Copyright Lawyers Sued For Extortion and Fraud
You probably have heard about those nasty “Pay Up” letters for downloading copyrighted content which usually comes when people share movies or music online. Well the firm from Dunlap, Grubb & Weaver (DGW), which has sent most of those letters under the name “US Copyright Group” (USCG) has been sued for operating under a fraud scheme. You heard right, the firm that sues people for sharing content was sued for none other than, get this, fraud and extortion. The same firm who represented clients such Voltage Pictures, Far Cry and Hurtlocker. The one which according to reports actually created a dubious business model to target defendants by hiring attorneys in different cities to enforce their scare tactics.
Allegedly the firm was sending misleading settlement letters and asking its targets to pay up in order to avoid legal and lengthy litigation. According to Arstechnica, one defendant targeted by the group, Dmitriy Shirokov, filed a class action lawsuit against them. The complaint, which is 96 pages long, alleges fraud and extortion devised through a scheme created to have the accused pay up.
The law suit demanded the courts force DGW to reimburse all settlements, nearly 5,000 people sued and stop the firm from such scare tactics. Now DGW/USCG has fired back and apparently they can’t take it as easy as they dished it out. It said that attorneys can’t be sued for lying and that Mr. Shirokov didn’t have any claim because he never settled. Below is the actual quote from the Arstechnica article.
“Although an attorney may be accused of defrauding opposing parties, knowingly committing discovery abuses, lying to the court, or purposely and maliciously defaming another individual, if it takes place during the course of litigation, the conduct simply is not actionable,” says DGW’s response. Such behavior may result in judicial sanctions, but private citizens can’t file lawsuits against opposing lawyers who are “simply doing their job.”
The firm which itself was accused of copyright violations no doubt has a dubious business targeting people with no legal experience. The firm also obtained a US copyright registration by falsely asserting a date of “first publication” of November 24, 2009 for Far Cry when it was actually released far earlier according to Wikipedia. They used the different dates on the copyright fillings to scare downloaders into thinking that they would be liable for $150,000 per download and that they would face a lengthy legal battle if they didn’t settle.