We’ve had a bit of a copyrightesque weekend here on OSNews, so it seems only fitting to end this Sunday with yet another story on this subject. This one isn’t so much anger-inducing as much as it is what?-inducing – you’ll either laugh or cry. It basically comes down to this: a smart lawyer is selling self-help packages to aid victims of the mass-P2P lawsuits in the US, and now the media companies behind those lawsuits are suing this lawyer… For causing them damage.
The US Copyright Group is the group undertaking several massive P2P lawsuits in the US, suing thousands and thousands of people all at the same time for downloading films like The Hurt Locker, Far Cry, and Call of the Wild using BitTorrent. They offer a 2500 USD settlement to each of these people – carefully set to match the average price of hiring a lawyer to take on a case like this.
Enter Graham Syfert. This enterprising lawyer was mentioned in a list from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a list of lawyers that could aid the victims of these lawsuits. Syfert really wanted to help all the people who contacted him, but he soon realised that for many people, the cost would be prohibitive.
“One of the major problems that people encounter when trying to hire me on these cases, is that a settlement is approximately what an attorney would need to even begin a defence,” Syfert told TorrentFreak back in August.
So, he got clever. He created a self-help package consisting of several pre-made legal documents, including a Motion to Quash, Motion to Dismiss, Affidavit in Support and a Motion for Protective Support, complete with detailed instructions on how to use the documents. He offered this package for a little under 20 USD. A steal – if you’ll pardon the expression.
“My dream would be to have 10000-20000 people file all three documents to the lawyers and severely cripple the entire process and show them that you shouldn’t be allowed to join so many defendants,” Syfert told TorrentFreak.
As it turns out, the US Copyright Group is certainly not amused. And this is where it gets really funny (or sad) (or both): the US Copyright Group started putting pressure on Syfert soon after he started offering the self-help package, threatening they would double the settlements for anyone using the package. Syfert basically told them to, uh, intercourse off.
And then, a few days ago, he was sued by the company behind the Hurt Locker, represented by the same law firm who works for the US Copyright Group (Dunlap, Grubb and Weaver). They are requesting sanctions against Syfert personally under federal law.
“He says that the 19 cases of forms that have been currently filed cost them $5000 and he’s seeking those sanctions against me personally,” Syfert explained to TorrentFreak, “So I requested sanctions against them because this is completely insane. If 19 cases cost them $5000 in attorney time, I wonder how many cases it’d take before their business model crumbles. That is unless they are going to actually work for a living.”
Yes, Syfert appears to be somewhat of a character, but honestly, I would become rather cynical too if I were being sued because I was honestly and legally helping people defend themselves in a court of law. The self-help package is actually working, TorrentFreak reports, since the Motion to Dismiss is seeing success with the courts.
We’re only talking about 19 cases here, out of thousands, but it does highlight just how stuck Big Content really is in a pre-internet world; they are banking on people being entirely helpless, hoping to mafia them into paying up 2500 USD. However, with the advent of the internet, people no longer have to be helpless. Suddenly, people can get useful and effective legal assistance for a few bucks. It’s not entirely unlike governments the world over who are incapable of dealing with the people being empowered by the internet (see WikiLeaks).
So, if you know any victims of these mass lawsuits, be sure to point them towards the self-help package.