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.