When an opinion opens with a quote from The Wrath of Khan, something is about to happen.
What followed was a straightforward benchslap littered with Star Trek references. More than a little fitting that an opinion about allegedly illegal porn downloads would focus on the pop culture universe most closely associated with 40-year-old virgins.
It’s not the cohesive, brilliant opinion about strip clubs that we recently got out of Judge Fred Biery. Instead, the opinion draws wry smiles for laying out nothing but a string of references to Star Trek seemingly designed just to prove to his fellow nerds that the Judge knows Star Trek.
Which, in a sense, makes this opinion the most “Star Trek” thing ever…
After this decision, John Steele screamed, “Wrrrrrriiiiggghhhht!”
This isn’t the first time that Judge Otis Wright has lowered the benchslap boom on Prenda. A few months back, the Judge called out the attorney before him for being a cog in a machine where lawyers produced their own porn videos to set up the opportunity to troll for copyright damages. It had come out that the alleged “client” had no idea Prenda pursued lawsuits in his name. Judge Wright ordered everyone suspected of involvement in the murky chain of entities behind these suits to come forward, and they promptly refused to testify, taking the Fifth whenever asked to explain, “Who are your clients and where does the money go?”
Now Judge Wright has issued his eagerly anticipated ruling. But not before channeling everything that makes The Big Bang Theory such a terrible pox on American television:
Plaintiffs do have a right to assert their intellectual-property rights, so long as they do it right. But Plaintiffs’ filing of cases using the same boilerplate complaint against dozens of defendants raised the Court’s alert. It was when the Court realized Plaintiffs engaged their cloak of shell companies and fraud that the Court went to battlestations.
And what was revealed by the order to show cause:
As evidence materialized, it turned out that [Prenda's Lawyer] Gibbs was just a redshirt.
Over the next few pages, the Judge will also refer to Prenda’s operation as a “collective,” an appropriate analogy for unstoppable and pernicious copyright trolls.
Judge Wright determined, to his clear chagrin, that he could not level a seven-digit fine to deter Prenda from continuing its business strategy. On the other hand, he felt that Prenda would just transfer funds among its constituent corporate parts in order to avoid paying the fine anyway.
Nonetheless, the decision was a success for the defendants. Morgan Pietz, one of the defense attorneys, honored the theme of Judge Wright’s order when describing the opinion to Above the Law:
I would characterize it as a direct hit by a photon torpedo. Prenda is a sinking enterprise.
I’m giving his Star Trek jokes full credit. He didn’t choose this theme. And I’m also, obviously, giving him full credit for successfully taking down a major copyright troll. It just shows that the Dark Side of the Force will always lose.
Yeah, I know. Go ahead and have a nerd fit that I’m crossing universes.
In lieu of a punitive sanction, Judge Wright ordered Prenda to pay attorney’s fees, referred their actions to the bar, and dropped this gem:
Third, though Plaintiffs boldly probe the outskirts of law, the only enterprise they resemble is RICO. The federal agency eleven decks up is familiar with their prime directive and will gladly refit them for their next voyage.
I mean… OK.
Putting bad jokes aside, the ball is now in the government’s court. Will they prosecute Prenda? Or does the whole affair occupy a “neutral zone” that “cold logic” would recognize as a “Kobayashi Maru” for the DOJ?
Read the complete opinion on the next page….