Judge Halts Copyright Troll's Lawsuit Against A Now-Deceased Elderly Man With Dementia And An IP Address

from the stop-stop-he's-already-dead dept

Stories about copyright trolls issuing questionable settlement demands and lawsuits using laughably flimsy evidence with no regard to mitigating circumstances are somewhat common around here. The most egregious cases range from trolls sending threat letters to the elderly to flat out suing the innocent. This sort of thing is essentially inherent in a business model that closely apes an extortion ring, and here’s another quintessential example of that.

It all started when Venice PI sued a man for being part of a torrent swarm offering the movie Once Upon a Time in Venice. The judge in the case has put the proceedings on hold, noting rather harshly that Venice PI’s evidence sucks, and that the man in question had severe enough dementia that his family says he couldn’t even have operated a computer as described in the lawsuit and, at age 91, has died.

The man’s wife informed a federal court in Seattle that he passed away recently, at the respectable age of 91. While age doesn’t prove innocence, the widow also mentioned that her husband suffered from dementia and was both mentally and physically incapable of operating a computer at the time of the alleged offense.

These circumstances raised doubt with US District Court Judge Thomas Zilly, who brought them up in a recent order (citations omitted).

“In two different cases, plaintiff sued the same, now deceased, defendant, namely Wilbur Miller. Mr. Miller’s widow submitted a declaration indicating that, for about five years prior to his death at the age of 91, Mr. Miller suffered from dementia and was both mentally and physically incapable of operating a computer.”

Oops. Still, the condition of the copyright troll’s victim wasn’t the topic which received Judy Zilly’s harshest criticism. That distinction goes to the quality and quantity of evidence Venice PI produced in its lawsuit. The Judge notes that this evidence amounts essentially to nothing more than an IP address. He then goes on to suggest that any tracking of IP addresses that pointed to Mr. Miller being a torrent-y type of guy should have its accuracy immediately questioned. Beyond that, the judge indicated that Venice PI can’t use that IP address to try to find, you know, actual evidence.

Moreover, plaintiff may not, based solely on IP addresses, launch a fishing expedition aimed at coercing individuals into either admitting to copyright infringement or pointing a finger at family members, friends, tenants, or neighbors.

To that end, lawyers for Venice PI are barred from having any contact with Miller’s family or any other unnamed defendant in this case. In addition, Zilly is demanding any other evidence the plaintiff’s can produce — likely none –, as well as information on how IP addresses in bittorrent swarms might be spoofed. The judge goes on to say that if no further evidence can be presented, the claims will be dismissed with prejudice.

It’s simply great to see a court get this so correct in a copyright troll case. Too often trolls are allowed to skate by in presenting evidence that isn’t evidence at all, with no ground given to the sort of mitigating testimony offered by Miller’s widow. That Venice IP hasn’t dismissed their case against the now-deceased man is an added stain on its trollish soul.

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Comments on “Judge Halts Copyright Troll's Lawsuit Against A Now-Deceased Elderly Man With Dementia And An IP Address”

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That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

From a single grain, these trolls have grown large pearls.

Sadly this is just 1 Judge.
As regular readers know we’ve seen Judges demand that the accused turn over access to computers, electronics, & online passwords so the troll can look for evidence to support their claims. (And then hysterically claim the lack of evidence was evidence.)

Because we said so is the biggest failure in copyright cases.

All of the evidence boils down to…
1 millisecond of observed data transfer to an ip address.

From this tiny grain they try to infer the entire file was transferred to a device owned by the name on the bill.

They can’t prove what device got the grain, but claim it must be a device owned & controlled by the name on the bill.

They ask the courts to allow them to use this single grain to depose neighbors, asking if they used the connection of the name on the bill to acquire the complete content.

They ask the courts to accept that because the name on the bill has a social media account & expressed any remote interest in a topic covered by the content, they must have done it.

They ask the courts to allow them to collect all of the information on all digital devices & turn them over to a 3rd party (usually of questionable character, anyone ever seen if they are licensed & bonded against harm if they leak the data?) who will then scour looking for anything that can be leveraged. Judge tells them to limit to the content, they will produce a list of other things they gathered in violation of the order to gain 1% more true than not.

They drag their feet on filing, working on having the most time possible to stay in contact with the name on the bill and threaten them with HUGE liabilities (that they would never actually seek because the $150K ends using that content in court), make the name on the bill incur huge costs & when the con starts to fall apart they walk away leaving nothing but bills & wreckage for the name on the bill.

Thousands of people have faced this same con game, sometimes with the bonus of actual fraud upon the courts, and are left with huge legal bills or having paid the extortionists off, or being lucky enough to have the troll cut & run dropping the current case… but leaving the door open to darken their doorstep again.

It really shouldn’t take years of dementia & death to provide enough evidence to counter a single grain of “proof” in the courts eyes.

These cases are flawed.
The courts remain blind to huge abuses of the courts & laws.

Of course the industry has a answer, “small claims” copyright court with even LOWER levels of proof required, less filing fees, and high enough settlements to make it worthwhile for them to “educate” the public that a single grain means you owe them hundreds or thousands of dollars.

JoeCool (profile) says:

Re: Re:

If by ‘cut the cord’ you mean ‘get rid of your internet connection’, you might as well join the Amish. Modern life REQUIRES the internet as many courts now acknowledge. If you meant ‘get rid of your cable/satellite subscription’, that doesn’t shield you from copyright trolls. In fact, they’ll infer to the court that since you got rid of an ‘legal’ source for TV/movies, you MUST be a pirate.

Bergman (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Adding to this, many authorities now consider that the absence of suspicious behavior makes your behavior suspicious.

Witness what happened in the Aereo case — Aereo scrupulously obeyed the law, and tied their operation into knots to cross every t and dot every i, and then got sued on the grounds that only a criminal would perfectly obey the law. And the court agreed.

MyNameHere (profile) says:

I think you guys need a section called the “friday hairball” because you manage to cough up old news just in time to get views.

Oh, and a side question: How does a 91 year old with dementia manage to get and maintain internet service, when so many American are underserved? Guessing there is a “sweet little grandson” who takes care of everything for him!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Bad analogy. A more accurate one: You got an obscene phone call and the caller ID showed some guys phone number, and even though caller ID information can be spoofed, and he couldn’t have physically made the call because he was unconscious at the time you demand he be punished for it.

JoeDetroit (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: no, you don't have to pay for long distance...

No, you don’t have to pay for long distance calls made by your landline. That is if any landlines that can have long distance charges out there anymore.

Back in the day, I had charges on my phone that I did not do. A room mate or guest likely made the calls. I called my phone company & complained & they took them off. Of course this was a “one time courtesy” thing, not something I could do multiple times.

So no, you do not necessarily have to pay for something you did not do.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“If his phone was used to make all sorts of long distance calls, he would be liable to pay”

Maybe, maybe not. If he can prove that he did not make the calls, or it was otherwise explained to their CS / billing department that there were unusual / extenuating circumstances, they might reduce or even waive the charges.

What would not be happening is that his family would be facing posthumous lawsuits based on very thin evidence that the action he’s accused of even occurred on his connection to begin with.

“His internet connection is used to pirate”

That is questionable, and even if so it should be a minor charge based on the actual content of what was copied and not the ridiculous extortion that your heroes keep attempting. IP addresses are flimsy evidence at the best of times, and it’s not unusual for them to identify innocent parties in cases like this.

But, hey, you wouldn’t let things like facts and basic human decency get in the way of profiteering, would you?

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Yes, it is strange how things work when you apply actual reality to arguments – a bill for a service can be disputed if the situation calls for it, especially under extreme extenuating circumstances. In the real world, this happens all the time, and it’s not uncommon for charges to be waived when a genuine challenge is received.

As ever, I’m glad I live in the real world, rather than the dystopian fiction that MyNameHere lives in, where everything is final and it’s OK to be hounded long after death if a corporation claims you owe them something based on zero evidence.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“How does a 91 year old with dementia manage to get and maintain internet service, when so many American are underserved?”

Was he 91 one years old and suffering from the illness at the time he got internet? Could he not have signed up for it beforehand? Is it so unusual that his wife might be the one maintaining the connect after he fell ill, or that he had the bill taken automatically from an account that’s adequately funded during his illness? He didn’t suddenly have to sign up again for every existing service during his period of illness, the adults among us who pay their bills understand this.

Let me guess, reality is too hard for you again, so you have to invent a reality where your arguments work? I mean, you do have to attack the infirm and deceased now because they get in the way of your friends’ ability to profiteer from them now, so I can understand why you have to invent a reality where this doesn’t make you a massive piece of shit. But, you could just try being a decent intelligent person in this reality instead.

Jonathan Lam (profile) says:

Re: Lawyering for fun and profits.

It is note on fair use that I provided your comment to my reply on how smoke and mirror worked over IP and the scheme.
Jonsathsan Lam Jonsathsan Lam This was judiciary corrupted in blackmailing the old man to halt the legislators and congress to contemplate how AG can be legally corrupted in converting collusion. Diplomacy is alt-fact in term of democracy that develops the United Nations of America. it is the plan in 2003 that put FBI and CIA to its sidewalk selling oranges.
Like · Reply · August 25 at 3:21pm
Bradley Suzuki
Bradley Suzuki Why are they going after the (people) that goes on sites that is made available to them. Why cant you kerry go after the (sites) that is making it available.
Like · Reply · August 30 at 11:34am
Jonsathsan Lam
Jonsathsan Lam iconThat Anonymous Coward (profile), 24 Aug 2017 @ 2:08pm
We don’t use the Prenda strategy.
We have shady hidden Germans providing our ip tracking not a brother.
We submit long lists of unrelated titles showing an IP is responsible, but don’t include CP & Bestiality like MM.
We aren’t even sure the company we represent owns all the rights to the film or is still active.
We don’t pocket the money ourselves, it flows back to a single point & hes being sued by the investors in the films.

They are scum suckers, who are pissed that they hit upon a target who isn’t easily portrayed as the dark prince of infringement. He got loud, the community got loud, and suddenly after a full on press is torn apart & gets more media coverage they finally do due diligence & discover they have the wrong person targeted. They then quickly try to drop him, because showing 1000+ other titles he allegedly downloaded might call into question the super secret system they use to track infringers. Fake people, fake companies, fake affidavits, a cast of characters who have all held every possible position in a company & take turns playing expert.

Pity that copyright law is so ‘sacred’ we can’t possibly talk about keeping senior citizens being shaken down for social security checks by fixing the law. We need to keep doing stupid things for companies enjoying record profits (despite putting out absolute crap) in the most protected position and not these stupid old people who obviously were stealing these shitty action films.
[ reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]
Like · Reply · 1 hr
Jonsathsan Lam

It was when Bush administration in 2003,agreed upon the Inouye’s holding that the state department should follow the proposed after the Judiciary review. The project was apporve by the House and was given to the State department. Since the Democrat did not provide the identity of writer on the “Foundation”, by posing the old man in copyright pirate was the scheme; and induce the Clinton Foundation to inherit it in combining the international policeman of the world. Ever since the rule of the state and federal law were shuffled and overstepped; it created the conflicts between Justice Department and democratic house where Pelosie ruled. Since 12333 enacted the scheme was successfully done through internet and surveillance; but then AG challenged on the source and it is where the copyright piracy started. So, in reversing the charge, democrat created the Russian dossier to enforce it. It was what the Uranium one as we called to-day
Choose File
Jonsathsan Lam
Jonsathsan Lam Certainly I am not a conspirator to making Policeman of the World under the laker statue. Pelosie and Leon Penetta did not make correction on the proposal to UN, instead, they would insist onward “Foundation” to United Nations of America by purported “democracy” to convert other. Later, O’conner agreed on the United Citizen then, the proposal by Clinton Foundation had became the pivotal to politicize the corporate to join the foundation in raising millions to Clintons. Apparently, there is not much to the Policeman of the world, ever since State department have created its firewall to divert funding from oversea to States. However, Republican were blindsided by State department that their foundation was run under the Defense and FBI in the way the legislature demanded in the in and out. Eventually, both parties’ campaign managers are now targeted for this corrupted scheme. Eventually, the democrat called collusion to Russian since “Democracy” is still standing. However, CIA angered at Comey in selling out; but he was really stone-walled by the House to investigate. you know the rest.
Like · Reply · 17 mins
Jonsathsan Lam
Jonsathsan Lam I plead to all for which democrat would posed me as a comfort woman during the war entertaining the Marine Corps for “all food and good sex”. Thank you for the 1 st amendment. well, it is my assumption for this Russian Dossier that I created and converted by Peloise and Leon Penatta. I may not have the full details of it. but what the hell if everyone lie?Make me a liar too. America. For all years , my only regret is my service to United States did not give me strength to keep my mother’s house; instead, I must sell it to survive; if the US Supreme court cannot reverse the verdict they pressed on me; or United Nations did not fight well in our corrupted country. Good luck you all. May the Buddha bless you?
Like · Reply · Just now
LikeShow more reactions · Reply · November 16 at 12:54pm
Jonsathsan Lam
Jonsathsan Lam However, Fusion GPS may have create “Rocomandoz” the detailed accounts to post in the fake employment for the foundation, and money laundering. Bob Meuller, my ex-parte Young turned into McCardle; the Congress have decided not to pay me a dime for my service, Then, you can look into my payments including Gen. Cartwright’s testimony on my partnership to the G-20 planned parenthood records. Mcflynn worked for McChrystal at the time too, it was how BangMyAss began and we killed the general with drone. The info was American bubble-warp their reserve to leave the airport. we were too late next day.
LikeShow more reactions · Reply · November 16 at 4:21pm
Jonsathsan Lam
Jonsathsan Lam Their reason for the money was for the Defense weaponry transaction by State department.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Zilly is demanding any other evidence the plaintiff’s can produce — likely none –, as well as information on how IP addresses in bittorrent swarms might be spoofed.”

Even if IP addresses can be spoofed i doubt the copyright trolls will give evidence of any kind that shows that an IP address can be spoofed as this will be cutting their own throat so the copyright troll will come out and state that its not possible for any IP address to be spoofed.

Anonymous Coward says:

Typo: Judy Tilly

I thought the judge’s name was Judy until you said “he”. Then looking back, I found “Judge Thomas Tilly”.

Have you considered highlighting names when first introduced into a story to make it easier to look back to their full name? Sometimes stories get confusing when there are several people being referred to. Sometimes I want to know if it is the prosecution or opposition speaking.

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