Even As Copyright Trolls' Legal Strategy Appears To Be Failing, The Shakedowns Are Working
from the profitability... dept
The first, as highlighted by TorrentFreak is a profile about Evan Stone, the junior lawyer who has had a particularly hard time getting anyone in the legal community to take his cases seriously. This is the same Evan Stone who may be facing sanctions for his ethically dubious action of sending subpoenas to ISPs and getting names of account holders despite a court not allowing those subpoenas. Stone then responded with a ridiculously petulant filing to the court, and has since dropped most, if not all, of his cases -- though, he claims some indie film producers have signed up and he's gearing up to move forward. I would suggest that if any of those indie film producers read this, they might want to seek out a more competent lawyer who doesn't resort to insulting the court after he's called on a potentially serious ethics violation.
That said, it's not difficult to understand why he wanted to send out the subpoenas and get the names. Even though all of his cases have ended in failure, the article notes that approximately 40% of those who receive the threat letters settle... and Stone gets to keep 45% of the settlement money. That adds up. Even if you assume that the 40% settlement rate is inflated (it comes from Stone himself), he's making money on these questionable legal pursuits. All of his talk about "hating" file sharers in the article is for show. He's profiting from scaring people who don't want to go to court into paying up.
Similarly, Ars Technica has an article highlighting the voicemails left by another lawyer playing this game, John Steele, for the people he's sent legal threat letters to. And, of course, it becomes quite clear that the entire point of this strategy is to get paid. The voicemails repeatedly ask about the settlement or refer to the settlement and point out how it would be easier and cheaper to settle than to fight this in court. Amusingly, they leave out all of the difficulty Steele has had in getting a court to actually move forward with these lawsuits. Still, money is being made:
One can get a sense of how many settlements are being racked up by looking through Steele's various court dockets. Occasionally, he will voluntarily dismiss a batch of IP addresses from a suit without apparent reason; these appear to be people who have settled. In his Future Blue v. Does 1-300 lawsuit, for instance, Steele last week withdrew his claims against 15 IP addresses. If each one settled at $2,900 apiece, that's $43,500--not King Midas money, but hardly chump change, either.Of course, this is also why these lawyers are getting more and more annoyed about the courts potentially cutting them off from such an easy cash generating venture (shaking down people is so much fun). In that profile on Stone, he claims that he may have figured out a way to get around having to actually go to court first:
He's hard at work on his latest strategy, one that'll help him fly a little below the radar on his pirate hunt: a subpoena provision in the Copyright Act that he's hoping will let him track down names and addresses without having to sue anyone first.I imagine that would be news to the RIAA who already tried that and got shot down handily in court in the famous RIAA v. Verizon case. Of course, given his other mistakes, I guess it's no surprise that Stone apparently is unfamiliar with the case law on the matter.