Voltage Pictures Abuses Trademark Law To Go After Dallas Buyers Club Downloaders
from the of-course-they-are dept
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.