Bad Things Happen When Lawyers Stop Representing Clients, and Start Representing Causes – John Blaha Ordered to Pay Rightscorp Attorney’s Fees

May 10, 2015

An interesting development in the world of copyright litigation, as rights holders secured a major victory in California on Friday. A court has ordered Morgan Pietz’s client in John Blaha v. Rightscorp to pay attorney’s fees due to a successful anti-SLAPP motion filed by the defendants. It raises ethical issues about using clients to try and further an anti-copyright law agenda, and drum up business.

A little bit of background…

Rightscorp is an anti-piracy corporation. It monitors BitTorrent usage, and then sends out notices to pirates who are stealing and distributing copyrighted content. From there, the company requests that pirates stop stealing the content, and pay the rights holder a reasonable fee of about $20. In this instance, Rightscorp was contacting people who stole and distributed films like The Shawshank Redemption and The Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, two of my favorite movies. Notably, Lord of the Rings is available on Amazon.com for $9.99, and Shawshank Redemption is available for the same price. If you’re that hard up for cash but really want to watch the movies, you can even rent them for a whopping $2.99.

Surprisingly, people routinely steal movies using BitTorrent, even though they are available for immediate purchase on Amazon and iTunes. People on the internet say it’s unfair when they get caught and sent a notice from Rightscorp, or sued. Of course, if you were caught stealing the same movie in Target, you would be arrested, prosecuted, forced to spend a lot of money on lawyer fees and restitution, and then at the end of the day you would have a criminal record for the rest of your life. So in the grand scheme of things, Rightscorp’s approach seems pretty reasonable.

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Why I Hope You Get Sued For Copyright Infringement – A Response to the EFF on Maximum Statutory Damages

February 23, 2015

It’s Monday morning. Time to get pumped for the day. I click on my Pandora icon and a song comes on. I love Pandora One. It costs me about $50 a year, but I can stream music all day. At the gym, my living room, anywhere.

This song sounds good… Geometer by Slidecamp. Never heard of these guys before, but I can dig it. Let’s see if they’re on iTunes. Awesome. The entire album is available for exactly $7.92. That’s about two cups of coffee. I’ll bite.

BOOM – now the entire album is now on my iPad, my iPod, and my computer. I can listen to the song I want on repeat. Sweet. Gonna be a good day at the gym today.

For a second, I can’t help but think back to when I was a kid. There were two ways to listen to music – tapes and CDs. CDs sounded better, but you couldn’t take them into the gym because it skips. So you had to use tapes for any type of workout, and then listen to CDs in your house. After awhile, the CDs would get banged up, scratched, and useless. I think I bought Pearl Jam – Ten about ten times. To get a CD, you had to drive to Sam Goody and buy the entire album when all you wanted was one song. My bedroom had CDs spewed all over the place at any given time. And damn, I left my tape player on the bus again. Hopefully Ms. Gomez found it. It’s got my Green Day tape in there.

My how things have changed since then. Now any content I want is available at the click of a finger through Amazon, iTunes, or often directly from the producer’s website. It’s backed up in the cloud. MP3s don’t skip, and all the music goes to all your devices. And it gets better – movies, software, games, you name it, available in one click. No more braving the mall, no more Sam Goody, no more Electronics Boutique. Everything you want is available right here, right now, and for a fraction of what it used to cost. and if I break my computer I just buy a new one and all my music is back.

Welcome to the new millennium.

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Talking Torrents: Judge Baylson Issues Final Memorandum Opinion on the Bellwether Trial; Kills Mass Joinder Torrent Actions

June 19, 2013

Today the Bellwether case officially concluded. Judge Baylson has issued his final memorandum opinion, found here.

Notably, you may recall that we filed a motion to dismiss at the outset of the case, arguing that all of the swarm are indispensable parties. Joinder is either proper or its not. The court rejected that argument and denied our motion.

Interestingly, the court’s opinion memorandum opinion issued today held that joinder is not approprriate in a bittorrent case:

I now believe that joinder of multiple defendants in a single complaint alleging copyright infringement through the use of BitTorrent technology is neither necessary nor appropriate. …  As I held then and believe even more firmly now, members of BitTorrent “swarms” are not essential parties for copyright infringement suits involving BitTorrent technology because the “swarm” is formed automatically by the software, and not by any actual association of these defendants. Moreover, there are downsides to allowing permissive joinder. As trial judges are well aware, a large number of defendants in a single complaint poses significant management problems and often delays disposition of cases. Further, joining multiple defendants allows the plaintiff to avoid separate filing fees, and also pressures individual defendants to settle because their costs of defending a multi-party case are likely to be larger than if there is only one defendant. For these reasons, and based on the record made in this case, I recommend against requiring joinder under Rule 19 and also against allowing it under Rule 20(a).

While this opinion will most likely end the era of massively joined bittorrent actions, I don’t think this is the end of torrent lawsuits. I suspect you will see more actions filed against individuals accused of massive infringement.

But absent massive joinder actions, is this the end of what is popularly characterized as “copyright trolling?” Does this mean that now plaintiffs will be more willing to take their cases to trial?

We shall see.

You may also recall that last year, I wrote an article suggesting that mass joinder actions may be better for individual John Doe defendants.

There is a lot going on in this opinion, and I’m sure you will all have interesting takeaways from it.


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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