Copyright Troll Carl Crowell Ups The Ante: Now Demands Accused Pirates Hand Over Their Hard Drives

from the nope dept

Carl Crowell is a special kind of copyright troll who has graced our pages in the past. The lawyer who worked with Voltage Pictures and whose tactics were underhanded enough to warrant a lawsuit from his former business partner and for a federal judge to setup a pro bono legal team for the targets of his trolling threat letters, Crowell has always operated at the far end of the spectrum when it comes to copyright trolls. That said, a recent demand he made of someone he accused of pirating the film Mechanic: Resurrection takes things a step further by simply demanding the accused turn over his computer upon accusation.

Bill Sheldon mostly uses his personal computer, a Hewlett-Packard Envy laptop, to watch how-to videos for car repairs so he can make an extra buck now and then by fixing a neighbor’s radiator. So Sheldon, a 55-year-old Portlander, was surprised in early April when he was sued for copyright infringement for allegedly using BitTorrent software to illegally download a movie called Mechanic: Resurrection—a Jason Statham flick he says he’d never heard of before seeing the title on the court papers. He soon received an even bigger surprise. On April 28, a second letter arrived, asking Sheldon to hand over his computer’s hard drive for testing.

Sheldon refused and adamantly insisted he’s never heard of either the film or the term “bittorrent” before. Instead, he was afforded a pro bono lawyer, who was mandated to only work for three hours on his case, but who instead chose to stay on once he saw that Crowell had demanded that Sheldon turn over his personal and private property for review.

“There’s no judicial oversight of what [Crowell] can and cannot do with the hard drives,” says Perriguey. “There’s no order to destroy the data or to keep it safe. He’s getting access to people’s highly private and personal information, including legally protected health information.”

Crowell says he asked for Sheldon’s computer only to make sure he had stopped illegally downloading movies.

“I have neither the time nor the interest to review the personal information that might be on a party’s computer,” Crowell says.

Which is, of course, entirely besides the point. And, it should be noted, taking Crowell at his word after he has spent the better part of the decade being a factory for settlement threat letters built on flimsy evidence and fear doesn’t seem like a reasonable course of action, either. Whatever you think of Crowell and his copyright trolling ways, there are proper and improper tactics to use in a copyright infringement case. Demanding the receipt of private property that almost certainly contains highly private information about what is merely an accused copyright infringer is plainly bonkers. It’s worth repeating at this point that it isn’t only Crowell’s victims crying foul, but also those on the other side who have worked with him on his copyright efforts.

James S. Davis, a former law school classmate of Crowell’s who helped him bring dozens of copyright cases in California, sued Crowell in July for allegedly misleading him about the legitimacy of his cases. His suit alleges Crowell has not done enough to prove the cases have merit or even that his clients own the right to sue for copyright infringement.

Nicholas Ranallo, Davis’ attorney, says Crowell’s cases use scare tactics to drive defendants into settlements.

It seems to me that when every side of an issue thinks you’re doing something wrong, you probably are. For Sheldon’s case, Crowell attempted to drop the case, suddenly proclaiming that he believed Sheldon was telling the truth. But he refused to pay Sheldon’s legal fees for what was apparently a self-admitted frivolous case. And so the case goes on as Sheldon tries to get his piece of justice.

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Comments on “Copyright Troll Carl Crowell Ups The Ante: Now Demands Accused Pirates Hand Over Their Hard Drives”

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Re: Don't just blame the lawyers.

It’s not just our legal system. It’s the ‘fuck everyone’ mentality everyone has. People actually actively encourage companies to act this way. Lawsuits are an inevitable results because you pretty much have to threaten one in order to get treated like a real person anymore.

The “screw everyone but the shareholders” mentality leaves many people with no other recourse (other than happily be taken advantage of).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

You say that like it means anything.

When the RIAA tried to sue Gertrude Walton for downloading music off Kazaa, they overlooked the fact that the computer she had at home was a Macintosh and wouldn’t run the software they claimed she used.

Also the fact that she was dead when they tried to sue her.

Copyright idiots will ignore anything and everything that might inconvenience their settlement margins.

orbitalinsertion (profile) says:

"I have neither the time nor the interest to review the personal information that might be on a party’s computer," Crowell says.

Right. And just how does one then plan to determine if someone "stopped illegally downloading movies" without seeing anything else? Who does the actual checking? Can every computer or drive be secured from potential theft or access?

That aside, WTAF even?

sophisticatedjanedoe (profile) says:

There is a followup to this story, and it’s good:

Magistrate judge to copyright troll: you may cut and run if you want, but first compensate defendant.

tl;dr: Crowell tried to cut-and-run (drop the defendant without paying for his troubles), and Magistrate Beckerman (who is not a fan of Crowell, to put it mildly), said "no" to the troll: pay up.

sophisticatedjanedoe (profile) says:

In case you are not disgusted enough. Crowell initially tried to extort the landlord, Donna Violette, who had multiple tenants (one, who is the subject of this story, was later named as the defendant). Here is from her sworn declaration (emphasis added):

  1. In January or February 2017, I received a letter and legal documents from Mr. Crowell alleging that copyrighted films had been downloaded using my Internet, and that there would be a lawsuit against me with potential fines in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The letter also references possible prison time.


  1. Mr. Crowell also made it clear that the computer activity through my ISP address included the viewing of pornography. Given that Mr. Crowell identified that he represented the owners of a movie, I found it troubling and coercive that Mr. Crowell began speaking to me about pornography that was no of his or his alleged clients’ business. Suddenly, I was envisoning my tenants watching pornography. Mr. Crowell’s accusations about me or my tenants viewing pornography about which he has no legal interest were an unwelcome intrusion.
That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

As far as I can tell the various bars care what lawyers in their jurisdiction do only when their behavior is so publicly bad that it starts to make the entire profession look bad. When they start looking bad then they care, and even then they seem to drag their feet.

Screw over people and abuse the system without getting lots of public notice however? They couldn’t care less.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Once upon a time accused people would willingly offer up their hard drives.
They knew they were innocent, & expected a search would prove it.

Then trolls started dragging their feet about getting the drive if the accused was willing.
Trolls would take stupid amounts of time to look at the drives.
(My favorite was the troll who returned the drives, but then demanded them back because they never had the expert look at them)
Then trolls started saying lack of any evidence of the file was proof the user was smarter than their expert & removed all of the evidence.

This is a lawyer taking advantage of people.
This is a legal system who can’t pretend they are unaware of the questionable nature of these cases & the stunts they are willing to pull.

So I’m gonna ask all the neighbors if they used your connection to steal from my client or to download this porn with a scandalous name… or pay me now to go away.
I’m gonna name you in court & tell everyone your a theif… or pay me to go away.
I’m going to demand full access to your life, ignore any evidence that shows your innocent, make you pay your lawyer a bunch and run before you can make me pay for it.

These cases are obscene abuses, and they keep on coming.
Pity the DOJ who had a press release about not allowing the public trust in the legal system to falter can’t seem to notice these trolls.

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