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Sunday, November 17, 2013

Ind. Courts - "California porn firm makes money off lawsuits " Fifty-six lawsuits filed in ND Ind.

Teresa Auch Schultz of the Gary Post-Tribune has a long, important story today about copyright trolls. The story begins:

The dozens of lawsuits filed in northern Indiana by Malibu Media appear, at first, to be basic copyright infringement claims.

The company makes videos, and the suits accuse defendants of downloading some of those videos illegally, without paying for them.

But the videos are pornographic movies, and some of the 56 defendants in U.S. District Court in Hammond say Malibu and its attorneys are using the threat of embarrassment to get them to pay thousands of dollars without a fight.

“What they want to do is scare people and get them to settle,” said Ann Rominger, dean of Indiana University Northwest’s School of Business and Economics.

Faced with having their names publicly connected to explicit film titles, the thinking goes, defendants will instead choose to pay Malibu a quick settlement.

One defendant who Malibu says lives in Hobart, Ind., filed a counterclaim last month, alleging Malibu is a copyright troll — a term for a firm that makes money not by selling a product but through litigation. He claims Malibu intentionally makes it easy to download videos, then sues people who do so.

Malibu is “formed solely for the purpose of creating copyright registrations and suing an extensive number of defendants for financial gain,” the counterclaim says.

More from the story:
Once Malibu has the names of defendants, it sends them letters threatening to make their names public if they don’t pay to settle.

Kurt Opsahl, a senior staff attorney for the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation, says the costs of not settling can be considerable. Malibu’s choice of a German IT company means defendants would have to spend thousands of dollars and lots of time just to depose the employee who did the work, he said.

Instead, Malibu likely offers a settlement that’s still tens to hundreds of times more than they would get from selling the movies but is just less than what a basic defense would cost, he said.

Opsahl said Malibu has also been indiscriminate in whom it sues, going after the owner of an Internet account even if they have no evidence that person downloaded the videos.

That’s the case with another local defendant, identified in court filings as “Jane Doe” in Valparaiso. Her attorney, Thomas Vetne, said she never put a password lock on her Wi-Fi, meaning anyone of a dozen neighbors could have used it to download movies. Vetne says he has told Malibu this but the company is still pursuing its lawsuit. That’s why she’s fighting instead of settling, he said.

“She doesn’t mind exposing the fact that these people are trying to get money out of people whether they deserve it or not,” he said. “She doesn’t like the idea of giving in to bullies.”

ILB: Last evening I was listening to This Week in Law, a podcast series which I highly recommend. (Some states allw CLEs for listening to it!) Specifically, program #233 (in its second half) has quite a lot on copyright suits such as described above. And it lists a lot of valuable resources, but unfortunately these are not memorialized on the webpage. However, one of the speakers was from New Media Rights, which has a number of links, including a guide directly related to the issue here, titled "Guide for defendants in mass copyright lawsuits (Bit Torrent Filesharing cases)."

Posted by Marcia Oddi on November 17, 2013 10:28 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts