Saturday 21 July 2012

Troll News

The Electronic Frontiers Foundation (EFF) report that it’s been a bad week for trolls in the USA, firstly with the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirming a District Court order imposing sanctions on Evan Stone, the attorney for adult film producer Mick Haig Productions. Mr Stone improperly issued subpoenas without leave of the court to Internet Service Providerss seeking the identities of anonymous subscribers in a mass end-user copyright infringement case. 

The EFF describes Stone’s troll like habits by using the words of the court  when it said that Stone  "repeat[ed] his strategy of suing anonymous internet users for allegedly downloading pornography illegally, using the powers of the court to find their identity, then shaming or intimidating them into settling for thousands of dollars - a tactic that he has employed all across the state and that has been replicated by others across the country." 

District Court Judge David Godbey described as Stone's "staggering chutzpah" and said that the court had rarely seen actions a more “textbook example” deserving of sanctions: Stone issued subpoenas on his own volition without court permission, even though the Court appointed EFF and Public Citizen to brief him on the relevant legal questions and even though Stone continued to argue that he was able to proceed, all the while obtaining subscriber information from ISPs and (apparently) sending threatening letters to subscribers directly. 

In the ruling, the Court of Appeals held that Stone had waived all of his various (the EFF say "meritless") arguments such as that he could have issued a different kind of subpoena to obtain the subscriber information, that sanctions couldn't be issued under the specific Federal Rules cited by the district court, and that EFF and Public Citizen lacked standing to bring a sanctions motion. Moreover, the Court held that "no miscarriage of justice will result from the sanctions imposed as a result of Stone’s flagrant violation of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the district court’s orders." 

Lifting the temporary stay that it had earlier granted during the the appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed the sanctions award ordered by the District Court. In addition to paying a $10,000 sanction to the court, the sanctions award ordered that Stone would have to serve a copy of the Order on all ISPs he had contacted and anyone else he had communicated with in connection with the proceedings; he had to file a copy of the Order in any subsequent court action where he represents a party, whether state or federal; that Stone must disclose to the court of all funds received for Mick Haig or personally resulting from his actions in the proceedings (except his own legal fees): and pay costs and fees of $22,040. 

In a second case, the EFF reported that “Copyright trolls lost one of their knobby clubs” after Judge Lewis Kaplan in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan ruled that the owner of an Internet connection cannot be found liable for "negligence" simply because another person uses his wi fi connection to commit copyright infringement  - even if the subscriber knows about the others illegal habits - with the EFF saying “After this decision, copyright trolls should find it harder to coerce settlement payments from innocent people for the commonplace act of sharing an Internet connection.  The case is Liberty Media Holdings v. Tabora.

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