5th Circuit reinstates stiff sanctions against lawyer in porn copyright troll suit

Mick Haig Productions v. Does 1-670, No. 11-10977 (5th Circuit)

Mick Haig, which produces pornographic films, identified 670 unnamed persons who it believed had unlawfully downloaded its film Der Gute Onkel using Bit Torrent, an online file-sharing program. Although Mick Haig had obtained their Internet Protocol (“IP”) addresses and the names of their internet service providers (“ISPs”), it knew no other information about those 670 persons. Mick Haig sued them as John Doe defendants (“the Does”), alleging copyright infringement. Mick Haig then sought permission to expedite discovery in order to subpoena the Does’ ISPs to disclose their names and contact information before the required Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(f) discovery conference . . . Stone committed those violations as an attempt to repeat 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

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In effect, the pornography purveyors have developed a new business model using the court system to extort money from individuals who are merely identified by IP address and with no proof whatsoever that they downloaded copyrighted materials from the Internet,” the complaint said. “By extorting settlements of $1,000-$5,000 the pornography purveyors have developed a model whereby they can unlawfully gain more money than they can by selling access to their pornographic videos.”