Court Refuses To Allow Defendant In Copyright Trolling Case To Proceed, But Hints At Reform

from the losing-but-winning dept

Over the course of the last year or so, coverage of copyright trolling stories turned up a common movie multiple times. That film was The Hitman's Bodyguard, and the outfits contracted to push for fees via settlement letters were both prolific and devious in trying to manipulate the settlement offer amounts to achieve the highest conversion rates. Whatever the level of intelligence that goes into these operations, however, there will almost always be a misfire, with a wrong target picked in the wrong court in such a way that makes the troll look like, well, a troll.

Such appears to be the case when Bodyguard Productions went after Ernesto Mendoza in court, claiming that he downloaded the film via bittorrent. The problem with the case is that Mendoza is both very, very insistent on his innocence and also manages to cast about as sympathetic a figure as one might be able to find. Mendoza is in his 70s and has end-stage cancer. When Bodyguard Productions attempted to voluntarily dismiss the case when it became clear that Mendoza wasn't going to settle, he tried to push the court to force the case to go forward so that he could recover his legal expenses. Sadly, the court refused.

After hearing both sides, Illinois District Court Judge Robert Dow decided to dismiss the case, ordering both parties to pay their own fees. This was a huge disappointment for the alleged file-sharer, who now has to bear the costs for a case that he isn't allowed to fight. According to his attorney Lisa Clay, the Court should ensure that plaintiffs are ready and willing to prove their case.

“Unfortunately, the Court’s recent order does not,” Clay tells TorrentFreak. “Granting the Plaintiff’s disingenuous motion to dismiss without penalty has the real consequence of strengthening the troll business model."

That's exactly correct. The fact that copyright trolls can simply back out of a case they aren't going to have settled -- the entire point of the troll's business model -- acts as an insurance policy against its efforts. By not forcing trolls to face the potential penalty of paying legal fees, there is essentially no consequence to firing off lawsuits with no regard to the facts. That's a truck-sized loophole in the legal system that clearly does an injustice to the accused party in copyright lawsuits.

It seems that even the court in this case recognizes the problem.

On a broader scale, there’s a positive note for future defendants. In the order, Judge Dow notes that the Court should re-evaluate how it handles these cases. In addition, the potential for abuse may also deserve the attention of the Rules Committee.

“[T]he points advanced by Defendant about the potential for abuse across the universe of peer-to-peer copyright infringement cases convince the Court that it should re-evaluate its own overall treatment of these cases and consider whether to suggest that the Rules Committee in this district look into the matter as well,” Judge Dow writes.

Which is great, except we still have a 70-year-old cancer patient out legal fees after a copyright troll cut and run from its own lawsuit simply because the troll was careless in filing its lawsuits. It's quite obvious that whatever that is, it sure isn't justice.

Filed Under: copyright, copyright trolling, ernesto mendoza, illinois, the bodyguard
Companies: bodyguard productions

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  1. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 28 Feb 2019 @ 12:01am

    How much does it cost to write: "False. See you in court." Because that IS all Defendant needed to do here.

    Your long-professed hatred for due process certainly accounts for your misunderstanding of actual process here. You also miss the fact that he did exactly that and still lost the right to have the case heard in court.

    even defending if totally innocent is not so simple

    Because it isn’t. To wit:

    you are simply assuming that this person isn't a particularly aggressive pirate who thought to turn table on … a "copyright troll"

    Your claim is the kind of bullshit that Mendoza would have needed to fight in court if Bodyguard Productions had decided to pursue the case to its end rather than duck out after Mendoza said “see you in court”. He would have needed to pay his lawyer a likely exorbitant amount of money to find evidence that he is not an “aggressive pirate” in general, and that is on top of whatever he needed to pay for evidence that he was not a “pirate” in this particular case. And none of that might even matter if a judge or jury somehow believes the evidence presented by Bodyguard Productions more than the evidence presented by Mendoza.

    But we don't know the truth here. -- "We" includes you. -- You're simply going on your bias.

    So are you. Your bias, however, seems to shift in favor of Bodyguard Productions being 100% in the right only because it is a copyright holder that took an alleged filesharer to court.

    the real criminals, as you must at least half agree are LAWYERS

    The real criminals are the lawyers who came up with and ran the copyright extortion scheme. Any lawyer working against that scheme is doing a public service.

    There's less to "investigate" when innocent than with a speeding ticket!

    Saying “I am innocent” and proving that innocence are two different actions, and one is clearly more complicated than the other.

    So where EXACTLY do huge lawyer fees for Defendant arise here?

    Mendoza may not have to pay “huge” fees, but having to pay a lawyer because a company claims someone illicitly downloaded a film would be a strain on anyone’s finances, let alone a 70-year-old undergoing treatment for cancer.

    Of course ANY fee for lawyer when innocent will SEEM outrageous, but any innocent people being forced to spend is due to you pirates who flout The Law, NOT any "copyright troll"

    Filesharers did not take Ernesto Mendoza to court over a case of infringement; Bodyguard Productions did. “Pirates” did not attempt to extort a settlement out of Ernesto Mendoza; Bodyguard Productions did. People who share movies and music and TV shows as an involuntary reflex did not force Ernesto Mendoza to hire a lawyer and fight a lawsuit that was inevitably going to be dismissed so the plaintiff would never have to pay any of the defendant’s legal fees; Bodyguard Productions did.

    Put the blame where it belongs — with the people/the company that pulled this scheme for the sake of a quick buck — instead of where it does not. Blaming piracy for the greed of the people behind Bodyguard Productions does nothing for your credibility (such as it is).

    no matter how evil you believe that practice is

    And herein lies another problem for you: You show no willingness to discredit or disparage the practice for what it clearly is (a extortionist scheme predicated on people being too scared of a full-fledged lawsuit). That you both refuse to denounce the scheme for the bullshit that it is and show a clear bias in favor of the company that perpetrated it says a lot about you.

    all that you're doing is defending piracy

    Show me a single line in this article that either defends or justifies the act of illicit filesharing in particular or the act of copyright infringement in general. The line must be a clear, explicit defense/justification that cannot be misinterpreted as anything else. Until you can do that, all you’re doing is defending an extortion scheme — as usual.

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