In recent years, adult entertainment outfit Malibu Media has often been described as a copyright-trolling operation.
The company, known for its popular “X-Art” brand, has gone after thousands of alleged file-sharers in U.S. courts, collecting millions of dollars in settlements.
Accused Pirate Fight Back
Most accused pirates don’t put up a fight, but occasionally one does. They include Mr. W.M. who filed a counterclaim and demanded that Malibu should back up its claim with the digital evidence that led to their piracy accusation.
Despite a court order, this evidence never came in. This frustrated the court, the accused subscriber, and even Malibu’s own attorney, who withdrew from the case last year because her client failed to comply.
In the months that followed little progress was made and, earlier this year, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas M. Durkin handed a win to Mr. W.M. The court ordered Malibu to pay $48,656.73 in costs and attorneys’ fees.
Malibu Failed to Pay
In most cases an order like this would end things but, in this instance, things went from bad to worse. Malibu Media failed to pay up and on top of that, the company actively diverted funds that should have been used to pay these fees.
To recoup the money, Mr. W.M. hired Joseph Stewart, an experienced collection attorney. They went as far as obtaining a order that required Malibu Media and its payment processor Epoch.com to restrain the subscription revenue from “X-Art.com” members.
That order also applied to ZO Digital, a company operated by the husband of Malibu’s boss, Colette Pelissier, which collected well over $100,000 in proceeds during the first half of the year.
A few weeks ago the matter started to escalate further. The court ordered Epoch to make sure that all Malibu’s proceeds are frozen and then sent to Mr. W.M.’s legal team, until the fees are paid off.
The Judge concluded that Malibu obstructed the legal process on several occasions, despite having sufficient financial means to pay. Harsh comments were also directed at Malibu’s designated representative Colette Pelissier, who failed to appear before a court without a proper reason.
To make sure that Pelissier attended an upcoming meeting Judge Durkin signed a conditional body attachment order. This effectively meant that she would be arrested if she failed to obey.
The threat of prison worked but things didn’t improve for Malibu and its CEO. During a digital court hearing last week, Mr. W.M.’s legal team requested that Malibu should pay additional legal fees, to cover the expenses that were incurred while trying to collect the previously awarded money.
We haven’t witnessed the hearing ourselves but copyright attorney and YouTuber Leonard J. French, who is not involved in this case, told us that the proceeding was quite messy.
Pelissier reportedly had a complete breakdown. She spoke quickly and panicky, while repeatedly interrupting the Judge, referencing issues that appeared to bear no relation to the case at hand.
Malibu’s boss also blamed lawyers for trying to profit from copyright lawsuits. She said the company has stopped filing new cases because she doesn’t want to be hard on people during the COVID pandemic and added that this is the only remaining case.
Judge Durkin asked her to slow down but that didn’t help much. Pelissier continued to interrupt which wasn’t appreciated by the court, to put it mildly.
“I deal with prisoners who are more appropriate, I have people who are mentally ill who can conduct themselves with more decency,” Judge Durkin said, before cutting off the call.
Fees Increase to $108,271
Shortly after the hearing, Judge Durkin issued an order partially granting the motion for extra fees. The post-judgment fees of $59,614 for the collection counsel and $764 in costs were awarded. However, the requested $23,775 for the prior counsel was denied.
Malibu Media and its representative Collette Pelissier are jointly and severally liable for this amount and the same applies to ZO Digital.
Together with the pre-judgment fees that were granted earlier, Malibu Media must pay a total of $108,271 in fees and costs. This is one of the largest judgments we’ve seen in favor of a wrongfully accused file-sharer.
The next step is to actually collect the money and Mr. W.M.’s legal team continues to work on that. In a court filing submitted this week, they note that the payment provider Epoch has restrained $67,289 already.
Epoch is required to keep future Malibu Media (X-Art.com) fees restrained until the full amount is paid, which means that there’s roughly $41,000 to go.
A copy of Judge Durkin’s order granting the request to compensate the additional legal fees is available here (pdf)