Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Copyright Infringement: How Much Might I Owe?

The number one question I get asked when I get a call from someone accused of copyright infringement for downloading a movie with bittorrent is how much will this cost me? I like to respond: How long is a rope?  It depends.

In other words, it's impossible to tell how much your particular case might cost under any circumstances. It's hard to know how much the plaintiff will demand in settlement. It's hard to know how much the Judge or Jury might award if your case moved forward and you lost. It's hard to know how much it might cost you to move forward even if you win.

All that said, I'm here to help provide you with information that you can use to inform your decisions. To that end, I decided it might be helpful to try and pull together a listing of awards that judges have actually entered in several cases around the country. But just like the stock market, past performance is not a good indicator of future performance. Still, at least you have this information.

So what I started pulling together below is a list of actual awards that were entered by judges in bittorrent cases around the country. I'll try to normalize the data so that it reflects a per-title damages award. And if the award looks out of line, I'll try to include some information about why. And I'll try to update this each time I get new information. So here goes:


Monday, May 4, 2015

Judge Jones Kills Subscriber Subpoenas in Dallas Buyers Club Cases

Judge Richard A. Jones
Judge Jones today quashed subpoenas that had been served on two Whitaker Law Group clients, as well as numerous other subscribers in several Dallas Buyers Club cases here in Seattle. 

Dallas Buyers Club filed numerous cases of copyright infringement here in Seattle like they have all over the country. Judge Jones initially granted DBC power to seek subscriber information so that it could name defendants. There is nothing particularly noteworthy about that. Pretty much all the courts around the country recognize that with nothing more than an IP address, there's nothing much a plaintiff can do.

But here, DBC wasn't happy with just that. After getting the names of all the subscribers, DBC actually started serving subpoenas on the subscribers themselves, demanding that the subscribers appear at the offices of DBC's counsel on less than a week's notice. And to make matters worse, DBC was demanding that those subscribers also produce a bunch of documents.

We filed a few motions to quash those subpoenas as violating all kinds of rules, not to mention notions of common fairness.  Judge Jones agreed. Today he granted WLG's motions without even giving DBC an opportunity to respond! In short, Judge Jones agreed that DBC's subpoenas were improper for a number of reasons, and he went even further and entered an order detailing what DBC has to do if they want to move forward with these subpoenas in the future.

So if you have been served with a subpoena to appear at a deposition in one of the Dallas Buyers Club cases here in Seattle, you need to read this order carefully. You very likely don't have to comply with that subpoena. 

See Judge Jones' order below.

Friday, May 1, 2015

WLG Wins Attorneys Fees Award Against BWP Media

Today a Federal Judge in Seattle handed down an order granting Whitaker Law Group client Rich Kids Clothing Company a second victory in its ongoing dispute with notorious copyright monetization outfit BWP Media. Judge Mary Theiler awarded Rick Kids Clothing Company its attorneys fees for defending against BWP Media's unsubstantiated claims of copyright infringement.

Although awards of attorneys fees are fairly common in copyright infringement cases, they are more rare in cases brought by copyright monetization outfits because of their particular litigation tactics. However, those litigation tactics were not enough to prevent the Whitaker Law Group from securing justice on behalf of its client. See the decision and order below.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Eagle Harbor Holdings Loses Patent Battle With Ford Motor Co.

A Tacoma jury just returned a verdict of non-infringement in favor of Ford Motor Company in a long patent and trade secrets battle with local technology company, Eagle Harbor Holdings. See the verdict form below.

Eagle Harbor Holdings and Ford Motor Company have been battling over a family of patents for nearly five years.  Dan Preston, the patriarch of EHH, has been involved in the automotive electronics industry for many years. He was part of the team that developed the OnStar system for General Motors.

Mr. Preston and his company worked with FoMoCo during the mid 2000s to help them develop a new automotive electronic system. However, it seems EHH and FoMoCo were unable to finalize the deal and parted ways, yet FoMoCo still came out with a couple of key technology systems that EHH said were straight rip-offs of EHH's patented technology.

The case has gone on for about 5 years, including some nasty back-and-forth with FoMoCo accusing Mr. Preston of stealing some of Ford's secret documents. The trial finally occurred this month, led by two of the legal industry's most well-known patent litigators:  Parker Folse for EHH and Bill Lee for FoMoCo.

Mr. Folse was counsel for Two-Way Media, which won a $40 Million verdict against AT&T that I have commented on a couple times.

Mr. Lee was counsel for Apple in the huge trial against Samsung in which a California jury returned a billion dollar verdict in favor of Apple.

Eagle Harbor Holdings v Ford Motor Co Verdict Form by John Whitaker

Thursday, March 19, 2015

DJ Punish Sues Sir Mix-a-Lot over "Baby Got Back"

David Ford, known professionally as DJ Punish, has sued Anthony Ray, better known as Sir Mix-a-Lot, to settle a question over Mr. Ford's joint authorship of a number of works that were created when the two were collaborating together in the early to mid 1990s.

The Whitaker Law Group is working with Gleam Law on the matter.

Big-Law Missed Deadline: Fed Cir Refuses To Disregard It

I posted earlier about a blunder that caused AT&T's patent firm to miss a deadline for filing a Notice of Appeal. Again, unless you're a lawyer, you may not appreciate how big a deal this is.  In litigation you can miss many deadlines without really feeling the pain. But not this one. The law says a judge can't ignore this deadline unless it's an exceptional situation.

So to summarize, AT&T's firm (1) lost a $40Million jury verdict, then (2) missed the deadline for appealing that verdict. So unless AT&T's lawyers were able to convince the Federal Circuit that their blunder was excusable, AT&T was stuck paying over $40Million. (Decision below).

Today, the Federal Circuit said, too bad. Well, two out of three judges said too bad. Personally, I really think what did them in was their forced-admission that AT&T had 15 lawyers on the matter, and not even a single one of them actually read the judge's order. And it didn't help that they all billed their client for doing so. Oops.

One think I know for sure: I'll be reading those ECF notices more carefully from now on.