When we talk about the scourge that is copyright troll operations, and the wide path of legal destruction they’ve caused throughout the world, it can be easy to lose sight of just how precarious a business model it can be for the trolls. Loathe as any writer should be to engage in cliche, it is simply true that the best response to shut down this kind of non-litigious bullying is to simply punch back. After all, it is quite clear at this point that the last thing these trolling operations want as a response to their lawsuit-threat letters is for any actual lawsuit to be conducted. More specific to this story is how Guardaley, the shady German company that appears to setup shell operations throughout the world and cultivate law firms to enforce its operations, all too often forgets to bring any actual evidence to the courtroom when it does show up there and which otherwise does everything it can to stay out of the courtroom altogether.
Again, bullies will tend to back down when you fight back against them. But backing down doesn’t have to be the end of the story, as demonstrated by one Utah man that received a copyright trolling threat letter from an outfit called Criminal Productions (super on the nose, there, guys…), immediately lawyered up, and demanded that discovery begin.
This was the case when Darren Brinkley was sued in a Utah federal court last year. In a complaint filed by Criminal Productions, he and 31 others were accused of illegally sharing a copy of the movie Criminal. Brinkley denied these claims and rejected the settlement offer but the film company still didn’t back off.
While Criminal Productions initially refused to let the case go, recently it voluntarily dismissed the case. According to Brinkley’s lawyers, the film company dropped the case like a hot potato when it discovered that the defendant was attempting to look into its business.
“As expected, when Plaintiff realized a Motion to Compel discovery was in draft, Criminal sought voluntary dismissal of both its affirmative claims and Brinkley’s counterclaims, which this Court granted, with prejudice, on July 6, 2018.”
Such a move should make it very obvious just what type of ethics Criminal Productions engages in to so plainly scramble to avoid any type of discovery process into its practices or techniques. There must be quite a treasure trove of information to be discovered to cause the bully to run away so completely. As the post notes, Criminal Productions is a special purpose entity (SPE), which is basically used to shield the fact that this is all being done by a known copyright troll. Guardaley appears to be the main suspect in this case.
But, if these trolls are allowed to simply run away from any individual who chooses to fight back, that doesn’t serve as much of a deterrent for their behavior. Brinkley’s demand that Criminal Productions pay his attorney’s fees, on the other hand, serves that function nicely.
Brinkley’s attorneys see this as a typical example of “cut and run” litigation, and argue that Criminal Productions must pay their client’s legal bill.
“These tactics should at minimum require that Defendant Brinkley be made whole for Plaintiff’s filing of litigation it clearly had no intention of pursuing and that may have had no basis in the first instance. This is the very definition of ‘cut and run’ litigation,” the motion reads.
The defendant requests compensation for the attorneys’ fees and costs to the tune of $62,818.35, providing a detailed accounting of the costs it made.
We need more of this. Much more, in fact. If, suddenly, the risk calculus for anyone engaging in copyright trolling practices had to include the potential of handing five figures over to the wrongly accused it attempted to bilk money from, perhaps we’d finally see this monstrous practice go away.