Judge Dismisses 86 Percent of U.S. Copyright Group Lawsuits

Judge Dismisses 86 Percent of U.S. Copyright Group Lawsuits

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A U.S. federal judge has dismissed 86 percent of the U.S. Copyright Group's lawsuits against Far Cry and The Steam Experiment file sharers, and there may be more to come.

We had an interesting conversation a couple of weeks ago about personal jurisdiction, standing and the increasingly tottery-looking efforts of the U.S. Copyright Group to unleash a tsunami of lawsuits against accused file sharers. Starke summed up the whole affair rather nicely, I think, when he said, "It looks like the copyright lawyers forgot about personal jurisdiction when they filed, and are now getting their teeth kicked in."

It sure looks that way. The USCG filed lawsuits against 6230 people accused of sharing the films Far Cry and The Steam Experiment based on nothing but IP addresses, then asked Judge Rosemary Collyer for five years - five years! - to figure out who among them the court had jurisdiction over, which is to say, who they could actually sue. The judge, however, decided that was a bit much and gave the USCG and its law firm of Dunlap, Grubb and Weaver until December 6 instead.

When the day arrived, 86 percent of the cases were found to be outside the jurisdiction of the DC District Court and were thus dismissed, reducing the number from 6230 to 868. Of those cases, Ars Technica says names have been named in just three and that the USCG wants to continue with action against the remaining 856 "who may live in DC." In other words, it's a good bet that some of those remaining cases will end up dismissed as well.

Bear in mind that the cases were dismissed not due to any fundamental flaw in the actions themselves but because of the willy-nilly way in which they were filed. They were dismissed without prejudice, meaning that the USCG could hook up with law firms in other jurisdictions to properly file and pursue the suits. And anyone who has already forked over the dough in response to the group's legal threats are out of luck; that money is gone for good, although the recently-filed class action suit against the USCG itself may help get some of it back.

But the bottom line is that properly filing every one of these thousands of lawsuits could be prohibitively expensive and so the vast majority of these cases may very well just go away, as will the USCG's tactic of making money through scattershot lawsuit threats. I'm no lawyer, but that sure sounds like a serious boot to the chops to me.

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Yay, some fewer bullshit lawsuits clogging up our legal system, progress! (not that I'm defending pirates, but come on, those lawsuits ARE bullshit)

I don't know, what's to stop them from acting in exactly the same way in the future? Maybe they accepted this possibility and were just throwing everything to see what stuck and/or hoping to exhort settlements before it got this far.

Yay for reasonable people.

I feel so weird, getting quoted in an article.

Anyway, a quick (and slightly wild) guess, with 13 lawyers on staff, they could probably afford to peruse about 20 of these max.

When the day arrived, 93 percent of the cases were found to be outside the jurisdiction of the DC District Court and were thus dismissed, reducing the number from 6230 to 868.

Erm that's wrong 7% would be 436(.1 but who's counting) sombody needs to check their maths skills.

OT Good news I guess.

A fine example as to why relying on IP addresses to detect pirates is pretty much useless.

Can the escapist not do math? 93% of 6230 = 436.1
If the result is 868 then roughly 86.0674% of cases were thrown out.

It's one or the other, not both.

Way to fail...

I dont support piracy but to sue someone and baseicly ruin thier life economically is just asshole behavior to me. In your faces lawyers!

Fronzel:
I don't know, what's to stop them from acting in exactly the same way in the future? Maybe they accepted this possibility and were just throwing everything to see what stuck and/or hoping to exhort settlements before it got this far.

If it had worked the way they wanted it too it was a licence to print money/a big fat addition to the resume. Turns out they screwed themselves and I'm willing to bet all those name are going on lists kept by HR with a note like "Fucked up very publicly".

Stores don't sue you when you steal bagels from them.

Public perception is all screwed up regarding piracy. Either its stealing, or it's copyright violation, or it's everything. How about this. How about we get some better laws regarding this, and the companies can still play watch dog if they want, but the goverment will step in to punish those who violate the law, that way we can eliminate this whole fear profiteering bullshit groups like this are doing for a quick buck.

They made those accusations based on IP-Addresses alone? Really?
Did these lawyers have any idea how easy it is to fake one of those? Or how they are used in actual internet transmission?

Any connection using PPP (one of the most commonly used home/remote connection protocols) will periodically rotate the addresses among a cluster of users (for a variety of technical reasons). Meaning the Pirate on Address D might have his IP switched with the innocent grandma Mary Sue down the road who had Address B at the time of the crime. Or log off and later resume his illicit file transfers on a different address (but same route and session timestamp, which are very easy to encrypt and hash).

IP alone isn't enough. You need a copy of all the payload data and a dozen other things to definitely link that to a household...or specifically, local/private system.

Yes, private system. Which means any user on that system (behind a NAT/PAT screen on the router no less) could have committed the crime. Since this is DC, chances are many of these people lived in dense apartment complexes. If any of them live in tenement-centric/apartment complexes, that could be anywhere from 2-238 "potential pirates" (based on common usage of private IP address allocation, minus subnetting).

So now you have the real possibility of some of these cases having to guess which tenant committed the crime.

Now I'm sure USCG has access to digital forensics and law enforcement agencies (though being a private organization, they are not law enforcement so no warrants) so I can only question why they would file a suit on such shaky grounds.

Besides, you can't sue "an IP address", only people or organizations.

Yes, the math was way off; my fault for not double-checking the numbers quoted by the original source. We've updated the post to reflect the proper percentage.

Thanks to everyone who pointed out the error without being a jerk about it.

Yeah piracy is bad, but these carpet bombing style lawsuits are worse.

I'm sure the lack of teeth will serve the lawyers well considering where they will be ending up someday.

What about the lawyer that tried to help these people? Throw out the lawsuit against him!

Wait, there's a Far Cry movie??

Optimystic:
What about the lawyer that tried to help these people? Throw out the lawsuit against him!

Again, it wasn't actually a lawsuit, they filed an ethics complaint against him. And, honestly on that front, it is actually quite unusual for a lawyer to be censured for ethics violations (you can craft your own jokes here). For reference, look at what Jack Thompson had to do to get disbarred.

XinfiniteX:
Wait, there's a Far Cry movie??

Yeah, but it was directed by Uwe Boll, so, on the whole, you were probably better off before you had that little tidbit of information.

To me, this is on a pat with sending out threatening letters from a fake debt collection agency saying you owe $50 to your energy supplier, and pay up in 7 days or the bailiffs will be visiting.

IT's nothing more than carpet bombing a scam across thousands of people in the hope that 2 or 3 feel guilty and pay up, and with any luck 200-300 are too scared by legal threats to look into it any further and just pay thru fear.

Note, again I'm not on the side of piracy, but if the law has been broken, then they need to go thru proper legal channels or they're just hired goons shaking down innocent people for free money. If the current system is too complex, just buy some more senators and get the laws chang- oh yes, they're already doing that.

Starke:
Again, it wasn't actually a lawsuit, they filed an ethics complaint against him. And, honestly on that front, it is actually quite unusual for a lawyer to be censured for ethics violations (you can craft your own jokes here). For reference, look at what Jack Thompson had to do to get disbarred.

Escapist says it was a full-on lawsuit.

And what he did was perfectly ethical. It just happened to hurt the USCG lawyers' chances of denying people a fair trial, so they got pissed. Well, tough shit for them I say. The court system is supposed to protect everyone, not the guy with the most expensive legal briefs.

Optimystic:

Starke:
Again, it wasn't actually a lawsuit, they filed an ethics complaint against him. And, honestly on that front, it is actually quite unusual for a lawyer to be censured for ethics violations (you can craft your own jokes here). For reference, look at what Jack Thompson had to do to get disbarred.

Escapist says it was a full-on lawsuit.

And what he did was perfectly ethical. It just happened to hurt the USCG lawyers' chances of denying people a fair trial, so they got pissed. Well, tough shit for them I say. The court system is supposed to protect everyone, not the guy with the most expensive legal briefs.

I'm aware. With respect to Mr. Chalk, they haven't sued him. They filed a motion in the already existing case, demanding sanctions against Syfert and seeking to quash the documents that he'd produced completely. They haven't sued him. There is no new law suit against them.

As for the fair trial argument, basically, they still have exactly the same chance of a fair trial as they did before. Something to remember, things like your right to a fair trial? Shit like that tends to be to protect you from government action. In spite of its impressive sounding name, the USCG isn't a government agency, which means you basically have fuck all rights to protect yourself from them. If right to a fair trial attached, these people could get public defenders, they can't because it's a civil suit and therefore not protected.

Starke:

As for the fair trial argument, basically, they still have exactly the same chance of a fair trial as they did before. Something to remember, things like your right to a fair trial? Shit like that tends to be to protect you from government action. In spite of its impressive sounding name, the USCG isn't a government agency, which means you basically have fuck all rights to protect yourself from them. If right to a fair trial attached, these people could get public defenders, they can't because it's a civil suit and therefore not protected.

So because it's a civil suit, they have no right to defend themselves adequately? And he has no right to help them do so?

Because if they lose it, they'll be legally obligated to redress the fines, pay court costs etc.

Optimystic:

Starke:

As for the fair trial argument, basically, they still have exactly the same chance of a fair trial as they did before. Something to remember, things like your right to a fair trial? Shit like that tends to be to protect you from government action. In spite of its impressive sounding name, the USCG isn't a government agency, which means you basically have fuck all rights to protect yourself from them. If right to a fair trial attached, these people could get public defenders, they can't because it's a civil suit and therefore not protected.

So because it's a civil suit, they have no right to defend themselves adequately? And he has no right to help them do so?

Because if they lose it, they'll be legally obligated to redress the fines, pay court costs etc.

No, no, and probably, well, sort of.

Okay, because it's a civil suit your right to a fair trial basically goes out the window. In theory what you will get will be fair, but remember we're talking about people (in many cases) who can't afford an attorney, otherwise they wouldn't have been using Syfert's services in the first place. But the constitutional right to a fair trial is protection against the government doing this to you, not protection from corporations doing this to you.

He can basically do whatever he wants, so long as it is ethical. Now, I'll be up front with you, but legal ethics is a kind of a self serving concepts. Lawyers have to act ethically, and what ethical behavior is is defined by other lawyers. The USCG asserts that he duped his clients. He claims that they aren't his clients, and that they only paid for prepackaged services from him. This is a kind of lawyering that is completely acceptable in some venues (will packages are an example), but it is a little more dubious here.

If they lose, the judge will decide what they'll be legally obligated to pay. This can, and frequently does include court costs, and damages. But, again, this is not a criminal case, so the only things that could cause fines would be things like contempt of court.

Starke:

Optimystic:

Starke:

As for the fair trial argument, basically, they still have exactly the same chance of a fair trial as they did before. Something to remember, things like your right to a fair trial? Shit like that tends to be to protect you from government action. In spite of its impressive sounding name, the USCG isn't a government agency, which means you basically have fuck all rights to protect yourself from them. If right to a fair trial attached, these people could get public defenders, they can't because it's a civil suit and therefore not protected.

So because it's a civil suit, they have no right to defend themselves adequately? And he has no right to help them do so?

Because if they lose it, they'll be legally obligated to redress the fines, pay court costs etc.

No, no, and probably, well, sort of.

Okay, because it's a civil suit your right to a fair trial basically goes out the window. In theory what you will get will be fair, but remember we're talking about people (in many cases) who can't afford an attorney, otherwise they wouldn't have been using Syfert's services in the first place. But the constitutional right to a fair trial is protection against the government doing this to you, not protection from corporations doing this to you.

He can basically do whatever he wants, so long as it is ethical. Now, I'll be up front with you, but legal ethics is a kind of a self serving concepts. Lawyers have to act ethically, and what ethical behavior is is defined by other lawyers. The USCG asserts that he duped his clients. He claims that they aren't his clients, and that they only paid for prepackaged services from him. This is a kind of lawyering that is completely acceptable in some venues (will packages are an example), but it is a little more dubious here.

If they lose, the judge will decide what they'll be legally obligated to pay. This can, and frequently does include court costs, and damages. But, again, this is not a criminal case, so the only things that could cause fines would be things like contempt of court.

Well, I don't consider an attempt by one lawyer to help a group of people unravel the byzantine legal system in this country to be unethical. I DO consider other lawyers attempting to punish him for doing so out of sheer spite to be unethical.

Optimystic:
Well, I don't consider an attempt by one lawyer to help a group of people unravel the byzantine legal system in this country to be unethical. I DO consider other lawyers attempting to punish him for doing so out of sheer spite to be unethical.

As a general ethical argument, neither do I. As a legal ethics argument, the situation is much muddier. That said, the USCG is on the hook in a separate class action suit, basically alleging that they behaved criminally.

thethingthatlurks:
Yay, some fewer bullshit lawsuits clogging up our legal system, progress! (not that I'm defending pirates, but come on, those lawsuits ARE bullshit)

There are rules against repeated bad faith litigation.
Just look at Jack Thompson. 435 strikes and you're out.

mr_rubino:

thethingthatlurks:
Yay, some fewer bullshit lawsuits clogging up our legal system, progress! (not that I'm defending pirates, but come on, those lawsuits ARE bullshit)

There are rules against repeated bad faith litigation.
Just look at Jack Thompson. 435 strikes and you're out.

It's not the 434 strikes, it's all about the gay porn in a motion. :p

Pirates will always exist. It would be a much better use of money and time to create methods to compete with it, rather than trying to sue everyone.

This article is one among many that just proves that point. The law suit system was not meant to be used in conjunction with the internet in terms of mass sueing. Thankfully the judges have been pretty solid on this issue in almost every single case that tries to pull this shit.

If you shake your finger at pirates, also shake your finger at this idiotic tactics.

 

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