by Mike Masnick
Mon, Mar 4th 2013 8:06pm
by Joyce Hung
Mon, Mar 4th 2013 5:00pm
from the urls-we-dig-up dept
- Companies like Luca Technologies and Next Fuel are investigating the potential for microbial methane production from coal. Their approach is to stimulate native microorganisms that feed on underground hydrocarbon deposits to produce more methane. This could make it possible to extract fuel from coal reserves that have been too expensive to mine. [url]
- Researchers at Purdue University are studying how termite digestion could help improve biofuel production. They found that protists, which live in the termite's gut, may play an important role in the insect's digestion of woody material. Further research could lead to finding enzymes that could one day be used to help improve biofuel production. [url]
- Researchers at UC Berkeley have created a biodiesel fuel using a fermentation process that was once used to make explosives in World War I. The process uses a bacterium called Clostridium acetobutylicum (also known as the "Weizmann Organism") to ferment sugar from various sources -- including corn, sugar cane, molasses, woody biomass, or plant biomass -- and produces acetone, butanol, and ethanol. The fermentation products are then converted into a mix of hydrocarbons that are similar to those in diesel fuel. The resulting fuel burns as well as petroleum-based fuel and has more energy per gallon than ethanol. [url]
- Researchers at UC San Diego have demonstrated for the first time that marine algae can also be used to produce biofuels like fresh water algae. They genetically engineered the marine alga Dunaliella tertiolecta to produce five different enzymes that could be used to convert biomass to fuel. Their finding suggests that algal biofuels could also be produced in the ocean, in the brackish water of tidelands, or even on otherwise unusable agricultural land with high salt content in the soil. [url]
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Mar 4th 2013 4:00pm
from the heading-for-a-showdown dept
Brett Gibbs, who has been trying to weasel out of a variety of troubling situations concerning his acting as a lawyer for Prenda in California, was finally forced to answer some questions from Judge Otis Wright -- the same judge Gibbs tried to have kicked off the case once Wright started asking Gibbs to explain who the mysterious Alan Cooper really is. That effort failed (miserably) and last we'd seen, Judge Wright was threatening sanctions (including potential incarceration) against Gibbs for his, um, lack of candor.
Late last week, Judge Wright also consolidated a bunch of Gibbs' Prenda cases, so that they were all included for the sanction hearings on March 11, and also ordered Gibbs to answer some basic questions:
The names and contact information of the “senior members of the law firm that employed Mr. Gibbs in an ‘of counsel’ relationship.” (Gibbs Resp. 2.);Gibbs names John Steele and Paul Hansmeier as the "senior members" from whom he took orders, both when he was working with Steele Hansmeier and with Prenda Law. That's not surprising, but marginally interesting since Steele, at times, likes to pretend that he's not working for Prenda. The more interesting tidbit concerned the "CEO" of AF Holdings and Ingenuity 13, the two shell companies that Prenda has been using for a bunch of these lawsuits, which many believe are controlled by Steele and Hansmeier. Those are the companies who supposedly had "Alan Cooper" as their CEO, until Alan Cooper, who took care of one of Steele's homes, spoke up to the court, wondering if his identity was being used illegally. Apparently "Alan Cooper" is no longer CEO, but Mark Lutz is the CEO (of both companies).
The names and contact information of the persons who make “strategic decisions . . . whether to file actions, who to sue, and whether to make a certain settlement demand or accept an offer of settlement.” (Gibbs Resp. 2.);
The names and contact information of the “owners of these copyrights.” (Gibbs Resp. 2.) If these owners are business entities, then provide in addition the names and contact information of the principals of these entities.
The names and contact information of the principals of AF Holdings LLC and Ingenuity 13 LLC.
You may remember Mark Lutz for his laugh-o-riffic appearance in that Florida Prenda case which consisted of a hearing worthy of Abbott and Costello. Lutz, who was identified as a "former" paralegal for Steele, was there to be the "representative" of the plaintiff, a company called SunLust. However, an absolutely hilarious exchange with the judge (which came about after she saw Lutz talking to Steele, who claimed he was just there to "observe" but had no actual involvement in the case) showed that Lutz was not a representative of the company, but a stand-in for Steele. Here's just a snippet.
THE COURT: Mr. Lutz, you're under oath, you have to give truthful answers or you face penalties of perjury. Do you understand that?If you follow the FightCopyrightTrolls site, they've spent plenty of time tracking Lutz, who (that site claims) is Prenda's main "enforcer" in trying to get people to pay up. People receiving phone calls related to Prenda cases, asking the recipient to pay up to avoid getting sued, often report that it's Lutz who is calling (though it appears he may use another name on some phone calls). That "Alan Cooper" is gone from Ingenuity 13 and AF Holdings, and Lutz has been put in his place, adds even more weight to what most people suspected: that the companies are mere shells for Steele and Hansmeier, who seem to be trying to layer on more and more and more bullshit to avoid getting in serious trouble for their actions in these cases, seeking any way possible to try to demand money from people they accuse of infringing copyrights (or, in some crazy cases, accessing computers in an unauthorized manner).
MR. LUTZ: Yes.
THE COURT: What is your position with Sunlust?
MR. LUTZ: I'm a representative of them.
THE COURT: What does that mean?
MR. LUTZ: Corporate representative.
THE COURT: What does that mean?
MR. LUTZ: They asked me to appear on various matters throughout the country.
THE COURT: Are you an officer of the company?
MR. LUTZ: I'm not, no.
THE COURT: Are you authorized to bind the company to any legal contracts?
MR. LUTZ: I am not.
THE COURT: Are you salaried?
MR. LUTZ: No, 1099.
THE COURT: So you are a 1099 contracted entity and you just go around and sit in a Court and represent yourself to be the corporate representative of the company?
MR. LUTZ: Yes.
THE COURT: Mr. Torres, did you know this was Mr. Lutz's position, a paid corporate representative?
MR. TORRES: No, Your Honor, I did not.
THE COURT: Who is the president of Sunlust?
MR. LUTZ: I'm unaware.
THE COURT: Who is the vice president?
MR. LUTZ: I'm unaware
THE COURT: Who is the secretary?
MR. LUTZ: I have no idea.
THE COURT: Who owns Sunlust?
MR. LUTZ: I do not know.
THE COURT: Who signs your checks?
MR. LUTZ: I believe somebody in the accounting department.
THE COURT: What is their name?
MR. LUTZ: To be honest with you, I can't read the signature.
THE COURT: Where is the accounting department located?
MR. LUTZ: I'm sorry?
THE COURT: Where is the accounting department located?
MR. LUTZ: I've received checks from California.
In the answer, Gibbs also refuses to directly respond to Judge Wright's question to reveal the contact information for Steele and Hansmeier, but does offer to file them under seal. There is, of course, no mention of Alan Cooper.
I imagine the hearing on March 11th should be quite the spectacle.
Mon, Mar 4th 2013 2:55pm
from the own-the-mistake dept
President Barack Obama mixed Star Wars and Star Trek metaphors in response to a question from CNN's Chief White House Correspondent Jessica Yellin in the White House Briefing Room on Friday, saying he didn't have the power to "somehow do a Jedi mind meld with these folks and convince them to do what's right."The internet, as you'd imagine, lost their collective Sith (editor: is this a typo? I think this is a typo.). Message boards went crazy over the revelation that President Obama couldn't keep the Vulcan mind meld and the Jedi mind trick square in that noggin of his... so how can we trust him with drone strikes. Okay, so it wasn't that big a deal, but you have to give his staff credit for being able to own a mistake, silly as it may be, and turn it into an opportunity for the administration. Rather than get defensive about the silly news item, or even just ignoring it, the White House owned the mistake and poked a little fun at themselves while still trying to get their point across.
But then I saw the White House's response to Obama's unwitting mash-up and I had to admire the cheekiness of it. By the end of the day the White House Twitter account had posted the following meme photo, which in one fell swoop owned the error, proved that the White House knew its stuff in regards to Star Wars and Star Trek, and informed those following the story of the issue that the President was discussing when he made the slip-up.
We must bring balance to the Force. #Sequester #JediMindMeld twitter.com/whitehouse/sta… — The White House (@whitehouse) March 1, 2013
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Mar 4th 2013 1:55pm
from the would-a-hammer-and-nails-represent-circumvention dept
Of course, most people would recognize that this automatically decreases the value to the buyer. They can't see the actual plan? They can't have it on their computer? Then why would they buy it in the first place? You don't convince people to pay by taking away a key part of the value. And yet that seems to be the entire goal of Fabulonia.
As with music, software, movies and more, these all are cases of imposing artificial scarcity where it makes no sense to do so. It's not just "digital vandalism," it's out and out economic vandalism, because you are purposely destroying a resource that can be used for economic growth. It's really tragic that people still think this is a concept that makes any sense at all.
Mon, Mar 4th 2013 12:51pm
from the building-a-martyr dept
Image source: CC BY 2.0
It's the fact that the point behind the mask was solidarity against oppression that made Dubai's move to outlaw the masks so misguided. But they are no longer the only nation to do so. Bahrain has now banned the import of the masks, trying desperately to stave off a 2-years running protest movement. The ban came from the country's commerce department, because apparently they don't think that masks can be made by their citizens. As The Independent noted:
Sadly, though, it is but a mask. And the thing about a masks is, you can print them, paint them or draw them yourself. Unless the minister plans to ban all such activity it seems an action as futile as the real Guy Fawkes's.Not so much futile, in my opinion, as mega-back-firing. Bahrain has now perfectly exemplified an oppressive government by taking action against the symbol of resistance to that oppression. If they thought the masks bred solidarity, I'm guessing they haven't seen anything yet.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Mar 4th 2013 11:45am
from the i-don't-think-it's-legal-help-that-he-needs dept
On Friday, the Center's President apparently threatened to sue lawyer Ken White, better known as Popehat, defender of internet free speech. You see, Popehat had covered the original story too, and for some reason, the President, Ken Matherne, isn't too happy about that (even though it's three years later). Perhaps it was this tidbit in Popehat's original post (which was actually quoted from a local news site):
In addition to filing this lawsuit, via email Global Wildlife Foundation president Ken Matherne threatened to file criminal charges, FCC charges, fraud charges, an IRS complaint, a governor’s office complaint, and a federal lawsuit against Brilleaux. Matherne’s email did not explain any basis for the additional threats.If that gives you a sense of Matherne's grasp on basic legal concepts, and his willingness to assume that he can use all sorts of totally unrelated laws against people he doesn't like, well, you're just getting a tiny little sense of what Popehat went through on Friday. You kind of have to read the whole thread on Popehat to get the full effect, because each time you think "this can't possibly get more ridiculous," it does exactly that. Assuming Matherne really did send the emails in question, he would appear to have almost as much trouble with the English language as he does with the legal concepts he uses to threaten White. Here's a snippet from the first email:
My last case to decide the Apple vs Microsoft case. I am not joking – you can send this email to the judge and soon as I file suit. I will ask you as I asked that kid to take it down, if you think your malice to to our Foundation is free speech – let’s get real lawyers and hosted judges to find out! It scared teachers, parents and the general public. They were canceling trips, it was malicious, and the evidence given to court was a fraud. I did not say anything at the time. But, I think he would get dis-board by the falsified documents he presented to the judge. His father was a friend or I would have had he dis-board.There's also a discussion about Matherne's belief that White is apparently a dope smoking drug fiend who is having sexual relations with the partners at his law firm (or maybe on Popehat, it's not clear). White, quite calmly, asks Matherne if there was anything specific in the original post that he felt was a false statement of fact, and offered to review such claims and "make adjustments to the post if appropriate." Matherne's response was to just demand that the original Popehat article was taken down "or believe I will do everything for my daughter that you would do for your children !"
Everyone will see the truth of you and your boyfriends. You can print this – You do not have a clue what you did to damage my foundation I created for my daughter. And when you wake up in the morning – hoping you have kids- I want you to think about what you have done. Your site has done more damage than the issue and my guys think your damages will be worse the any free speech issue. And we are ready!
We are going to dp this all legal – get ready – I will have one of your partners, associates , friends , spouses, in dispositions for the at least the next 6 – 12 months. Minimum – 1 lawsuit lasted 12.7 years, the next only 6 . I have the means – so write me back or get ready. This again is no threat. Simply a promise. It is no longer about what the kid did – it is about what your company did! And I promise you we will win = you have damaged my daughters trust for at least 50 years. You are about to meet the best attorneys on the planet.
And then it got wacky.
Just send me you attorney of record – you will not hurt my daughter – I do not care what it cost ! Ken It was a BS move – and I appreciate that you do that for the best of people – but you always know our kids are first – and I don't care how many $ it takes – my daughter will not live with this – so I will ask you one more time to pull this down – as a gentleman – or I will come to you! My airplane is only 10k an hour – have more cash & Gold in the bank than you can imagine – but if you hurt my daughter through this – my executives has all authority to go until all is done – I only have 1 daughter and it breaks her heart to see this! I would not do this to you or your family!I really love this line: "My airplane is only 10k an hour – have more cash & Gold in the bank than you can imagine."
White points out, in response, that he is still waiting for any specific inaccuracies, and notes that he's willing to speak to any attorney representing Matherne -- to which Matherne initially sent a simple "Game on!" email, followed by this (not the full email, which has more where this came from):
Get your check book out – and unless you can buy every judge to the State Supreme Court – you will pay damages = not about freedom of speech –If I'm reading this right, and I believe that I am, Matherne is not only threatening to take White to court under some ridiculous legal theories, but he is flat out admitting that he does "not care" about "inaccuracies." He also seems to be admitting throughout that he's doing this to tie White up in court. I would imagine that if this ever actually got to a court and wasn't thrown out immediately, these admissions would not help his case very much.
Oh, And I will follow up with everything I said I would do. Ken White, You better have an attorney or get one .
Cannot wait to meet you – You are and I can “quote again” a piece of shit! You do a disservice to mankind. I hope the judge we come before understands what a parasite you are and does not want his kids or grandchildren to be exposed to someone like you!
And I do not care about are inaccuracies about was said or texted. You are wrong and you are libel. Again, I do not lose lawsuits, and I do not think to can pay off the judges!
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Mar 4th 2013 10:46am
from the so-now-what dept
The White House has quickly sided with the petitioners:
The White House agrees with the 114,000+ of you who believe that consumers should be able to unlock their cell phones without risking criminal or other penalties. In fact, we believe the same principle should also apply to tablets, which are increasingly similar to smart phones. And if you have paid for your mobile device, and aren't bound by a service agreement or other obligation, you should be able to use it on another network. It's common sense, crucial for protecting consumer choice, and important for ensuring we continue to have the vibrant, competitive wireless market that delivers innovative products and solid service to meet consumers' needs.The White House's response also points to the initial filing done by the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which had actually filed in support of keeping the exemption for mobile phone unlocking during the triennial review process. Unfortunately, the Librarian of Congress decided not to follow that recommendation.
This is particularly important for secondhand or other mobile devices that you might buy or receive as a gift, and want to activate on the wireless network that meets your needs -- even if it isn't the one on which the device was first activated. All consumers deserve that flexibility.
So, now what? The White House seems open to having Congress fix the problem, but also seems to think that the FCC may be able to fix it as well, which is probably why the FCC started claiming it would investigate the situation last week.
The Obama Administration would support a range of approaches to addressing this issue, including narrow legislative fixes in the telecommunications space that make it clear: neither criminal law nor technological locks should prevent consumers from switching carriers when they are no longer bound by a service agreement or other obligation.This is definitely a victory for those of us who are against the overreach on copyright, though there is still a ways to go. We haven't actually seen the problem get fixed yet, just that the White House is supporting fixing the issue.
We also believe the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), with its responsibility for promoting mobile competition and innovation, has an important role to play here. FCC Chairman Genachowski today voiced his concern about mobile phone unlocking (.pdf), and to complement his efforts, NTIA will be formally engaging with the FCC as it addresses this urgent issue.
Finally, we would encourage mobile providers to consider what steps they as businesses can take to ensure that their customers can fully reap the benefits and features they expect when purchasing their devices.
Separately, it's a bit disappointing that the White House focused on narrowly targeting just this particular problem, rather than recognizing that this is just a symptom of the broken DMCA anti-circumvention setup. A truly bold statement would have been to go even further and recognize that the law itself is broken. Passing a "narrow legislative fix in the telecommunications space" just duct tapes on a way to attack this particular symptom of the broken system, but does nothing to attack the disease at the root of it.
Derek Khanna, who helped lead the charge on this petition and has rallied support behind this issue, says that this is a success that should be celebrated. In a statement to Techdirt, he noted:
This is terrific news. It shows the power of the people to affirmatively act to fix policy rather than just stop bad policy. We the people have this power when we come together to fight for positive, common-sense solutions. This is a major affirmative victory for the digital generation that stood up against censorship of the internet through SOPA a year ago. The work of this movement is not done, now Congress must follow through -- and it will require continued activism and engagement from average people who made this possible.I agree that this is a "narrow" victory, but again I worry about the White House just looking to duct tape up a solution to this one issue, rather than looking at what caused this problem in the first place.
A free society should not require its citizens to petition their government every three years to allow access to technologies that are ordinary and commonplace. Innovation cannot depend upon a permission-based rulemakings requiring approval every three years from an unelected bureaucrat. A free society should not ban technologies unless there is a truly overwhelming and compelling governmental interest
by Tim Cushing
Mon, Mar 4th 2013 10:00am
from the i'd-say-everyone's-familiar-with-this-song,-but... dept
So, it's come to this: the heightened paranoia surrounding all things kid- and school-related, post-Newtown (but also post- other school shootings as well) has managed to turn nearly everything into a potential menace. It's one thing to be cautious and alert for warning signs or veiled threats. It's quite another to turn a recorded rendition of the "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" theme into a police matter.
Here's how this bit of insanity went down, as delivered by Gideon of A Public Defender. (You may remember Gideon as the Twitterer whose curiosity about a certain unenforceable statement kicked off the Teri Buhl fiasco.):
First, from the increasingly stupid United States of America, a story of how a teen’s life got flip-turned upside down. You see, he was just on the playground where he spent most of his days, minding his own business. You know, chilling out, maxing, relaxing all cool and sometimes with this friends he liked to be shooting some b-ball outside of the school.A few things to note:
WAIT. DID HE JUST SAY SHOOT AND SCHOOL IN THE SAME SENTENCE? ARREST HIM! Once you’re done laughing, know that that’s exactly what happened to 19-year old Travis Clawson because a doctor’s office called his voicemail to confirm an appointment, heard the above line, thought he was shooting people outside the school and called cops. Who arrested him first, then spent the 20 seconds it takes to realize it’s the theme song from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. No word on whether Carlton showed up to dance and everyone laughed at him.
1. This was the teen's voicemail greeting. It wasn't as if he was calling the school and making threats. It's highly doubtful that criminals (or aspiring criminals) are leaving records of their future exploits as voicemail greetings. Gideon doesn't seem convinced this is a thing.
Also: is this a thing now? People leave notes of their criminal intent as voicemail messages? "Hi, you've reached my cellphone. I'm unavailable right now because I'm robbing that Stop-n-Go on Orchard and Willard. Leave me a message and I'll get back to you when I get out in 5-20 years because I'm stupid enough to leave --- BEEP."2. The police arrested the student for something that took likely less than a minute to explain. Couldn't this have been handled with a little in-person questioning, rather than escalating the situation immediately by arresting first, questioning second? I understand that the word "b-ball" could possibly be misheard as "people" and the receptionist probably did the right thing by notifying law enforcement, but it still seems as though this could all have been sorted out in a five minute discussion.
3. This isn't noted in Gideon's commentary, but the police had the teen's school (along with the rest of the district) go into lockdown mode while they searched for the Will Smith-quoting "gunman." From there, it gets even more ridiculous:
The call to 911 forced the entire district into lockdown for about 30 minutes and police said they detained the 19-year-old student for three hours while searching his locker, before determining that it was all one big misunderstanding.Never mind what I said about point 2. I know it's often said that we should "err on the side of caution," but, seriously, three hours to "search a locker?" Obviously, no one bothered asking the teen anything about the message until they ran about 2:50 off the clock.
Officer Mike Natale says, "[The teen] was afraid and embarrassed." No kidding. I would imagine more of the first than the second. Three hours being detained by police while under lockdown and not being given any hint as to what started the whole debacle would make anyone, possibly even an actual criminal, "afraid."
In wxpi.com's story, the police officer states that the teen "had learned from his mistake" (towards the end of the video). Really? What mistake? There are plenty of mistakes in this story, but a teen recording one of the most well-known TV theme songs as an outgoing voicemail message isn't one of them.
Mon, Mar 4th 2013 8:54am
from the wait,-what? dept
It just keeps coming. More and more news items are hitting my eyeballs and ears about violence and video games. We recently discussed the problem with polling adults over this issue, where a giant age-rift still exists amongst gaming habits and that rift appeared to be tossed out for the purposes of the poll in question. Polls like that might be laughable at first, but when you begin to see misplaced legislation introduced by politicians kowtowing to the results, we've got a problem. But let's take it one possibly controversial step further and ask an important question regarding these polls: do Americans generally have any credibility on the question at all?
Polls like this recent Harris poll, where over half of American adults link violence and video games, make me question whether that is the case. The problem I have isn't that specific result. If half of Americans think there's a link, that's their right. I can disagree with it, but I won't quibble with their right to believe. No, my problem is the results of the follow up questions regarding the ESRB rating system.
Two thirds of US adults said they used the ESRB system to help them decide which games were suitable for their children, although only 14 percent claimed to fully understand what the guidelines meant. 18 percent of adult said they mostly, but not completely understood the ESRB ratings system.To highlight the absurdity of the respondents, one needs only place all this in a single sentence. Over half of adults believe violence and video games are linked, two thirds of them use an ESRB system, which less than 80% even claim to mostly understand, to decide which games to buy for their children. This isn't to say that the ESRB rating convention isn't without its problems, but come on. If half of adults think there's a link between children and violence, but can't be bothered to mostly understand the rating system (which isn't that complicated), then there's a disconnect somewhere. Either adults don't actually think the link exists, or else they don't really consider the link to be all that important.
Either way, it doesn't speak to the credibility of the American public on the issue, which is sad.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Mar 4th 2013 7:40am
from the family-feud dept
For nearly ten years, Universal was delighted to accept StudioCanal's investment of hundreds of millions of dollars to offset Universal's financial obligations. During most of this period, StudioCanal and Universal were corporate siblings through common ownership by the French company Vivendi. The StudioCanal/Universal joint venture financed forty-four Working Title motion pictures, including About A Boy, Bill Elliot, Bridget Jones Diary, Frost/Nixon, Love Actually, O Brother Where Art Thou?, Pride And Prejudice, and United 93.Of course, none of this should be remotely surprising. We've seen so many stories of movie financing shenanigans that these stories hardly sound unique. It's just that the lawsuit might make some of the actual details public, which would certainly be educational.
Last October, StudioCanal concluded an audit of the joint venture's development and overhead expenses, which Universal had managed. StudioCanal also concluded audits of Universal's distribution of several of the joint venture-produced motion pictures, in several (but hardly all) Universal-assigned territories and in several (but hardly all) media.
Those audits revealed that Universal was violating its fiduciary and contractual obligations to StudioCanal. For example, based on the audit reports, StudioCanal is informed and believes, and based thereon alleges that: (a) Universal intentionally hid from the partnership and kept for itself benefits it derived from off-balance sheet financing arrangements; (b) Universal failed to report, or reported negligible amounts of, ancillary revenues from sources such as music publishing, only to somehow "find" several million dollars in such revenues after receiving the audit reports; (c) Universal retained for itself financial benefits from vendors, thereby profiting for itself at the expense of its partners; (d) Universal double-charged the partnership for producing and other fees paid to Working Title without StudioCanal's knowledge or approval; and (e) Universal deducted millions of dollars in unsubstantiated expenses before reporting the results to its partner StudioCanal.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Mar 4th 2013 5:34am
from the grab-some-popcorn dept
These are basically defamation lawsuits with a few other claims thrown in as well. There are two named defendants in the lawsuit: Alan Cooper (a caretaker for a home of John Steele, who has accused Steele/Prenda of illegally using his name as "CEO" of companies Ingenuity 13 and AF Holdings) and Paul Godfread, Cooper's lawyer, who filed the letter alerting some judges to these concerns, and then followed it up by filing a lawsuit against Steele and Prenda on behalf of Cooper.
The other targets of the lawsuit are a bunch of unnamed John Does (and if these guys have expertise in anything, it's filing lawsuits that involve John Does), who are... a bunch of anonymous commentators concerning the various Prenda Lawsuits. It looks like they're targeting people on the two main copyright troll tracking websites out there, FightCopyrightTrolls.com and DieTrollDie.com. It's worth noting that both sites were the subject of a nice profile article in Ars Technica last week.
The three filings are similar, but not identical. The Prenda one and the Duffy one are almost identical, but the Steele one is different in a few ways, including focusing on lots and lots and lots of statements specifically about Steele. Steele's suit also does not make the "false light" claim, which means he actually realized that Florida has rejected "false light" as a tort in that state.
Still, all three suits read like obvious SLAPP suits, targeting online critics. The fact that they target Cooper and Godfread, who have a lawsuit pending against them, is ridiculous. That they then go after anonymous bloggers and commenters who have been revealing and calling attention to some of Prenda's more questionable moves seems like an obvious SLAPP situation, in which they appear to be using the lawsuit to create chilling effects and to stifle speech. Looking over the long list of quotes they pull out in the various lawsuits, the vast majority seem to be clear statements of opinion, rather than fact. And even when you could argue some of them are statements of fact -- such as referring to anyone associated with Prenda as a "criminal" or a "scammer" or calling Prenda a "fraud" or similar such things -- courts have increasingly noted that name calling in online forums does not reach the level of defamation, since the context matters. That's no guarantee, as those rulings are still limited, but it's at least a sign that these lawsuits may be overreaching in their claims (which, of course, is a key component of a SLAPP).
It is not uncommon for people in comments on blogs to go a bit far in some of their claims (and even the main authors of the two blogs above sometimes seem to make pretty strong statements that may not be fully supported by the evidence presented). However, to take that to the level of defamation feels like a pretty big stretch. If anything, these lawsuits seem more likely to be attempts to first "out" the folks behind those blogs (and some of the nastier comments) and, barring that, to scare them with chilling effects.
Of course, one interesting thing: the best defense against defamation claims, obviously, is the truth. And, it would seem that, in filing these lawsuits, Steele, Duffy and Prenda may have opened themselves up to pretty wide discovery efforts which may turn up things they probably would rather not have in court. That point alone has me wondering why they'd take this step.
On top of that, the lawsuits note that the plaintiffs are not public figures, which sets the bar much lower for defamation. Paul Duffy might be able to get away with such a claim, but John Steele would seem to have a lot more difficulty. After all, he's been the subject of detailed profiles in Forbes Magazine (which he happily participated in). Forbes doesn't do profile stories on nobodies.
It would seem important to note that both Illinois and Florida have passed anti-SLAPP laws. Florida's are fairly narrowly defined, however, and may not be useful here. Illinois, however, has as broader anti-SLAPP law that has sometimes been interpreted narrowly. Both of these are reminders for why we desperately need a federal anti-SLAPP law.
It appears that, at least for now, Steele and Duffy are representing themselves, while Prenda has another law firm representing the firm. Cooper and Godfread have signed up lawyers to represent them in both Illinois and Florida (in Illinois the lawyers, Erin Russell and Jason Sweet, both have a decently established history of fighting Prenda cases, and while I wasn't familiar with the name, the same appears to be true of Brad Patrick, who is representing them in Florida).
As always with Prenda/Steele, every time you think a story can't possibly get crazier, it seems to take another massive curve in the road. At some point, when this is all over, there's going to be an amazing book to be written about the rise (and, most likely, fall) of John Steele and his adventures in copyright trolling. The story is gripping.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Mar 4th 2013 3:28am
from the and-so-this-continues dept
The key issue: the jury instructions were explicit that the jury not award Apple based on Samsung's profits for any utility patent infringements. But, in looking through the awards, it became clear that this was exactly what the jury did. Note that all of this came about in response to Apple's attempt to increase the award above $1 billion -- and, as a result, the reward has now been massively reduced.
Apple’s motion for an increase in the jury’s damages award is DENIED. The Court declines to determine the amount of prejudgment interest or supplemental damages until after the appeals in this case are resolved.And yes, the judge clearly called out the jury:
Because the Court has identified an impermissible legal theory on which the jury based its award, and cannot reasonably calculate the amount of excess while effectuating the intent of the jury, the Court hereby ORDERS a new trial on damages for the following products: Galaxy Prevail, Gem, Indulge, Infuse 4G, Galaxy SII AT&T, Captivate, Continuum, Droid Charge, Epic 4G, Exhibit 4G, Galaxy Tab, Nexus S 4G, Replenish, and Transform. This amounts to $450,514,650 being stricken from the jury’s award. The parties are encouraged to seek appellate review of this Order before any new trial.
... it is apparent that the jury failed to follow the Court’s instructions on the law, and awarded damages based on a legally impermissible theory. This award cannot stand.Either way, this is far, far, far from over. There needs to be a new trial just on damages and there are the various appeals. Stay tuned, because unless the two companies settle (and they've shown little inclination on that front), we've still got a few more years of this mess.