Attorneys for the U.S. Copyright Group have filed a lawsuit against a lawyer who sold “self-help” documents to people who had been sued by the USCG, demanding that he pay the costs involved in dealing with the people who used the documents he sold.
Try to stick with me here, because this one gets weird. Back in August, an attorney by the name of Graham Syfert began selling documents that would allow defendants in lawsuits filed by the U.S. Copyright Group to respond in court without having to fork over the huge piles of money needed to hire an attorney. The USCG sued “thousands” of BitTorrent users who had downloaded films like The Hurt Locker, Far Cry and Call of the Wild, demanding a settlement of $2500 to avoid the much more expensive proposition of going to court.
“One of the major problems that people encounter when trying to hire me on these cases, is that a settlement is approximately what an attorney would need to even begin a defense,” Syfert said at the time. His package of paperwork, on the other hand, cost just ten bucks.
19 people have thus far taken advantage of Syfert’s offer and submitted responses to the court using his package, not a huge amount by any measure but 19 more than Dunlap, Grubb and Weaver, the law firm behind the USCG lawsuits, wants to put up with. The firm threatened Syfert with sanctions soon after he began selling his forms and also said it would double its settlement requests for anyone who used them; Syfert dismissed the threats with a “tongue in cheek” email and that was that, until earlier this week.
On November 22, Syfert received another email from attorney Jeff Weaver informing him that he had made a formal request for sanctions against him on behalf of the production company behind The Hurt Locker, one of the driving forces behind the USCG lawsuits. Weaver is apparently claiming that the 19 cases filed using the self-help package have cost his firm $5000 and he wants Syfert to pay.
Syfert has countered with his own claim for sanctions against Dunlap, Grubb and Weaver. “This is completely insane,” he told TorrentFreak. “If 19 cases costs them $5000 in attorney time, I wonder how many cases it’d take before their business model crumbles. That is unless they are going to actually work for a living.”
It’s interesting to note, as the site points out, that the USCG is “upset for a reason.” While all motions to quash and motions for protective order have so far been denied regardless of how they were filed, the motions to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction have not. In other words, Syfert’s package is allowing people to mount an effective defense against the claim and the USCG is faced with the very expensive possibility of having to re-file thousands of individual cases in order to get around it.
Syfert’s package of forms, which includes a motion to quash, motion to dismiss, an affidavit in support of the motions and a motion for protective order, now sells for $19.95, which is still a great deal. Believe me, you can’t get most lawyers to pick up their phone for twenty bucks.