Film LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:15-cv-01554)
Manny Film LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:15-cv-01557)

In the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (PAED)
Plaintiff Attorney: Christopher P. Fiore of Fiore & Barber LLC

Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:15-cv-01157)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:15-cv-01156)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:15-cv-01158)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:15-cv-01159)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:15-cv-01163)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:15-cv-01164)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:15-cv-01165)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:15-cv-01166)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:15-cv-01167)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:15-cv-01168)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:15-cv-01170)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:15-cv-01171)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:15-cv-01172)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:15-cv-01173)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:15-cv-01174)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:15-cv-01175)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:15-cv-01176)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:15-cv-01178)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:15-cv-01179)
Manny Film LLC v. John Doe (Case No. 2:15-cv-01180)

In the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio (OHND)
Plaintiff Attorney: Yousef Faroniya

Manny Film, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 1:15-cv-00465)
Manny Film, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 1:15-cv-00466)
Manny Film, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 1:15-cv-00467)
Manny Film, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:15-cv-00463)
Manny Film, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:15-cv-00464)
Manny Film, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:15-cv-00461)
Manny Film, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 3:15-cv-00462)
Manny Film, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 1:15-cv-00451)
Manny Film, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 1:15-cv-00460)
Manny Film, LLC v. Doe (Case No. 1:15-cv-00444)

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)


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