Talking Torrents: Some Thoughts on Prosecuting and Defending Bittorrent Cases

June 16, 2013

600px-US-CopyrightOffice-SealMany of you have heard of bittorrent litigation by now. In short, copyright holders will sue a group of people sharing their work on bittorrent. Often the lawsuits involve pornographic movies. Many of these lawsuits also involve large amounts of defendants, e.g., Media Company v. Does 1-50, which has lead to significant amounts of criticism. This month I had the pleasure of defending the first ever bittorent case to ever see the inside of a courtroom in the Bellwether Trial – Malibu Media v. Does 1, 13, and 16.

When it comes to the nuts and bolts of litigating bittorrent cases, there is a popular narrative on the internet. It goes something like this: all the cases are a mass extortion scheme, the people accused were picked out of a hat, no one pirates anything on the internet, nothing could ever be proven in court, and if you just fight them a little bit these guys will run away and probably get sanctioned like Prenda Law.

If you read the internet, you would think everyone who gets sued in a torrent case is an unsuspecting victim forced to settle because it’s the cheaper route. And it doesn’t matter because none of theses case could ever be taken to trial anyway.

I disagree, and I think there is a lot of untrue information out there on the internet. This is my two cents, take it for what it’s worth…

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The Bellwether Trial (Malibu Media v. Does) – What Have We Learned? My Five Takeaways From the Trial

June 11, 2013

Flag_of_Edward_EnglandThis week Marc Randazza and I had the pleasure of trying the first ever bittorrent case to reach a verdict. Many thanks to my trial co-counsel, Leonard J. French and Ron Smith. Credit is also due to Charles Thomas and Thad Gelsinger, whose clients settled before trial. Finally, kudos to Malibu Media’s counsel, Keith Lipscomb and Chris Fiore, who demonstrated that they are exceptional litigators and trial lawyers. It was a hard fought battle among worthy adversaries.

If you are interested, you can listen to the Bellwether Trial in its entirety here:

Part 1 – Trial Audio (IPP Limited, Patrick Paige, court appointed expert Louis Cinquanto)

Part 2 – Trial Audio (John Doe Defendants, Judge Baylson’s final rulings)

(I can’t figure out how to embed it.)

So… what is this all about?

Last October, Judge Baylson ordered Malibu Media to take a bittorrent case to trial. Some had concerns that a bittorrent case could never be tried successfully in court.

That proved to be wrong… on June 10, 2013, Malibu Media tried three John Does accused of copyright infringement to a verdict.

A $112,500 verdict was entered against John Doe 16, in addition to attorney’s fees and costs. The judgment will be close to $500,000 once costs and attorney’s fees are entered.

No money damages were entered against Doe 1 and Doe 13 because they settled before trial to avoid an entry of a damage award.

Doe 16 was accused, and ultimately found guilty of, very serious perjury. In discovery he turned over a hard drive that had been wiped clean, with evidence planted on it to look as though it were operational. Malibu proved that Doe 16’s hard drive had been wiped, and that evidence had been planted on it. Doe 16 later admitted his wrongdoing and confessed after the court appointed its own expert. (it is a lot more complex than that, but you get the gist).

Doe 1 denied downloading the movies in a civil deposition, but later recanted.

Doe 13 never denied infringing on the copyrighted material, but made legal arguments as to why he should not be held liable. The court said Doe 13 had a legal right to do that.

At the end of the trial, the court rejected the legal arguments and found in favor of Malibu Media.

Now that the trial is over, there are many things we can take away from the Bellwether Trial for lawyers, Doe Defendants, and people who are generally interested in copyright law. These are a few things I thought were notable:

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