Anti-Piracy Copyright Lawyer Decides To Abuse Trademarks To Shut Down Pirates

from the ip-is-ip-is-ip dept

Update: This article was updated to remove a paragraph regarding events of a few years ago that was not central to the story here, and for which we have since learned there were additional details that have only now been shared with us.

One of the most consistent aspects of lawyers who crusade against copyright infringement is just how inconsistent their views on “the law” are. Copyright trolls regularly skirt the law while claiming to fight for justice for copyright holders. Hell, some trolls, that would have you believe they are bullwarks against piracy, have been found out to have essentially committed and encouraged the very piracy they sued over themselves.

The point is that it’s all a panoply of monied interests and shifting levels of ethics perfectly calibrated to let the copyright lawyer do as he or she pleases on any given day. You can see this in practice yet again, with Kerry Culpepper, Hawaiian IP attorney, deciding to register a bunch of trademarks for piracy related terms and then going around and shutting down accounts for “pirate” services on social media sites.

Through the recently incorporate Hawaiian company 42 Ventures, he helped to register several piracy-related trademarks. The current trademark portfolio of the company includes the popular brands “YTS,” “Popcorn Time,” and “Terrarium.” In addition, 42 Ventures also claimed the trademark for the Showbox arrow logo. All trademarks are registered under the same description, “downloadable computer software for downloading and streaming multimedia content images, videos and audio.” The same description also applies to the pirate sites and apps.

The trademarks were only recently registered which brings up the issue of prior use. Popcorn Time, Terrarium, and YTS have been using their brands for years, and could technically object to any enforcement efforts. 42 Ventures, however, stresses that it has its own legal “Popcorn Time” website at Popcorntime4u.com, which links to content from the YouTube channel Popcorned Planet.

And from there, we find that 42 Ventures has partnered with Andy Signore, who is behind Honest Trailers, among other things. The idea I suppose is to try to claim that 42 Ventures is suddenly and recently using these marks in commerce, the only way it would have a valid trademark. That, however, is bullshit. The terms and actual content creators were already long using those marks, as were the holders of the social media accounts 42 Ventures is busy taking down. In other words, Culpepper appears to be perfectly willing to abuse trademark law in his efforts to enforce copyright law. That isn’t exactly a consistent respect for intellectual property now, is it?

Because consistent and ethical application of the law is entirely besides the point. There’s no respect for intellectual property in any of this. Only a way to milk dollars in the name of the law.

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Comments on “Anti-Piracy Copyright Lawyer Decides To Abuse Trademarks To Shut Down Pirates”

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16 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Abuse of trademark law, maybe

If the operators don’t have money to burn, they fold up shop, rebrand their site, and pop up under a new name.

If they do have money to burn, they show up in court and roast the plaintiff’s fraudulent arguments. … then fold up shop, rebrand their site, and pop up under a new name.

Where’s the win?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Abuse of trademark law, maybe

It looks like yet another approach to force operators of pirate sites to travel to the US and appear in a US court. Or give up on their rights and let the court decide based on the copyright lawyers arguments only.

The entire point is the fact the pirates won’t show up to court. Doing so would give the troll their personal info, which they would then use to file charges against the pirates directly. But if they can’t get the pirate’s personal info, the trolls can use the default judgement to shutdown the site on trademark law alone*.

The trolls are perfectly able to sue the site based on copyright violation alone. Hell, they can have it taken down without even going to court with a DMCA notice. Instead they claim trademark violations? That sounds like they have no evidence and just want vengeance.

This is just abuse of IP law applied in a slightly different way, and it’s the reason why people lose any and all respect for it.

(* These trademarks would not stand up if challenged. Their common use prior to their filling would disqualify them from trademark protection. It’s solely the fact that challenging them would require the pirates to reveal themselves that the trademarks can exist at all.)

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

'How dare you abuse the law, that's my trick!'

The respect that such people show for the law seems to be based entirely on how much that law helps them at any given moment, such that if it’s personally beneficial to them then the law is the law, and respecting it is of utmost importance, yet the second it can be twisted to serve them the spirit and even the letter of the law are thrown under the bus, with laughable excuse after pathetic excuse made for how their actions are totally different from those they are trying to shake down.

This comment has been deemed funny by the community.
Rico R. (profile) says:

Honest Trailers?

In a world where Internet piracy runs rampant, yet Hollywood is seeing its best returns in years, one lawyer sets out to boldly go where no trademark law has gone before: Stopping the pirates. But what happens when the fellow YouTuber assisting in this battle gets a bogus DMCA claim from a studio that the lawyer is blindly serving? Will the lawyer realize the error of his ways and stand down from his holier-than-thou mission? Or will he continue the trek until copyright maximalism has all but guaranteed the Internet itself is no more? Find out in… The Copyright Troll Under the Bridge! Coming (hopefully) soon to a reality check near you…

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