Voltage Pictures Abuses Trademark Law To Go After Dallas Buyers Club Downloaders

from the of-course-they-are dept

We've discussed how Voltage Pictures, a big time Hollywood producer behind award winning films like Hurt Locker and Dallas Buyers Club, has been one of the few non-porn film entities to really embrace copyright trolling (in particular over those two named films). We've also discussed how courts have been frowning on mass copyright trolling lawsuits of late, leading some copyright trolls to seek alternative means to identifying accounts associated with particular IP addresses. For example, we noted that infamous troll Prenda Law has tried both questionable CFAA claims and a bizarre interpretation of an antiquated Florida state law, known as "pure bill of discovery" (a move that failed miserably).

It appears that Voltage and its lawyers' latest trick is to abuse Oregon's state trademark law, which is clearly designed for things like stopping counterfeit physical goods, and not to go after people sharing a movie they like. This was first noted on the Troll Defense blog written by Benjamin Justus (representing two defendants in these suits), with further reporting done by Joe Mullin at Ars Technica:
"It's a little bit puzzling to me, because they can't get damages against these people under Oregon trademark law," said Justus in an interview with Ars. "They'd have to prove they applied a counterfeit mark to a product. I have looked at the law, and this is not a slam-dunk case. My guess is that the lawyer for Voltage is trying to find a more convenient and friendly court to get his subpoenas out."
That's a good guess, because this has always just been about getting names and contact info in order to pester people. None of these cases ever go to actual trial. The legal damages are basically meaningless, because the copyright holder never intends to pursue this under the law. The reason for all these "workarounds" is exactly as claimed: seeking a "more convenient" way to get the subpoenas out to get this information. Picking random state laws is often more convenient, especially as less sophisticated state courts often have a lot less familiarity with the nature of copyright trolling and how these cases have fared at the federal level.

In fact, these filings try to make the same "joinder" case for lumping totally separate people together that has failed in so many copyright trolling cases across the country. Given that, it seems fairly clear that Voltage is basically just jurisdiction shopping for less sophisticated and less knowledgeable state courts. That really seems to be a serious abuse of the judicial process.

And, of course, the "trademark" claim itself is laughable. No one is infringing on the trademark here at all, no matter how Voltage's lawyers seek to twist the law. The lawsuit itself is full of emotional arguments -- including calling infringement "stealing," perhaps because the legal ones are not particularly compelling. Speaking to Joe Mullin at Ars Technica, Justus also noted that he gets the sense that this is "personal for the higher-ups" at Voltage. I think that was established many years ago. You may recall that when Voltage first started copyright trolling, a fan emailed Voltage's Nicolas Chartier to try to engage him in a friendly, respectful conversation about how copyright trolling probably wasn't a good way to win fans, and that there might be more appropriate ways to deal with the issue. In response, Chartier lashed out at the person, called him "a moron" and told him to "keep being stupid" and "I hope your family and your kids end up in jail one day."

So, yeah, it's pretty clear that this is an emotional thing for Voltage, and no attempt to talk sense to the company's execs is likely to do much useful. Given that, it's unsurprising that Voltage would now seek to abuse a state trademark law to continue on a path that has been failing using federal copyright law.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 28th, 2014 @ 1:20pm

    'he gets the sense that this is "personal for the higher-ups" at Voltage'

    isn't this the same for all the entertainment industries companies? surely no one in their right mind would continue down the same road for years, just because they can, would they? on top of which, what would happen if someone continuously did something intentionally to get others into trouble, when the answer was to make a a couple of changes to what they were doing and everyone was ok? with that in mind, how can the entertainment industries not only keep going down the same road of suing people, prosecuting people, bankrupting people and even get them locked away when the answer is a quick couple of changes and all that would stop? why are they allowed to keep doing the same thing just so they can get legal proceedings started against people and do it with as much help as possible from governments and politicians everywhere? is that not entrapment?

     

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

  2.  
    icon
    That One Guy (profile), Apr 28th, 2014 @ 1:30pm

    Justice system to the rescue

    All I can say is, thank goodness there are laws in place to punish companies that try and abuse the law like this to shake down random people for cash.

    I mean, just think of the huge mess there would be if this were not the case, the costs that would be incurred by those forced to decide between paying a couple hundred/thousand, guilty or not, or paying out the nose to defend themselves only to have the case dropped the second it looked like it might actually end up in court, lest their act of defending themselves cause the courts to look a little closer at the 'evidence' being used.

    If all it took to make extortion legal was waving around the words 'copyright', 'patent' and/or 'trademark', things would be a right mess indeed, so aren't we all lucky that isn't the case?

     

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

  3. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    bob, Apr 28th, 2014 @ 1:37pm

    Sharing a movie they like?

    What a wretched twisting of the language. By the same token, a sniper is just sharing a bullet he likes and a rapist is just sharing some sperm.

    I say it's a-okay to throw every book available at the anti-artist scum who believe that they're just "sharing".

    How about income tax law? It worked against Al Capone. I say let's get the IRS going after these guys for not reporting the income they get from their torrent feeds.

     

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

  4.  
    icon
    That One Guy (profile), Apr 28th, 2014 @ 1:45pm

    Re: Sharing a movie they like?

    So you object to calling file-sharing 'sharing', but have no problem comparing it to rape(again)... nice standards as always bob.

    I say let's get the IRS going after these guys for not reporting the income they get from their torrent feeds.

    Oh by all means, please, bring that to their attention, I'm sure they'd love to waste a bunch of time on something that involves the transfer of zero dollars between those that post the files and those that download them.

    Really, they might even give you a nice award for bringing that massive transfer of nothing to their attention, so what are you waiting for?

     

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

  5.  
    icon
    PaulT (profile), Apr 28th, 2014 @ 2:09pm

    Re: Sharing a movie they like?

    Oh dear, again with the rape and murder analogies. Do you have any facts to attack these people who have been *accused* of file sharing - not even found guilty, since your heroes are allergic to due process - or do you have to try and pretend it's equal to such crimes to have any point to make whatsoever. Stick to reality.

    "I say let's get the IRS going after these guys for not reporting the income they get from their torrent feeds."

    Ah, no facts, just the usual fantasies. Pray tell, what income do you think that the individuals sharing the files in question were making? Bearing in mind that Voltage have chosen to go against the people sharing files rather than the people hosting the sites they obtained the torrent files from? How lucrative do you think that an individual sharing one file is going to be?

    But hey, go ahead. You openly defend people breaking other laws in favour of going after people who have broken the one you favour, so why not make crap up at the same time?

     

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

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 28th, 2014 @ 2:19pm

    Re: Sharing a movie they like?

    If sharing a movie that just happens to have a trademark in it is trademark infringement, then you've effectively made a new copyright law with infinite duration.

    This isn't trademark infringement. It's copyright infringement. Bringing this action in a state court is improper. It is not OK to bring the wrong action because you don't want a federal court.

    Tax law? That's fine. Of course, that's a criminal action so the producers can't initiate it. And it only applies to people who make money off of the torrents and don't report it. It's rather difficult to make a case that the government should investigate a Doe for tax violations because he did some torrenting. If you don't know who he is, then even if you somehow know he made money off of it, you don't know that he didn't report it. That's rather like telling the government to investigate an IP address you detected accessing an online store because they may not have properly paid the sales tax. If you don't have evidence that they didn't pay it, you have no cause to investigate.

     

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

  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 28th, 2014 @ 2:54pm

    Re:

    is that not entrapment?

    Ummmm, no. Not even close.

     

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

  8. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 28th, 2014 @ 2:57pm

    Re: Sharing a movie they like?

    Mike Masnick just hates it when copyright law is enforced.

     

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

  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 28th, 2014 @ 3:27pm

    Re: Sharing a movie they like?

    Again with the rape analogy... Stay classy bob.

     

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

  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous, Apr 28th, 2014 @ 3:41pm

    I've never seen the movie, but really, out of all the movies to download, why that one?!

     

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

  11.  
    icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Apr 28th, 2014 @ 3:48pm

    Re: Sharing a movie they like?

    Nicholas you really shouldn't let your emotions rule your head.

     

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

  12.  
    icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Apr 28th, 2014 @ 3:52pm

    Re:

    It is based on actual people and actual events that happened early on in the fight against HIV/AIDS and highlights how people were screwed by the government and laws that were causing people to suffer and die needlessly.

    It also was in Oscar contention which raised the profile, and one would think getting it to consumers when they wanted it would make much more sense then following the silly windowed release crap.

     

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

  13.  
    icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Apr 28th, 2014 @ 3:55pm

    Sadly this isn't the first time I've seen a trademark case used in trolling, but then very little surprises me in this arena.

    http://fightcopyrighttrolls.com/2012/04/22/new-copyright-troll-tactic-trademark-infringement/

    A nyone else see the irony in the trolls copying each others ideas?

     

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

  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 28th, 2014 @ 4:27pm

    Garbage in garbage out. We need to make a movie, put it up for download on a torrent site, and hire a pseudo-Prenda team to make money for us. Surely I could create a more entertaining movie than these rat droppings. I honestly couldn't watch their garbage. These leaches should try an east Texas court if they want to extort cash from the 99%.

     

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

  15.  
    identicon
    RD, Apr 28th, 2014 @ 4:51pm

    Re: Sharing a movie they like?

    "What a wretched twisting of the language. By the same token, a sniper is just sharing a bullet he likes and a rapist is just sharing some sperm. "

    Speaking as someone who has had someone very close to them raped violently, lets just hope that someday if YOU get raped or shot, then we will see how quick you are to compare REAL violence with your twisted version of what passes for copyright "law."

     

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

  16.  
    icon
    art guerrilla (profile), Apr 28th, 2014 @ 5:10pm

    heh voltage volk...

    no doubt you google yourself on the hour, so here's a small sampling: due to your extreme copyright trolling, i did NOT go see the hurt locker -even though i wanted to- and will not (willingly/knowingly) patronize or buy any of your movies, etc...

    have NEVER 'pirated' ANY songs/movies/etc EVER; don't generally plan to do so; BUT, the extreme measures and attendant arrogant entitlement by MAFIAA and fellow travelers, makes me want to do so to simply spite you pukes...

    YOU are impediments to culture/society, NOT brave artistes casting pearls before swine...
    kindly FOAD...

     

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

  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 28th, 2014 @ 7:08pm

    "It appears that Voltage and its lawyers' latest trick is to abuse Oregon's state trademark law, which is clearly designed for things like stopping counterfeit physical goods, and not to go after people sharing a movie they like."

    Yes this is clearly an attempt to obtain IP addresses in an in-appropriate application of the law. There are no trademark infractions occurring in an obvious copyright infringement case. It is wrong.

    "Sharing a movie they like" is attempt to paint the actions of the individuals as innocent parties that have done nothing wrong. Please let's be intellectually honest and call it what it is. File sharing is copyright infringement. If it were letting your buddy borrow the film you bought that's "sharing a movie." Sharing it with 100,000 of your closest friends is something entirely different.

    So do the wrong doings of both parties cancel each other out?

     

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

  18.  
    identicon
    Don't Bother Seeing It, Apr 28th, 2014 @ 7:52pm

    Re:

    Not worth the effort or time to put it on - I saw about 30 seconds and that was painful enough.

     

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

  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 29th, 2014 @ 12:50am

    Re: Sharing a movie they like?

    "I say it's a-okay to throw every book available at the anti-artist scum who believe that they're just "sharing"."

    And presumably, you think it's okay to buy laws to throw at the people you believe are "scum" in order to extort them?

    Hell, from what I know, your bought DMCA was intended to stop commercial infringement. There's no honest way to claim it's used for that role.

    This is why you and your ilk are the bad guys in this debate - not because we say so, but because you happily claim the role through your lies and extortion.

     

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

  20. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    icon
    Trademark (profile), Apr 29th, 2014 @ 1:53am

    this is quite complicated once we step-in, correct me if i was wrong

     

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

  21. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    icon
    Raster To Vector (profile), Apr 29th, 2014 @ 2:37am

    It is whatever it is.

     

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

  22.  
    icon
    PaulT (profile), Apr 29th, 2014 @ 3:59am

    Re:

    Simple answer: because it's Voltage's Oscar winning production this year, and they didn't think they got paid enough.

    Voltage are producers of small films that have been getting some critical acclaim but have been struggling to make huge profits. Some of this is down to bad marketing (The Hurt Locker had a notably terrible campaign), some due to tackling uncommercial subject matter (TDBC is about drugs, AIDS, transgender and other issues that hugely uncommercial), release windows and other factors.

    However, Voltage have apparently chosen to simply blame piracy for any problems. Their film won awards, dammit, so they will get paid no matter who they piss off in the meantime.

    I'm someone who avoids their films, so even though another production, Don Jon, appeared n Netflix a few days back and is apparently pretty good, I still decided to avoid it in favour if their competitors products.

     

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

  23.  
    icon
    PaulT (profile), Apr 29th, 2014 @ 3:59am

    Re:

    Simple answer: because it's Voltage's Oscar winning production this year, and they didn't think they got paid enough.

    Voltage are producers of small films that have been getting some critical acclaim but have been struggling to make huge profits. Some of this is down to bad marketing (The Hurt Locker had a notably terrible campaign), some due to tackling uncommercial subject matter (TDBC is about drugs, AIDS, transgender and other issues that hugely uncommercial), release windows and other factors.

    However, Voltage have apparently chosen to simply blame piracy for any problems. Their film won awards, dammit, so they will get paid no matter who they piss off in the meantime.

    I'm someone who avoids their films, so even though another production, Don Jon, appeared n Netflix a few days back and is apparently pretty good, I still decided to avoid it in favour if their competitors products.

     

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

  24.  
    identicon
    Baron von Robber, Apr 29th, 2014 @ 8:43am

    Chartier is a dick

    the seeding will begin

     

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

  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 29th, 2014 @ 6:40pm

    Re:

    No, what's going to happen is the judge throws out this trademark-based claim, then realizes that Voltage is going after numbers randomly generated from their ass and throw the book at them.

     

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


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
Advertisement
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Chat
Techdirt Reading List
Advertisement
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Support Techdirt - Get Great Stuff!

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.