Greed And The BT Copyright Troll Settlement Factories (AKA: “Don’t Be A Dick”)

I will say this up front. This article is bound to piss off some attorneys/firms working BitTorrent (BT) Copyright Troll settlements. And I’m NOT talking about the Trolls. Why??? Because it involves money and the fact that some attorney/firms are making a good amount off of it. I often tell people, “you get what you pay for.” It is true, but I also believe some firms will charge you an excessive amount for their “Settlement” service. If you are one of the BT Copyright Infringement firms who specialize in settlements, please read the article and send me your thoughts/comments. I also want to mention a similar article was previously written by Attorney Cashman –  settlement factories.

Background

I correspond with a few John Doe/ISP subscribers on a weekly basis. Most people are scared and trying to get a handle on what is going on. Each person and situation is different, so I do not tell them they should or shouldn’t hire an attorney. I usually recommend they read a couple of core articles, get knowledgeable on the topic, and maybe get a legal consult from a couple of  attorneys who know these cases. I tell them I have an attorney list page, but I don’t make recommendations. I understand that some people cannot deal with the stress of these cases even if they are innocent. I understand if they just want it to go away and a settlement is the best option in their mind. Other ISP subscribers have decided to fight back on their own (Pro Se) and have been successful. In fact here are two recent Pro Se Answers in a NV case.   B-Kabala_Answer_02028(NV)   D-Plain_Answer_02028(NV)

On occasion I’m lucky enough to hear back from a John Does/ISP subscriber  and they tell me how things turned out. One thing I have heard on multiple occasions is some attorneys/firms have “highly suggested” that a John Doe take the settlement option, even when they state their innocence.

Why Would Anyone Settle If They Are Innocent?

This question takes us back to the early years of the BT Copyright Trolling operation. The Troll attorneys understood that their “settlement” demands needed to be less than if a person hired an attorney to fight back. Here is a 2010 Porn-forum posting by a Troll/Plaintiff (Screenshot – 2010 GFY.com forum post). It then turns to a simply economic decision for many people.

How The Settlement Factory Works

The attorney speaks with the prospective client and finds out the facts of the case – how did this happen? For those people who admit liability (themselves or others in the residence), the attorney knows he/she likely has a settlement. Even if the John Doe denies liability, the attorney will inform them that fighting back is expensive. In addition, even if the Troll runs away, there is NO guarantee a court will award fees/costs to the prevailing Defendant. The issue of a settlement is again mentioned, along with the defense attorney telling the John Doe that he/she knows the Troll attorney and he may be able to arrange a settlement for less than what was on the settlement letter.

I even had one John Doe tell me that a defense attorney informed him that he (the defense attorney) had a weekly lunch with the Troll attorney. This attorney also stated the Troll attorney “is not a bad guy.” I understand professional courtesy, but let’s be honest. If you are working for one of these Trolls/Plaintiffs, you have some ethics issues – at a minimum (my opinion). When I was told this, all I could think of was the scene in “Full Metal Jacket,” where Rafterman is upset at being disrespected. Joker tells him “You take it too hard, Rafterman. It’s just business. That is the problem… for some of these attorneys/firms, it is “just business.”

Defense Attorney Letter To The Troll

Well, this innocent John Doe/ISP subscriber did not go the “settlement” route and eventually found a local attorney who was truly there to work in the best interest of her client. This attorney is Lisa Clay. In fact, attorney Clay was able to get the Troll to dismiss case against the ISP subscriber by simply writing a letter to the local Troll (Michael Hierl).   Clay_Letter_Redacted-opt_09310(IL)   You will notice that Attorney Clay incorporated attorney Christopher Lynch’s letters as exhibits to it. I contacted Mrs. Clay and asked if I could add her to my attorney list. What I got back was a little shocking to me – she was not too keen to be associated with the other defense attorneys on my list who were pushing “settlements.”  Here is attorney Clay thinks of these law suits.   Clay_Thoughts_Dec2016

Reasoning

Let’s be clear – Lawyers are not cheap. But this simple fact does not justify the excessive fees some attorneys are charging to “settle” a case with the Troll. This is NOT rocket-science.

Here Is How It Works

John Doe/ISP subscriber receives a Troll settlement demand letter for say $4000 – more if not settled as soon as possible. The letter also recommends the John Doe seek legal advice. The Doe finds a local attorney who “specializes” in dealing with the Trolls. The defense attorney tells the Doe, “No Problem,” it will only cost $3000 to work out a settlement – plus the amount payable to the Troll/Plaintiff (say approx. $1500). The settlement amount drop from $4000 to $1500 – seems like a deal!  The defense attorney will also advise the Doe that you CAN fight this, but he will require a $5K retainer (up front) – plus it could cost more over time. This is where the “It is cheaper to settle than fight,” statement comes in from the defense attorney. The problem is that based on all the previous BT Copyright Troll cases out there, the evidence doesn’t support this. The Trolls want settlements and do NOT want to fight a case on its merits. PERIOD.

“Settlement” Attorney Costs

If hired to arrange a settlement, the defense attorney contacts the Troll attorney and they work out a settlement. The negotiations are not difficult and likely only take a couple of billable hours (max) to accomplish (back and forth emails, calls, etc.) – there will be some exceptions. So even if a settlement negotiation takes three hours – the defense attorney is clearing $1000 an hour ($3K fee); 6 hours = $500 an hour; & 8 hours = $375 an hour.

Now some attorneys will say that there is more to the “negotiation” and that their high fee is worth the service. It is BS in my opinion. Now, not all defense attorneys are going to seek such a high fee to negotiate a settlement. I think that if you pay more than $700 in attorney fees (not including the settlement amount) for a standard settlement, you are paying too much. The bottom line is if you are paying the same or more than what the Troll initially asked for (settlement amount and Defense fee), you are getting seriously gouged.

What you need to understand is the Troll/Plaintiff wants a cash settlement over a default judgment or having to fight various defense motions. Cash is King here. These cases are template based and designed to be highly profitable as long as the Troll attorney keeps the work to a minimum. The Troll also knows that there are defense attorneys out there who can help him make money. There is NO formal agreement between them (that I know of). BUT… the defense attorney understands if he charges a $2-3K fee for 2 hours’ worth of work – a steady stream of high-profit can be had. Maybe this is why some defense attorney “do lunch” and say the Troll attorney isn’t a bad guy… Greed, it works both sides of this issue. Another way to look at it – “you scratch my back – I scratch yours – and we can both screw over the John Doe and make some money.”

To The Defense Attorneys

I DON’T expect ANY attorney to do work for free. The ones who do Pro Bono work are a blessing to those less fortunate – Thank you. I also understand that for you to stay in “business,” you have to be profitable. BUT please don’t try to tell me that the billable hours for a top-end IP attorney is needed for these settlements. In fact, you could probably have you paralegal or assistant draft and send out the negotiation emails. If it didn’t hurt the egos of the Troll attorney, you could have them also do the negotiations – an attorney is not required to negotiate. Bottom line is to stop over-charging people and taking advantage of the already bad situation. Yes, doing well by your client is the right thing to do. Screwing over your client with excessive fees is not the right thing to do. Basic ethics.

To The John Doe/ISP Subscribers

If a defense attorney wants more than $700 to arrange a “settlement,” I suggest you get another consult/opinion. Ask him to fully explain the cost or better yet, itemize the billable hours. If they say they have a great working relationship with the Troll, beware. You settlement should NOT have to depend on that.

What Can You Do If You Are Innocent? 

You of course can give the Troll the Richard Pryor Response (RPR). The Troll might not immediately dismiss you from the case, but he will certainly think twice before naming and serve you with a summons/complaint. I’m sure some Doe is going to eventually send a Troll a RPR response with an attorney Lynch/Clay letter attached – if it hasn’t happened already.

Even if the Troll does eventually name and serve you, you can still file an answer with the court.  Answer Article

You can try to find an attorney who will write a letter similar to Attorney Lynch and Clay, telling the Troll to dismiss you. In fact send the attorney a copy of the letter in this article – and the fact it led to a dismissal. Have your attorney contact Lynch and Clay to validate the letters/dismissals. These letter can be done pre or post named/served. Either way, the Troll is most likely going to dismiss you.

“BUT Isn’t Such A Letter Just As Expensive.” 

No. Each attorney is different, but I believe the letter cost should be NO more than the $700 max “settlement” service fee. To date, I know of NO Doe in any of these non-Malibu Media Copyright Troll cases that hasn’t been dismissed after sending such a letter to the Troll. It may eventually happen, but for right now our side is batting 100%.

DieTrollDie 🙂   Good Advice – “Don’t Be A Dick.” {Wheaton’s Law}

– Suggested reading – Troll PokerTalking To The TrollsRichard Pryor Response (2017), &  Basic PACER Case Look-Up

About DieTrollDie

I'm one of the many 'John Does' (200,000+ & growing in the US) who Copyright Trolls have threatened with a civil law suit unless they are paid off. What is a Copyright Troll? Check out the Electronic Frontier Foundation link - http://www.eff.org/issues/copyright-trolls
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12 Responses to Greed And The BT Copyright Troll Settlement Factories (AKA: “Don’t Be A Dick”)

  1. Maurice Ross says:

    I have defended many of these cases, always at fees that break even for my firm. My normal hourly rate is 625 but I do these cases at 425 or less and sometimes pro bono for students or single moms who are teachers or nurses. You oversimplify the situation. No lawyer can responsibly defend these cases in two hour. Further, the troll lawyers are much more competent and sophisticated now and their techniques and demands vary from case to case. Even a simple settlement case takes at least ten hours of attorney time. For example , I never accept the form settlement papers used by the troll lawyers. They do not adequately protect my clients. I demand and usually get substantive improvements that protect my clients against subsequent claims. I also help clients with tax implications which vary from case to case. And these cases require personal counseling. Saving marriages and family relationships is an important part of my job. I also will urge wealthier clients to fight these cases and at least get the troll to substantially reduce damages demands. I tell every client that I personally would prefet to fight but I have to charge fees covering my firm’s costs. Most clients can’t even afford our very reasonable rates. But my firm expects me to at least break even. The 30 percent fee reduction basically eliminates our profits. It is not reasonable to expect competent counsel to do these case. In two hours for $700. This is not paralegal work Sorry but I care about and protect my clients which means even a simple case takes 10-15 hours. No lawyer is charging $1000 an hour for these cases. Please don’t mislead the public like this. I am on your side and do lots of pro bono cases but I expect clients to at least cover my firm’s costs if they can afford it.

    • DieTrollDie says:

      I wasn’t saying “defend” these cases in 2hours. I was saying for the majority of these cases (exceptions aside), a couple hours is enough to work out a “settlement.” Per your comment: at $400 an hour & a minimum of 10 hours = $4000 in attorney fees. Then you add on the Troll settlement amount. So maybe $5.5K – 8K total? Cheaper to go the settlement route alone. Also, as you have been working against the local Trolls in your area, I’m sure you know extremely well how they work and they know how you work. You can have a template of “Your” settlement agreement ready to use – something they have already approved/used – reduces billable hours, etc. The Trolls run these template based cases on the cheap and you probably have a good idea on what they will accept. I understand running a real defense is costly, BUT have you considered using the “No Settlement” defense letter (for innocent clients) like attorney Lynch and Clay have used with success? If not, why? With very few exceptions, the Trolls have shown their hand repeatedly – they do not want a fight and threat of exposing their “questionable” operation gets them to back down. Thing I find “odd” is based on the 100% success rate attorney Lynch and Clay have had, how come more defense attorney don’t use this method. One notable exception is attorney Robert Cashman – https://www.torrentlawyer.com/no-settlement-letter-strategy/ I think this tactic is becoming more in favor for attorneys and some Pro Se defendants.

      DTD 🙂

    • Anon says:

      It’s been a while, Sorry Morry. How’s the gay music record label coming along?
      I can’t say it’s a surprise to see you show up again, after years of fighting the “good fight” in support of Prenda Law and Malibu Media, screaming and pleading for people to send these honest content creators settlement money.
      Your commentary and claims are still on SJD and DTD’s threads for all to see. You’ve spent years being friendly with and respectful of trolls, defending their methods and insisting that there is no way their IP harvesting could be wrong, so everyone sued should just pay up. Saying that “I’m on your side” now is pathetic lip service, at best. Misleading the public is what you do – it’s how you and the likes of Steele and Lipscomb make money, after all.

  2. jeffrey828ja9260 says:

    It looks like other attorneys have been charging far more than we have and I am very curious as to who the lawyer is says that they have lunch weekly with plaintiff’s attorney. There isn’t another firm that is as experienced as mine nor have our credentials including my being admitted to the federal trial bar.

    For the multi doe cases we always explain that if they do nothing they may never be sued and give the appropriate cautions. We never push anybody to settle. I have Red Rock cashman’s articles about these so-called settlement factories and I’ve often wondered who they are. They also appear to be soliciting clients and I cannot imagine how they find the contact information for potential clients except for those who have been named in a summons. My firm has never solicited a single bit torrent client.

    Because of antitrust concerns State bars and other lawyers do not want to talk at all about attorneys fees they charge, this makes it very difficult to compare these whether you are a lawyer assessing your reasonableness of fees and Marketplace or as a client. I would really like to know who these lawyers are that charge $3,000 to settle a case on a flat fee. And other Industries businesses hire secret shoppers or have their employees pretend to be potential clients to find out what other businesses charge. I am never going to pretend to be a prospective client and call around to find out. But I am curious.

    For those clients that do want to attempt settlement out-of-court our fees for the typical multi-doe case are between $750 up to $1,500, which includes paying our local Counsl. if they have already been served which includes a motion to extend time to answer otherwise please as well as the additional time for negotiation during that additional time granted by leave of court.

    We have often taken pro bono and reduced fee cases inappropriate circumstances although I don’t believe we have ever mention this on our website or blog.

    Jeffrey Antonelli

    Please excuse typos and unintended autocorrect in messages from this mobile device

    Antonelli Law Ltd.

    35 East Wacker Drive

    Suite 1875

    Chicago IL 60601

    Tel 312-201-8310

    http://www.Antonelli-Law.com

    Practice concentrated in drone/UAS, complex civil litigation, and business advice

  3. D says:

    Both comments come off as strange to me. The article was all about lawyers pushing settlement, even for the innocent. Yet, both comments focused on how “low” their fees are for settlement. They come across as ads for their law firms, unfortunately, I don’t trust either one of you.

    Antonelli Law was the first place we called, the lady we spoke with, the first thing she said was $3,000 to settle, $5,000 retainer if you want to fight. When we explained that we couldn’t not afford that, she said, that’s why people settle. Then urged us, if we changed our minds and wanted to settle, to let her know. At no time did she suggest doing the job pro bono. Luckily we found Lisa, she fights for the people.

  4. John says:

    I certainly hope the best for Lisa and her client. They are fighting a good fight that is past due. The issue is that getting a dismissal of the joint Does suit is not a victory. In fact, it’s a sign of what will follow, which is an individual suit against the John Doe. I would like to see more attorneys and Does willing to fight, but advising a John Doe to fight against Hierl also means throwing a client in the middle of a fire. Hierl will target and be vindicative toward whoever files a motion to quash or sends this letter. If Hierl had not already decided to individually sue this John Doe before, he will certainly do so now after reading this blog post.

    I’m not arguing against fighting. I’m not saying to back down to intimidation. However, for an attorney to advise a client to fight means that client must be willing to accept the slings and arrows that will follow in the name of the greater good. Most Does don’t want to be in endless litigation for the greater good. They want their normal lives back because it’s an emotionally traumatizing thing to be part of.

    The idea that a simple, strong letter is all that’s needed to force a reputable and litigation equipped firm like Hughes Socol to back down is a bit ridiculous. But again, I do hope it works. Cheers and all the best to those involved.

    • SJD says:

      This comment reminded me a “friendly advice” from Adam Urbanzhyk of the Prenda infamy: FUD smuggled as a voice of reason. You overplayed your hand with “certainly.”

    • DieTrollDie says:

      OK. Smooth words, but you are not grounded in the reality of the BT Copyright Trolling operation – as it stands today. First off, the letter attorney Clay sent to the Troll did work. Period. I believe we are up to 11 “Named” defendants from attorney Lynch’s letters. AND I know of NO single John Doe OR Named Defendant in which the Trolls have refiled single Doe/Named Defendant cases against after dismissing them from the multi-Doe case(s). Please, anyone correct me if I’m wrong. WHY???

        Because money talks and BS walks.

      The APMC/German Masters are interested in keeping this cash-cow running for as long as possible. They know that EVEN IF they go hard-core against a guilty defendant in a trial, they risk exposing all the dirty little secrets of the operation. The Troll are standing at dam and trying to plug the little holes that are spilling water. Simple patches will only work for so long before it blows. It blew up for Prenda Law/Steele|Hansmeier and Keith Lipscomb did a cut & run – not sure if he bailed soon enough to save himself.

      We have heard the same tired line from the Trolls that they will refile against Does/Defendants who cause trouble. Blah Blah Blah. AND Yes, I have heard the Troll Hierl can be an @ss. Bottom line is the masters who control these cases are not going to let Troll Hierl risk their operation. I can show you examples of Pro Se John Does/ISP subscribers who have reply to various Trolls with the Richard Pryor Response (RPR) and filed answers. With exception of the Keith Lipscomb Malibu Media cases, the worst the Troll are going to do is seek a deposition from the ISP subscriber/Defendant – and try to scare them. Many do not even go that far. I know of one named Defendant who told the Troll to “piss off” and he will fight him in court. The Troll did name him, but NEVER requested a summons from the court to have him served – simpler to act tough and ignore one Defendant and fleece the others.

      And I will question you use of the word “reputable” in reference to Troll Hierl’s firm (Hughes Socol). It is my opinion (and others have it to) that any firms that works these BT Copyright Trolling operations are ethically challenged and their reputation is suspect (at best). Yes, they may be able to “litigate,” but so did Prenda Law. The fact that these are real movies doesn’t mean the premise of the litigation isn’t flawed. This is a business model designed to use and abuse the courts for financial gain under the guise of fighting piracy and recouping lost revenue for the owners – what a load of horse shit!

      Yes, it will take Defendants who want to fight to bring this to a head. Not all can do this. For those that can and do, I salute you.

      DTD 🙂

  5. that anonymous coward says:

    Dear Targeted Does,
    Only you know what will work best for you. You will end up paying some money depending on any path you pursue.

    Trolls will demand X and threaten X will go up unless you act now now now.
    This is to make you panic, it works.

    Not all defenses are the same & I’d LOVE to give you clear information about how well each one works & what the final payouts were. Except everything is under NDA’s (Non-Disclosure Agreements) so it is basically impossible for me to do.
    (Consider this statement when someone you reach out to gives you ‘solid’ numbers to represent you).
    Not all trolls fear the same things, some fear water, some fear fire.
    So a lawyer who handled a water feared troll might really suck at a fire feared troll.

    Sometimes a basic form letter from your lawyer will drive them off.
    Sometimes you think its just better to pay them to go away.
    Occasionally someone is pissed enough & can finance a counter assault (knowing that the Trolls will try to flee & avoid paying up).
    Much like investing past results can’t always predict the future.

    I’m not a lawyer, this is not legal advice (blah blah blah).
    But if you are in a panic flailing perhaps what you grabbed to get out of the quicksand was a viper & not a vine. Please do not make decisions from ungrounded fears. There are 1 or 200 articles from the FIHG* that explain & deconstruct nearly every troll operation. While they all might represent 1 Mega Troll sometimes locals have minor differences that might count.
    Educate yourself, stop & take a breathe.
    The $150K isn’t going to happen, because it would cut off Millions.
    They want to scared, we want you educated & making decisions from logic.

    As always YMMV,
    TAC
    * – Fanatical Internet Hate Group (still pending SPLC approval)

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