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These past few weeks, I have been pushing the idea that there is an entity (until now, I believed it was Voltage Pictures, Inc.) behind the lawsuits which is calling up movie companies who have produced movies which have flopped in the theaters (I call them “floppers”), and this entity convinces the movie company to license its copyright rights to them so that they can sue bittorrent users as John Doe Defendants in copyright infringement lawsuits across the US.

Yesterday, I wrote about the Cook Productions, LLC lawsuits (which are sending subpoenas to ISPs to reveal the identities of subscribers who are accused of downloading the “Mr. Church” flopper), and I was concerned that maybe this copyright holder was somehow separate from the others — the ME2 Productions lawsuits, the September Productions lawsuits, and the Cell Film Holdings lawsuits (the “three legs” or “trio“) — that we have been seeing over the past few months. [So it’s not a three-legged stool; it’s a chair.]

But then this morning, I was writing an article on the I.T. Productions, LLC lawsuits, and after speaking to a John Doe Defendant on the phone, I decided to check the list of plaintiff attorneys suing in each state for the I.T. Productions to the attorneys suing in the ME2 Productions, September Productions, (and also LHF Productions and Criminal Productions, Inc., articles to come), and the connections popped out at me.  They are the same attorneys!!!

In sum, this ‘shadow entity’ (which I believed to be Voltage Pictures, Inc.) who is licensing ‘floppers’ is using the same attorneys to sue for each and every one of these movies.

Not only that, but for the IT Productions, LLC cases, they are even ‘dipping their toes’ into the same states as I saw yesterday when reviewing the Cook Productions, LLC cases.  Here are the similarities:

Arizona District Court (NONE YET)
Colorado District Court (I.T. 10 cases, Cook Productions, 1 case)
Hawaii District Court (I.T. 2 cases, Cook Productions, 4 cases)
Illinois Northern District Court (NONE YET)
Indiana Northern & Southern District Courts (NONE YET)
Kentucky Western District Court (I.T. 1 case, Cook Productions 1 case)
Maryland District Court (I.T. 1 case, Cook Productions 1 case)
Nevada District Court (I.T. 1 case, Cook Productions 1 case)
North Carolina Eastern & Middle District Courts (NONE YET)
Ohio Northen & Southern District Courts (I.T. 2 cases, Cook Productions 2 cases)
Oregon District Courts (I.T. 4 cases, Cook Productions 3 cases)
Pennsylvania Eastern District Court (I.T. 1 case, Cook Productions 1 case)
Washington Western District Court (I.T. 1 case, Cook Productions 1 case)

See the similarities?!?  So… expect to see I.T. Productions, LLC cases to soon be filed in Arizona, Illinois, Indiana, and North Carolina.

As far as the attorneys for each of the lawsuits were concerned, I could not understand how here in Texas, Josh Wyde and Gary Fischman showed up OUT OF NOWHERE, and started filing lawsuits for Fathers & Daughters Nevada, September Productions, Cell Film Holdings, and most recently, ME2 Productions.  Where did they come from?  And how did they all of a sudden score EACH AND EVERY ONE OF THESE movie companies to come to THEM and hire THEM to sue John Doe defendants in Texas for the unlawful download of these films?

Another name that keeps popping up in recent weeks has been R. Matthew Van Sickle (a.k.a. Ross Matthew Van Sickle) of Van Sickle Law, PC in North Carolina.  His website is http://mattvansicklelaw.com/ and it lists an expertise in “Construction Law, Civil Litigation, Employment Law, Insurance Coverage/Defense, and Mediation” (and no doubt, soon his website will be updated to state that he is knowledgeable in intellectual property matters, copyright infringement matters, and federal practice.) At least plaintiff / copyright troll attorneys Josh Wyde and Gary Fischman (AFAIK) are knowledgeable in this area of law.

So… who is behind these lawsuits?  Is it Voltage Pictures, Inc.?  Someone affiliated with Carl Crowell? Guardaley / IPP?  Again, do you care??

So I digress.  I.T. Productions, LLC has convinced the judges of the various courts to rubber stamp the authorization for them to conduct what is called ‘expedited discovery.’  What this means is that they are now permitted to send a subpoena to the various ISPs (e.g., Comcast, CenturyLink, AT&T, etc.), and force them to disclose the identity of the ten or so John Doe Defendants who are accused of copyright infringement from the download of their film.

The I.T. Productions, LLC lawsuit is suing for the download of the “I.T.” movie starring Pierce Brosnan.  The concept of the movie is pretty cool — innovative owner of an enterprising company is flying high until his daughter gets stalked by one of his information technology (IT) guys, who uses every technological facet to attack them.

Unfortunately, as cool as the movie sounds, IMDb gave it only 5.4 or 10 stars, which means that the movie was a flopper.  It’s too bad; I liked the concept of the movie.

So why did I spend all this time linking this I.T. Productions case to the Cook Productions case, the ME2 Productions case, and the others?  To show that there is a decrepit and sinister entity behind the scene who has likely now set up the entity called “I.T. Productions, LLC” for the purpose of suing downloaders across the U.S. for copyright infringement.

However, as terrible as this sounds, the benefit to the John Doe Defendant reading this article is that you can begin to draw lines and conclusions from one lawsuit (e.g., the ME2 lawsuits) to understand how the plaintiff attorneys will act in these lawsuits.

Honestly, I think I understand now why this movie is called “I.T.”  It really stands for “I Troll.”

As always, I hope this article has been of assistance to you.

For an analysis of the other I.T. Productions, LLC bittorrent-based cases filed across the US, click here.

RECENT CASE HISTORY OF THE I.T. PRODUCTIONS, LLC CASES:

Cases filed in the Colorado District Court:
I.T. Productions, LLC v. John Doe 1 et al (Case No. 1:16-cv-02979)
I.T. Productions, LLC v. John Doe 1 et al (Case No. 1:16-cv-02998)
I.T. Productions, LLC v. John Doe 1 et al (Case No. 1:16-cv-03009)
I.T. Productions, LLC v. John Doe 1 et al (Case No. 1:16-cv-03058)
I.T. Productions, LLC v. John Doe 1-20 (Case No. 1:16-cv-03064)
I.T. Productions, LLC v. John Does 1-30 (Case No. 1:16-cv-03089)
I.T. Productions, LLC v. John Does 1-12 (Case No. 1:16-cv-03132)
I.T. Productions, LLC v. John Does 1-10 (Case No. 1:16-cv-03150)
I.T. Productions, LLC v. Does 1-7 (Case No. 1:17-cv-00468)
I.T. Productions, LLC v. Doe 1et al (Case No. 1:17-cv-00112)

Cases filed in the Hawaii District Court:
I.T. Productions, LLC v. Does 1 through 3 (Case No. 1:17-cv-00035)
I.T. Productions, LLC v. Does 1-6 (Case No. 1:16-cv-00641)

Case filed in the Kentucky Western District Court:
I.T. Productions, LLC v. Does 1-11 (Case No. 3:16-cv-00836)

Case filed in the Maryland District Court:
I.T. Productions, LLC v. Doe 1 et al (Case No. 8:16-cv-03999)

Case filed in the Nevada District Court:
I.T. Productions, LLC v. Does (Case No. 2:16-cv-02705)

Cases filed in the Ohio Northern and Southern District Courts (respectively):
I.T. Productions LLC v. Does 1-10 (Case No. 3:16-cv-03073)
I.T. Productions LLC v. Does 1-15 (Case No. 2:16-cv-01199)

Cases filed in the Oregon District Court:
I.T. Productions, LLC v. Doe-76.115.0.173 (Case No. 3:16-cv-02102)
I.T. Productions, LLC v. Doe-76.27.241.78 (Case No. 3:16-cv-02103)
I.T. Productions, LLC v. Doe-76.115.228.18 (Case No. 3:16-cv-02101)
I.T. Productions, LLC v. Doe-76.27.242.207 (Case No. 3:17-cv-00163)

Case filed in the Pennsylvania Eastern District Court:
I.T. PRODUCTIONS, LLC v. JOHN DOES 1-8 (Case No. 2:16-cv-06533)

Case filed in the Washington Western District Court:
I.T. Productions, LLC v. Doe 1 et al (Case No. 2:16-cv-01775)


CONTACT FORM: If you have a question or comment about what I have written, and you want to keep it *for my eyes only*, please feel free to use the form below. The information you post will be e-mailed to me, and I will be happy to respond.

NOTE: No attorney client relationship is established by sending this form, and while the attorney-client privilege (which keeps everything that you share confidential and private) attaches immediately when you contact me, I do not become your attorney until we sign a contract together.  That being said, please do not state anything “incriminating” about your case when using this form, or more practically, in any e-mail.

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Because the “ME2 Productions, Inc.” copyright infringement lawsuits appear to be the ‘third leg’ to the “September Productions, Inc.” (leg 1) and the “Cell Film Holdings, LLC” (leg 2) lawsuits, I felt compelled to write something about it.

This third leg of cases, each of which have been filed by Josh Wyde and Gary Fischman consist of four cases (and counting), each filed here in the TX Southern District Court. ME2 Productions, Inc. itself [through their local counsel across the US] has filed 112 cases so far, and each case appears to be following the same template. There are 10-20 John Doe Defendants per case, and the cases are spaced apart when filed, hoping that no proactive judge receives and consolidates all of the cases in one federal district (this has not yet happened in Texas).

ME2 CASES ARE STILL IN THEIR INFANCY IN TEXAS.

In Texas, the ME2 cases are still in their infancy, and all that has happened is that judges have rubber stamped what are called “expedited discovery” requests to allow the plaintiff attorneys to force the ISP(s) to send subpoenas to the account holders of those IP addresses where unlawful downloading is claimed to have happened.

As of writing this message, the Comcast / XFinity ISP has received three subpoenas, and has sent letters to the accused account holders (the “John Doe Defendants”) indicating that they should file an objection to the subpoena with the court before the ISP is forced to hand out the subscriber information to the plaintiff attorney.

As of now, there are three known ‘deadlines’ to file an objection (e.g., motion to quash) with the court — 3/2, 3/16 and 3/20 — corresponding to three of the four cases so far filed in Texas. I’ll update this article with the fourth date as soon as I get it.

WHAT MOVIE IS BEHIND THE ME2 CASES? AND, HOW DO THEY RELATE TO THE OTHER BITTORRENT CASES RECENTLY FILED?

More generally, ME2 Productions, Inc. is suing for copyright infringement based on the the illegal download of the Mechanic: Resurrection movie, starring Jason Statham and Jessica Alba. (NOTE: If you are considering downloading any of the Transporter movies also with Jason Statham, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see lawsuits from the production companies for those movies as well in the near future based on a trend I’ve noticed in the past. Also be on the lookout for lawsuits for the ‘Transporter’ movies as well for this same reason).

Based on my conversations with the plaintiff attorneys who are attempting to sue downloaders of the Mechanic: Resurrection title, I understand that a number of those implicated in these lawsuits may have also been implicated in the September Productions, Inc. v. Does lawsuits for the download of the Septembers of Shiraz video and possibly also the Cell Film Holdings, LLC v. Does lawsuit for the download of the “The Cell” video. For some reason, these three videos appear to be a trio, perhaps because they were shared on the piracy websites or Popcorn Time software platforms at the same time, or that there is some ‘contractual’ connection between the three movies (e.g., perhaps Voltage Pictures has signed an agreement with each of the three copyright holders giving Voltage a right to take on the movie production’s company name as they did with Dallas Buyers Club, LLC, to act and to sue on their behalf in order to ‘monetize’ and enforce the copyright rights those productions companies have from the creation of the copyrighted films).

I wrote this last paragraph very quickly, without much explanation. Do you even care if the company suing you is really Voltage Pictures, Inc. who has contacted the movie companies and said, “sign a contract with me — I’ll sue in your name and get lots of settlement money for you”? Bottom line, you are implicated as a John Doe Defendant in what looks to be a copyright troll lawsuit, Comcast is about to hand over your information to plaintiff attorneys Joshua Wyde and Gary Fischman, and you are staring down the barrel of a $150,000 copyright infringement for clicking and possibly watching a movie that may not have been any good.

WHY THESE CASES ARE BOTH SIMILAR AND SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT FROM CONVENTIONAL COPYRIGHT TROLL CASES.

In sum, whether this lawsuit indeed falls under “copyright troll” status or not, the plaintiff attorneys have taken great strides to mask the true nature of this lawsuit, namely, that this lawsuit will likely not go to trial for any of the defendants, because it is not economically profitable for the copyright holder (or Voltage Pictures, if this is the case) to spend the money to chase some student in Houston, TX and force a $150,000 judgment on them that the student will never and could never pay. Yet based on the documents I have seen these attorneys file in the court (sometimes even quoting this blog), they seem to want to litigate.

Whether they are paid hourly by their copyright holder clients (the production companies) or whether the simply take a commission based on a percentage of the settlement amount they elicit from the defendants (my gut feeling is that they are actually being paid hourly by their clients which gives them an incentive to spend more time filing documents in the court) they do spend significant amounts of time drafting motions, and they do spend the money to name and serve defendants, and they DO fight the case *as if* they were taking each John Doe Defendant to trial. Whether this is because they are trying to overcome the bias the federal judges in Texas have against the pornography bittorrent cases which wasted the past seven years of the court’s time or because they are trying to prove the legitimacy of bittorrent based copyright infringement lawsuits, bottom line, they are fighting these cases differently from the way other plaintiff attorneys have fought them in recent years.

So here is the solution. If you did not download the Mechanic: Resurrection movie, then fight back. Hire an attorney (me, or any other attorney) to fight your case. If you did the download, well, there are also solutions found with an attorney, but you knew this already, and it will require both sides to be reasonable to come to an amicable solution.

I did not mention this before, so I am mentioning this here since it is relevant — it is not profitable for a movie company to bring a copyright infringement lawsuit to trial. This gives us on the defense side leverage to either come to an amicable solution, or to fight back and force them to dismiss. The plaintiff attorneys Josh Wyde and Gary Fischman will fight back, but facts are facts, and justice is for the most part blind. If they cannot prove that it is more likely than not that you were the downloader of the copyrighted movie, then they cannot find you guilty for copyright infringement.

NOTE: An unintended consequence of fighting back from a purely academic perspective is that doing so forces the copyright holders to focus their set of John Doe Defendants to those downloaders to whom they can prove did the download, because each ‘misfire’ (meaning, each John Doe Defendant who did not do the download and who fights back) costs the copyright holder severely, and we have said for years that this would be the demise of the ‘copyright troll’ model if they sue without vetting their data as to which John Doe Defendants apparently did what and when. Make it too expensive to blindly name and serve (without vetting the John Doe Defendants first), and their model falls. However, fight back, and they will focus and limit their list of John Doe Defendants to those who subscribers (or their family members) who actually did the downloading, and this will only feed back into their cash stream by encouraging settlements to avoid being named and served, sued, and found liable for copyright infringement. It’s a messy problem.

KNOWN Texas Southern District Court ME2 Cases [Filed in 2017]:

ME2 Productions, Inc. v. DOES (Case No. 4:17-cv-00501)
Filed: Feb 15, 2017, Judge: TBA

ME2 Productions, Inc. v. Does 1-12 (Case No. 4:17-cv-00404)
Filed: Feb 09, 2017, Judge: TBA

ME2 Productions, Inc. v. DOES (Case No. 4:17-cv-00275)
Filed: Jan 27, 2017, Judge: TBA

ME2 Productions, Inc. v. Does (Case No. 4:17-cv-00143)
Filed: Jan 17, 2017, Judge: TBA

For an analysis of the other ME2 Productions, Inc. bittorrent-based cases filed across the US, click here.


CONTACT FORM: If you have a question or comment about what I have written, and you want to keep it *for my eyes only*, please feel free to use the form below. The information you post will be e-mailed to me, and I will be happy to respond.

NOTE: No attorney client relationship is established by sending this form, and while the attorney-client privilege (which keeps everything that you share confidential and private) attaches immediately when you contact me, I do not become your attorney until we sign a contract together.  That being said, please do not state anything “incriminating” about your case when using this form, or more practically, in any e-mail.

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We already know that it is the business model of CEG-TEK and other copyright monetization companies is to develop relationships with the internet service providers (“ISPs”), and to have them forward copyright infringement / DMCA notices to their subscribers.

I have mentioned this already with regard to the relationships CEG-TEK has with Charter, CenturyLink, and Suddenlink, and as we know, COX Communications, Inc. signed on with CEG-TEK in December of 2015, and has been sending CEG-TEK’s DMCA violation notices to their users.  What we did not notice until now is that Cox Communications has become CEG-TEK’s “golden goose.”

WHY COX IS CEG-TEK’s “GOLDEN GOOSE”:

Why Cox? Because Cox provides its users the same IP address each day. This “one subscriber, one static IP address” trend provides copyright holders and government officials an “ID” of sorts which allows them to identify a particular IP address, watch the activities of that IP address over time as it interacts with different websites (e.g., to see what links that internet user clicks on, to learn where they shop online, what accounts they use, what items they purchase, and what bittorrent downloads they participate in).  Then, when they have developed enough of a profile on that user to convict, they then trace that IP address back to a certain Cox Communications account for prosecution, or in our case, extortion.

For CEG-TEK, they are focusing their efforts on Cox because by doing so, they do not need to obtain from the ISP a past list of IP addresses assigned to that user, and it is very easy for CEG-TEK to go back in time and check their own logs of the past bittorrent swarms to see whether that particular subscriber / IP address participated in any other downloads of their other clients. Some have suggested to me that CEG-TEK can do a search to see what other bittorrent downloads the accused Cox subscriber has participated in. In short, Cox’s “one subscriber, one static IP address” is nothing short of a violation of their subscriber’s privacy, and it is only a matter of time before someone’s IP address gets “followed” and someone gets hurt because Cox is not obscuring the identity of their subscribers.

BRIGHT HOUSE NETWORK IS NOW WORKING WITH CEG-TEK:

Other than Cox, I have recently learned that Bright House Networks (brighthouse.com) is now working with CEG-TEK. I do not yet know in what capacity they are working with CEG-TEK, or in what kind of relationship, but it appears as if they are a new ISP “recruit” in CEG-TEK’s “war” against piracy.

NEW CHARTER COMMUNICATIONS POLICIES AS TO HOW THEY FORWARD DMCA NOTIFICATIONS (THE GOOD AND THE BAD):

For the thousands of you who are Charter subscribers, Charter has recently changed the way they forward the DMCA notices, and this can only be good for subscribers. Instead of forwarding the notices in an e-mail, they are now asking subscribers to “log in” to their website, where only then can then view and copy for themselves a copy of CEG-TEK’s letters.

This is both very good, and bad. On the good side, any “hoops” an ISP makes a subscriber jump through to see the claim(s) against him might annoy the subscriber, but it no doubt infuriates the copyright holders and “monetization” companies (like CEG-TEK) that rely on them seeing their DMCA notices to provide their copyright holder clients their dirty money (I could have said “ill-gotten gains,” but emotionally, calling it “dirty money” seemed to fit better).

THE PROBLEM OF “LOST” DMCA NOTICES:

However, BUYER BEWARE! I have received many calls about people who have physically LOST their DMCA notice because they did not copy it down when they viewed it. And when they called me about it panicked, because I couldn’t see the claims because they did not know who was claiming copyright infringement against them, I couldn’t tell them whether the copyright holder was a “copyright troll” or not, or whether they are suing downloaders in the federal courts. So please, as soon as you access the DMCA violation notices sent to you, either download a copy of it for yourself, or copy-and-paste it into a text file.

GOOGLE FIBER IS A DISORGANIZED ISP WHICH HAS ALSO LOST DMCA NOTICES:

Google Fiber subscribers also — Google Fiber seems to not be organized as to keeping track of the DMCA notices that they are forwarding to their subscribers. So when an internet user inadvertently deletes that notice, it is gone forever. Neither I, nor anyone else can help you fight or settle (or even advise you as to your options) if you accidentally deleted the notice. I suspect that if you are reading this article, it may already be too late.

CANADA — NEW CANADIAN ISP RECRUITS:

Okay, last piece of news and then I need to get back to work. As we know, CEG-TEK has been sending letters for months to Canadians and forcing the ISPs to send these letters to their subscribers under what is known as “notice and notice.” I have written about the problem and the solutions here in my “CEG-TEK: What are your financial risks and considerations of ignoring, settling, or being sued for copyright infringement if you live in Canada or Australia?” article. The news is that just as CEG-TEK is growing their business by signing on new ISPs in the US, this is also true in Canada.

The new Canadian ISPs now working with CEG-TEK appear to be Videotron (a.k.a., Vidéotron), Bell Aliant (www.bellaliant.ca), and Eastlink (www.eastlink.ca) — this will also affect their FibreOP users under the ISP names NorthernTel, DMTS, Telebec (Télébec), and Cablevision. If anyone receives notices from these internet providers, I would like to see them, as I hear that CEG-TEK is not following the notice rules.

As for the older ISP names — Bell Canada, Rogers Cable, Shaw Communications (sjrb.ca), ACN Canada, Electronic Box Inc., TELUS Communications, Start Communications, and TekSavvy, yes, these are still in play. The only one of these that has my respect thus far is TekSavvy which has tried to protect their users by fighting back, but even so, they are still sending CEG-TEK’s DMCA violation / copyright infringement letters, so my respect is limited.


CONTACT FORM: If you have a question or comment about what I have written, and you want to keep it *for my eyes only*, please feel free to use the form below. The information you post will be e-mailed to me, and I will be happy to respond.

NOTE: No attorney client relationship is established by sending this form, and while the attorney-client privilege (which keeps everything that you share confidential and private) attaches immediately when you contact me, I do not become your attorney until we sign a contract together.  That being said, please do not state anything “incriminating” about your case when using this form, or more practically, in any e-mail.

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For those of you involved in Keith Vogt’s Cobbler Nevada, LLC cases, a huge ambiguity showed up yesterday on the court’s docket which I needed to clarify. I actually needed to call the clerk because at first glance, it looked as if all of the Cobbler Nevada, LLC cases in the Southern District of Texas were dismissed.

To back up just a bit, Cobbler Nevada, LLC suffered a large setback when on August 10th, 2015, Judge Alfred H. Bennett CONSOLIDATED all cases into one case (TXSD, Case No. 4:15-cv-01308). As soon as we heard this, [especially after writing the “Dallas Buyers Club, LLC is a modern-day Icarus Story” article relating to this same plaintiff attorney], champagne glasses were clinked, and cheers rose up from the homes of many Texans who were caught up in what was often the streaming and/or download of the “The Cobbler” movie using Popcorn Time.

As a general rule, consolidations are ALWAYS a good thing for bittorrent cases because:

1) they take each of the cases and place them under the direction and control of one judge (meaning that there will not be conflicting orders where one judge allows something whereas another judge forbids it), and

2) having so many defendants bunched together in one lawsuit changes the dynamic of the lawsuit from having an aggressive copyright troll attorney to a more passive plaintiff attorney who tiptoes around the court, who avoids filing documents for fear that one misstep (such as the one that happened to his Dallas Buyers Club, LLC cases with Judge Hughes) might cost him his entire batch of defendants.

For a plaintiff attorney, losing 20 John Doe defendants in one case is a tolerable defeat. Losing 400 defendants who have been consolidated into one case creates a “china shop” mindset for the plaintiff attorney, where the “don’t touch it or else it might break” rule suddenly becomes relevant when handling this newly large and fragile set of defendants.

Well, as of yesterday, “Document 70” showed up on Vogt’s Cobbler Nevada, LLC consolidated case, and the document was entitled “ORDER DISMISSING DEFENDANTS.” When I reviewed the document, it purported to dismiss John Doe defendants from a number of Keith’s older cases (e.g., 4:15-cv-01322 through 4:15-cv-01333), but it also appeared to dismiss EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THE JOHN DOE DEFENDANTS FROM EVERY COBBLER NEVADA CASE FILED IN TEXAS AND CONSOLIDATED INTO THIS ONE CASE.  Essentially, ALL of the defendants from the consolidated case itself, 4:15-cv-01308, were dismissed.

010516 CobblerNV Doc70

 

At first, I shouted “woo-hoo!” because the case was dead. But then, I took a second look, and the order was originally written by Keith Vogt in November (Document 58), and there is no way he would dismiss his entire golden goose of defendants.  Plus, the case itself wasn’t marked “closed” by the clerk as it would be if there was a mass dismissal, so there was an ambiguity. “If the defendants from this consolidated case were dismissed, did that include the many, many defendants from ALL THE OTHER TX COBBLER NEVADA, LLC CASES which were all consolidated into THIS case!?”

After calling the clerk and eventually calling Keith himself, I confirmed that the case itself is still alive, and sadly, the John Doe Defendants are still John Doe Defendants. In short, nothing has changed, move along, there is nothing to see here. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but if the wording of the order in such an important case tripped me up, it probably confused a few other attorneys, and for this reason, I have written this article.

So yes, the Texas Cobbler Nevada, LLC cases still lives, and the next court date for this case (which affects every TX Cobbler Nevada, LLC John Doe Defendant) will be on 2/10/2016 at 10am in Courtroom 704 in Houston, TX. The interesting If anything relevant happens, I’ll be sure to let you know.

Known Cobbler Nevada, LLC cases in the TXSD:
Cobbler Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-22 (Case No. 4:15-cv-02060)
Cobbler Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-23 (Case No. 4:15-cv-02061)
Cobbler Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-27 (Case No. 4:15-cv-02046)
Cobbler Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-11 (Case No. 4:15-cv-02053)
Cobbler Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-27 (Case No. 4:15-cv-02047)
Cobbler Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-26 (Case No. 4:15-cv-02045)
Cobbler Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-24 (Case No. 4:15-cv-02062)
Cobbler Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-21 (Case No. 4:15-cv-02059)
Cobbler Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-28 (Case No. 4:15-cv-02048)
Cobbler Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-29 (Case No. 4:15-cv-02050)
Cobbler Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-25 (Case No. 4:15-cv-02043)
Cobbler Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-20 (Case No. 4:15-cv-02058)
Cobbler Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-24 (Case No. 4:15-cv-02041)
Cobbler Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-10 (Case No. 4:15-cv-02051)
Cobbler Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-14 (Case No. 4:15-cv-02055)
Cobbler Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-25 (Case No. 4:15-cv-02044)
Cobbler Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-14 (Case No. 4:15-cv-02057)
Cobbler Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-25 (Case No. 4:15-cv-01332)
Cobbler Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-15 (Case No. 4:15-cv-01322)
Cobbler Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-26 (Case No. 4:15-cv-01333)
Cobbler Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-15 (Case No. 4:15-cv-01323)
Cobbler Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-17 (Case No. 4:15-cv-01327)
Cobbler Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-16 (Case No. 4:15-cv-01324)
Cobbler Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-16 (Case No. 4:15-cv-01325)
Cobbler Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-20 (Case No. 4:15-cv-01328)
Cobbler Nevada, LLC v. Does 1-12 (Case No. 4:15-cv-01308)

Dallas Buyers Club, LLC cases in the TXSD (also affected):
Dallas Buyers Club, LLC v. Does 1-19 (Case No. 4:15-cv-00050)
Dallas Buyers Club, LLC v. Does 1-13 (Case No. 4:15-cv-00049)
Dallas Buyers Club, LLC v. Does 1-12 (Case No. 4:15-cv-00047)
Dallas Buyers Club, LLC v. Does 1-7   (Case No. 4:15-cv-00044)
Dallas Buyers Club, LLC v. Does 1-11 (Case No. 4:15-cv-00046)
Dallas Buyers Club, LLC v. Does 1-18 (Case No. 4:14-cv-03389)
Dallas Buyers Club, LLC v. Does 1-10 (Case No. 4:14-cv-03387)
Dallas Buyers Club, LLC v. Does 1-14 (Case No. 4:14-cv-03388)
Dallas Buyers Club, LLC v. Does 1-19 (Case No. 4:14-cv-03393)
Dallas Buyers Club, LLC v. Does 1-25 (Case No. 4:14-cv-03394)

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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).

RULING 1: OBSCENE PORNOGRAPHY MIGHT NOT BE ELIGIBLE FOR COPYRIGHT PROTECTION.

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)

RULING 2: MALIBU MEDIA ACCUSES A JOHN DOE DEFENDANT, BUT PROVIDES **NO EVIDENCE** THAT THE “JOHN DOE” DOWNLOADER IS THE ACCOUNT HOLDER. THUS, THERE IS **NO BASIS** FOR SUING THE ACCOUNT HOLDER OR IMPLICATING THE ACCOUNT HOLDER AS BEING THE “JOHN DOE” DOWNLOADER DEFENDANT IN THE LAWSUIT.

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.

OTHER RECENT MALIBU MEDIA (NYSD) CASES:
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)

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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?!?

I also want to point out that YET AGAIN, STEELE, HANSMEIER, AND MARK LUTZ THE PARALEGAL WERE NOTORIOUSLY ABSENT FROM THE PROCEEDINGS.

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.

 

USEFUL ARTICLES ON YESTERDAY’S HEARING:

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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.

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