We've pointed out before how stupid it was for people like Jammie Thomas
and Joel Tenenbaum
to fight the copyright infringement lawsuits launched against them. In Tenenbaum's case it was monumentally stupid, because he flat out lied to the court and then had to admit it in court. You don't do that. Lying to a court is not only stupid in general, but it completely taints any underlying issues that may actually be important, and predisposes the judge against you. There are often
good reasons to fight back against copyright lawsuits, but if you actually infringed and then lied about it that's a really bad
reason to fight back.
Unfortunately, it looks like there was a similar situation in one of the big copyright trolling cases last week. Last fall, we wrote about how Judge Michael Baylson decided to force a group
of Malibu Media copyright trolling cases to trial, after it became apparent that Malibu Media didn't seem particularly interested in going through with a trial (similar to most copyright trolls). Unfortunately, it then came out that one of the "selected" defendants lied, committing perjury, and (on top of that) destroyed the evidence. This is just ridiculously stupid.
In the end, all of the defendants "settled," but the case still had a sort of sham trial. Yes, there was no reason for the trial, since everyone basically settled, but the lawyer for Malibu, Keith Lipscomb, asked the court to enter a "final judgment." That basically allowed the judge to rail against the stupid defendant who lied and destroyed evidence (who deserves to be yelled at by the court for his actions), but it also now allows Lipscomb to use the "judgment" of $112,500 to threaten many others who are not in the same situation as the guy who lost. There's a good summary from lawyer John Whitaker
, who found the whole thing baffling.
In sum, all of the defendants stipulated to liability before the trial. Plaintiff had already agreed not to seek damages against two of the three defendants. The third defendant stipulated to liability. Malibu Media and the third defendant asked the judge to enter a finding on damages, even though they had already agreed on what he would pay.
So there was absolutely nothing at issue during the trial. Not liability. Not damages. Nothing.
Then there was the 'trial' itself. The only party to actually put on a witness was Malibu Media. None of the defendants even cross-examined a witness. Really?
What kind of trial is it where the defendant doesn't challenge any of the plaintiff's witnesses or even put on any witnesses of its own? A sham, that's what.
So why was there even a trial? I have no idea.
Well, actually, he points out, everyone knows why:
It was all about Malibu Media trying to get Judge Baylson to write a document that Malibu Media could use in all its demand letters from now on. I'll point out that, to his credit, Judge Baylson had to tell Lipscomb numerous times that he would not be Lipscomb's advertising spokesman. I think what he said was he wasn't interested in writing anything that was "commercially valuable" to Malibu Media.
If the goal wasn't to be "commercially valuable" to Malibu, it looks like it failed. In the aftermath of the ruling, Malibu Media filed dozens of new trolling lawsuits
. Yes, the defendant deserved to lose. Infringing by downloading the work, then lying about it to the court and destroying evidence should be punished. But it's a shame that all it's doing in this case is enabling more copyright trolling shakedown behavior.
Bad cases make bad law, and this was clearly a bad case, which was made even worse by the actions of that particular defendant. I'm not saying he should have gotten off free, but the end result here is going to lead many others to feel obligated to pay up when they probably shouldn't.