A Spokane Valley man was awarded more than $100,000 in attorney fees by a federal judge earlier this month against the production company that sued him for copyright infringement of a Christmas film that was leaked online before its release.
Ryan Lamberson was one of 29 Spokane area residents sued by Elf-Man LLC, the Maryland production company behind the direct-to-video "Elf-Man" movie starring "Jackass" star Jason "Wee Man" Acuna. The movie, which holds a woeful 3.8/10 stars user review on IMDB, leaked to torrent sites before its home video release in December 2012, prompting the company to target downloaders in Ohio, Illinois and elsewhere with lawsuits.
Lamberson, who says he never downloaded the movie, hired an attorney and countersued Elf-Man in December 2013. Elf-Man dropped its lawsuit in August, saying it had achieved its goal of curbing copyright infringement. But Lamberson fought for up to $208,000 in legal fees as well as sanctions against the company for bringing what it called "a legal run-around of epic proportions" against him.
The practice, called "copyright trolling" by a vocal online community, involves allegations of suing a person to obtain a settlement, rather than because an actual crime was committed. Such cases have prompted sanctions in courtrooms nationwide. Acuna took to Twitter to distance himself from the production company's legal actions.
"I'm not backing it at all," Acuna said in a Tweet around the time the Spokane lawsuit was filed.
In his order granting $101,187.44 to Lamberson on Jan. 9, U.S. District Judge Thomas O. Rice said the request for fees should be "significantly reduced" from what was originally requested, because Lamberson's attorneys sought payment for time spent on state counterclaims that didn't factor into the federal court's decision. Rice had also previously thrown out the request for sanctions against Elf-Man, concluding the company had not acted in bad faith when it sued the Spokane residents.
Nearly all of the 29 Spokane defendants have resolved their cases to date, with six of the alleged downloaders paying judgment amounts of around $3,000 to Elf-Man LLC. Others had their cases dismissed, as Lamberson did, without any finding of wrongdoing.