Hurt Locker Producers Demand Sanctions Against Lawyer Offering DIY Legal Kits

from the completely-insane dept

We've discussed in great detail the efforts by Voltage Pictures, the producers of the movie Hurt Locker to sue thousands of people for sharing the movie. Well, "sue" should be used loosely, as the effort, coordinated by US Copyright Group (really DC law firm Dunlap, Grubb and Weaver), is really about demanding people pay up to avoid getting sued. We also wrote about a lawyer, Graham Syfert, who was offering (for sale) a DIY legal kit for individuals on the receiving end of such a lawsuit, who couldn't afford a lawyer. Apparently a bunch of folks have used those legal forms to make pro se filings -- and apparently some of them are working. The motions to quash have gone nowhere, but motions to dismiss are apparently getting some traction, and USCG and Voltage are not at all happy about it.

Apparently, the first threatened Syfert and have now filed a motion asking for sanctions against him. Yes, they want him fined for daring to help people respond to their scorched earth legal (business model) strategy.

What's funny is that Voltage, USCG and Dunlap Grubb & Weaver, may not be thrilled when they realize that some of the language used in their request for sanctions could be turned around and used against them as well:
"Any attorney ... who so multiplies the proceedings in any case unreasonably and vexatiously may be required by the court to satisfy personally the excess costs, expenses, and attorneys' fees reasonably incurred because of such conduct."
That sorta sounds like what USCG/DGW is doing, doesn't it?

Beyond sanctions, the motion says that Syfert should have to pay them for having to deal with people making filings in their own defense. Are they serious?

Syfert has a wonderful reply to the motion, noting that the jurisdiction is wrong, that since he's not a party to the lawsuit he is not subject to sanctions and that offering up legal forms does not make one liable for how they are used (and if it did, all sorts of legal forms publishers would be in trouble). There's also an amusing bit, where DGW includes an angry email from Syfert in response to a phone call between Syfert and Weaver (the W in DGW), where Syfert, in a mocking tone, suggests DGW hire him. DGW uses this to suggest that Syfert has ulterior motives. However, in his reply, Syfert points out that DGW left out the email where Weaver told Syfert they were actually looking to hire lawyers and asked for his resume... Both the motion for sanctions and the reply are after the jump...

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    darryl, Dec 1st, 2010 @ 12:34am

    Maybe they should read your constitution

    Isn't there somewhere in there that allows you to defend yourself ?

    Or to choose your own council.. so them trying to restrict what you can do to defend yourself would be unconstitutional imo.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    Brad S (profile), Dec 1st, 2010 @ 12:41am

    FRCP Rule 11

    I hope the judge nails DGW on Rule 11 (below for those unfamiliar). This kind of tactic is absolutely egregious.

    Fed. Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 11(b), Representations to the Court:

    By presenting to the court a pleading, written motion, or other paper — whether by signing, filing, submitting, or later advocating it — an attorney or unrepresented party certifies that to the best of the person's knowledge, information, and belief, formed after an inquiry reasonable under the circumstances:

    (1) it is not being presented for any improper purpose, such as to harass, cause unnecessary delay, or needlessly increase the cost of litigation;

    (2) the claims, defenses, and other legal contentions are warranted by existing law or by a nonfrivolous argument for extending, modifying, or reversing existing law or for establishing new law;

    (3) the factual contentions have evidentiary support or, if specifically so identified, will likely have evidentiary support after a reasonable opportunity for further investigation or discovery

    (4) the denials of factual contentions are warranted on the evidence or, if specifically so identified, are reasonably based on belief or a lack of information.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 1st, 2010 @ 1:09am

    Too Funny!

    "Dunlap, Grubb and Weaver" are looking more like "Cramden, Flintstone & Munster" everyday as their "Get Rich Quick" scheme gradually blows up in their faces.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    SFox, Dec 1st, 2010 @ 3:13am

    Very Complicated

    These situations seem to be so complicated, with so many possible outcomes. Where will it all end? How does this fit with Human Rights legislation - is it covered in their at all?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. icon
    The Mighty Buzzard (profile), Dec 1st, 2010 @ 3:44am

    Re: Too Funny!

    I would have went with "Dewey, Cheatim, & Howe" or possibly "Howard, Fine, & Howard"

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. icon
    Josef Anvil (profile), Dec 1st, 2010 @ 4:21am

    The Hurt Locker

    Everyone involved in this movie should just relax and get over themselves. The Hurt Locker somehow beat out AVATAR at the Academy Awards and that is the only reason that people began downloading it.

    Let's think about this? Everyone wants their money from this movie that no one really watched when it was released. Hmmmmm. If someone had been thinking and streamed the movie over the web as soon as they found out they were nominated, or a few weeks before the Academy Awards; that may have been enough to drive some business through Netflix or Amazon or even pay per view.

    Now let's be realistic. You win a HUGE frickin' award against the biggest baddest movie of the year and you were not prepared with an immediate re-release into theaters???? Where did you think ppl would go to view the movie??? If I were accepting that award, I would have plugged a website where you can find the movie for a small fee, during the acceptance speech. Then just let the news media do all my advertising for the next few days.

    I suppose since the box office numbers on this movie were so dismal, suing people may actually make more money.

    Personally I watched it streamed over the web and Im really glad I didn't pay for it once. I can tell anyone who is receiving a lawsuit for DL'ing the Hurt Locker, they should counter sue for being subjected to a crappy movie.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    abc gum, Dec 1st, 2010 @ 4:38am

    "USCG and Voltage are not at all happy about it. "

    Nelson voice: Haha

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    abc gum, Dec 1st, 2010 @ 4:39am

    Re: Maybe they should read your constitution

    Wow, that may be the most lucid and rational thing I've ever seen you post.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    abc gum, Dec 1st, 2010 @ 4:46am

    Re: The Hurt Locker

    And according to people who were actually there, it is not a very accruate depiction.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. icon
    Berenerd (profile), Dec 1st, 2010 @ 5:16am

    Re: Re: Maybe they should read your constitution

    Put a billion monkeys in a room and they will eventually make a film called "Hurt Locker"....i guess even Daryl can have an off day...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. icon
    cc (profile), Dec 1st, 2010 @ 6:08am

    I thought Syfert was with the EFF...? I may be mistaken.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 1st, 2010 @ 7:07am

    The Hurt Locker is a typical US piece of shit war propaganda movie. The times when US filmmakers gave us Platoon and Full Metal Jacket are over. They can thank bit torrent and the overrated Oscar bullshit for all the exposure.

    And they still made a gazillion on it. Greedy bastards!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Will, Dec 1st, 2010 @ 7:12am

    Hurt Locker Producers Being Sued, Too

    One key aspect missing from most of this coverage about the Hurt Locker producers is that they themselves are being sued by an American soldier after they ripped off his life story and breached their agreement to pay him.

    Pot meet kettle, kettle meet pot.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. icon
    average_joe (profile), Dec 1st, 2010 @ 7:33am

    I love this Syfert guy: "In short, if you're not going to hire me, take a flying fuck and leave me alone about the forms--both of you. . . . Hire me or eat shit" LOL! That guy's awesome. I'm surprised DGW didn't bring up Syfert's quote that was picked up by the "press" about how he hoped everyone would buy and use these forms so they could jam up the court. I thought that statement was particularly egregious coming from an officer of the court. The very thought of it made me cringe. I can't imagine why DGW didn't use it.

    I remember warning people that these forms were potentially a bad idea since DGW would likely retaliate against those using them. Apparently, DGW told Syfert that they were going to ask for double the settlement from anyone who used the forms. Who knows if they really did that, but obviously I was right that DGW intended to punish those using the forms. At the time, I predicted that when DGW gets to deciding which defendants to actually name and sue, I bet those that used these forms would be moved to the top of the list. I wouldn't be surprised if that really happens.

    I also said the forms were "losers" and, IMO, this turned out to be true. The motions to quash and motions for protective orders were being denied by the judge en masse, as quickly as they were filed. DGW is right in the sense that these forms did nothing more than muck up the court's docket with unnecessary, crappy motions that had no chance of being granted.

    I know some are arguing that the motions to dismiss were successful, but I don't really see it that way. The fact is, DGW had until sometime in November to replace the Doe defendants in the complaint with a named defendant. This deadline is set by the rules of civil procedure. DGW tried to get the deadline extended again, but the judge wasn't buying it. I don't think the motions to dismiss had anything to do with the judge's decision. As far as I know, the judge never ruled on the motions to dismiss. I haven't checked the docket in a while, but I think the judge just shelved the motions while waiting for the clock to run out of time so they would become moot.

    It will be interesting to see how the judge rules on DGW's motion for sanctions. Syfert did thrust himself into the fight by creating and marketing the forms for the defendants in these USCG cases. But I think Syfert's right and the court doesn't have jurisdiction over him since he's not a party to the proceeding.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 1st, 2010 @ 7:43am

    Dewey, Screwem and Howe. Larry's law firm is the only one worth using. At least you know exactly where they stand.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. icon
    harbingerofdoom (profile), Dec 1st, 2010 @ 9:54am


    care to point to this quote about syfert hoping everyone would buy for the purposes of jamming up the court? keep asking for proof on that one, but no one as of yet has come up with it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. icon
    average_joe (profile), Dec 1st, 2010 @ 10:14am

    Re: Re:

    care to point to this quote about syfert hoping everyone would buy for the purposes of jamming up the court? keep asking for proof on that one, but no one as of yet has come up with it.

    Sure. The quote was from torrentfreak originally, and then Mike picked it up in his earlier article on Syfert:

    Here's what Syfert said: "My dream would be to have 10,000-20,000 people file all three documents to the lawyers and severely cripple the entire process and show them that you shouldn't be allowed to join so many defendants."

    While he may have intended "cripple the entire process" to apply to DGW, it necessarily implies that the court would be crippled too. I think that quote is really damning and should have been included in DGW's motion for sanctions.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. icon
    average_joe (profile), Dec 1st, 2010 @ 10:15am

    Re: Re:

    Not to mention the fact that it shows Syfert's motivation was to jam things up, not to provide the defendants with good legal arguments.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Joe, Dec 1st, 2010 @ 3:31pm

    I typically HATE lawyers

    But i almost want to give the lone lawyer a medal of honor for screwing over a legal firm...I guess two wrongs can make a right.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    athe, Dec 1st, 2010 @ 3:52pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    If it's the only way to show that the system is broke......

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    ace, Dec 1st, 2010 @ 4:57pm

    Take a look at this. I cant prove its accuracy, but it has the ring of truth to it: y-dunlap-grubb-weaver-anything/

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    abc gum, Dec 1st, 2010 @ 6:14pm

    When Dunlap, Grubb and Weaver sends their letter, does it arrive via email from Nigeria?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. icon
    average_joe (profile), Dec 1st, 2010 @ 7:14pm


    It is really weird that they haven't actually sued one named defendant yet, at least not that I know of. That's not helping their credibility. How many months have they been saying they're about to do so? Since August, if memory serves.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. icon
    The eejit (profile), Dec 2nd, 2010 @ 2:16am

    Re: Re:

    Try since about a week after the film won an Academy Award.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. icon
    jenny (profile), Dec 5th, 2010 @ 8:38pm


    Unfortunately, I have been alleged of illegally downloading the movie. I had not known about the movie, till I received this demand letter. I certainly have not downloaded the movie.Not sure how to go about this now. Your input highly appreciated.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. identicon
    Me 2, Dec 9th, 2010 @ 1:50pm

    Take Action

    Mr. Dunlap and his cohort attorneys at Dunlap, Grubb & Weaver are a bunch of lying scumbag vermin. Stand up to them! There threat and letters re just that paper. They have no intention of filing any lawsuits nor have they hired any attorneys or even talked to any attorneys of substance in these matters. Ignore them and they will go away as they have to. Do not enrich them by sending them any money whatsoever. They openly know at the law firm that this is all a big sham and scam – a virtual legal shakedown for the 21st century.

    So, if you stand for freedom of the internet copy your middle finger and send it by fax to Dunlap, Grubb & Weaver:
    phone: 800-747-9354 x3885
    fax: (202) 318-0242
    You can also call them and give them a piece of your mind or flood their email. If everyone did this work at Dunlap, Grubb and Weaver would slow to a snails pace as no other faxes, emails or phone calls could get through. Make their life difficult as they have tried to, basically, illegally extort thousands of Americans. Give them a piece of your mind! Remember complaining and being an irate consumer is your right! File a complaint with your state attorney generals office. File complaints with the state bar association in Washington DC – I know that they won’t stand for this abuse of the legal system if enough American consumers complain about it to them:

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27. icon
    Scott145 (profile), Dec 13th, 2010 @ 7:57pm

    I too have also just received a letter from my ISP with a subpoena on the back, also in that letter it states that I have 10 ( which happens to actually be five) days to file the quash or my ISP, with its lay down and die mentality, will be turning over my information to this company, even though I am still represented as a John doe. Will I be getting an offer to settle or should I just let this go by the wayside because never have I downloaded this movie? I find this to be a ridiculous claim on the film studios part and an extremely spineless act of extortion against many, but then again welcome to America! Any help or advice on this matter would be great it seems all I can find is not very recent. Thanks in advance!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28. identicon
    B S Kumar, Jul 12th, 2011 @ 2:51am

    Re: The Hurt Locker

    Most certainly. I watched it on TV and still felt cheated. Crap movie.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29. identicon
    AreukiddingMe, Aug 28th, 2012 @ 10:23am

    How in the Hell Did they Get away with this.

    How can State General attorneys, New Broadcast, Dist of Columbia/Washington Board of Lawyers not see this as Wrong. So Wrong, Lost in America with proven guilty before innocent. Why and how can this Not be Investigated. What is going on. It's almost as if someone is being paid off to keep it Hush Hush. Who knows/. But Its Very UnAmerican how this all Went down and letters sent and people paid due to intimidation and I wonder if they were reinbursed when some cases were dropped. Probably not. This will get out of hand if State Attorney and laws dont change to stop this Mass Fishing Concept.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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