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‘Porn troll’ attorney fined in Eastern District

A Geneva, Ill. attorney representing a so-called “porn troll” in a plethora of federal lawsuits has been fined $600 Thursday for including exhibits in cases that a Milwaukee federal judge said were meant to embarrass defendants.

Eastern District of Wisconsin Judge Rudolph Randa, in an order, said that California-based Malibu Media LLC and its attorney, Mary Schulz, were attaching lists of explicitly titled pornographic movies that the company did not own as a way to “coerce quick and early settlements.”

The company, which owns the website X-Art and claims in court filings to make “sophisticated erotica,” has made a practice of filing copyright lawsuits against defendants only identified by an Internet Protocol address to purportedly recoup the revenue they have lost from illegal downloading. But critics such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation have called the company a “porn troll” and “copyright troll” because it allegedly seeks to shake down defendants with the threat of a long period of litigation.

Sixty-five of the 1,131 copyright infringement lawsuits filed by the company in 2013 were in Wisconsin, with seven of those coming before the Eastern District of Wisconsin this week. Randa wrote in his order that he “doubts that Malibu Media has the resources to fully litigate even a fraction of this amount of cases.”

“Whatever the reason, these types of cases are already infected with the potential for abuse, and Malibu Media doubled-down by threatening to publicly associate infringers with extreme pornographic works having no relevance to its own copyrights,” the order stated. “Malibu Media and its counsel should not be allowed to abuse the legal system in this manner without being called to account for it.”

The company has claimed in court filings that it stopped attaching the list, referred to in most cases as “Exhibit C,” after multiple federal judges have complained about its intentions. Randa previously ruled that the defendants in three cases before him could proceed anonymously, effectively removing one of the lingering threats of public embarrassment associated with the case.

Randa’s sanctions follow the lead of Western District of Wisconsin Chief Judge William Conley, who ordered Schulz to pay $2,200 in sanctions for the same issue in 11 cases before him.

“The sanction imposed by Judge Conley achieved a measure of deterrence,” the order stated. “Further sanctions are warranted as a way of supplementing and reinforcing the initial deterrent effect.”

Schulz did not immediately return a message.


About Eric Heisig

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