The courts are catching onto and cracking down on those dubbed by netizens as copyright trolls. The latest outfit to incur judicial wrath for its online and legal actions questioned by many would be Malibu Media, an adult film producer. With the help of its lawyers at Lipscomb, Eisenberg, and Baker and other law firms, Malibu has been involved in more than 1,078 civil lawsuits against John Doe defendants in federal courts nationwide since May, 2012.
Malibu sues anonymous Internet users, accusing them of illegally downloading or sharing its adult films. Those caught up in the legal action face the choice of potential red-faced exposure of their identities and their interest in blue movies or settling, often at set costs that can make the registers ring for plaintiffs.
But U.S. District Judge William Conley in Wisconsin recently grew suspicious of Malibu when it started attaching to its complaints lists of other movies, allegedly downloaded by defendants and which were not subject to its copyright. The lists have become infamous as “Exhibit C” — rosters of movie titles racy, profane and even more embarrassing and salicious than those of Malibu’s movies.
The judge rebuked Malibu for its tactic and noted that “the lewd and obscene nature of the graphic titles and content are enough to persuade many initially anonymous defendants to reach early settlements out of fear of being ‘outed’ should the lawsuit proceed.” He also asserted that Malibu’s list was “calculated principally to harass defendants.”
He ordered Malibu’s attorney, Mary Shulz, to explain why she shouldn’t be sanctioned for filing the lists. Lipscomb and Schulz, and the co-founder of Malibu, signed declarations that they did not intend to harass defendants. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, with attorney Erin Russell, filed an amicus brief explaining the lists would “coerce defendants to settle, based…on reputation harm of being publicly associated with hardcore pornography.”
The court was unconvinced by Malibu and Shulz and her firm were fined $2,200. Conley ruled that attaching the lists of porn titles was unnecessary and a violation of the Federal Rules. Let’s see if others follow him in puting a halt to the this tactic.