Judge Awards $100k In Attorney's Fees Over Copyright Trolling, But Downplays Fraud Aspects

from the too-bad dept

We've written a few times about how the film Elf-Man was used in some copyright trolling shakedowns, mostly focusing on some documents that came out in the case of Elf-Man v. Ryan Lamberson, revealing how a German anti-piracy company which keeps changing names and identities appeared to be behind not just that case, but many, many, many copyright trolling cases. The lawyers for Lamberson, mainly Chris Lynch, had uncovered a ton of information detailing how this German operation, referred to as Guardaley, but also called APMC, Excipio, IPP, Crystal Bay Corporation, and a variety of other names, really runs the copyright trolling operations, finding lawyers and copyright holders to basically act as fronts. The Germans provide "experts" who pretend that the software used to track down people to shakedown is somehow infallible, but the experts have no credentials, and the "software" is very, very questionable. In a filing earlier this year, some of the web of deceit was revealed:
As the defendant’s own investigation revealed in Elf-Man, Crystal Bay Corporation, the company Macek (and Patzer?) supposedly “worked for” ... was a defunct South Dakota corporation, apparently incorporated in 2012 by a disbarred lawyer who, according to his website, “now specializes in creating ‘anonymous’ ‘shelf’ corporations.” .... The official address Crystal Bay Corporation registered with the South Dakota Secretary of State? It belongs to a mail forwarding company, and it is the same address given for the disbarred lawyer’s “Agent Services” company.... Same thing with the Stuttgart, Germany address given for Patzer and Macek: it corresponds to an office building in Stuttgart “that offers mail drop services and short term office rents, even by the hour.” ... The Elf-Man defendant also investigated the phone numbers given for Patzer and Macek. The regional code for Macek’s number corresponded to Karlsruhe, Germany. The regional code for Patzer was for a suburb of Karlsruhe....

The coup de grace from Elf-Man: when defense counsel there recently called the (Karlsruhe) phone number given for Macek in the initial disclosures in that case, the person on the other end of the line answered it “Guardaley.”
In the specific case, Lynch has been trying to recover attorney's fees from Elf-Man, asking for about $220,000. Elf-Man's lawyers countered with $5,000 in a series of emails [pdf] that are fairly amusing, with Lynch pointing out that the longer Elf-Man drags this out, the more that's likely to be revealed about Guardaley and the various German individuals behind it. Apparently, they decided to take their chances, insisting $5,000 was its final offer.

The judge in the case, Thomas Rice, has now granted around $100,000 in attorney's fees, showing that the $5k counter was a joke. This is a pretty big win, certainly. I'm sure that "Elf-Man LLC" and the various German troll puppet masters didn't expect to have to pay out $100,000 when they started this particular shakedown process. However, it is still a bit disappointing that the judge basically ignores all of the shenanigans uncovered about the German puppet masters and declares that part of the research unrelated and cuts it out of the fees to recover. As Fight Copyright Trolls notes, it's not surprising that the judge reduced the final amount owed -- as that happens frequently -- but it was still a bit disappointing that he brushes off the questionable behavior behind the lawsuit in the first place:
Third, this Court excludes all hours that are “excessive, redundant, or otherwise unnecessary,” from Defendant’s proposed award.... Defendant’s counsel spent over 200 hours investigating whether there is a “real party in interest” other than Elf-Man, LLC; researching the involvement of foreign third parties, such as Guardelay and APMC; researching whether Mr. Griffin, an investigator in numerous other BitTorrent cases, is fictitious, and thus perpetrating a fraud on the judicial system; and investigating whether Vision Films was a necessary party. Mr. Lynch alone logged over 180 of these hours, primarily investigating whether the potentially fraudulent investigator Mr. Griffin had committed a fraud on the court in other cases. Because this case was voluntarily dismissed before the relevance of these pursuits became clear, this Court is unable to determine that such tasks were completely unnecessary. However, based on the time entries and the procedural posture this case ultimately reached, Defendant’s counsel’s pursuit of these topics, particularly Mr. Lynch’s, can properly be characterized as excessive and not reasonably billed to a client.
While I absolutely understand why Judge Rice did this, it's a big part of the reason why these guys keep getting away with this crap. Every time their questionable practices, fake people, shell companies, etc. are called out, they cut and run, dismissing cases and heading for the hills. Sure, in this case they'll still have to pay $100k, but it's not really related to these activities that appear to be fraud on the court. They'll just move on to new shell companies, new shady lawyers and other questionable behavior. These guys have figured out that as long as they run away fast enough they may have to sometimes pay one of these attorney's fees rewards, but so many other people are falling for the shakedown game that it's still likely to be quite profitable.
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Filed Under: attorneys' fees, chris lynch, copyright troll, copyright trolling, elf-man, ryan lamberson
Companies: apmc, crystal bay corporation, elf-man llc, excipio, guardaley


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  • icon
    sophisticatedjanedoe (profile), 12 Jan 2015 @ 2:40pm

    Whether it is a coincidence, or these guys have some sense of humor, Griffin is the surname of Herbert Wells's Invisible Man.

    I'd bet it's a coincidence, although some trolls were caught being somewhat creative (e.g., Prenda's "Under the Bridge Consulting").

    Around 200 declarations signed by "Griffin" were filed nationwide in 2012-2013 by a dozen of attorneys. It's way more impudent than Prenda's use of Alan Cooper's name.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Jan 2015 @ 3:27pm

    'it was still a bit disappointing that he brushes off the questionable behavior behind the lawsuit in the first place:'

    maybe where the other $120,000 went?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Jan 2015 @ 3:36pm

    I guess fraud and making false statements in court isn't a crime in Germany.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Jan 2015 @ 3:45pm

      Re:

      Sure it is... if it's a German court.

      It's generally not a crime to make false statements in someone else's court.

      The trick will be to follow the money -- at some point money had to change hands, and if someone can track this down, it suddenly becomes an issue in BOTH German and US courts (as business was conducted in both countries that is likely fraudulent).

      The problem right now is that they run fast enough that nobody gets near the money during investigation.

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

      • icon
        ltlw0lf (profile), 12 Jan 2015 @ 4:14pm

        Re: Re:

        It's generally not a crime to make false statements in someone else's court.

        It actually is. The problem is that the US court system has generally ignored all but the most egregious cases of perjury.

        The problem right now is that they run fast enough that nobody gets near the money during investigation.

        The problem right now is that the courts tend to treat the trolls, especially ones making a lot of money for the courts, as more important and more incorruptible than those of citizens even when those trolls turn out to be more crooked than a horizontal pole.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 12 Jan 2015 @ 9:03pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          I agree with what you said, but the problem I have with the trolls and the courts is that there are courts and judges across the country that are very troll friendly and the trolls use this to their advantage.

          There have been some states and the judges in them that have taken the trolls to task for their filings and actions taken in those cases.

          The mere fact that the trolls can drag some poor ISP subscriber into a lawsuit and expend as little as money possible in filing the suit while the defendant is forced to spend money to defend them self or risk a default judgement shows how the deck is stacked against the defendant.

          The trolls use these lawsuits to exert pressure on a defendant if they choose to fight the lawsuit with a lawyer or if they choose to act on their own.

          The trolls know they will run up a defendant's legal fees if they drag it out by asking for discovery, asking for the hard drives, wanting to question everyone in the household, wanting to examine any storage devices and on and on and on, and all the while the defendants costs go up the more his lawyer has to respond to the inquiries from the trolls.

          The trolls have these lawsuits gamed from the beginning, and if they see trouble on the horizon (like they did in this case) they can always try and dismiss the case and make a run for it.

          Until the Judges in the jurisdictions where these cases are filed start to crack down on the trolls and these type of lawsuits, the trolls will just refine their methods so they don't end up facing fee awards.

          It's sad just how the system is rigged against the defendant in these trolls lawsuits, and the lawyers filing these suits know this and are using it to their advantage as there is a lot of money to be made in the troll lawsuit game (the Prenda gang is a perfect example of how profitable it can be )

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Jan 2015 @ 11:40pm

      Re:

      Considering how many false statements have happened under Oath in Congress, there's no room to take the moral high ground.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Jan 2015 @ 1:07am

      Re:

      It's not a crime in America either depending on who you are. Take Eric Holder for example.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Jan 2015 @ 4:56pm

    Bawk! Bawk!

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

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 12 Jan 2015 @ 5:27pm

    Now, here's the $100,000 question:

    What happens if they refuse to pay?

    Having a ruling against them is nice, but ultimately completely useless if there's absolutely no penalty for them ignoring it.

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

  • icon
    Anon E. Mous (profile), 12 Jan 2015 @ 7:38pm

    I would be of the belief that we will see the trolls take a page out of the Prenda playbook and try to deny, deflect, and delay any attempts to have to pay the fee award. Lowe’s attempt with comedy by the way of offering a 5k sympathy fee payment ought to only encourage Lynch/Lamberson to keep the trolls feet to the fire.

    I would be of the opinion that we will hear claims of how their client can’t pay, and there is no assets and bla bla bla. The bad thing I see in Rice’s ruling is that I see no mention of any of the Plaintiff attorneys being held accountable to pay any of the fees which is a shame really.

    Now Elf-MAN LLC is going to be the one tagged to pay the fee award, but of course there will be appeals and delays and the usual run around, but I see trouble on the Horizon much like the Prenda gang had with AF Holdings.

    Elf-MAN LLC has taken a lot of settlements in from it’s various cases all over the U.S., and has a lot of actions still pending, which means it has earned and still has the potential to receive monies from settlements and judgement’s which is going to be a headache for them.

    If they try and pull a Prenda. sooner or later they are going to have to answer some questions and trot out a face to answer those questions ( much like when Paul Hansmeier did the Prenda two-step at the AF Holdings depostion ) and we all know how well that went for the Prenda gang….Well the gang at ELF-MAN LLC could be in the same predicament

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jan 2015 @ 1:05am

    how exactly are they going to be forced to pay 100K? Won't they just dissolve whatever fake company they are currently pretending to be and just vanish from the public eye while reforming as a new fake company?

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

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 14 Jan 2015 @ 3:41am

    If I went to court with the documents being used by the Germans in this case, my ass would have been found in contempt and I would be facing criminal charges for lying to the court.
    Do the same thing but have a JD and some hand-waving happens and it is suddenly okay.

    By not pursuing what was fraud upon a court, the reputation of the courts have taken yet another hit. They do not like these cases, do not trust the plaintiffs (with good fucking reasons), yet still manage to let them walk away from clear fraud. This is not a case of a oopsie we meant this not that, this is nonexistent corporations, nonexistent people filing statements with the court... and the court remains complicit in its roll as a cog in a business model extorting cash.

    It is better that 100 guilty men walk free, than a single innocent man spend 1 day in jail.
    It is better that we let them just have the names for 100 ip addresses, than consider that an officer of the court is boldly lying to our face even when the evidence is clearly presented to us.

    IP is our greatest asset, it turns porn, box office busts, and straight to dvd d rated films into huge money makers. No one will ask where the files came from, no one will ask how they IPs were found, no one will ask why the expert doesn't exist, no one will ask why the company is a ghost, all you need is $400, a list of IPs, and a boiler plate filing and the magic happens.

    When someone tells you why copyright is just fine, show them these cases and ask how they can claim it isn't broken.

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

  • identicon
    Jim Tracy, 17 Feb 2015 @ 6:34am

    I had no clue that much money could be awarded for attorney fees! That is crazy! I wonder how the judge came to a ruling like that. I would love to know the process one goes through for that to happen.

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


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