Federal Judge MAY Set Up Pro Bono Legal Assistance For Defendants Sued By Voltage Pictures/Carl Crowell [UPDATED]
from the it couldn't happen to a lousier person dept
[Update: as has been pointed out by Ars Technica’s Joe Mullin, Judge Mosman is not a chief judge yet and could not have signed those orders. As was correctly noted by Fight Copyright Trolls [and in the part I quoted!], these are only drafts. So, these have not been implemented at this point, but appear to be in the works. My apologies for raising the hopes of those on the receiving end of Crowell’s tactics and for failing to note that these were drafts in my post.]
It looks like Voltage Pictures’ hired gun, Carl Crowell, may soon need to find another state to ply his copyright trolling wares. Crowell has already established a reputation as being both shady and willfully obtuse. That reputation appears to have finally reached the federal court system.
Crowell, if you’ll recall, thought Oregon would be accommodating to his brand of trolling. Not content to simply sue dozens of Does for alleged copyright infringement, Crowell tried to take advantage of the state’s trademark law to pursue pirates. This hinged on the dubious claim that torrents of Dallas Buyers Club somehow veered into the production of counterfeit products. That seems to have gone nowhere, as has Crowell’s other legal pursuits.
Crowell also claimed simply being in possession of Popcorn Time (a torrent-based, entirely unauthorized streaming service) was a criminal act — calling it a “burglar’s tool.” Conflating theft and copyright infringement is nothing new for copyright trolls — but claiming the software was roughly analogous to… I don’t know, a ski mask and a bag with “$$$” printed on it — was novel. Of course, judges are rarely enamored with novel legal theories and Crowell’s assertion did little to win him powerful friends where he needed them most.
Now, it appears Crowell has made an enemy in the federal court system. Unfortunately for him, this enemy is presiding over most of his Doe lawsuits. Fight Copyright Trolls reports federal judge Michael W. Mosman has set up Default Judgment Roadblock, Esq. in response to Crowell’s tactics.
Out of [Crowell’s] recent sleazes, the most disturbing is the practice of deposing putative defendants prior to amending the complaint (replacing “John Doe” with an actual name). Since the majority of the targeted are laypeople of modest means, they tend not to spend money on attorneys, so they make a grave mistake of agreeing to be deposed without a lawyer. I don’t think it makes sense to explain why it is a real problem…
Apparently, the judges are not deaf and blind, and they are increasingly concerned with both the sheer volume of docket-clogging lawsuits, and the troll lawyers’ overreach. Chief Judge Michael Mosman recently drafted a standing order urging putative defendants to seek legal help.
Mosman’s order, if implemented,
has would set up a panel of lawyers who will provide up to three hours of pro bono assistance to anyone accused of copyright infringement by Crowell. That should be enough time to generate the small amount of friction needed to convince the trolling entities to drop the case. Trolling is built on easy wins, not actual courtroom battles.
On top of that, Judge Mosman
isn’t going to may not let Crowell file lawsuits against single plaintiffs en masse in hopes of increasing his default rate. Not only will this funnel Crowell’s lawsuits into Mosman’s courtroom, but it will force Crowell and the company he represents to inform defendants of the free legal assistance being provided by the state. The draft order also requires any communications to defendants be put on the record. Crowell will have to file copies of any contact made with defendants, as well as submit proof that these communications were received.
Considering the hurdles Mosman is considering forcing Crowell to leap, it wouldn’t be too much of a surprise to find him exiting the trolling business… at least in Oregon.