Retaliation and Payback Against Copyright Trolls Through Small Claims Court

Having my roots in I.T. and interests in media of all kinds (software, books, movies, music, etc.)  I am a big believer of cross-pollination of ideas. I take a concept that seems creative/innovative to me and then twist and adapt it into somewhere different.

In that spirit, I was inspired with an idea for retaliatory action against copyright trolls (or any other large company for that matter) if things got bad enough and someone was angry enough to do something about it.

In the recent Liuxia Wong vs. Hard Drive Productions case, Wong was not going to stand for the ongoing harassment and pressure to settle by Prenda Law that is representing HDP.  Prenda Law was trying to use the embarrassment factor to try to pressure Wong into settlement.  This older woman was not going to have any of that and she went public.

http://www.scribd.com/doc/80436912/Liuxia-Wong-vs-Hard-Drive-Productions-Complaint-Exhibits-A-B-C-D

And very creatively, she (with her lawyer Steven Yuen) filed a creative lawsuit against THEM in HER jurisdiction. Suddenly, the copyright troll now has to spend money to answer and defend this case.  Originally, it was probably a contingency case where Prenda Law got a percentage slice of any successful collection effort. However, with this lawsuit, Prenda Law now has to charge billable hours to Hard Drive Production and suddenly both the lawyers and the client are under a worldwide microscope watching intently where a ton of people are wishing for bad things to happen to both the opposing lawyer and the copyright troll client.  Karma gets nasty that way.

So the Wong case shows that a claim can be creatively flipped the other way especially when the other party keeps harassing you for a settlement. Something to think about.

On a different front, the other interesting twist in legally fighting a party that is much larger than you is the recent case in small claims court by a California woman, Heather Peters, against Honda for making false mileage claims about a Honda Civic.

http://bottomline.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/02/07/10342080-honda-civic-mileage-verdict-has-industry-sweating

She very astutely realized that any legal fight against Honda would be a tough one if she followed the traditional road with traditional legal advice. Instead of trying to get EVERYTHING she might be entitled to and fighting an incredibly difficult and expensive uphill battle, she decided to file her case in small claims court

The 46-year-old Peters, herself a former corporate attorney, chose to take her dispute to a small claims court in suburban Los Angeles. While Peters says she recognized she wouldn’t be able to collect all the money she insists she lost on added fuel costs and a lower trade-in value, she felt she’d have a better chance of getting a reasonable judgment in small claims.

Such courts are typically used for minor disputes – and they normally bar the use of attorneys, meaning an individual can sue a large corporation without facing a bank of legal experts – or running up bills that would far exceed the maximum claim, which ranges from $2,500 to $15,000 depending on the state.  In California, the cap is $10,000, and Peters was awarded $9,867 this month by Superior Court Commissioner Douglas Carnahan.

By going to small claims court, Honda couldn’t hire an army of lawyers to overwhelm the plaintiff. In small claims court, is quite customary for plaintiffs to prosecute or defend themselves. Further, small claims judges are accustomed to this and give every benefit of the doubt to non-lawyers.

Ultimately, Peters won her case. However, Honda is appealing the decision and they are sweating bullets over this.  Because if they lose the appeal, there will be a TON of small claims suits against Honda.

The bottom line is this is a very interesting concept to consider. Small claims cases don’t cost very much to file. But it can be expensive to defend for a large company with headquarters hundreds or thousands of miles away.

I recently helped a friend file a small claims lawsuit against a woman that just would not pay pay him what she owed for nearly a year and she simply ignored him.  But the lawsuit woke her up a few weeks ago and suddenly she is asking for a way to settle.

I know the potential power of small claims court. It can be a legal power equalizer.

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