BitTorrent Attorney Fees: Judge Beckerman Awards Fees to Successful Defendant when Copyright Troll Continued to Press Case Knowing Defendant was Innocent

FULL OPINION LINKED BELOW

Judge Stacie Beckerman issue the following opinion on December 2, 2016 in the US District Court in Oregon.  Finding that Carl Crowell, the Salem, Oregon lawyer who has sued 100s of people for allegedly engaging in BitTorrent activity – none of which have made it to trial – continued to litigate the case against a person he knew was not liable.

Fierce Attorney David Madden represented the Defendant Gonzales, who was on the internet service contract for a group home that he owned.  This is a significant case for Oregon BitTorrent litigation, as it is understood to the the first time the Oregon US District Court has ordered that attorney fees should be paid because of Carl Crowell’s litigation choices.

beckerman_stacie“When it initially filed this case, Plaintiff had a reasonable basis to allege that an unknown person had illegally downloaded Plaintiff’s movie. Thus, the claims were not frivolous, when filed. However, Plaintiff learned soon after filing the case that Gonzales, the IP address subscriber, did not reside at the group care home at which the alleged infringement was taking place, but instead merely paid for the Internet service. After deposing Gonzales, Plaintiff acknowledged that Gonzales was not the likely infringer. (See Carl Crowell Decl. ¶ 11, July 22, 2015 (“Based on my conversation with Mr. Gonzales, it does not appear that he is a regular occupant of the residence or the likely infringer.”).) Plaintiff also learned that many individuals had access to the Internet connection at the group home, and that Gonzales was not responsible for managing the Internet connection at the home. (See Thomas Gonzales Dep. 16:19-21, 17:11- 19, Oct. 20, 2015.) Nevertheless, Plaintiff did not dismiss its case, but instead decided to double down and name Gonzales as the defendant. (First Am. Compl., ECF No. 24.) When Gonzales filed a motion to dismiss the contributory infringement claim, Plaintiff did not dismiss the claim, but instead forced Gonzales to litigate the motion.

 

The Court finds that once Plaintiff learned that the alleged infringement was taking place at an adult group care home at which Gonzales did not reside, Plaintiff’s continued pursuit of Gonzales for copyright infringement was objectively unreasonable. Plaintiff’s discovery that Gonzales was not the infringer came before Gonzales accrued the fees submitted for approval, and therefore the requested fees relate to a time period during which Plaintiff’s continued pursuit of Gonzales was objectively unreasonable.

 

Gonzales alleges that Plaintiff has “filed hundreds of cases against thousands of Does across the United States” to extract “overreaching settlements.” (Def.’s Mot. Att’y Fees 10.) Gonzales accuses Plaintiff’s counsel of using legal process as a “lever” to force defendants into settlement. (Def’s Mot. Att’y Fees 5.) Gonzales claims that the Copyright Act permits Plaintiff to pursue cases “with absolutely no requirement to prove damages” and “an unwilling ‘client’ [i.e., the defendant] on the hook for all of its attorney’s fees.” (Id.)

Plaintiff responds that “money has never been a goal of plaintiff in this action—only addressing the persistent and pervasive infringing activity of Gonzales who was either personally responsible, or who willingly allowed . . . others to infringe plaintiff’s rights after hundreds of notices.” (Pl’s Resp. 4.) Plaintiff’s response is contradicted by its knowledge early in the litigation that Gonzales was not personally responsible for the alleged infringement, and later in the case that he is not legally responsible for the alleged infringement of others. Despite that knowledge, Plaintiff continues to attack Gonzales in its response to Gonzales’ fee motion, faulting Gonzales for many things, including his refusal to accept Plaintiff’s offer to settle the case, even though that offer required an admission of liability for infringement for which Plaintiff knew Gonzales was not responsible.

This Court has already highlighted its concerns with the litigation strategy pursued by Plaintiff and other plaintiff LLCs in the hundreds of BitTorrent cases filed in this district. See, e.g., Cobbler Nevada, LLC v. Anonymous Users of Popcorn Time, No. 3:15-cv-01550-SB, 2016 WL 4238639, at *4 (D. Or. Aug. 10, 2016) (denying plaintiff’s fee motion, and noting that “the threat of fee-shifting has emboldened Plaintiff’s counsel to demand thousands of dollars to settle a claim, even where the infringing defendant admits early in the case that they illegally downloaded the movie”); Glacier Films, Inc. v. Turchin, No. 3:15-cv-01817-SB, 2016 WL 4251581 (D. Or. Aug. 10, 2016) (same).4 At least one other judge in this district has also expressed concerns about the motivation driving some of these cases. See Countryman Nevada, LLC v. DOE-73.164.181.226, —F. Supp. 3d—, 2016 WL 3437598, at *7 (D. Or. 2016) (finding that Plaintiff’s counsel had “conducted [] litigation in a manner calculated to increase the opposing party’s costs—and, at the same time, to increase the bases for [his] own fee petition”).

Although Plaintiff urges the Court to believe that “money has never been the goal” of this action, this Plaintiff and similarly-situated plaintiffs continue to demand large sums of money from individuals to settle these BitTorrent copyright claims. Many individuals agree to pay these large sums without the benefit of legal counsel. See Anonymous Users of Popcorn Time, 2016 WL 4238639, at *4. The Court shares Gonzales’ concern that Plaintiff is motivated, at least in large part, by extracting large settlements from individual consumers prior to any meaningful litigation. On balance, the Court has concerns about the motivation behind Plaintiff’s overaggressive litigation of this case and other cases, and that factor weighs in favor of fee shifting.

“When a litigant—whether plaintiff or defendant—is clearly correct, the likelihood that he will recover fees from the opposing (i.e., unreasonable) party gives him an incentive to litigate the case all the way to the end.” Kirtsaeng, 136 S. Ct. at 1986. If fees are shifted, “a person defending against a patently meritless copyright claim has every incentive to keep fighting, no matter that attorney’s fees in a protected suit might be as or more costly than a settlement.” Id. “Conversely, when a person . . . has an unreasonable litigating position, the likelihood that he will have to pay two sets of fees discourages legal action.” Id. at 1987. “The copyright holder with no reasonable infringement claim has good reason not to bring suit in the first instance (knowing he cannot force a settlement and will have to proceed to judgment)[.]” Id. These results “promote the Copyright Act’s purposes, by enhancing the probability that both creators and users (i.e., potential plaintiffs and defendants) will enjoy the substantive rights the statute provides.” Id.

Awarding Gonzales compensation for defending against Plaintiff’s contributory infringement claim provides similarly-situated litigants an incentive to defend their rights under the Copyright Act. Compensating Gonzales will encourage future defendants with valid defenses to litigate those defenses, even if the litigation is expensive. Conversely, and perhaps more importantly, awarding fees to Gonzales should deter Plaintiff in the future from continuing its overaggressive pursuit of alleged infringers without a reasonable factual basis.

Conclusion

Plaintiff’s claims against Gonzales were objectively unreasonable, and the Court has concerns about Plaintiff’s motivation in continuing to pursue those claims when it became clear that Gonzales was not responsible for the alleged infringement. To incent similarly-situated defendants to protect their rights under the Copyright Act, and to deter Plaintiff from overaggressive litigation tactics, the Court concludes that a fee award to Gonzales is appropriate.

 

Judge Denies Attorney Fees in Oregon BitTorrent Case by Glacier Films – American Heist

This Oregon judge denied attorney Carl Crowell his clients’ attorney fees in a case in which the Defendant admitted downloading American Heist using a BitTorrent network. Even though this was a copyright infringement, the judge suggested that the Plaintiffs and their lawyer were using the power of the federal court to extract unfair settlements from people who download a single movie.

 

 

Oregon Sex Change and Name Change Legal Forms with Nonbinary Option

Oregon law allows a person to change the legal sex/gender marker by court order.  The law does not limit the gender designation to Male or Female.  On June 10, 2016, Amy Holmes Hehn granted a petitioner’s request to be designated as NONBINARY.

I have altered the forms provided by the court to include the NONBINARY designation so people can seek this change on their own.

Below you will find two sets of forms….the first is to legally change both the sex/gender and the name and the second set is just to change the sex/gender.

CHANGING SEX/GENDER AND NAME

CHANGING SEX/GENDER ONLY

Oregon Judge Grants Legal Sex Change to Person who Identifies as Non-Binary

On June 10, 2016, a Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge for the State of Oregon granted Jamie Shupe’s petition to change the legal sex/gender marker from Female to Nonbinary.  Lake Perriguey, of Law Works LLC,  represented Jamie in what is understood to be the first order from a United States state court to recognize “non-binary” as a legal gender/sex identifier as part of a legal sex change procedure.

Oregon law does not specifically limit gender choices to Male or Female.  Instead, the law allows a judge to order a legal change of sex and enter a judgment indicating the change of sex of a person if the court determines that the individual has undergone surgical, hormonal or other treatment appropriate for that individual for the purpose of gender transition and that sexual reassignment has been completed.  See Oregon Revised Statute 33.460.

 

 

 

 

Legal Sex Change Gender Change in Oregon Courts

Since 2013, Oregon law does not require that a person submit to surgery prior to a court ordering a change in the person’s sex marker. Oregon law currently recognizes only two identifying words for a person’s “sex” – Male and Female. The Oregon process to change the legal gender/sex status from M to F or from F to M is relatively simple.  You do not need to hire a lawyer.

The Oregon law states:

A court * * * may order a legal change of sex and enter a judgment indicating the change of sex of a person if the court determines that the individual has undergone surgical, hormonal or other treatment appropriate for that individual for the purpose of gender transition and that sexual reassignment has been completed. (ORS 33.460).

In Multnomah County, Portland, the forms may be picked up, filled out, and filed on the second floor of the courthouse. The forms and instructions are at this link: Sex Change Forms and Instructions

You can file for Sex Change and for Name Change at the same time for one fee.

The filing fee is $111.

Judges in Portland will not ask for a doctor’s letter, as the law does not require a letter.

The Lane County Court website wrongly states that surgery is required.  Judges in jurisdictions outside of Portland may be less familiar with the law.

Call Lake at 503.227.1928 if you need assistance, or would prefer not to go to court, my office can handle all aspects of name and sex change orders and appear before the court on your behalf.

Property Company Files Motion to Gut Portland efforts to protect tenants from rapid evictions

Melcliff Associates, LLC, the plaintiff seeking to overturn the City of Portland emergency ordinance to provide renters a slight reprieve from rapid evictions, filed a motion today arguing that state law controls, and the City of Portland overstepped its authority in a way that harms land owners’ rights.