Court threatens sanctions against sleazy copyright troll lawyer

Virginia district court Judge John A. Gibney has threatened to sanction D. Wayne O'Bryan, a personal injury lawyer with a sideline in copyright threats on behalf of pornographers. O'Bryan used subpoenas to get the personal information of people who allegedly downloaded pornographic movies over BitTorrent, then called the accused at home and threatened to sue them if they didn't settle with his clients for cash (he even shook down his computer repairman!). When the victims asked for a day in court, O'Bryan dropped the matter, which suggests that he wasn't interested in winning cases, just extracting easy cash from frightened people. Ars has a good story on the scammy tactics, and EFF is quotes the judge at length:

The Court currently has three similar cases before it, all brought by the same attorney. The suits are virtually identical in their terms, but filed on behalf of different film production companies. In all three, the plaintiffs sought, and the Court granted, expedited discovery allowing the plaintiffs to subpoena information from ISPs to identify the Doe defendants. According to some of the defendants, the plaintiffs then contacted the John Does, alerting them to this lawsuit and their potential liability. Some defendants have indicated that the plaintiff has contacted them directly with harassing telephone calls, demanding $2,900 in compensation to end the litigation. When any of the defendants have filed a motion to dismiss or sever themselves from the litigation, however, the plaintiffs have immediately voluntarily dismissed them as parties to prevent the defendants from bringing their motions before the Court for resolution.

This course of conduct indicates that the plaintiffs have used the offices of the Court as an inexpensive means to gain the Doe defendants' personal information and coerce payment from them. The plaintiffs seemingly have no interest in actually litigating the cases, but rather simply have used the Court and its subpoena powers to obtain sufficient information to shake down the John Does. Whenever the suggestion of a ruling on the merits of the claims appears on the horizon, the plaintiffs drop the John Doe threatening to litigate the matter in order to avoid the actual cost of litigation and an actual decision on the merits.

The plaintiffs' conduct in these cases indicates an improper purpose for the suits. In addition, the joinder of unrelated defendants does not seem to be warranted by existing law or a non-frivolous extension of existing law.

(Image: Wayne O'Bryan Richmond Virginia Attorney | O'Bryan Law Firm)


  1. Yay! This is a step in the right direction.

    But I’d love to see criminal charges in cases like this.  If he had no interest in going to trial, how is this not using the courts to facilitate blackmail?

  2. This REALLY hurts a lot of the people I work with in the fetish scene who have their pics and videos stolen and put on torrent sites. The three plaintiffs shown on the EFF site are all big commercial porn houses.

    1. Would the people you work with be happy to be getting money from a 70 yr old who never torrented anything, but was scared into settling because the lawyer threatened to tell the world they were porn thieves?
      Would they be happy to know that a blind man was threatened with one of these lawsuits for having allegedly torrenting a movie?  That the fact he was blind did not matter to the lawyer.  That he settled to avoid having his reputation destroyed by an allegation based merely on an IP Address and no other evidence.

      Do they understand that these lawsuits target thousands of IP addresses, and despite the claims they are all guilty there is no consideration that there might be people using others hacked wifi to commit the offense.  That the unmasked Does are just the people who have their name on a internet bill.  They get a letter demanding thousands of dollars, telling them even if your not the one who did it, your responsible because your name is on the bill.  Some of them threaten to question the neighbors about the porn title, and drag everyone they remotely know into court to embarrass them further and make them feel settling is the only answer even if they are not a copyright infringer.

      While they might think people filesharing are scum of the earth, maybe they should look at the lawyers representing their interests.  My current favorite was the small porn production house who was told by the lawyer he was only asking for $50 in the shakedown letters…. the lawyer was asking for and getting thousands and paying the studio $50 for each person who settled.

      There are several firms out there doing this right now, the funny thing is its rare for them to ever name anyone in an actual lawsuit.  There have been a couple named people but those are often people who were tricked into making an admission of guilt, not any real evidence or casework.

      Think about how a lawfirm of 1 guy would possibly be able to take several thousand people to court and manage the cases.  They have no intention of going to court, just grabbing the cash they can get and then getting another movie to sue over.

  3. So the best defense is just to trick them into dropping you from the case and not cave in to the payment? Interesting.

  4. If he’s dropping the cases before they get to court, he’s not merely a copyright troll–he’s an extortionist. [This post expresses my personal opinion.]

  5. I don’t know the law thing.  But I do know that if you’re surrounded by sharks, you’ll live longer if you keep jabbing at them and fighting back.  Don’t ever let them get the upper hand.

    A little lesson for life:  who has the most fight in ’em?

  6. Come on – throw the guy a bone. Let him win one case. I mean look at those glasses – they have to be 30 years old!  Maybe he’s secretly a hipster.

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