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Media company drops Internet piracy lawsuit against Spokane Valley man

The company that sued a Spokane Valley man over alleged illegal movie downloads has dropped the lawsuit, saying it achieved its intended result of curbing Internet piracy.

Elf-Man LLC, an East Coast media company that created a made-for-video film called “Elf Man,” filed suit last November against Ryan Lamberson seeking unspecified monetary damages for copyright violations.

Lamberson, a 33-year-old single father, denied the claim and hired a Spokane law firm, Lee & Hayes, to defend him. He said he had never heard of the movie before the suit.

In June, after numerous legal wranglings, Elf-Man LLC asked a federal judge in U.S. District Court to dismiss the case.

The dismissal happened shortly after the original attorney for Elf-Man, Maureen VanderMay, withdrew, saying “ethical issues” prevented her from continuing the case. VanderMay, who lives in Salem, Oregon, could not be reached for comment.

Lamberson was one of 29 Spokane residents sued by Elf-Man last year over alleged illegal downloads. Nearly all of those other defendants have had their cases dismissed or have signed stipulated agreements, with no admission of wrongdoing and no payments to Elf-Man.

The Elf-Man case has drawn national scrutiny among people who claim companies behind such lawsuits are “copyright trolls” engaged in fake or trumped-up legal cases. Such trolls are thought to be chasing settlements rather than fighting the cases in court.

Seattle attorney David Lowe, who took over for VanderMay, said Elf-Man asked for the dismissal because it felt it had accomplished its goals.

“My client’s interest has been to curb this widespread piracy, and it accomplished what it set out to do,” Lowe said.

The dismissal of the Lamberson suit, however, hasn’t halted a series of legal attacks between attorneys on both sides.

Lamberson’s chief attorney, Christopher Lynch, is seeking a court order for Elf-Man to pay more than $208,000 in legal costs.

He has also asked the court to impose sanctions against VanderMay and Elf-Man LLC, arguing that they are the source of a “legal run-around of epic proportions” in their pursuit of Lamberson.

VanderMay has hired a Spokane law firm to respond to the motion for sanctions.

Lynch noted that last year a California judge, in a similar type of federal case, ordered sanctions against a company in addition to ordering payment of $80,000 in legal fees. The judge in that case also suggested prosecutors investigate filing charges against the attorneys behind the trolling scheme.

Lowe, in documents replying to the motions for sanctions, accused Lamberson’s defense team of being the source of unnecessary legal wrangling and of harassing VanderMay.

Lowe wrote: “Defendant made every effort to multiply the cost and complexity of the litigation through fishing expeditions into unrelated BitTorrent cases, Internet blog theories, allegations in wholly irrelevant prior lawsuits and questionable counterclaims.”

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