Tag Archives: copyright troll

‘Copyright Troll’ Uses Social Media Info Against Alleged BitTorrent Pirates

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/copyright-troll-uses-social-media-info-against-alleged-bittorrent-pirates-200315/

Strike 3 Holdings is a familiar name in US federal courts. In recent years, the adult entertainment company has filed thousands of lawsuits against alleged copyright infringers.

While many of these resulted in private settlements, Strike 3 has also experienced some setbacks. This includes a scathing opinion that was released by Judge Royce C. Lamberth.

In 2018, Judge Lamberth accused the company of being a “copyright troll,” that uses “famously flawed” technology to prey on “low-hanging fruit,” flooding the courthouse “with lawsuits smacking of extortion.”

The Judge denied early discovery, which meant that Strike 3 couldn’t find out who the subscriber of an IP-address was, something that’s crucial in their cases.

The case in question is currently being appealed, with Strike 3 claiming that it wasn’t treated fairly, perhaps in part due to the adult nature of its works. This was discussed in detail during a hearing last week at the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

Among other things, the appeal court judges questioned Strike 3 about possible false accusations, where the subscriber on an IP-address is not the infringer. The company admitted this indeed happens in roughly a quarter of all cases. However, to determine that they first have to know who the subscriber is.

This is where Strike 3’s attorney Lincoln Bandlow provided some interesting background. To back up some of their claims, the company has been scouring social media sites for possible leads. In some cases, that helps to serve as indirect evidence.

“We have cases where we get the name and address and we can look. We found somebody who’s tweeted ‘Love your content, do more works with this particular talent, etcetera, etcetera.’ Clearly that’s somebody who likes the works and there’s reason to believe that they are the ones who have infringed,” the attorney writes.

According to Bandlow, Strike 3 conducts a substantial investigation to back up their initial claims. And if it turns out they have the wrong person and can’t identify the target, the case is dismissed. However, in order to get to that point, they need to know who’s behind the IP-address.

This position was countered by the amicus curiae appellant, which wants the district court order to be upheld. While this decision is ultimately up to the appeals court, the social media angle also applies elsewhere.

Earlier this week we stumbled upon a new case Strike 3 filed at a federal court in Connecticut, which also mentions social media.

The lawsuit in question is different from the traditional ‘trolling cases’ where Strike 3 doesn’t know the defendant. In this case, it already obtained the subscriber information through the Florida state court, which we reported on previously.

Having a name and address upfront allowed Strike 3 to dig up some extra information, more than just an IP-address, which in this case includes social media info.

“Defendant’s social media webpages establishes that Defendant is interested in…,” the complaint reads, listing a summary of redacted interests.

While the adult entertainment company redacted the details, they likely relate to adult interests, or perhaps something piracy related. Whatever the case, it shows that people who put this type of information on social media may eventually have to face it in court.

Whether the judge in this case will see if as sufficient is another question. However, it clearly shows that the traces people leave online are not always as innocent as they seem.

Drom: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also have an annual VPN review.

Copyright Troll Now Has its Own Piracy Tracking Tool

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/copyright-troll-now-has-its-own-piracy-tracking-tool-200223/

Three years ago, Strike 3 Holdings had never filed a single lawsuit, but today the company has thousands of cases on its record.

These lawsuits are being filed across the United States, targeting people whose Internet connections were allegedly used to download and share copyright-infringing content via BitTorrent.

In the case of Strike 3, this refers to adult videos that are made available via the Blacked, Tushy, and Vixen websites. The company’s legal campaign has kept the courts busy and contributed to a record-breaking breaking number of piracy lawsuits.

Last summer the company suddenly stopped filing new lawsuits in federal court, but in December its efforts started up again. While the new complaints were very similar to the previous ones, there is a striking difference.

Previously, Strike 3 relied on evidence from the German company IPP International, which tracks file-sharing activity that takes place via BitTorrent networks. However, in the new cases Strike 3 is relying on evidence produced by its own tracking system.

“Plaintiff has developed, owns, and operates an infringement detection system,” Strike 3 wrote. In a complaint filed this week, it gets more specific by adding a name for its system: ‘VXN Scan’.

“Using VXN Scan, Plaintiff discovered that Defendant used the BitTorrent file network to illegally download and distribute Plaintiff’s copyrighted motion pictures,” Strike 3 informed a Virginia federal court.

The switch to the in-house tracking system coincided with Strike 3’s hiatus in filing new federal lawsuits. It’s unclear, however, why that happened. It could be an effort to save costs or the company may have severed its ties to IPP International for another reason.

The mention of the new detection system was highlighted by defense attorney Jeffrey Antonelli who also observed another change in Strike 3’s strategy. In addition to the torrent hash, the copyright holder now lists a file-hash as evidence as well.

This addition may very well be a response to a recent order in a Washington federal court, where Judge Zilly ordered Strike 3 to pay $47,777 to cover the fees and costs of an accused man. In this case, the Judge noted that torrent hashes are not sufficient to pinpoint an infringing file.

The complaint also mentions that the defendant is not the subscriber of the linked IP-address. This case address was previously mentioned in another case, so it’s possible that Strike 3 obtained extra information about the alleged pirate from the account holder.

Whether the new complaint and in-house tracking system will be able to withstand scrutiny from defense lawyers has yet to be seen. Thus far, Strike 3’s technology hasn’t been tested in court.

That said, the description does raise some questions. According to the adult video producer, VXN Scan doesn’t “upload content to any BitTorrent user” because “it is incapable of doing so.” At the same time, however, the defendants are accused of “downloading” pirated content.

Technically, a tracking system that merely downloads content can’t prove that other users downloaded anything, only that they uploaded material. That said, the complaint would still be valid if defendants only uploaded files, when they are not authorized to do so.

All in all, it’s clear that Strike 3 doesn’t plan to halt its legal efforts anytime soon. The company previously started experimenting by filing lawsuits in county court and with its own tracking system, the related scheme may become even more profitable.

A copy of Strike 3’s complaint mentioning the new VXN Scan detection system is available here (pdf).

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

Retired Police Officer Wins $47,777 Judgment Against Copyright Troll

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/retired-police-officer-wins-47777-judgment-against-copyright-troll-200205/

Lawsuits accusing people of downloading pirated videos through BitTorrent are a common sight in US courts. The phenomenon often dubbed as ‘copyright trolling’ started roughly a decade ago and remains ongoing.

The scheme can be both simple and lucrative. Rightsholders file complaints against “John Does” who are initially only known by an IP-address. They then request a subpoena to obtain the subscriber details and demand a settlement from the account holder.

This is also what happened when adult content producer ‘Strike 3 Holdings’ filed against a John Doe, known by the IP-address, more than two years ago.

Strike 3 is one of the most active copyright litigants in the US and has managed to obtain settlements against many accused pirates. However, this case was different. Instead of settling the case the accused account holder, a retired police officer in his 70s, chose to fight back.

The John Doe submitted a counterclaim accusing Strike 3 of abuse of process and “extortion through sham litigation.” The man accused the rightsholder of going on a “fishing expedition,” while knowing that it couldn’t link the subscriber of the IP-address to any specific infringement.

Following this pushback Strike 3 decided to dismiss its copyright infringement claim. However, the defendant wasn’t willing to let the case go. The retired police officer pushed on and requested a summary judgment to set in stone that he’s not a copyright infringer and to have his costs compensated.

This week U.S. District Judge Thomas Zilly ruled on the matter, deciding in favor of the falsely accused ‘pirate.’ According to the evidence presented before the court, Strike 3 can’t prove that the man copied any of the company’s movies.

While Strike 3’s evidence initially suggested that the file “hashes” referred to the actual movie file, the company later admitted that these were merely BitTorrent “info hashes” that point to torrent metadata instead.

“In other words, the referenced ‘Info Hash’ does not identify the actual motion picture that John Doe is accused of infringing, but merely the means by which the BitTorrent program can find the motion picture among the files of all of the computers connected to the BitTorrent network,” Judge Zilly writes.

In this case, Strike 3 bears the burden of proof for the alleged copyright infringements and based on the provided evidence, that standard wasn’t met. At most, the company can show that ‘someone’ with IP address downloaded ‘some things’ that are identified by a series of hash sequences.

“A core element of copyright infringement is a ‘copying’ of the protected components of the work. Strike 3 has provided no evidence that John Doe copied any of Strike 3’s copyrighted motion pictures,” the order reads.

“Strike 3 cannot link John Doe to the activity associated with the IP address and it has now abandoned any assertion that the items allegedly transferred over the BitTorrent system were themselves copyrighted motion pictures or viewable pieces thereof,” Judge Zilly adds.

This finding is further backed up by an expert who reviewed the computer of the retired police officer, including many deleted files. This examination failed to find any of the allegedly infringed movies.

As such, the court concludes that ‘John Doe’ hasn’t downloaded any infringing material. In addition to clearing his name, the court also awarded attorney’s fees and costs, which have to be paid by the rightsholder.

Strike 3 asked the court to deny this request but Judge Zilly argued that this would improperly reward the company for using its suspicious litigation script, also known as copyright trolling.

Instead, the court ordered Strike 3 to pay the requested $40,501.63 in attorney’s fees and $7,275.63 in additional costs, totaling $47,777.26.

John Doe’s attorney, J. Curtis Edmondson, is happy with the outcome. It saves his client a lot of money and could also help others who are in a similar position.

“Any client who is sued by Strike 3 has potential exposure that starts in the tens of thousands of dollars, Edmondson tells TorrentFreak.

“For my retired client, this means he does not risk what he has saved for his retirement. That alone would take a lot of stress off someone, retired or not.”

In the broader picture, the order confirmed that Strike 3’s initial evidence claims, which are used to obtain subpoenas from ISPs, are not always sufficient to find an infringing movie on a hard drive.

In this case, the court also denied a wholesale inspection of the John Doe’s hard drive, limiting it to “hash values” only, which means that there’s insufficient evidence to prove actual copyright infringement.

A copy of U.S. District Judge Thomas Zilly’s judgment is available here (pdf) and the associated order can be found here (pdf).

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

‘Copyright Troll’ Malibu Media Gets Sued By its Former Law Firm

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/copyright-troll-malibu-media-gets-sued-by-its-former-law-firm-200111/

Over the past several years, adult entertainment company Malibu Media has been one of the most active copyright litigants in the United States. Targeting large numbers of alleged file-sharers, the company has received potentially huge sums in cash settlements.

But while the company usually makes the headlines for its file-sharing cases, a dispute with a former business partner is now shining a light behind the scenes. This week, Florida-based The Lomnitzer Law Firm sued California-based Malibu Media over their business dealings.

According to the lawsuit, in May 2017 Lomnitzer and Malibu entered into an agreement for the former to provide legal services to the latter.

While the precise details are to be submitted under seal, the outline is that Lomnitzer would coordinate Malibu’s litigation against pirates across the United States, receive settlements and pay them into a trust account, pay court filing fees, pay process server fees and investigators, and pay expenses related to the deposition of Malibu.

The law firm claims that it issued invoices to Malibu on a regular basis, using money in the trust account to pay some while dispensing settlement funds back to Malibu. However, the lawsuit claims that a date currently unknown, Malibu “began a program of circumventing the agreement.”

According to the complaint, this came in the form of instructing attorneys in other jurisdictions, that were previously instructed by Lomnitzer, to “bypass” the law firm. This involved sending settlement money directly to Malibu rather than Lomnitzer, “while still expecting the Firm to pay court filing fees, process server fees, etc., all incurred for and on behalf of and for the benefit of Malibu.”

Faced with these circumstances, on August 30, 2019, Lomnitzer terminated its representation of Malibu. Since then it claims to have received invoices from third-parties incurred as a result of its representation of Malibu while its own invoices to Malibu itself (totaling more than $262,500) remain unpaid.

The bottom line according to Lomnitzer’s suit is that Malibu owes the law firm $280,05.32 plus additional interest accruing after December 31, 2019. It is demanding a judgment from the court to that end, an order allowing it to use funds in the trust account towards that amount, plus an order “confirming the Firm’s lien against all proceeds of all pending litigation in which Malibu is a Plaintiff.”

To address the allegations that other law firms are paying settlements directly to Malibu rather than Lomnitzer, Malibu’s former legal team are also seeking an order to prevent Malibu from “disbursing any settlement monies from any and all pending litigation nationwide to anyone other than the Firm.”

On top, of course, Lomnitzer is demanding attorney fees and costs plus any other relief the court deems “just and proper”.

The lawsuit filed by Lomnitzer against Malibu can be found here (pdf)

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

EU Court to Decide on BitTorrent Questions in Copyright Trolling Case

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/bittorrent-related-eu-court-191116/

During the summer we reported on the renewed efforts of Golden Eye (International) and Mircom, companies with a track record of targeting alleged BitTorrent pirates with demands for cash settlements to make supposed lawsuits disappear.

After filing no complaints in the UK for years, the pair teamed up in an effort to squeeze the personal details of thousands of Internet users from the hands of ISP Virgin Media. Somewhat unusually given previous compliance in alleged anti-piracy matters, Virgin put up a pretty big fight.

In the end, the cases brought by Golden Eye and Mircom were proven to be so lacking in evidence that a judge in the High Court threw out the companies’ claims. Nevertheless, there are more countries than just the UK to target.

Cyprus-based Mircom (full name Mircom International Content Management & Consulting) has another case on the boil, this time against Telenet, the largest provider of cable broadband in Belgium. In common with previous cases, this one is also about the unlicensed sharing of pornographic movies using BitTorrent.

Mircom says it has thousands of IP addresses on file which can identify Telenet subscribers from which it wants to extract cash payments. However, it needs the ISP’s cooperation to match the IP addresses to those customers and the case isn’t progressing in a straightforward manner.

As a result, the Antwerp Business Court (Ondernemingsrechtbank Antwerpen) has referred several questions in the matter to the European Court of Justice. As usual, there are several controversial as well as technical points under consideration.

The first complication concerns how BitTorrent itself works. When a regular user participates in a BitTorrent swarm, small downloaded parts of a movie are then made available for upload. In this manner, everyone in a swarm can gain access to all of the necessary parts of the movie.

Anyone who obtains all of the parts (and therefore the whole movie) becomes a ‘seeder’ if he or she continues to upload to the swarm.

However, a question with three parts sent to the EU Court appears to seek clarity on whether uploading small pieces of a file, which are unusable in their own right, constitutes an infringement and if so, where the limit lies. It also deals with potential ignorance on the user’s part when it comes to seeding.

1. (a) Can the downloading of a file via a peer-to-peer network and the simultaneous provision for uploading of parts (‘pieces’) thereof (which may be very fragmentary as compared to the whole) (‘seeding’) be regarded as a communication to the public within the meaning of Article 3(1) of Directive 2001/29, (1) even if the individual pieces as such are unusable? If so,

1. (b) is there a de minimis threshold above which the seeding of those pieces would constitute a communication to the public?

1. (c) is the fact that seeding can take place automatically (as a result of the torrent client’s settings), and thus without the user’s knowledge, relevant?

While the above matters are interesting in their own right, it’s Mircom’s position that perhaps provokes the most interest and has resulted in the next pair of questions to the European Court of Justice.

To be clear – Mircom is not a content creator. It is not a content distributor. Its entire purpose is to track down alleged infringers in order to claim cash settlements from them on the basis that its rights have been infringed. So what rights does it have?

Mircom claims to have obtained the rights to distribute, via peer-to-peer networks including BitTorrent, a large number of pornographic films produced by eight American and Canadian companies. However, despite having the right to do so, Mircom says it does not distribute any movies in this fashion.

Instead, it aims to collect money from alleged infringers, returning a proportion of this to the actual copyright holders, to whom it paid absolutely nothing for the rights to ‘distribute’ their movies via BitTorrent.

Interesting to say the least, a situation that has resulted in a second question with two parts being referred to the EUCJ;

2. (a) Can a person who is the contractual holder of the copyright (or related rights), but does not himself exploit those rights and merely claims damages from alleged infringers — and whose economic business model thus depends on the existence of piracy, not on combating it — enjoy the same rights as those conferred by Chapter II of Directive 2004/48 (2) on authors or licence holders who do exploit copyright in the normal way?

2. (b) How can the license holder in that case have suffered ‘prejudice’ (within the meaning of Article 13 of Directive 2004/48) as a result of the infringement?

A third question asks whether the specific circumstances laid out in questions 1 and 2 are relevant when assessing the correct balance between the enforcement of intellectual property rights and the right to a private life and protection of personal data.

Finally, question four deals with a particularly interesting aspect of BitTorrent swarm data monitoring and subsequent data processing in respect of the GDPR.

4. Is, in all those circumstances, the systematic registration and general further processing of the IP-addresses of a ‘swarm’ of ‘seeders’ (by the licence holder himself, and by a third party on his behalf) legitimate under the General Data Protection Regulation and specifically under Article 6(1)(f) thereof?

There are already considerable concerns that the tracking data collected and processed as part of the case in hand may not have been handled as required under the GDPR. That, on top of the conclusion that Mircom fits the ‘copyright troll’ label almost perfectly, makes this a very interesting case to follow.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

Court Punishes Copyright ‘Troll’ Lawyer for Repeatedly Lying to The Court

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/court-punishes-copyright-troll-lawyer-for-repeatedly-lying-to-the-court-191115/

Over the past several years, independent photographers have filed more than a thousand lawsuits against companies that allegedly use their work without permission.

As many targets are mainstream media outlets, these can be seen as David vs. Goliath battles. However, the nature of these cases is described as classic copyright-trolling by many.

The driving force behind this copyright crusade is New York lawyer Richard Liebowitz, a former photographer, who explained his motives to TorrentFreak when he just got his firm started more than three years ago.

“Companies are using other people’s hard work and profiting off of it. It is important for photographers and the creative community to unite and stand up for their rights and protect their work,” Liebowitz said.

In the years that followed Liebowitz filed hundreds of new cases a year, trying to obtain settlements. While many of the photographers have a legitimate claim, the lawyer’s antics were increasingly criticized both in and outside of court.

In recent weeks, things only got worse.

In a case that was filed on behalf of photographer Jason Berger, targeting Imagina Consulting, Liebowitz failed to show up at a discovery hearing last April, without informing the court.

The lawyer later explained that this was due to a death in his family. However, since there were other issues that put the lawyer’s credibility in doubt, Judge Cathy Siebel decided to request evidence or documentation regarding who died, when, and how he was notified.

In the following months, Liebowitz explained that his grandfather had passed away on April 12, but he didn’t provide any documentation to back this up. Even after the court imposed sanctions of $100 for each business day he didn’t comply, nothing came in.

Instead of providing proof, the lawyer appeared to keep stalling, while stating that a death certificate is a personal matter.

This led some people to wonder whether Liebowitz’ grandfather had indeed passed away. Frustrated with the refusal to comply with her demands, Judge Siebel raised the sanctions to $500 per day earlier this month, criticising the lawyer for his behavior.

The order (pdf), picked up by Law360, instructed the New York lawyer to show up in court this week, to explain “why he should not be incarcerated” until he provides documented proof.

“Failure to appear as directed will subject Mr. Liebowitz to arrest by the United States Marshals Service without further notice,” Judge Siebel wrote.

It turns out that an arrest wasn’t needed as Liebowitz did show up at the hearing this week. Realizing that there may be trouble ahead, he entered the courtroom with two criminal defense lawyers at his side, for what would become a turbulent hearing.

After six months, the lawyer finally presented the death certificate the court had requested. This proved that he didn’t lie about the death of his grandfather, but he hadn’t been truthful either as this occurred three days earlier than Liebowitz said, on April 9.

Judge Siebel wasn’t happy about this, to say the least. According to The Smoking Gun, which covered the case in detail, she said that Liebowitz “chose to repeat that lie six, eight, ten times” as part of a “long-term campaign of deception.”

“I question Mr. Liebowitz’s fitness to practice,” Seibel added at one point during the hearing.

Liebowitz’s lawyer, Richard Greenberg, who has known the lawyer and his family for years, explained that his client’s misrepresentations were not “intentional” and that he “was in a daze” following the death of his grandfather.

However, Judge Seibel didn’t fall for this and countered that it would be “completely implausible” that this “haze” would have continued for months. According to her, Liebowitz intentionally lied to the court, noting that it was clearly not an honest mistake.

Greenberg also tried to get the sanctions lowered, which he said had risen to $3,700 over the past weeks. According to a letter sent to the court earlier this week, the attorney noted that Liebowitz had already paid a high price for his wrongdoing, including bad publicity.

“Richard has suffered horrible publicity as a result of being held in contempt and threatened with incarceration by this Court. And of course Richard, a young and inexperienced lawyer, is scared of the damage to his professional career as a result of his conduct and these proceedings,” Greenberg wrote.

“At the risk of appearing to minimize the seriousness of this matter, which counsel would not dare to do, counsel urges this Court to find that Richard has suffered or been penalized enough for his lapse or misconduct,” the letter (pdf) adds.

Judge Seibel didn’t seem convinced by these arguments though, and Liebowitz had to cough up for sanctions. According to Leonard French’s coverage, he paid $3,700 in court. That was $100 short according to the Judge, but she accepted it nonetheless.

The earlier contempt rulings also bring more bad news for the lawyer. He now has to disclose these to other courts as well as prospective clients, which likely doesn’t help his business.

In addition, Judge Seibel has referred the matter to the Grievance Committee, which will decide if further sanctions are appropriate, which could lead to trouble at the New York bar.

Needless to say, this is yet more bad news for the attorney. He can continue to practice law, at least for now, but everyone seems to agree that the attorney needs help and not just on the legal front.

Liebowitz’s own lawyer and family friend, Greenberg, recommended him to enroll in a CLE course to learn how to manage a small law firm. In addition, he was advised to seek psychotherapy to deal with several other issues.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

US Court Shields Internet Subscribers From Futile Piracy Complaints

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/us-court-shields-internet-subscribers-from-futile-piracy-complaints-191028/

For more than a decade, alleged file-sharers around the world have been pressured to pay significant settlement fees.

These so-called ‘copyright-trolling’ efforts are pretty straightforward. Copyright holders obtain a list of ‘pirating’ IP-addresses and then request a subpoena from the court, compelling ISPs to hand over the associated customer data.

This scheme can be rather lucrative. With minimal effort, rightsholders can rake in hundreds or thousands of dollars per defendant. That is, if a court grants expedited discovery, allowing the companies to request the personal details of alleged infringers from ISPs.

In the past, it has been relatively easy to pursue these cases, but the tide is slowly turning. Most prominent was a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling from last year in the Cobbler Nevada v. Gonzales case. Here, the court ruled that identifying the registered subscriber of an IP-address is by itself not enough to argue that this person is also the infringer.

While the Cobbler case wasn’t about a subpoena request, it certainly said something about the strength of the underlying complaints.

As the most prolific filer of piracy lawsuits in the US, Strike 3 Holdings has come under fire as well. For example, last November Columbia District Judge Lamberth accused the company of being a “copyright troll,” that uses “famously flawed” technology to prey on “low-hanging fruit,” flooding the
courthouse “with lawsuits smacking of extortion.”

That didn’t stop Strike 3, which produces adult content, from continuing its legal campaign. The company filed has more than 1,150 lawsuits already this year, many of which are believed to have resulted in profitable settlements. However, there have been setbacks as well.

Last week, New Jersey District Court Magistrate Judge Joel Schneider denied Strike 3 expedited discovery in four cases. This means that it’s not allowed to subpoena ISPs for the personal details of account holders whose IP-addresses were used to share pirated videos via BitTorrent.

In a very detailed 47-page opinion, the Judge takes apart various aspects of Strike 3’s enforcement efforts. He makes it clear that these cases should not be allowed to go forward, as the complaints are futile.

“The most fundamental basis of the Court’s decision is its conclusion that, as pleaded, Strike 3’s complaints are futile. The Court denies Strike 3 the right to bootstrap discovery based on a complaint that does not pass muster,” Judge Schneider writes.

The futility lies in the fact that the complaints themselves include very few facts. The only thing that the company really knows is that an IP address is associated with downloading copyrighted works. Strike 3 doesn’t know whether the subscriber is involved in the actual infringements.

Courts have previously ruled both in favor and against allowing discovery to expose the account holders in these situations, but the New Jersey Court clearly sides with the latter.

“The Court sided with the cases that hold it is not sufficient to merely allege in a pleading that the defendant is a subscriber of an IP address traced to infringing activity. Consequently, the Court will not authorize Strike 3 to take discovery premised on a futile John Doe complaint.”

The decision is partly based on the aforementioned “Cobbler” ruling of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. However, the Court makes it clear that even if there was a properly pleaded infringement claim, the requests for expedited discovery would still be denied.

In the opinion, Judge Schneider sums up the other issues as follows:

(1) Strike 3 bases its complaints on unequivocal affirmative representations of alleged facts that it does not know to be true.
(2) Strike 3’s subpoenas are misleading and create too great of an opportunity for misidentification.
(3) The linchpin of Strike 3’s good cause argument, that expedited discovery is the only way to stop infringement of its works, is wrong.
(4) Strike 3 has other available means to stop infringement besides suing
individual subscribers in thousands of John Doe complaints.
(5) The deterrent effect of Strike 3’s lawsuits is questionable.
(6) Substantial prejudice may inure to subscribers who are misidentified.
(7) Strike 3 underestimates the substantial interest subscribers have in the constitutionally protected privacy of their subscription information.

For example, Strike 3 has argued that these cases do not really raise any substantial privacy concerns, but the Court clearly disagrees. Being named in a lawsuit is an invasion of people’s constitutional privacy rights, which should not be underestimated.

“[G]iven the expansive view of individual privacy under New Jersey law, there should be a good reason before subscriber information is turned over. This is especially true in a situation where questionable averments are relied upon to obtain discovery,” Judge Schneider writes.

Another point the Judge brings up is Strike 3’s claim that it has no other available means to stop copyright infringements. According to the Court, this is not true. The DMCA allows the company to send takedown notices to ISPs, but Strike 3 doesn’t use this option.

While the company is by no means required to issue takedown notices, the Court finds it unreasonable for Strike 3 to argue that it has no other options when it ignores the DMCA.

“One would think that Strike 3 would be eager to notify ISPs that its subscribers are infringing their copyrights, so that an infringer’s internet service would be interrupted, suspended or terminated and infringement would stop. However, Strike 3 does not take this simple step but instead files thousands of lawsuits arguing that it has no other recourse to stop infringement,” Judge Schneider writes.

Even if Strike 3 believes that these notices don’t have any direct effect, it could at least try. If an ISP willfully ignores DMCA notices or fails to follow its repeat infringer policy, it could even consider suing the Internet provider, as other rightsholders have done, the Court adds.

Adding to that, Judge Schneider points out that the current legal campaigns against individual file-sharers are not very effective. There doesn’t seem to be a substantial deterrent effect, as Strike 3 admits that the infringements of its works have only increased.

All in all the Court sees no other option than to deny the request for expedited discovery. This is good news for the people who were targeted by these lawsuits, as they won’t be identified. At the same time, it means that Strike 3 can’t continue these cases, as it can’t name a defendant.

The Court realizes that this makes it nearly impossible to track down the alleged infringers, but sometimes that’s how the law works.

“The Court is not unmindful that its ruling may make it more difficult for Strike 3 to identify copyright infringers. To the extent this is the price to pay to assure compliance with the applicable law, so be it,” Judge Schneider writes.

“A legal remedy does not exist for every wrong, and it is unfortunately the case that sometimes the law has not yet caught up with advanced technology. This is not the first time, nor will it be the last, where a party who believes it was wronged was denied discovery,” he adds.

A copy of the full opinion issued by US Magistrate Judge Joel Schneider is available here (pdf).

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‘Copyright Troll’ Files Over 1,000 Piracy Lawsuits in Half a Year

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/copyright-troll-files-over-1000-piracy-lawsuits-in-half-a-year/

While most piracy activity has shifted to streaming in recent years, US courts are still overloaded with BitTorrent related lawsuits.

This phenomenon, often dubbed as copyright trolling, started roughly a decade ago and remains ongoing.

The process is fairly simple. Rightsholders file complaints against “John Does,” who are initially only known by an IP-address. They then request a subpoena to obtain the subscriber details from the associated ISP, which are then used to request a settlement.

This ‘revenue’ model has been widely criticized and increasingly courts have become more reserved as well. Last year, there was an important Appeals Court ruling which clarified that rightsholders need “something more” than an IP-address alone, to make their case.

Nonetheless, the traditional boilerplate complaints are far from over. This week we decided to take a look at the number of file-sharing lawsuits filed in the first half of 2019. This showed that one company has been particularly active.

The adult entertainment production company Strike 3 Holdings, which distributes its adult videos via the Blacked, Tushy, and Vixen websites, takes the crown. In the first six months of this year, it filed 1,071 complaints. That’s up from last year when it filed 976 new cases in the same period.

Strike 3 filings

The second most litigious rightsholder is Malibu Media, another adult entertainment outfit. The company, known for its X-Art brand, has been an established player in US courts for a few years. During the first half of 2019 it filed 337 new cases, which is down from 681 last year.

Aside from the two adult companies, there were also some regular movie companies active. Hunter Killer Productions, for example, filed 25 cases, Bodyguard Productions was good for 16, and LHF Productions added three new complaints.

All filers have been active in previous years as well, so there aren’t any surprises on that front.

While there have been slightly fewer cases than in the first half of 2018, this year has already surpassed the total number of piracy lawsuits that were filed in 2017, which were little over 1,000. Whether last year’s record high of more than 3,300 new cases will be broken, has yet to be seen.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

Judge Denies $10K Default Judgment Against Alleged Pirate

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/judge-denies-10k-default-judgment-against-alleged-pirate-170712/

In recent years, file-sharers around the world have been pressured to pay significant settlement fees, or face legal repercussions.

As the most active copyright litigant in the United States, adult entertainment outfit Malibu Media has been on the frontline of these efforts in recent years..

The company, widely known for its popular “X-Art” brand, has gone after thousands of alleged offenders. Many of its targets eventually pay up and those who fail to respond can face costly default judgments.

New Jersey resident Joe Park found himself in the latter category. The man was named in a Malibu Media lawsuit last year and failed to respond. Not just to the settlement requests, but also to the lawsuit filed at the New Jersey District Court.

Without a response, the complaining party can request a default judgment. This is exactly what Malibu Media did. It submitted a motion arguing that it’s entitled to $10,500.00 in statutory damages for copyright infringement and an additional $559.99 in costs.

In many cases, courts grant default judgment requests, as there is no defense. This has allowed Malibu Media to collect dozens, if not hundreds of default judgments. However, in the present matter, U.S. District Court Judge John Michael Vazquez decided otherwise.

In an opinion released this week, Judge Vazquez denied the motion, concluding that Malibu Media isn’t entitled to anything.

The denial is based on a culmination of rulings in similar BitTorrent piracy cases. While Malibu Media portrayed the defendant as a persistent copyright infringer, the Court is far from convinced.

“The Court is not satisfied that Plaintiff has sufficiently demonstrated that the named Defendant actually committed the complained of acts of infringement,” Judge Vazquez writes.

The Court doesn’t deny that it has jurisdiction or that the defendant was properly served, as it required. However, after reviewing several relevant decisions in similar cases, it is not convinced that there is enough evidence to show that the defendant is liable.

Among other things, the opinion cites a ruling from U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth, who previously denied a subpoena requested in a similar case filed by Strike 3. This highlighted that the IP-address evidence used in these cases is “famously flawed” and not trustworthy.

Judge Lamberth also criticized the litigation effort in general, accusing the “copyright troll” practice as a “high-tech shakedown” where courts are used “as an ATM.”

Judge Vazquez further cites last year’s Cobbler Nevada v. Gonzales case. Here, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that identifying the registered subscriber of an IP-address by itself is not enough to plausibly claim that this person is also the infringer.

“Plaintiff will have to show something more than merely tying Defendant to an IP address in order to sufficiently establish copyright infringement,” Judge Vazquez notes.

This ‘something more’ can be quite a stumbling block for these cases, as the rightsholders often have little or no evidence to tie the infringements to a person, other than an IP-address.

The Court realizes that this puts Malibu Media in a tough spot, but sees no other option than to deny the motion for a default judgment.

The ruling is significant in the sense that, without any defense arguments from the accused pirate, a court refused to grant a default judgment. While this is by no means the end of these type of lawsuits, it certainly represents another setback for the ‘copyright troll’ efforts.

A copy of U.S. District Court Judge John Michael Vazquez’s order is available here (pdf)

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

Spanish Court Throws Out Copyright Trolling Case

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/spanish-court-throws-out-copyright-trolling-case-190702/

Spanish ISP Euskaltel is one of the few ISPs in the world to be putting up a fight against so-called copyright trolls.

These mostly movie-related companies obtain the IP addresses of computers said to be participating in BitTorrent swarms and then apply to the courts to force related ISPs to hand over their customers’ data for further action.

This usually takes the form of “pay-up-or-else” letters, demanding hundreds or even thousands of euros or dollars, to make supposed lawsuits go away. In Spain, however, things aren’t going as planned.

Euskaltel reports that the Commercial Court No. 2 of Bilbao has dismissed demands by producer She Fighter Ltd against a customer alleged to have downloaded and shared the movie Lady Bloodfight.

According to a detailed summary of the case, success rested on three elements: the existence of unlawful action, showing damages, and the causal relationship between the damages and the unlawful action. In respect of the damages element, the rightsholder opted for a “hypothetical royalty” but failed to provide evidence to justify why 150 euros was demanded. This is what caused the case to fail.

“This is one of the first decisions in the trials against those affected after being reported by various film producers for what they considered ‘illegal downloading of movies on P2P networks’,” Euskaltel said in a statement.

The ruling, which was handed down June 25, denies the producer an opportunity to appeal and requires it to pay the full costs of the process.

While the ISP has welcomed the decision, the battle against copyright trolls appears to be heating up in other areas of the country. Euskaltel is just one of the ISPs being targeted by movie companies and courts in other areas of the country have received similar requests.

“The fact that the first people affected have been clients of Euskaltel, is due to the fact that the Bilbao Courts – the headquarters of the Basque operator – have been the first in the State to meet and resolve these demands, for reasons of distribution and work management, while the Madrid courts – which deal with the demands of the clients of the operators based in the capital of Spain – are still in a preliminary phase of the process,” the ISP explained.

Meanwhile, Euskaltel says it will continue to fight to protect its customers’ rights. As reported last month, the ISP reported copyright troll Venice PI to Spain’s data protection agency (AEPD) after being forced by a court to hand over the personal details of subscribers said to have downloaded the Bruce Willis movie Once Upon a Time in Venice.

The ISP said that Venice PI’s use of that data, which involved contacting subscribers with demands to pay a 150 euro settlement, constituted a breach of Spain’s Data Protection regulations. According to Euskaltel, the movie outfit was not “free to decide what to do with the data” once it had obtained it.

In addition to the earlier Venice PI referral to the AEPD, Euskaltel says that on June 7 it referred Reliance Entertainment Productions LLC to the data protection watchdog. Then, just three days later, it filed a similar complaint against Wind River Production LLC, highlighting potential abuses of customer data.

“In the latter complaint, in addition to asking the AEPD to analyze the reported facts to verify whether the alleged administrative violations have incurred, the AEPD has also been requested to adopt provisional measures, consisting of ordering the production company to stop sending more letters to users,” Euskaltel says.

“In this complaint, as in the two previous ones, the possible criminal responsibility which the producers may have incurred has been placed on the table,” the ISP concludes.

Euskaltel has published advice to customers being targeted by copyright trolls, including that they should report potential data protection abuses to the authorities.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

Retired Police Officer and ‘Copyright Troll’ Square Off in Court

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/retired-police-officer-and-copyright-troll-square-off-in-court-190626/

Strike 3 Holdings, one of the most active copyright trolls in the United States, has filed cases against thousands of alleged BitTorrent pirates in recent years.

While many of the defendants may indeed be guilty, quite a few of the accused Internet subscribers have done nothing wrong.

This is also what a John Doe, known by the IP-address, has repeatedly argued before a federal court in Seattle, Washington.

The defendant in question was sued by Strike 3 Holdings late 2017. In common with other defendants, the man was offered a settlement to let the case go, but instead, he went on the offensive.

As it turns out, the adult company picked a fight with a 70+-year-old retired police officer, who lawyered up to fight back.

Following some initial pushback in court, Strike 3 Holdings was ready to let the case go. The company filed a motion to voluntarily dismiss all claims in August, but the former policeman wasn’t willing to let them. At least, not without getting paid.

The defendant moved for a declaratory judgment of non-infringement, submitting a counterclaim accusing Strike 3 of abuse of process and “extortion through sham litigation.” Strike 3, for its part, moved for summary judgment asking the court to dismiss that counterclaim.

Over the past months, both parties have conducted discovery, hoping to bolster their positions ahead of a trial that’s scheduled for later this year.

The retired police officer, for example, has asked for a copy of the source code of Strike 3’s BitTorrent tracking software IPP. The court granted this request in part and allowed the defendant to issue a subpoena requesting a copy of the software’s source code. Thus far, however, that hasn’t happened.

This week the defendant, therefore, submitted a second motion, requesting a copy of the code. Or if that’s not an option, the court should exclude any evidence that’s based on it.

“It is not Doe’s burden to prove the software is forensically sound. That is Strike 3’s burden. At this point, Strike 3 is playing ‘hide the ball’. If Strike 3 does not comply with the Subpoena, then the IPP Code and any data relying upon it should be excluded as unreliable,” the motion to compel (pdf) reads.

In addition, the retired police officer also submitted a supplemental response to Strike 3’s motion for summary judgment. Among other things, his attorney points out that, instead of naming the defendant, Strike 3 went on a “fishing expedition” to find out who else could be the infringer.

The ‘initially’ accused alleged pirate points out that, based on the IPP software, Strike 3 can never prove that he downloaded a full copy of its works, accusing the company of abuse of process by going after third parties instead.

The defendant’s argument is that the complaint was unjustified and that Strike 3 knew this.

“Despite blatant and unequivocal allegations in their motion for early discovery that Doe is the infringer, and that full copies of Strike 3’s works were downloaded, Strike 3 knew that their investigator could never prove that Doe had downloaded entire films, and that they might not have the right defendant.

“Both of these facts are material to whether a court might find good cause for early discovery. Yet Strike 3 disclosed neither. Nor did Strike 3 disclose, contrary to their motion, that they intended to investigate third parties other than Doe. Strike 3’s conduct constitutes abuse of process,” the Doe defendant adds (pdf).

However, the adult content producer disagrees.

The third party, in this case, is the son of the retired police officer. According to Strike 3, this may be the person who downloaded its adult movie. At least, according to information it obtained during discovery, including a deposition of the son.

“Through the litigation process, Plaintiff has uncovered a substantial amount of evidence confirming the validity of its original Complaint and IPP’s system – evidence which Defendant has improperly sought to withhold from discovery,” Strike 3 argues (pdf).

The aforementioned passage comes from Strike 3’s motion to compel the defendant to allow one of his hard drives to be images and inspected. The hard drive in question was used by the son and taken out of a computer that was previously sold.

During the deposition, the son admitted that he used the computer, which had uTorrent installed on it, to access The Pirate Bay through which he downloaded adult content. This also happened during the time of the alleged copyright infringement.

According to Strike 3, this could be the “smoking gun” which shows that its original complaint, based on IPP’s evidence, was justified.

“The Son’s deposition testimony clearly makes this Hard Drive relevant and may, indeed, be the literal ‘smoking gun’ demonstrating that Plaintiff’s initial suit was entirely justified, and Defendant’ counterclaims are nothing less than a fraud upon the Court,” Strike 3 writes.

The various court filings and additional arguments make it clear that both sides are working hard to make this case go in their favor.

The court has yet to review the arguments and rule on the motions. After discovery is completed, the case is expected to go to trial. Both parties have indicated they prefer a bench trial, instead of a trial by jury.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

ISP Reports Movie Company to Data Protection Agency Over ‘Piracy’ Data

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/isp-reports-movie-company-to-data-protection-agency-over-piracy-data-190530/

While some movie companies are satisfied with the income generated by their content, others are increasingly looking for additional revenue streams via legal action.

One of those companies is Venice PI, the outfit behind the Bruce Willis movie Once Upon a Time in Venice. It has filed several lawsuits in the United States with the aim of extracting cash settlements from alleged BitTorrent users, cases that haven’t always gone in the company’s favor.

In common with other companies involved in so-called “copyright trolling” cases, Venice PI has already found itself in awkward positions in court. That hasn’t prevented it from filing further lawsuits, however.

Indeed, Venice PI and partners have gone after ‘pirate’ services too, including Dragon Box, Showbox, and Popcorn Time. Given the status of these cases, it seems that settlements rather than full trials are still on the agenda.

Venice PI also appears to be testing similar markets overseas, with the company demanding that Spanish ISP Euskaltel hand over the identities of individuals who allegedly downloaded and shared the previously-mentioned Bruce Willis movie.

Euskaltel says that it has repeatedly refused to hand over any data but was eventually ordered by Commercial Court No. 2 of Bilbao to hand over the personal details of subscribers behind IP addresses said to have pirated the movie.

“Despite the repeated refusal of the ISP to deliver any data to the Court, the Commercial Court number 2 of Bilbao issued a ruling dismissing Euskaltel’s opposition allegations, forcing the ISP to provide the Court with the required information,” a statement from Euskaltel reads.

“The Court forced Euskaltel to provide the data of the affected clients, without the possibility of appeal, delivering them to the film producer.”

Of course, it was no surprise when, in recent weeks, Euskaltel customers began receiving correspondence from lawyers representing Venice PI.

Somewhat unusually for such cases, the ISP reports that customers were targeted via their email addresses (rather than regular mail) with demands to pay a 150 euro settlement within five days of the notice “to avoid the initiation of legal proceedings.”

Interestingly – and despite being ordered to hand over the information by the Court – Euskaltel believes the use of the personal data in this manner may constitute a breach of Spain’s Data Protection regulations.

“The Telecommunications operator Euskaltel has filed a complaint with the Spanish Agency for Data Protection (AEPD) against the film producer Venice PI, LLC, for possible violation of data protection regulations as a result of the use of what the producer did with the Euskaltel customer data,” the company says.

“At no time did the Euskaltel group identify the owners of such IP addresses as authors of any infringement or make any assessment of the legality or illegality of the actions taken by users.”

The ISP says that when it provided information to Venice PI in compliance with an order for preliminary proceedings, the movie company was “not free to decide what to do the data, a circumstance that seems to have been breached and that may constitute an infringement of data protection regulations.”

The complaint was filed with the AEPD (Agencia Española de Protección de Datos) on May 20, 2019. The data protection agency has not yet commented on the complaint.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

Suspected ‘Pirate’ Wins Data Disclosure Battle Against Copyright Troll’s Law Firm

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/accused-pirate-wins-data-disclosure-battle-against-copyright-troll-law-firm-190430/

For more than a decade, alleged file-sharers around the world have been pressured to pay significant settlement fees.

These so-called copyright-trolling efforts are fairly straightforward. Copyright holders obtain a list of ‘pirating’ IP-addresses and then request a subpoena from the court, compelling ISPs to hand over the associated customer data.

In recent years, several news reports have appeared on these cases in the US, UK, Canada, Sweden, Denmark and elsewhere. In Finland, they have been a common sight since 2013.

One of the outfits that spearheaded the practice locally is the Helsinki-based law firm Hedman Partners. Representing a variety of movie companies, it went after tens of thousands of alleged pirates, asking them to pay hundreds of euros in damages each.

One of the firm’s targets was a Ritva Puolakka, While she first appeared to be just another target, Puolakka was not intent on paying the 800 euros in damages the law firm requested. Quite the opposite, she went on the offensive.

Puolakka became an active opponent of the so-called “copyright trolling” practice. She denied any wrongdoing. On top of that, she went after the law firm requesting that it hands over any and all data it had on her, stating that it’s her right to have access to this under local privacy law.

The law film partly complied with this request but also held quite a bit of information back. Handing over all data could cause damage to the business relationship with the rightsholder, the argument was. This undisclosed information was technical evidence of the alleged infringement such as IP-address logs.

The law firm further pointed out that, because the woman had denied distributing films, the information might not apply to her but to someone else.

Puolakka was not satisfied with the limited disclosure and with backing from the data protection officer, she took the matter to the Administrative Court, which sided with her.

The Administrative Court ruled that the law firm didn’t properly justify the limited right of inspection. The law firm’s duty of professional secrecy is not a legitimate ground for restriction, and Puolakka’s right to control her data weighs stronger.

The Court concluded that, under the Personal Data Act, accused file-sharers are allowed to have access to all logging information related to their IP-address, regardless of whether someone else may have used the connection.

While this ruling doesn’t help any defendant to get rid of any settlement demands, it could lead to an administrative overload for the law firm. If tens of thousands of accused pirates request access to all IP-address logs, there’s a lot of paperwork to go through.

TorrentFreak spoke to Puolakka, who also takes part in the local MuroBBS community, which actively helps accused file-sharers. She told us that she’s happy with the outcome and hopes that it will help to frustrate the copyright-trolling efforts.

MuroBBS activist Hasturinpoika, meanwhile, encourages other victims to request their data from Hedman Partners. With the recent ruling and the EU’s new GDPR regulation, the law firm will have to comply.

“I would encourage to all those who have received letters from copyright trolls to use this decision to check out their information because now that GDPR in effect, there is possible to sanction the trolls more severely if they don’t obey with the new regulation,” Hasturinpoika tells us.

The Administrative Court’s decision can still be appealed at the Supreme Administrative Court. However, considering the recent history, Puolakka is not going to back away from her battle against copyright-trolling.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

ISP Questions Impartiality of Judges in Copyright Troll Cases

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/isp-questions-impartiality-of-judges-in-copyright-troll-cases-180602/

Following in the footsteps of similar operations around the world, two years ago the copyright trolling movement landed on Swedish shores.

The pattern was a familiar one, with trolls harvesting IP addresses from BitTorrent swarms and tracing them back to Internet service providers. Then, after presenting evidence to a judge, the trolls obtained orders that compelled ISPs to hand over their customers’ details. From there, the trolls demanded cash payments to make supposed lawsuits disappear.

It’s a controversial business model that rarely receives outside praise. Many ISPs have tried to slow down the flood but most eventually grow tired of battling to protect their customers. The same cannot be said of Swedish ISP Bahnhof.

The ISP, which is also a strong defender of privacy, has become known for fighting back against copyright trolls. Indeed, to thwart them at the very first step, the company deletes IP address logs after just 24 hours, which prevents its customers from being targeted.

Bahnhof says that the copyright business appeared “dirty and corrupt” right from the get go, so it now operates Utpressningskollen.se, a web portal where the ISP publishes data on Swedish legal cases in which copyright owners demand customer data from ISPs through the Patent and Market Courts.

Over the past two years, Bahnhof says it has documented 76 cases of which six are still ongoing, 11 have been waived and a majority 59 have been decided in favor of mainly movie companies. Bahnhof says that when it discovered that 59 out of the 76 cases benefited one party, it felt a need to investigate.

In a detailed report compiled by Bahnhof Communicator Carolina Lindahl and sent to TF, the ISP reveals that it examined the individual decision-makers in the cases before the Courts and found five judges with “questionable impartiality.”

“One of the judges, we can call them Judge 1, has closed 12 of the cases, of which two have been waived and the other 10 have benefitted the copyright owner, mostly movie companies,” Lindahl notes.

“Judge 1 apparently has written several articles in the magazine NIR – Nordiskt Immateriellt Rättsskydd (Nordic Intellectual Property Protection) – which is mainly supported by Svenska Föreningen för Upphovsrätt, the Swedish Association for Copyright (SFU).

“SFU is a member-financed group centered around copyright that publishes articles, hands out scholarships, arranges symposiums, etc. On their website they have a public calendar where Judge 1 appears regularly.”

Bahnhof says that the financiers of the SFU are Sveriges Television AB (Sweden’s national public TV broadcaster), Filmproducenternas Rättsförening (a legally-oriented association for filmproducers), BMG Chrysalis Scandinavia (a media giant) and Fackförbundet för Film och Mediabranschen (a union for the movie and media industry).

“This means that Judge 1 is involved in a copyright association sponsored by the film and media industry, while also judging in copyright cases with the film industry as one of the parties,” the ISP says.

Bahnhof’s also has criticism for Judge 2, who participated as an event speaker for the Swedish Association for Copyright, and Judge 3 who has written for the SFU-supported magazine NIR. According to Lindahl, Judge 4 worked for a bureau that is partly owned by a board member of SFU, who also defended media companies in a “high-profile” Swedish piracy case.

That leaves Judge 5, who handled 10 of the copyright troll cases documented by Bahnhof, waiving one and deciding the remaining nine in favor of a movie company plaintiff.

“Judge 5 has been questioned before and even been accused of bias while judging a high-profile piracy case almost ten years ago. The accusations of bias were motivated by the judge’s membership of SFU and the Swedish Association for Intellectual Property Rights (SFIR), an association with several important individuals of the Swedish copyright community as members, who all defend, represent, or sympathize with the media industry,” Lindahl says.

Bahnhof hasn’t named any of the judges nor has it provided additional details on the “high-profile” case. However, anyone who remembers the infamous trial of ‘The Pirate Bay Four’ a decade ago might recall complaints from the defense (1,2,3) that several judges involved in the case were members of pro-copyright groups.

While there were plenty of calls to consider them biased, in May 2010 the Supreme Court ruled otherwise, a fact Bahnhof recognizes.

“Judge 5 was never sentenced for bias by the court, but regardless of the court’s decision this is still a judge who shares values and has personal connections with [the media industry], and as if that weren’t enough, the judge has induced an additional financial aspect by participating in events paid for by said party,” Lindahl writes.

“The judge has parties and interest holders in their personal network, a private engagement in the subject and a financial connection to one party – textbook characteristics of bias which would make anyone suspicious.”

The decision-makers of the Patent and Market Court and their relations.

The ISP notes that all five judges have connections to the media industry in the cases they judge, which isn’t a great starting point for returning “objective and impartial” results. In its summary, however, the ISP is scathing of the overall system, one in which court cases “almost looked rigged” and appear to be decided in favor of the movie company even before reaching court.

In general, however, Bahnhof says that the processes show a lack of individual attention, such as the court blindly accepting questionable IP address evidence supplied by infamous anti-piracy outfit MaverickEye.

“The court never bothers to control the media company’s only evidence (lists generated by MaverickMonitor, which has proven to be an unreliable software), the court documents contain several typos of varying severity, and the same standard texts are reused in several different cases,” the ISP says.

“The court documents show a lack of care and control, something that can easily be taken advantage of by individuals with shady motives. The findings and discoveries of this investigation are strengthened by the pure numbers mentioned in the beginning which clearly show how one party almost always wins.

“If this is caused by bias, cheating, partiality, bribes, political agenda, conspiracy or pure coincidence we can’t say for sure, but the fact that this process has mainly generated money for the film industry, while citizens have been robbed of their personal integrity and legal certainty, indicates what forces lie behind this machinery,” Bahnhof’s Lindahl concludes.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

Legal Blackmail: Zero Cases Brought Against Alleged Pirates in Sweden

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/legal-blackmail-zero-cases-brought-against-alleged-pirates-in-sweden-180525/

While several countries in Europe have wilted under sustained pressure from copyright trolls for more than ten years, Sweden managed to avoid their controversial attacks until fairly recently.

With Germany a decade-old pit of misery, with many hundreds of thousands of letters – by now probably millions – sent out to Internet users demanding cash, Sweden avoided the ranks of its European partners until two years ago

In September 2016 it was revealed that an organization calling itself Spridningskollen (Distribution Check) headed up by law firm Gothia Law, would begin targeting the public.

Its spokesperson described its letters as “speeding tickets” for pirates, in that they would only target the guilty. But there was a huge backlash and just a couple of months later Spridningskollen headed for the hills, without a single collection letter being sent out.

That was the calm before the storm.

In February 2017, Danish law firm Njord Law was found to be at the center of a new troll operation targeting the subscribers of several ISPs, including Telia, Tele2 and Bredbandsbolaget. Court documents revealed that thousands of IP addresses had been harvested by the law firm’s partners who were determined to link them with real-life people.

Indeed, in a single batch, Njord Law was granted permission from the court to obtain the identities of citizens behind 25,000 IP addresses, from whom it hoped to obtain cash settlements of around US$550. But it didn’t stop there.

Time and again the trolls headed back to court in an effort to reach more people although until now the true scale of their operations has been open to question. However, a new investigation carried out by SVT has revealed that the promised copyright troll invasion of Sweden is well underway with a huge level of momentum.

Data collated by the publication reveals that since 2017, the personal details behind more than 50,000 IP addresses have been handed over by Swedish Internet service providers to law firms representing copyright trolls and their partners. By the end of this year, Njord Law alone will have sent out 35,000 letters to Swede’s whose IP addresses have been flagged as allegedly infringing copyright.

Even if one is extremely conservative with the figures, the levels of cash involved are significant. Taking a settlement amount of just $300 per letter, very quickly the copyright trolls are looking at $15,000,000 in revenues. On the perimeter, assuming $550 will make a supposed lawsuit go away, we’re looking at a potential $27,500,000 in takings.

But of course, this dragnet approach doesn’t have the desired effect on all recipients.

In 2017, Njord Law said that only 60% of its letters received any kind of response, meaning that even fewer would be settling with the company. So what happens when the public ignores the threatening letters?

“Yes, we will [go to court],” said lawyer Jeppe Brogaard Clausen last year.

“We wish to resolve matters as much as possible through education and dialogue without the assistance of the court though. It is very expensive both for the rights holders and for plaintiffs if we go to court.”

But despite the tough-talking, SVT’s investigation has turned up an interesting fact. The nuclear option, of taking people to court and winning a case when they refuse to pay, has never happened.

After trawling records held by the Patent and Market Court and all those held by the District Courts dating back five years, SVT did not find a single case of a troll taking a citizen to court and winning a case. Furthermore, no law firm contacted by the publication could show that such a thing had happened.

“In Sweden, we have not yet taken someone to court, but we are planning to file for the right in 2018,” Emelie Svensson, lawyer at Njord Law, told SVT.

While a case may yet reach the courts, when it does it is guaranteed to be a cut-and-dried one. Letter recipients can often say things to damage their case, even when they’re only getting a letter due to their name being on the Internet bill. These are the people who find themselves under the most pressure to pay, whether they’re guilty or not.

“There is a risk of what is known in English as ‘legal blackmailing’,” says Mårten Schultz, professor of civil law at Stockholm University.

“With [the copyright holders’] legal and economic muscles, small citizens are scared into paying claims that they do not legally have to pay.”

It’s a position shared by Marianne Levine, Professor of Intellectual Property Law at Stockholm University.

“One can only show that an IP address appears in some context, but there is no point in the evidence. Namely, that it is the subscriber who also downloaded illegitimate material,” she told SVT.

Njord Law, on the other hand, sees things differently.

“In Sweden, we have no legal case saying that you are not responsible for your IP address,” Emelie Svensson says.

Whether Njord Law will carry through with its threats will remain to be seen but there can be little doubt that while significant numbers of people keep paying up, this practice will continue and escalate. The trolls have come too far to give up now.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

ISPs Win Landmark Case to Protect Privacy of Alleged Pirates

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/isps-win-landmark-case-protect-privacy-alleged-pirates-180508/

With waves of piracy settlement letters being sent out across the world, the last line of defense for many accused Internet users has been their ISPs.

In a number of regions, notably the United States, Europe, and the UK, most ISPs have given up the fight, handing subscriber details over to copyright trolls with a minimum of resistance. However, there are companies out there prepared to stand up for their customers’ rights, if eventually.

Over in Denmark, Telenor grew tired of tens of thousands of requests for subscriber details filed by a local law firm on behalf of international copyright troll groups. It previously complied with demands to hand over the details of individuals behind 22,000 IP addresses, around 11% of the 200,000 total handled by ISPs in Denmark. But with no end in sight, the ISP dug in its heels.

“We think there is a fundamental legal problem because the courts do not really decide what is most important: the legal security of the public or the law firms’ commercial interests,” Telenor’s Legal Director Mette Eistrøm Krüger said last year.

Assisted by rival ISP Telia, Telenor subsequently began preparing a case to protect the interests of their customers, refusing in the meantime to comply with disclosure requests in copyright cases. But last October, the District Court ruled against the telecoms companies, ordering them to provide identities to the copyright trolls.

Undeterred, the companies took their case to the Østre Landsret, one of Denmark’s two High Courts. Yesterday their determination paid off with a resounding victory for the ISPs and security for the individuals behind approximately 4,000 IP addresses targeted by Copyright Collection Ltd via law firm Njord Law.

“In its order based on telecommunications legislation, the Court has weighed subscribers’ rights to confidentiality of information regarding their use of the Internet against the interests of rightsholders to obtain information for the purpose of prosecuting claims against the subscribers,” the Court said in a statement.

Noting that the case raised important questions of European Union law and the European Convention on Human Rights, the High Court said that after due consideration it would overrule the decision of the District Court. The rights of the copyright holders do not trump the individuals right to privacy, it said.

“The telecommunications companies are therefore not required to disclose the names and addresses of their subscribers,” the Court ruled.

Telenor welcomed the decision, noting that it had received countless requests from law firms to disclose the identities of thousands of subscribers but had declined to hand them over, a decision that has now been endorsed by the High Court.

“This is an important victory for our right to protect our customers’ data,” said Telenor Denmark’s Legal Director, Mette Eistrøm Krüger.

“At Telenor we protect our customers’ data and trust – therefore it has been our conviction that we cannot be forced into almost automatically submitting personal data on our customers simply to support some private actors who are driven by commercial interests.”

Noting that it’s been putting up a fight since 2016 against handing over customers’ data for purposes other than investigating serious crime, Telenor said that the clarity provided by the decision is most welcome.

“We and other Danish telecom companies are required to log customer data for the police to fight serious crime and terrorism – but the legislation has just been insufficient in relation to the use of logged data,” Krüger said.

“Therefore I am pleased that with this judgment the High Court has stated that customers’ legal certainty is most important in these cases.”

The decision was also welcomed by Telia Denmark, with Legal Director Lasse Andersen describing the company as being “really really happy” with “a big win.”

“It is a victory for our customers and for all telecom companies’ customers,” Andersen said.

“They can now feel confident that the data that we collect about them cannot be disclosed for purposes other than the terms under which they are collected as determined by the jurisdiction.

“Therefore, anyone and everybody cannot claim our data. We are pleased that throughout the process we have determined that we will not hand over our data to anyone other than the police with a court order,” Andersen added.

But as the ISPs celebrate, the opposite is true for Njord Law and its copyright troll partners.

“It is a sad message to the Danish film and television industry that the possibilities for self-investigating illegal file sharing are complicated and that the work must be left to the police’s scarce resources,” said Jeppe Brogaard Clausen of Njord Law.

While the ISPs finally stood up for users in these cases, Telenor in particular wishes to emphasize that supporting the activities of pirates is not its aim. The company says it does not support illegal file-sharing “in any way” and is actively working with anti-piracy outfit Rights Alliance to prevent unauthorized downloading of movies and other content.

The full decision of the Østre Landsret can be found here (Danish, pdf)

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

[$] A successful defense against a copyright troll

Post Syndicated from jake original https://lwn.net/Articles/752485/rss

At the 2018 Legal and
Licensing Workshop
(LLW), which is a yearly gathering
of lawyers and technical folks organized by the Free Software Foundation
Europe (FSFE), attendees got more details on a recent hearing in a German GPL
enforcement case. Marcus von Welser is a lawyer who represented the
defendant, Geniatech,
in a case that was brought by Patrick
. In the presentation, von
Welser was joined by
Armijn Hemel, who helped
Geniatech in its compliance efforts. The hearing
was of interest for a number of reasons, not least because McHardy
withdrew his request for an injunction once it became clear that the judge
was leaning in
favor of the defendants
—effectively stopping this case dead in its tracks.

Patrick McHardy and copyright profiteering (Opensource.com)

Post Syndicated from jake original https://lwn.net/Articles/731941/rss

Over at Opensource.com, Heather Meeker, a lawyer who specializes in open-source licensing, published a lengthy FAQ on the GPL enforcement efforts of netfilter developer Patrick McHardy. In it, Meeker looks at how much code McHardy has contributed, specifics of the German legal system that may make it attractive to copyright trolling (or profiteering), and steps that companies and others can take to oppose these kinds of efforts.
Copyright ownership in large projects such as the Linux kernel is complicated. It’s like a patchwork quilt. When developers contribute to the kernel, they don’t sign any contribution agreement or assignment of copyright. The GPL covers their contributions, and the recipient of a copy of the software gets a license, under GPL, directly from all the authors. (The kernel project uses a document called a Developer Certificate of Origin, which does not grant any copyright license.) The contributors’ individual rights exist side-by-side with rights in the project as a whole. So, an author like McHardy would generally own the copyright in the contributions he created, but not in the whole kernel.

[$] The rise of copyright trolls

Post Syndicated from jake original https://lwn.net/Articles/721458/rss

At the 2017 Free
Software Legal and Licensing Workshop
(LLW), which was held April 26-28
in Barcelona, Spain, more information about the GPL enforcement efforts by Patrick McHardy
emerged. The workshop is organized by the Free Software Foundation Europe
(FSFE) and its legal
A panel discussion on the final day of the workshop discussed
McHardy’s methodology and outlined why those efforts are actually far from
the worst-case scenario of a copyright troll. While the Q&A portion of the
discussion was under Chatham House
(which was the default for the workshop), the discussion between
the three participants was not—it provided much more detail about McHardy’s efforts, and
copyright trolling in general, than has been previously available publicly.