Meet the US copyright lawyers planning a denial-of-service attack on the US courts

Ars Technica's Nate Anderson follows up on his excellent work analyzing the practices of ACS:Law, the UK law firm that uses "legal blackmail" (as the House of Lords termed it) to shake down accused copyright infringers on behalf of the porn industry; now Nate gives us a rundown of ACS:Law's US equivalents -- the handful of lawyers who are set to send legal threats to tens of thousands of accused downloaders this year, offering them a "settlement" if they simply cough up thousands of dollars rather than asking a court to rule on the evidence. So far this year, there have been more than 24,000 lawsuits filed against "John Doe" downloaders in order to get names and addresses for these shakedown letters -- that's not a business model, it's a denial of service attack on the judicial branch.
West Virginia's federal court doesn't see many copyright cases. In fact, the new P2P lawsuits appear to be the first copyright cases in West Virginia since 2008, when the recording industry brought a few cases against individuals in the state.

The new cases--seven in total--were filed by the Adult Copyright Company. (Its tagline: "Hardcore protection.")

Who is the Adult Copyright Company? It's Kenneth Ford, a West Virginia lawyer who understands the hard times the porn industry has suffered. "There is an entire generation of viewers who think that it is perfectly acceptable to steal adult content," he site says. "It's time to make people pay for the content they steal."

The content that people are stealing includes Juicy White Anal Booty 4 (118 Does) and Relax, He's My Stepdad 2 (245 Does), and Ford has filed some pretty impressive numbers; his seven cases have targeted 5,469 file-swappers in a mere matter of weeks.

US anti-P2P law firms sue more in 2010 than RIAA ever did


  1. How is it a “denial of service” attack? Any evidence that these filings disrupt the efficient operation of the judicial system?

    1. Of course it’s not a DoS attack. For one thing, it’s not true that ‘more than 24,000 lawsuits filed against “John Doe” downloaders’, but that lawsuits have been filed against more than 24,000 “John Doe” downloaders: as the bit Cory quotes illustrates, just 7 lawsuits account for 5,469 John Does.

      However, raising issues based on mere facts or lack of evidence completely misses the point that Cory has not only come up with a kick-ass headline, but possibly the plot of a future John Grisham bestseller as well.

  2. There’s also Libel to consider. If I wrote something libellous, like, oh, Tony Blair is a war criminal, who is at fault? me for saying it, your for publishing it, blogger for not deleting it? Next; where is the liability? Here in the UK, in the US, or wherever the google servers live?

    The post is an informative one. I know some information form the post. Thanks for the post.

  3. The problem for these companies is that the barrier for making pornography is really low; just about anyone can do it. And there’s a lot of people who are willing to do it for free, or for attention, or for page views. That drags the overall value of porn down to zero.

    1. “And there’s a lot of people who are willing to do it for free, or for attention, or for page views. That drags the overall value of porn down to zero.”

      …as well as the production values.

  4. Think about what’s happening with the whole USCG thing with Far Cry and whatnot. First, they have to have a good enough reason to sue each Doe in a lump sum and not seperately, then they have to sue each individual Doe, of which at least a good handful will fight back. The whole reason that ISPs only have to forward around 28 infringement notices a month is they could easily get swamped with them. What’s to say that if there are enough people fighting these charges that courts won’t get swamped with them and not really have time to deal with all the cases from this plus other crimes?

  5. Well, the article Cory links to makes it a little unclear what the actual count is. By carefully reading the article, I estimate there are at least 20 lawsuits targeting over 24,000 individuals. So, if the courts only see the 20 lawsuits, that probably isn’t going to overwhelm them. Now, as to the merits of the approach being taken by the porn industry, I think they’d be advised to look at the RIAA’s success (or lack thereof) before going much farther down the path they’re currently on.

  6. Seems like if you can’t name a defendant then you have no case. But even getting a judge out to say that wastes court time. There really should be a penalty for BS lawsuits.

    1. I don’t have a problem with having the generic suits. You sometimes need that in order to get the identities so that the suit can proceed.

      However, these are all different people and should be different suits. There should be no lumping here.

  7. Carpet bombing lawsuits divert limited public resources for corporate gain during a time of economic crisis. FBI resources are being squandered on protecting the profits of anational corporations instead of the security of US citizens.

    The rent-seeking parasitism of publishers and obstructionist patent hoarders should be relegated to the history books of political corruption. Hoarded copyrights and obstructionist patents should be stripped from publishers using Eminent Domain and returned to the original creators of works or their heirs.

  8. I’m not sure I endorse the following idea, but sometimes I think it would be great if some mischief-y do-gooder group(s) could make a point to bring suits/criminal charges against people in places of power (e.g. elected officials, judges, industry insiders) woh have violated copyright law. In other words, find politicians who have kids who downloaded stuff and slap them with huge legal fines. Take every egregious application of copyright law and see if you can apply the same sanctions against public officials, and other people of influence. Bring this to their attention through personal experience.

    Then again, in a similar vein, I suppose plenty of influential people (and their kids) have already run into problems with egregious drug laws, but because of their position and status, the violations are overlooked or punished as lightly as possible.

    Sigh. Nevermind. Bad laws seem like they are usually only enforced against “bad” people. People in power don’t seem to have have to play by the same rules as those out of power.

    My strategy has been stillborn.

    I think I’m going to go watch the double rainbow guy now to cheer myself up.

    1. Ah, but drug laws are criminal, as in the state versus the defendant. Copyright infringement would be civil, street punk versus street punk, meaning no amount of government connections or photogenity will get some off-the-street plaintiff to let it go. Unfortunately, to bring a civil case needs some form of standing, i.e. the big wig has to infringe some little guys copyright before shit can go down.

  9. Is there a UK law about downloading copyrighted materials? I think you mean uploaders, not downloaders. As far as the US is concerned, pretty much every lawsuit submitted by the RIAA/MPAA/etc has been for specifically uploaders (people who distribute, rather than downloaders, who receive shared copies but do not necessarily redistribute). I say pretty much every single lawsuit, as I have not reviewed all of them — but every one I have seen, though, and I always look for it, applies very specifically to people who are doing the sharing out and not the people doing the downloading.

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