Tag Archives: copyright trolls

‘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.

Retired Police Officer Wants $48,773 from Copyright Troll

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/retired-police-officer-wants-48773-from-copyright-troll-190802/

Every year so-called copyright trolls sue thousands of BitTorrent users in the US. While most cases don’t make the news, every now and then one stands out.

This is true for the lawsuit adult content producer ‘Strike 3 Holdings’ filed against a John Doe, known by the IP-address 73.225.38.130, two years ago.

Strike 3 is the most active copyright litigant in the US at the moment. While the company has managed to obtain many settlements against accused pirates, this case was different. The defendant, a retired police officer in his 70s, decided to fight back.

The defendant 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.

While this counterclaim was denied by the Court, Strike 3 previously said that it was willing to declare that the defendant didn’t infringe its works. As such, the Court encouraged both parties to file a proposed judgment, which would also cover what costs and fees the copyright holder must pay, if any.

Over the past weeks, the parties tried to reach an agreement, but they failed to do so. As a result, this week the accused pirate submitted a motion for summary judgment to set in stone that he’s not a copyright infringer and to have his costs compensated.

The defendant’s attorney, J. Curtis Edmondson, notes that this case made his client potentially liable for an astronomical figure of $13,050,000.00, the maximum statutory damages for the 87 works his client supposedly shared.

However, the attorney points out that there is no evidence that this is the case. On the contrary, the defense argued that the tracking software used by Strike 3 is clearly flawed, as an expert report shows.

“This is the first case that has investigated the technical underpinnings of Strike 3’s dubious claims of infringement that have been replicated nationwide,” Edmondson writes.

“Strike 3 may have an interest in protecting its copyrights, but that interest should be counterweighed against the high false positive rate and the fact the software used to detect the infringements is not ‘forensic software’,” the attorney adds.

Apparently, one of Strike 3’s own experts, Patrick Paige, stated in a deposition that Strike 3 has no actual knowledge that the evidence tracking software (IPP) ‘works’. On top of that, an expert who analyzed the hard drive of the defendant found no evidence that any of the pirated files were stored on his computer.

Based on this, and various other arguments, the defendant asks the Court to grant summary judgment, confirming that he didn’t infringe any copyrights. In addition, the retired police officer asks the Court to award attorney fees and costs, totaling $48,773.13.

In summary, the defendant’s attorney equates the current case to the controversial dealings of Elizabeth Holmes and her now-defunct company Theranos. The young entrepreneur, a Stanford dropout, was lauded as the next Steve Jobs for inventing a revolutionary blood testing machine.

However, after several years of convincing many Silicon Valley investors, as well as the public at large, it turned out that there was no evidence that her machines actually worked.

“This is the first case where a ‘John Doe’ has had to expose the Potemkin village known as the ‘IPP Software.’. Like Theranos, there has been no independent validation studies and no evidence that the IPP Software is ‘forensic software’,” Edmondson writes.

The case is now back in the hands of the Court which will determine whether the defendant is indeed entitled to summary judgment and the requested compensation.

A copy of the motion for summary judgment of noninfringement of copyrights and award attorney fees and costs is available here (pdf).

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Court Denies Abuse of Process Claim Against Copyright Troll

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/court-denies-abuse-of-process-claim-against-copyright-troll-190725/

Every year, so-called ‘copyright trolls’ sue thousands of people in the United States for online file-sharing, mostly through BitTorrent.

These companies target people whose connections were allegedly used to download and share infringing videos, in the hope of obtaining a significant financial settlement.

While many of the defendants may indeed be guilty, a number of accused Internet subscribers have done nothing wrong. This is also what a John Doe, known by the IP-address 73.225.38.130, 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.

When the man pushed back, Strike 3 Holdings was ready to let the case go. The company filed a motion to voluntarily dismiss all claims but the defendant, a 70+-year-old retired policeman, wasn’t willing to let them. At least not without getting paid.

The defendant 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.

As part of this fishing expedition, the rightsholder also allegedly misused the discovery process to explore whether the man’s son, other family members or friends engaged in any infringement activity.

Strike 3, for its part, moved for summary judgment asking the court to dismiss that counterclaim. The company stressed that it did nothing wrong and merely wanted to find out who the real infringer was.

After reviewing the positions from both sides, US District Judge Thomas Zilly decided to dismiss the abuse of process claim.

The defendant argued that an IP-address alone is not enough to identify an infringer. This is in part based on an Appeal Court ruling that came in after Strike 3 had voluntarily dismissed its infringement claim. As such, the company can’t be judged by this standard, Judge Zilly argues.

In addition, Strike 3’s efforts to go after the man’s son and other family members are no grounds for abuse of process either, the Court ruled.

“Strike 3 was entitled to pursue a theory of defense that another member of defendant’s household or someone with access to defendant’s IP address had infringed one or more of Strike 3’s motion pictures via the BitTorrent network, which would undermine defendant’s allegation that Strike 3’s copyright infringement claim was frivolous and asserted for purely extortionist or other improper purposes,” the Judge notes.

The ruling is a setback for the defendant, but it’s not the end of the case yet. The retired police officer has also requested a declaratory judgment that he has not himself infringed any of Strike 3’s copyrighted works. This request remains pending and the court has instructed both parties to reach an agreement.

Strike 3 previously said that it was willing to declare that the defendant didn’t infringe its works and Judge Zilly encouraged the parties to file a proposed judgment on what costs and fees the copyright holder must pay, if any.

“With respect to attorney’s fees and costs, the parties shall attempt to reach agreement concerning whether and, if so, how much defendant should receive, bearing in mind that, under the Copyright Act, attorney’s fees are discretionary, and the Court may decline to award them,” Judge Zilly writes.

At the time of writing a proposed judgment has yet to be submitted. Whether Strike 3 is willing to pay (part) of the fees and costs remains to be seen. If both parties can’t come together, the Judge will have the final say.

A copy of United States District Judge Thomas Zilly’s order is available here (pdf).

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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)

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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 73.225.38.130, 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.

Prolific Pirate Bay User Agrees to Pay $2,900 to Movie Outfits

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/prolific-pirate-bay-user-agrees-to-pay-2900-to-movie-outfits-190617/

Every year, thousands of people are sued in the United States for allegedly sharing pirated video, mostly through BitTorrent.

These efforts share a familiar pattern. After the film companies acquire a subpoena to obtain the personal details of an alleged pirate, they contact this person with a settlement request.

In 2017, movie companies used this strategy to identify the then 72-year-old Mr. Harding from Hawaii, whose Internet connection was used to share more than 1,000 torrents. 

The film companies reached out to the man and offered a hefty $3,900 settlement, which would increase to $4,900 if he failed to respond in time. However, Mr. Harding denied downloading the files, describing the pay-up-or-else demand as “absolutely absurd.”

The accusations eventually made the local press and after a careful review of the matter movie company attorney Kerry Culpepper decided to dismiss the case against the elderly man.

However, that didn’t mean that the downloads were completely disregarded. After digging into the matter, the movie companies learned that, while the offending IP-address was linked to Mr. Harding, the home in question was used by someone else. 

The movie companies ‘ UN4 Productions ‘ and ‘Millennium Funding’ eventually found out that the resident or tenant in question was Mr. Graham. This prompted the rightsholders to file a new federal lawsuit, targeting this man, who they believed was the true ‘pirate.’

This time the accusations were indeed lodged against a prolific downloader. In a declaration submitted to the court Mr. Graham, who is in his fifties, admits that he regularly used The Pirate Bay to download files.

“Since approximately 2016, I have been downloading torrent files of motion pictures from websites of the Pirate Bay at my residence. I believed that it was acceptable to do so because the websites are completely open with their objective to share files,” he states. 

According to the declaration, Mr. Graham often downloaded so many files that he doesn’t remember the names of many torrents. As such, he is not confident that he downloaded the movies “Boyka: Undisputed IV” and Mechanic: Resurrection,” which are listed in the complaint.

The account holder of the Internet connection, who was initially accused, was not aware of this activity.  Mr. Graham, meanwhile, apologized to the rightsholders and agreed not to use The Pirate Bay going forward. 

“I agree to stop using the Pirate Bay,” Mr. Graham writes.

While the man denies liability, he does admit to downloading copyrighted movies through The Pirate Bay and in a consent judgment, submitted to the court, he agrees to a $2,900 settlement to cover costs, fees, and damages. 

In addition, the stipulated consent judgment includes a permanent injunction prohibiting Mr. Graham from infringing the copyrights of the two movie companies going forward. 

A copy of the stipulated consent judgment is available here (pdf).

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‘Copyright Troll’ Lawyer Sentenced to 14 Years in Prison

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/copyright-troll-lawyer-sentenced-to-14-years-in-prison-190614/

In an effort to turn piracy into profit, copyright holders have chased alleged BitTorrent pirates through courts all over the world.

This so-called ‘copyright troll’ model was also adopted by the firm Prenda Law. However, the lawyers involved began to break the law themselves.

The firm was accused of all sorts of wrongdoing including identity theft, misrepresentation, and even deception. Most controversial was the shocking revelation that Prenda uploaded their own torrents to The Pirate Bay, creating a honeypot for the people they later sued over pirated downloads.

This eventually caught the attention of the US Justice Department. In 2015 we first reported that two Pirate Bay co-founders had been questioned by Swedish police, acting on behalf of the FBI. The feds were interested in the honeypot evidence, to build a case against Prenda.

A year later the investigation was finished, resulting in a criminal indictment against Prenda attorneys Paul Hansmeier and John Steele. The US Government accused the pair of various crimes, including money laundering, perjury, mail and wire fraud.

Since then both defendants have signed plea agreements, admitting their guilt in the fraudulent scheme.

Today the first of the two was sentenced. Paul Hansmeier appeared before a federal court in the District of Minnesota, where U.S. District Judge Joan N. Ericksen sentenced the Prenda attorney to 14 years in prison, to be followed by two years of supervised release.

The Judge departed upward from the 12.5-year prison sentence the U.S. prosecutor recommended. In addition to the prison sentence, Hansmeier must pay his victims a total of $1.5 million in restitution.

Among other things, Hansmeier instructed his brother to upload torrents of videos he produced himself. In doing so he misled the court, as he made it appear as if the videos were from a third-party company.

Whether the people that were sued were indeed guilty wasn’t much of an issue. This means that many innocent people were likely targeted as well.

“Hansmeier was generally content to take this step without investigating whether the subscriber was, in fact, the infringer. Hansmeier thus inflicted plenty of pain on persons who did not, in fact, download his pornographic bait,” the Government previously wrote.

All victims of the Prenda scheme are all eligible for restitution. The U.S. Attorney’s Office of the District of Minnesota previously invited those who were affected by the fraudulent anti-piracy lawyers to come forward.

John Steele, the second defendant in the Prenda case, is scheduled to be sentenced next month. The U.S. prosecutor previously stated that Steele has been very cooperative following his arrest so has recommended an 8-10 year sentence, as FCT notes.

Breaking story, further clarifications and updates will follow if needed.

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

Judge: Number of ‘Unprovable’ Piracy Cases is Alarmingly High

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/judge-number-of-unprovable-piracy-cases-is-alarmingly-high-190513/

By filing thousands of lawsuits over the past two years, Strike 3 Holdings swiftly became one of the most active copyright litigants in the U.S.

These cases target people whose Internet connections were allegedly used to download and share copyright infringing content via BitTorrent. In the case of Strike 3, that’s adult content. 

As is common in these lawsuits, Strike 3 only knows the defendant by an IP-address. It then asks the courts to grant a subpoena, allowing it to ask Internet providers for the personal details of the alleged offenders so it can send a settlement request.

There has been some pushback against these requests in certain courts. In the Eastern District of New York, for example, U.S. Magistrate Judge James Orenstein slammed on the brakes recently 

Judge Orenstein denied motions for expedited discovery in thirteen cases. This means that the adult video company can’t get a subpoena to identify the alleged pirates. While we have incidentally seen similar decisions, the motivation, in this case, is worth highlighting.

The thirteen cases

In his order, the Judge writes that allowing Strike 3 to obtain the identities of the account holders creates a risk.

Specifically, it will put Strike 3 “in a position to effectively coerce the identified subscribers into paying thousands of dollars to settle claims that may or may not have merit, so as to avoid either the cost of litigation or the embarrassment of being sued for using unlawful means to view adult material.”

Strike 3 was willing to give the Court assurances by accepting procedural safeguards on how the subpoenaed information can be used. However, considering the company’s history of avoiding judicial oversight, Judge Orenstein prefers not to issue any subpoenas at all. 

And there are more factors at play here. The order mentions that, if subpoenas are issued, it’s likely that Strike 3 will not use the account holders’ details to litigate these cases in court. That’s also backed up by the information the rightsholder shared with the Court. 

Since 2017, Strike 3 has filed 276 cases in the district, but zero have gone to trial.

Of the 143 cases that were resolved in the district, 49 resulted in a settlement and 94 were voluntarily dismissed. The latter number includes 50 cases where Strike 3 wasn’t confident that the defendant is the infringer. In other words, people who are likely wrongfully accused.

From the order

This means that in one-third of the resolved cases, Strike 3 has likely targeted the wrong person. This number is “alarmingly high,” according to the Magistrate Judge. 

“Strike 3 acknowledges that in many cases, the ‘Doe’ it has sued – that is, the subscriber – will prove to be someone other than the person who engaged in the allegedly unlawful conduct the Complaint describes,” the order reads.

“And as it has now revealed in response to my inquiry, the proportion of such unprovable cases is alarmingly high,” Judge Orenstein adds.

This means that Strike 3 is listing many people as Doe defendants, while it knows that quite a few of these are not the actual infringers.

“It is thus apparent that Strike 3 is deliberately asserting claims in a scattershot fashion against a broad array of individuals simply because it is confident that many of them will be liable – even if almost as many of them are not,” the order reads.

This seems to contradict the requirement that copyright holders should have good faith belief in the merit of their claim. While that’s not a violation of the federal rules per se, the Judge sees it as a reason not to issue the subpoenas. 

After all, it is clear that these type of lawsuits are also targeting innocent subscribers.

“While I do not suggest that suing three people because two of them probably committed a provable copyright violation is a technical violation of Rule 11, the certainty that such an approach will impose needless burdens on innocent individuals counsels against a finding of good cause to permit expedited discovery,” the order reads.

Strike 3 also argued that these type of lawsuits are needed to deter others from engaging in copyright infringement. However, the court waved away this argument as well.

Similarly, Judge Orenstein disagrees with Strike 3’s argument that it will be unable to enforce its copyrights if a subpoena is not granted. While this concern is valid, the Judge believes that these types of cases are not the answer, as they are plainly inefficient.

With the latter comment, the order references the work of Idaho Law Professor Annemarie Bridy, who previously published a paper explaining that litigation is not a scalable mechanism to deal with this type of copyright infringement.

In summary, the order delivers a devastating blow to Strike 3 and adds to the recent criticism of these types of lawsuits. If all judges ruled the same way, so-called copyright trolling practice would be finished. However, that’s not the case just yet.

A copy of the order, which dates back a few weeks and has mostly been flying under the radar, 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.

75-Year-Old Can’t Sleep Following Accusations of Hardcore Porn Piracy

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/75-year-old-cant-sleep-following-accusations-of-hardcore-porn-piracy-190428/

The practice of copyright-trolling is now well-established in many countries around the world.

The companies involved often gather IP addresses from BitTorrent swarms, then via the courts, obtain identities of users from their ISPs.

What follows are threats to the account holder, warning that if he or she doesn’t pay a ‘fine’, then court action will follow. This, of course, is boosted with claims that if the process gets this far, things will get much more expensive.

In reality, however, copyright trolls rarely take cases to court and when they do, they tend to head for the hills when people put up a spirited fight. That was demonstrated again earlier this week when a troll targeted an IT specialist, then backed away after claiming his technical knowledge would allow him to cover up any infringement.

Considering the main evidence in most trolling cases is a simple IP address, captured way before the rightsholders even write to a defendant, it raises the question of whether even the trolls have faith that an IP address alone is enough to prosecute a case. Some courts certainly don’t.

Yet that evidence alone appears to form the basis of claims detailed in a letter received by a pensioner in Sweden during March 2019.

The 75-year-old man was told that his IP address (allocated by his ISP TeliaSonera) had been used to share the hardcore porn movie “The Creepers Family Part 7”, which was produced by Girlfriends Films and licensed to MIRCOM International, a company with a long history of involvement in similar cases.

The company doing the tracking was Media Protector International GmbH, which has been providing data for similar cases for more than a decade.

While there can be no doubt that many IP addresses caught in the dragnets of these companies were indeed used to download and share copyrighted content, innocents are regularly caught in the crossfire. The pensioner from Sweden says that’s the case with him.

He shared his story with Bahnhof, a Swedish ISP which acts as a competitor to TeliaSonera and one that offers a sympathetic ear to people targeted by copyright trolls.

“The infringement occurred on Friday February 2, 2018 at 6:43:17, that is, a time that I as a pensioner sleeps,” he told the ISP.

“I am 75 years old and I do not know much about technology, and I wonder if there is anything I can do or if I should just pay?”

This, of course, is exactly the strategy of copyright trolls. Whether their targets are guilty or innocent, they hope their strongly-worded letters will break the resolve of recipients and make them cave in, parting with cash to make the nightmare go away.

“I sleep poorly and feel great concern because of this, I just want it to stop. My wife wants to pay to get rid of the problem, but if we do will it just make things worse?” he added.

“I am afraid that the bills will continue to come from other agencies and companies, it seems to be a business idea that is better than selling movies. This can be my ruin.”

While the mainstream media has largely given up about worrying about those targeted by copyright trolls, history has shown us that cases against pensioners are rarely well received by the public or those in power.

Two years ago, for example, an 83-year-old grandmother from the UK went to the press after being accused of pirating the Robert Redford film The Company You Keep. That attracted the attention of her local member of parliament, who branded the practice “disgusting” and raised the matter with the government.

It is not known whether the woman ever paid up but given the negative publicity and outcry, it seems unlikely. The case certainly never went to court, which is common when those accused by copyright trolls fight back and/or tell their stories in the media and complain to politicians.

For Bahnhof CEO Jon Karlung, not enough is being done to protect those wrongly targeted, with citizens currently left to fight for themselves.

“It’s a corrupt system promoting copyright trolls and legal firms that thrive on blackmail. Unfortunately, there is not enough political momentum to change the situation. It’s an ongoing scandal, and I believe that this affects the justice system as a whole,” Karlung told TorrentFreak.

“The only solution is to make this problem as visible as possible. People should also start asking their telecom operators why they save data for time spans of 24 months – Bahnhof only saves for 24 hours.”

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

Victims of Prenda Law ‘Copyright Trolls’ Can Now Register for Restitution

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/victims-of-prenda-law-copyright-trolls-can-now-register-for-restitution-190427/

In an effort to turn piracy into profit, copyright holders have chased alleged BitTorrent pirates through courts all over the world.

This so-called copyright troll scheme was also used by the firm Prenda Law. However, the lawyers involved started to break the law themselves.

The firm was accused of all sorts of wrongdoing including identity theft, misrepresentation, and even deception. Most controversial was the shocking revelation that Prenda uploaded their own torrents to The Pirate Bay, creating a honeypot for the people they later sued over pirated downloads.

This eventually caught the attention of the US Justice Department. In 2015 we first reported that two Pirate Bay co-founders had been questioned by Swedish police, acting on behalf of the FBI. The feds were interested in the honeypot evidence, to build a case against Prenda.

A year later the investigation was finished, resulting in a criminal indictment against Prenda attorneys Paul Hansmeier and John Steele. The US Government accused the two of various crimes, including money laundering, perjury, mail, and wire fraud.

Since then both defendants have both signed plea agreements. They now face years in prison. While it is by no means illegal to go after file-sharers, the Prenda attorneys crossed a line by repeatedly lying to or misleading the courts.

The US prosecutor recently recommended a 12.5-year prison sentence for Paul Hansmeier, who instructed his brother to upload torrents of videos he produced himself. In doing so he misled the court, as he made it appear as if the videos were from a third-party company.

In total, Prenda Law generated roughly $3,000,000 from the fraudulent copyright lawsuits they filed at courts throughout the United States.

Thus far very little has been said about the victims of the scheme but with the final sentencing coming up, this has changed. The U.S. Attorney’s Office of the District of Minnesota is now allowing people who were targeted by the scheme to register for restitution.

“HANSMEIER and STEELE were charged and convicted of orchestrating a multi-million dollar fraud scheme in which they obtained payments from victims to settle sham pornography film copyright infringement lawsuits,” the Attorney’s Office writes.

“At the sentencing hearing, the Court may, but is not required to, order HANSMEIER and STEELE to pay restitution to the victims of their scheme.”

The list of potential victims includes everyone who paid a settlement to any of the related companies, including Steele Hansmeier Law, Prenda Law, Alpha Law, Anti-Piracy Group, AF Holdings, Ingenuity 13, Guava LLC, Livewire, and LW Systems.

The Attorney’s Office encourages all potential victims to fill out a form, so it can identify whether they were indeed defrauded by the defendants. The information provided will be shared with the court, but it won’t be available publicly.

The sentencing for both defendants is scheduled for June 4, before Judge Joan N. Ericksen in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Here, it will be decided whether the two defendants must pay restitution, which is not a given.

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.

[$] 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
network
.
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
Rule
(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.