The U.S. Copyright Group has long been criticized for its tactics in pursuing people for copyright infringement of movies or music. Critics charge that USCG coerces people to settle for thousands of dollars to avoid high litigation costs and penalties. USCG sues thousands of people in a given year to force such settlements in what is legitimately described as a factory operation by Dunlap, Grubb and Weaver. One attorney, Graham Syfert, says he tried to even the playing field by publishing a “self-help” guide on how laypersons can fight USCG. The attorneys at USCG reportedly responded by suing Syfert.
EFF states “Once the user’s identity is known, USCG’s strategy appears to be to threaten a judgment of up to $150,000 per downloaded movie — the maximum penalty allowable by law in copyright suits and a very unlikely judgment in cases arising from a single, noncommercial infringement — in order to pressure the alleged infringers to settle quickly for $1,500 to $2,500 per person.” The tactics of USCG have been described as little more than “shakedowns.”
Only 19 people are known to have used the self-help material. What is particularly outrageous is that USCG is threatening that it will demand twice as much in settlement for anyone using the self-help material.
Attorney Jeff Weaver also reportedly asked for sanctions against Syfert — claiming that the 19 cases filed using the self-help package have cost his firm $5000.
Not surprisingly, Syfert filed his own claim for sanctions against Dunlap, Grubb and Weaver. His packet sells for $19.95.
The firm heralds on its site a victory over EFF and the ACLU challenging its practices.
In the meantime, he is not the only one fighting the practices of USCG and Dunlap, Grubb and Weaver. This complaint was filed to seek damages for the USCG’s practices.
The question is whether the bar will review the tactics and practices of USCG. There is little published to confirm these allegations, particularly the claim that USCG is demanding more from people who use this self-help guide. If that is true, it raises obvious question of vexatious practices. The firm may claim, however, that it is merely demanding more if the parties force it to litigate issues of jurisdiction and other defenses.
I have long been critical of both these factory operations as well as the ridiculous demands made today for copyright infringements. Factory firms are making millions by muscling ordinary citizens accused of illegal downloads or other cookie-cutter claims.