Anti-Piracy Informant Who Thought He Was A Paid Informant Sues Adobe For Not Paying Him

from the WE-RAT-ECONO dept

An interesting case has been brought to our attention by Eric Goldman. What happens when someone takes it upon themselves to play IP Policeman for a large corporation? The plaintiff in this case, David Heller, uncovered piracy of Adobe products in Florida (referred to in the opinion as the baseball-esque "Florida Pirates"). He brought this information to Adobe's attention. Adobe was pleased. So was Heller… at least for a little while.

The problem seems to be that Heller felt he should have been paid for his investigative efforts while Adobe felt he should have been satisfied with being a Good Citizen.

Shortly after publishing his discovery on his personal blog, Heller was contacted by Adobe's outside counsel, David Pham. A meeting between Heller and Adobe reps was set up.

The meeting included Pham, Heller, and other individuals from Adobe and Pham’s firm. Heller requested that Adobe provide him with physical protection and compensation for the additional information he was prepared to provide Adobe. An Adobe employee, Michael Draper, agreed. Heller provided the information to Adobe.
Adobe took the information Heller gave them and sued the Florida Pirates. A settlement was obtained (the opinion provides no further details on this). Everyone got paid but Heller.

So, Heller sued Adobe, claiming at least $75,000 was owed him. Heller offers no supporting documentation for this dollar amount, which is apparently based on nothing more than being the minimum needed to file a suit in federal court, rather than a state court. The court takes note of this.
Here, Heller has alleged that the amount in controversy is met, but Heller does not allege the value of the underlying promise or the value of the work that Heller did for Adobe. Therefore, the Court cannot determine if federal jurisdiction is proper.
That settles the point of where the case actually belongs: PROBABLY NOT HERE. Going from there, the court finds it extremely difficult to pinpoint anything about this case that might allow it to go forward -- at least in an unaltered state.
As alleged, the complaint sets out that sometime in late 2013, Heller met with Pham and Draper who promised to pay him in exchange for information about the Florida Pirates. The amount of payment was not specified at that time. The complaint does not set forth when Heller was supposed to release this information, to whom, and when Adobe should have paid him, or how much. The parties apparently did not agree on a compensation range or mechanism to determine compensation in the future. In total, Heller alleges a vague promise, and without more specificity, the Court cannot determine the scope of the duty or an assessment of the damages.
The court grants Heller leave to amend this part of his complaint, but without a written agreement in hand, it's doubtful a reconstructed allegation will do much to address the lack of evidence for his claims.

Similarly granted leave to amend is Heller's equally vague claims about the $75,000 worth of anti-piracy efforts he performed for Adobe.
The complaint states that Heller performed substantial work on investigating the Florida Pirates before Adobe requested the information. Heller states that he only seeks recovery of reasonable value of the time that was spent after Adobe explicitly asked Heller to spend the time to provide further information. Dkt. No. 13 at 4. Heller’s explanation of what services he performed and their reasonable value are conclusory and vague in the complaint.
The same goes for Heller's claims of intentional misrepresentation. Again, without an agreement in hand specifying what work was to be done and what amount of compensation would be due, there's nothing for Heller to work with. It's very difficult to claim a defendant misrepresented something that was never put down on paper or existed in any tangible form.

It very well could be that Adobe and its counsel maneuvered Heller into performing free anti-piracy work for it. It wouldn't be the first time a large company exploited an individual. Or it could be that Adobe felt any further investigative work would add little value and didn't allow itself to be put in the position of cutting large checks for information of limited usefulness. Either way, Heller doesn't appear to have much in his corner other than his firm belief that he was screwed.

One of the more interesting questions this lawsuit raises (but will never answer) is how often this sort of thing happens? Who reports piracy and what do they expect to get out of it? Do larger companies rely on a network of paid informants or are they more likely to accept tips without handing out anything in return?

These questions will likely remain unanswered as it appears that Heller doesn't have enough damning information to sustain a lawsuit against Adobe. An amended complaint can't fix deficiencies related to a complete lack of verifiable claims. Since this one won't be moving to the discovery stage, we'll all have to wait until the next screwed informant files suit against a major IP player.

Filed Under: copyright, david heller, piracy
Companies: adobe


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Apr 2016 @ 11:13am

    In other news Man shocked to find out verbal contract not worth the paper it was printed on.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Apr 2016 @ 11:19am

      Re:

      Depends on the jurisdiction. In my area if one can prove "offer, consideration, and acceptance" - that's 3 different principles - the courts will recognize and enforce a verbal contract as if it were a written contract.

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

  • icon
    A Dan (profile), 4 Apr 2016 @ 11:21am

    Who Reports Piracy

    My assumption has always been that the typical informants are disgruntled employees looking to scorch some earth after departure. A quick Google search points to several articles claiming this to be the case.

    http://zbrella.com/financial-risk-never-considered-software-piracy/

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

  • icon
    Christopher Best (profile), 4 Apr 2016 @ 11:25am

    BSA

    The BSA promises big cash rewards for NARCing out your employer. Always wondered what kind of person could be tempted by something like that...

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

    • icon
      JoeCool (profile), 4 Apr 2016 @ 1:59pm

      Re: BSA

      Someone who was just fired, or in danger of being fired.

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

      • icon
        Manabi (profile), 4 Apr 2016 @ 2:14pm

        Re: Re: BSA

        Or just someone who feels like they're being mistreated/overlooked for raises or promotions/etc. Don't have to be in danger of being fired to be pissed off enough to report them. I've certainly taken enough bullshit from some employers that I can understand someone deciding to report them and "get even" a bit.

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

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 4 Apr 2016 @ 12:05pm

    O wow. Considering this is copyright, does it mean whatever and the other trolls work for free? I'm kind of sad for them :-/

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Apr 2016 @ 12:11pm

    Snitch get nothing, which is better than stitches, then bitches.

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

  • identicon
    LAquaker, 4 Apr 2016 @ 12:52pm

    Guy sleeps with jackals & gets nothing but fleas

    Poor rat, no compensation for feeding the Pusher Man.
    Perhaps Adobe will give him a free line or two.
    ~~~~~

    So, they 'give away' 'PDF' 'readers' until the whole universe is aboard, then move your $paid-for 'AcrobatX-pro' into their 'DC' cloud and lie to you about your purchased software every time you open it.

    Sorry, hard to write when I'm this pissed off

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Apr 2016 @ 12:56pm

    What kind of person drops a dime on their company? Why, pissed off employees, of course.

    Take a guess who provides the most information to the IRS concerning tax fraud? Yep, pissed off ex wives.

    Typically, the payment to the dime dropper is a percentage of the amount recovered for the piracy.

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

  • identicon
    Jacques, 4 Apr 2016 @ 2:15pm

    searchable DB exists

    and can be found here:
    https://offshoreleaks.icij.org/

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Apr 2016 @ 7:05pm

    Consider that for a long time, the RIAA/MPAA have been constantly trying to hand off the costs of three-strikes systems onto ISPs. Even studios have been not-so-subtly hinting to their employees to donate their meager salaries to antipiracy organizations.

    Antipiracy is pretty much notorious for not paying people to enforce it on their behalf. This knucklehead really should have known better.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Apr 2016 @ 10:33am

      Re:

      Or it could be that Adobe felt any further investigative work would add little value and didn't allow itself to be put in the position of cutting large checks for information of limited usefulness.
      This is what all corporations claim about everything. Any time they can get away without paying they will do so.

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

      • icon
        GEMont (profile), 5 Apr 2016 @ 5:57pm

        Re: Re:

        Rant Warning: Definitely ;tl/dr

        A corporation is a "legal entity", which was incorporated ("given corporeality=life"), by law, to accumulate more money this year than it did last year, forever.

        Thus, like a corporeal counterpart, it must gather more money every year, to grow ever larger, or die (dissolve).

        It has no other purpose, goal, or direction, and can be used by anyone for the desired result of continuously collecting capital, for capital's sake under any guise, offering any service, product or result, forever, even though it is obviously impossible to drain a closed system, infinitely.

        It may; in this endeavour, use any and all legal weapons at its disposal, and consider all "legal ramificiations" as expenditures against the curve of profit.

        By law, any and all punishments will consist of holding the legally-born "corporation" entity, to blame for infractions of law, morality, society and humanity, incurred through this single-minded policy, by its human board of directors and associated members, rather than accuse the members of the board or any associated members of any wrong-doing whatsoever.

        The corporation may indeed profess any morality it pleases without breaking any laws, as long as it actually pretends to make some attempt toward actually fulfilling the edicts of that chosen or stated morality, at least publicly, but is otherwise free to lie at will - because: legally created entities have no God and do not go to heaven for being good and thus need obey no law, nor consider any social more, as having any bearing upon their use as support for those who succumb to legally induced addiction to eternal wealth mongering.

        And because one cannot arrest and incarcerate a legally-born entity, a fine consisting of a small percent of the typical annual profits of that offending incorporated entity, will suffice to gain the court's favour, for any crime for which such a legal entity is caught and charged - barring unexpected evidence over which the courts have no control and other such boo-boos.

        When the law is written by Merchants, the governed-by-law become property, a commodity to buy and sell among the privileged Merchant Class, according to their own secret version of Human Rights.

        If you're an evil genius (or organized crime member) bent on power via wealth and connection, the corporation is the way to go.

        See the Panama Papers for an intro to Corporate Cool. :)

        ---

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Apr 2016 @ 2:43am

    Maybe he moonlights as a government informant. All that paperwork is certainly charged far more than its worth.

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

  • icon
    John Fenderson (profile), 5 Apr 2016 @ 6:37am

    He forgot the first rule of contracts

    If it's not in writing, it doesn't exist.

    (Legally not always true, but practically it's nearly always true.)

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

  • identicon
    kitsune361, 5 Apr 2016 @ 12:18pm

    This reminds me of my Favorite Judge Judy quote

    What do you call two individuals without a contract?

    LITIGANTS!

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

  • icon
    GEMont (profile), 5 Apr 2016 @ 2:25pm

    Couldn't happen to a nicer guy. :)

    Karma.

    Sometimes, its all you get.

    ---

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

  • identicon
    Wendy Cockcroft, 6 Apr 2016 @ 8:09am

    Is it bad that I've got Kid Creole and the Coconuts' Stool Pigeon playing in my head as I read the article?

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


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