Judge Alsup Threatens To Block Malibu Media From Any More Copyright Trolling In Northern California

from the run-away...-run-away dept

Yes, we keep seeing Judge William Alsup appear on these pages, as he keeps getting high profile tech related cases. And, while we don't always agree with his decisions, I don't think that anyone can argue that he isn't careful and thorough in making sure he understands the technology involved in these cases. The most well-known example of this, of course, was the time he taught himself to program Java to understand the deeper issues in the copyright dispute over Java's API's (which helped him make the right call in saying API's were not eligible for copyright protection -- a ruling that was unfortunately overturned by the Federal Circuit). More recently, Judge Alsup also got some attention for demanding lessons and reading materials in how to build LiDAR systems, to understand the trade secrets fight between Uber and Waymo over their LiDAR technology. And, just as a reminder, he's not talking about basic level stuff here:

Please keep in mind that the judge is already familiar with basic light and optics principles involving lens, such as focal lengths, the non-linear nature of focal points as a function of distance of an object from the lens, where objects get focused to on a screen behind the lens, and the use of a lens to project as well as to focus. So, most useful would be literature on adapting LiDAR to self-driving vehicles, including various strategies for positioning light-emitting diodes behind the lens for best overall effect, as well as use of a single lens to project outgoing light as well as to focus incoming reflections (other than, of course, the patents in suit). The judge wishes to learn the prior art and public domain art bearing on the patents in suit and trade secrets in suit.

Yeah. So. It was probably a good thing that, a year and a half ago, the Chief Judge in the Northern District of California, said that any new Malibu Media copyright trolling cases had to go in front of Judge Alsup. Malibu Media, of course, is the US's biggest copyright troll, responsible for a fairly insane percentage of all the copyright infringement lawsuits filed in the US. We've had a ton of stories about the company and some of its fairly shady practices in copyright trolling. Malibu Media, of course, is also a sleight of hand, as it's actually the porn company better known as X-Art. It's also been connected to the famous "international men of mystery", often referred to as Guardaley -- a German company, that's gone through various name changes, and seems to be behind numerous copyright trolling operations.

Either way, last year, we noted that Judge Alsup had been quick to understand what was going on with Malibu Media, and, in particular, called out the company for attempting to cut and run on any case when challenged. This is pretty typical of many copyright trolls. If the defendant in the case actually challenges anything, Malibu will often dismiss the case and run away, so as not to have to bother with defending its own legal tactics.

It appears that Alsup is getting increasingly tired of Malibu Media trying to abuse the judicial system as part of its shakedown business model. As first noted by the Fight Copyright Trolls blog, Alsup has issued an order to show cause why it should be barred from filing any more lawsuits in the district.

Specifically, Alsup is doing this in response to Malibu Media's claims that the geolocation technology it uses, from Maxmind, is close to 100% accurate in locating where a given IP address is located. If Maxmind sounds familiar, that's because it's the company which was the subject of numerous stories last year about how laughably bad its geolocation tools were, including the truly horrifying story of how Maxmind would tell lots of people that various IP addresses were at a random house in Kansas, leading lots of strangers to show up there, often angry about scams or spam.

So, yeah, to then go into court and declare that Maxmind is perfect... didn't go over too well:

In this particular case, as in each case filed in this district in October 2016, counsel for Malibu Media averred in a sworn declaration that Malibu Media used a database called “Maxmind” to map our defendant’s IP address to a particular district in order to determine the proper venue for this action (Dkt. No. 7-6). The declaration parroted several hearsay statements about the accuracy of Maxmind from its website, but counsel also averred that in their experience in California “Maxmind has always been 100% accurate to the state level, 100% accurate at identifying the ISP and has predicted the correct district 146 out of 147 times”

He then points to that article linked above, about the house in Kansas, and says that Malibu Media better come up with better evidence of accuracy, or that's it for lawsuits in Northern California:

Malibu Media is hereby ordered to SHOW CAUSE at that hearing, why the Court should not bar further Malibu Media cases in this district until the accuracy of the geolocation technology is fully vetted. Malibu Media shall file a written statement, with all factual assertions supported by declarations sworn under the penalty of perjury by MAY 16 AT NOON.

Oh, and since Malibu Media has a history of cutting and running, he added this kicker:

To be clear, this order applies even if Malibu Media voluntarily dismisses this action.

In other words: don't run and hide. It won't work.

The order also highlights that Alsup is well aware of how the copyright trolling scam works, quoting another judicial hero in the fight against copyright trolls, Judge Otis Wright, who famously was the first to call out Prenda, and kicked off a series of events that resulted in Prenda's two principles getting indicted.

Here, Judge Alsup quotes Judge Wright, calling out Malibu Media as well:

The Court is familiar with lawsuits like this one. These lawsuits run a common theme: plaintiff owns a copyright to a pornographic movie; plaintiff sues numerous John Does in a single action for using BitTorrent to pirate the movie; plaintiff subpoenas the ISPs to obtain the identities of these Does; if successful, plaintiff will send out demand letters to the Does; because of embarrassment, many Does will send back a nuisance-value check to the plaintiff. The cost to the plaintiff: a single filing fee, a bit of discovery, and stamps. The rewards: potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars. Rarely do these cases reach the merits.

The federal courts are not cogs in a plaintiff’s copyright-enforcement business model. The Court will not idly watch what is essentially an extortion scheme, for a case that plaintiff has no intention of bringing to trial.

It's really quite astounding that operations like Malibu Media have been able to keep this up this long. It eventually crashed and burned for Prenda, and it looks like Malibu Media may be facing some more significant challenges in the near future as well.

Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: copyright, copyright trolling, geolocation, william alsup
Companies: malibu media, maxmind, x-art


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Thread


  1. icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 15 May 2017 @ 10:45am

    Other ways of fighting copyright trolls

    An interesting article appeared on TorrenFreak yesterday with links to a paper by a law proffessor on how to fight trolls. It appears that the paper is targeted at defense lawyers so that they don't have to spend a hundred hours researching the subject, but can get right to work defending clients.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    Ninja (profile), 15 May 2017 @ 11:02am

    So while we watched Prenda falling epically in flames while furiously eating our popcorns Malibu was in the background preparing an even more awesome performance. I'll have chocolate flavored popcorn this time, please.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 15 May 2017 @ 11:04am

    Oh, here's another one

    From ArsTechnica: Judge’s order bars Uber engineer from Lidar work, demands return of stolen files. It looks like Judge Alsop has finished some of his reading.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 15 May 2017 @ 11:22am

    One can only hope that Judge Alsup will issue a Star Wars themed ruling to keep things fair in the fandoms.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 May 2017 @ 11:24am

    Copyright Trolls and their attorneys are really stuck up shit creek without a paddle. Prenda Law kind of muddied up those waters by abusing the system and now every Copyright Troll, even Copyright Lawsuits which are legitimate, are going to face stronger resistance and be force to prove to the court that they have a stronger case for merit for pushing forward.

    This is what happens when the first person to the finish line abuses something. When you abuse something very frequently, you ruin it for every other person coming in behind you.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 May 2017 @ 11:33am

    Re:

    I think I'll go Parmesan Flavoured. Truely Techdirt is missing out on selling branded popcorn tubs.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    ThaumaTechnician (profile), 15 May 2017 @ 11:41am

    Guardaley? A division of Vandalay Industries?

    Is their lawyer's name Kel Varnsen?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. icon
    sophisticatedjanedoe (profile), 15 May 2017 @ 12:01pm

    AVN

    Two days ago AVN (Adult Video News -- probably the most read x-biz news outlet) reported on this order. Maybe the general audience didn't notice, but I felt a significant shift in how this outlet (and adult industry in general) feels about copyright trolling phenomenon: the industry, which isn't happy about piracy, is now seemingly even less happy with increased government's attention.

    These concerns are not new: this 2-year old opinion is pretty convincing that suing general public is perilous for the entire industry. However, AVN was implicitly approving (at least in my perception) of "going after porn thieves." Apparently not anymore.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 May 2017 @ 12:04pm

    Re:

    Maybe he'll let a geek flag really fly, and use Firefly quotes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Baron von Robber, 15 May 2017 @ 12:17pm

    Prenda 2: Electric Malibu. :D

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. icon
    DannyB (profile), 15 May 2017 @ 12:27pm

    Typo?

    Alsup has issued an order to show cause why it should be barred from filing any more lawsuits in the district.

    Do you mean should not be barred? (from filing any more bogus lawsuits in the district?)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 May 2017 @ 12:51pm

    Grammar

    A principle cannot be indicted because it is not a person

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 15 May 2017 @ 1:09pm

    Damn shame this is nowhere near as entertaining as the Prendapocalypse. Now those guys knew how to make themselves look like complete jackasses in a court of law.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. icon
    Peter (profile), 15 May 2017 @ 1:14pm

    a request

    Before Malibu looses their main source of income and disappears into oblivion:

    Is there, by any chance, a picture showing one or more of those fearless fighters for copyright protection in government or congress, surrounded by samples of immense human creativity produced by Malibu that those honorable gentlemen in expensive dark suits work so hard to protect?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 May 2017 @ 3:04pm

    Re:

    We are in the same business as Prenda, but will not suffer the same fate suggests a mule like stubbornness, so they are the sons of jackasses.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 15 May 2017 @ 3:04pm

    Guardaley -- a German company

    That's odd, seeing as how that's a name that makes sense in this context, but not in German. In Spanish, "Guardaley" means "law-guard".

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. icon
    madasahatter (profile), 15 May 2017 @ 3:34pm

    Re:

    I was recently talking to a professional photographer. To those who pay for his services he grants limited non-commercial rights for the use of the photos stated in real people terms not shyster. He does have some trouble with some who grab a copy and misuse the photos on occasion. But he said a well crafted letter with an easy out usually clears up the misuse (mostly proper crediting and if a commercial site a small license fee). I got the strong impression that most like him do not file suits at every incident.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 May 2017 @ 4:48pm

    Re: Re: Grammar

    A principle is not a principal.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. icon
    Eldakka (profile), 15 May 2017 @ 6:48pm

    Re: AVN

    Yeah, I don't think I'll follow those links while at work... ;)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 May 2017 @ 7:25pm

    Remember when Malibu Media was claiming that they weren't like Prenda?

    Hasn't stopped them from trying, apparently.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. icon
    K`Tetch (profile), 15 May 2017 @ 7:43pm

    updating the geoip piece.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. icon
    K`Tetch (profile), 15 May 2017 @ 7:44pm

    Re: updating the geoip piece.

    grrr, silly commenting system

    Was going to ask, 'should I do an updated look at the geoip tools?'

    See if they've gotten any better (and can tell what country I'm in at least)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. icon
    legalcon (profile), 15 May 2017 @ 11:00pm

    Re: Typo?

    quite right, good catch.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. icon
    steell (profile), 16 May 2017 @ 8:56am

    Re:

    Guardaley Ltd.
    Daimlerstr. 9
    76344 Eggenstein
    Germany

    http://guardaley.com/

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    elidagolding (profile), 16 May 2017 @ 11:03am

    Judge Alsup Threatens To Block Malibu Media From Any More Copyright Trolling In Northern California

    A very well briefly written post, with lots of useful information.
    Thanks for sharing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. icon
    sophisticatedjanedoe (profile), 18 May 2017 @ 7:00am

    Update

    A quick update

    More interesting things may happen during/after today's hearing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Close

Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Recent Stories
.

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it
Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.