Monday, December 28, 2009

Demand letters make for strange bedfellows...

Boing Boing is a popular group blog that often rails against copyright owners, accusing them (and specifically the RIAA and its members) of alleged misdeeds including "extort[ion]," "declar[ing] war on blind and disabled people," and launching "anti-fan lawsuits."

Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp is a prominent Los Angeles law firm that has represented the major record labels in many of the most important anti-piracy cases of the past decade: Napster, Aimster, Grokster, and the lawsuits against individual peer-to-peer users, among others.

So whom did Boing Boing turn to when it recently received a demand letter from Demi Moore's lawyer over a Boing Boing post discussing allegations that W magazine had photoshopped Moore's hip? You guessed it.


  1. I did like their reply to Moore, who's complaint seems ludicrous. Do any of these complaints proceed past the initial stages, or is this simply lawyers getting rich on legal fees for cases they know have no chance in court? Moore is most definitely an all-purpose public figure, so she would have to provide a pretty concrete link that this story actually had an effect on her career.

  2. "Do any of these complaints proceed past the initial stages[?]" Sometimes, but certainly not always. Here, I have a very hard time believing that Moore (or anyone else) would really sue over an allegation that a small portion of her hip was photoshopped. De minimis non curat lex...

  3. This is just like your LA Times post. Where's the controversy here? Lawyers aren't responsible for the moral choices or repugnancy of their clients - that's why rapists get defense attorneys.

    And lo and behold, BB does not in any of the posts you linked to criticize the law firms involved; only the clients; and the clients are the ones responsible for choosing who and how to sue.

    Apparently, MS&K is a really good intellectual property firm, why wouldn't BoingBoing hire them? It's the clients they disagree with, though a reader wouldn't know it from your post...

  4. @Anonymous:

    Critics of the individual p2p lawsuits, including Boing Boing, have harshly criticized not just the labels, but their lawyers as well. For example, one of the posts I linked to features Boing Boing directly commenting on the labels' litigation tactics:

    "shaving costs by running a sloppy boiler-room operation that used cheap telephone thugs and flimsy, badly assembled evidence evidence to extort a few thousand bucks from each of the victims"

    The people allegedly committing these misdeeds were indeed the labels' lawyers (some at MSK) or those supervised by the lawyers.

    Boing Boing has every right to hire MSK or whomever they want. But it's fair to point out the irony of them hiring a firm whose very tactics they have criticized, especially with silly, overheated rhetoric.

  5. Good morning, Ben

    Cease and desist letters are a necessary part of the "process" of curtailing digital piracy these days. How else would one lay out the facts of a potential case in advance and hope both parties would see the equity (and logic) of an amicable settlement over a prolonged litigation?

    Imageline has joined the new Copyrights: Code (Red) anti-piracy and consumer awareness campaign and will issue hundreds of such C&D letters through our attorneys beginning in Janaury. Our industry (graphic arts content) routinely sees digital piracy rates in the mid to high 90s these days. Unconscionable in my view.

    I happen to view copyright law, and lawyers, much the same as I view medical malpractice or personal injury professionals. I believe you either fight for the rights of copyight holders (the "victims", or those who have been harmed or injured) under our current laws or you try to find factual, logical and/or legal loopholes in the cases brought against your client for either an early dismissal or an award of minimal damages at trial.

    Doing both presents a firm conflict of interests in my opinion, but that is really up to the law firm and their clients to decide, not we in the "lay" public.

    Imageline, Inc.

  6. I wonder how big of a slice of humble pie BoingBoing had to eat before signing the retainer? Nothing tickles me more than listening to people rail against attorneys...until they need the services of one.


Comments here are moderated. I appreciate substantive comments, whether or not they agree with what I've written. Stay on topic, and be civil. Comments that contain name-calling, personal attacks, or the like will be rejected. If you want to rant about how evil the RIAA and MPAA are, and how entertainment companies' employees and attorneys are bad people, there are plenty of other places for you to go.