Early 2010 the law firm Dunlap, Grubb and Weaver brought mass-piracy lawsuits to the United States. The law firm teamed up with several film studios and sued tens of thousands of alleged BitTorrent users.
A few months after the first cases were started the tables were turned. One of the alleged pirates sued the lawyers for fraud, abuse and extortion, due to their role in the “copyright troll” scheme.
Dunlap, Grubb and Weaver were named in a class-action lawsuit together with movie studio Achte/Neunte and the German tracking company GuardaLey, who together went after thousands of people who allegedly downloaded and shared the movie ‘Far Cry’ using BitTorrent.
Through the lawsuit, spearheaded by Dmitriy Shirokov, the troll victims were seeking relief based on 25 counts including extortion, fraudulent omissions, mail fraud, wire fraud, computer fraud and abuse, racketeering, fraud upon the court, fraud on the Copyright Office, copyright misuse and unjust enrichment.
Among other things, the “copyright trolls” were accused of building their case on shoddy evidence and a false copyright registration.
Last year the Massachusetts District Court denied the class action, which meant the case continued with Shirokov as the only plaintiff. This severely limited the scope of the verdict. However, after more than three years Shirokov did win his case.
During the proceedings, where the law firm remained as the only defendant, it became clear that Dunlap, Grubb and Weaver could not present critical pieces of evidence. The company claimed that the requested documents were lost in a computer crash.
As a result, the law firm had no other option than to concede defeat, which it did through an offer of judgement. In a recent ruling Judge George O’Toole ordered Dunlap, Grubb and Weaver to pay $39,909.95, which includes attorney fees.
TorrentFreak spoke with Jason Sweet, whose firm Booth Sweet represented Shirokov. Sweet notes that the outcome is a “bittersweet victory,” as the class action status was denied earlier. Also, the awarded fees are a far cry from those requested.
Nevertheless, Shrirokov and his legal team are happy with the outcome. Their main goal was to make it harder for copyright trolls to operate in Massachusetts, and they believe that was achieved.
“The case did accomplish what we wanted it to. That is, to deter others from starting similar cases in Massachusetts. It served its purpose,” Sweet tells TF. While the case does not mark the end of copyright trolling schemes in the United States, it won’t make them any easier either.
As for Dunlap, Grubb and Weaver, they will now have to pay their dues. The law firm has left the copyright trolling trade already, and the recent verdict makes it unlikely that they will ever return.