Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Anti-SPAM Ruling: Maryland Federal Jury Decides that Beyond Systems, Inc. is Not a Bona Fide ISP

I have handled cases defending companies and individuals being accused of sending SPAM emails.  The usual plaintiff company was Beyond Systems, Inc.  Beyond Systems claimed that it was an interactive service provider (ISP) and that it was negatively affected by SPAM emails.  The cases I handled were for small companies and individuals that lacked sufficient resources to defend the cases – so the cases were settled (relatively inexpensively) in order to avoid paying what would have been substantial legal fees to defend the cases through trial.

In the very good news for the world category: someone finally had enough financial resources to defend one of these cases all the way through to trial, and last month a jury in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland ruled that Beyond Systems was not an ISP.  If Beyond is not an ISP under the Maryland Act (MCEMA), then it should not be entitled to bring any cases against alleged spammers under a Gordon v. Virtumundo case.  (I cited the Virtumundo case to the same Court in 2007, but on a preliminary motion, which the Court denied.  I blogged about the issues here: Previous Blog Post)

From here, the Court will now decide whether or not the case may proceed at all given the jury’s finding.  Hopefully, this is the end for Beyond Systems' and its owner’s extortionate litigation tactics.

Lawyers at Venable defended the case for Connexus Corp.  Their news release about the case is here: Venable News Release.

The Washington Post wrote about the case here: Washington Post Article.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Thousands of Collection Suits Dismissed by Maryland District Court

The District Court of Maryland, Maryland's court of general jurisdiction in civil cases up to $30,000.00, dismissed 3,564 collection cases on Tuesday after reaching a settlement with the debt collection agencies involved.  The State will also receive $1 million.

The settlement came after the State had claimed that the the collection agencies violated state and federal laws and submitted false or misleading documentation with the courts.

Press Release

Monday, May 21, 2012

Bit Torrent John Doe Cases Limited by Maryland's Federal Court; Risk of Extortionate Settlements Too Great

In the past year, I have handled several Bit Torrent file-sharing cases.

Recently, the United States District Court for the District of Maryland (Judge Chasanow) in Third Degree Films v. Does 1-108 ruled that copyright plaintiffs may not join multiple “John Doe” defendants in a single copyright infringement case that alleges copyright infringement via “Bit Torrent” file-sharing.

The plaintiff was suing 108 John Doe defendants for the alleged infringement of a porn film. Plaintiffs in such cases used Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 20 as the basis for joining multiple defendants in one case. This allowed the plaintiffs to pay a single $350.00 filing fee to sue hundreds of defendants, and allowed those plaintiffs to save on legal fees as well.

The Court held that: “the risk of extortionate settlements is too great to ignore,” that “the risk of inappropriate settlement leverage is enhanced in a case . . . involving salacious and graphic sexual content where a defendant may be urged to resolve a matter at an inflated value to avoid disclosure of the content the defendant was accessing,” and that the “prejudice, expense, or delay” of joining such defendants substantially outweigh the convenience of such joinder.

This may be a significant blow to the porn companies and legitimate movie studios that have been using joinder of dozens, and sometimes hundreds, of John Doe defendants to make their cases economically feasible. The filing fee for a federal case with 100 defendants is $350.00. The filing fee for a case with one defendant is $350.00. If the copyright plaintiff wants to sue 100 defendants, it will now have to pay $35,000.00 in filing fees to initiate a case that last month cost only $350.00.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Maryland Court of Appeals: Maryland Courts Can Divorce Same-Sex Couples; Maryland Legislature Suffers From Multiple Personality Disorder

On May 18, 2012, in Port v. Cowan, the Maryland Court of Appeals decided that parties to a California same-sex marriage could be divorced by a Maryland Circuit Court. The Court decided that based on the doctrine of comity, which allows laws and judicial decisions of one state to be recognized by another state out of deference and respect, the California marriage was subject to dissolution through Maryland’s divorce proceedings. This ruling is based on the Court determining that same-sex marriage is not “repugnant” to the public policy of the State of Maryland.

In making this ruling, the Court of Appeals found that the Maryland Legislature was suffering from “multiple personality disorder.” The Court said that this “lay-diagnosis” is based on the Maryland Code (section 2-201 of the Family Law Article) currently defining marriage as being between only a man and woman; and the many other statutes protecting same-sex couples from discrimination in employment, health care, and estate planning.

A copy of the opinion is here: http://mdcourts.gov/opinions/coa/2012/69a11.pdf