The featured story today at Ars Technica is a hit piece titled, ‘”Bribes,” gay porn, and copyright trolls: The rise and fall of lawyer Marc Randazza’ which is interesting for a couple of reasons. First, I had to go British-quotes on it because the author wrote “Bribes,” in quotation marks which is shady in itself. Could they come up with more of a clickbait title? Let’s go ahead and disassemble that title before getting to the article:
– The word Bribes is a quote, not an actual criminal conviction but the opinion of an unnamed arbitrator. It is, in fact, used solely for clickbait.
– The usage of gay porn is specifically designed to imply Randazza was somehow involved in gay porn, when the company he worked for was a company producing many types of porn. The author chose the more titillating/insulting side of the business to try and slam him without making a statement of fact. Why a left-wing/SJW publication feels working for a gay porn production company is more noteworthy than just a porn production company is a thought exercise left to the reader.
– The copyright troll referred to in the article is someone Randazza defeated (Righthaven), not worked for.
– I was unaware Randazza had fallen. He still seems to be active, he is still an attorney, and he’s not going to prison.
Then the sub-title: “Arbiter says Randazza took bribes, lied to employer, and must pay $600k.” This is off — the arbiter compared something Randazza was jokingly asking for to a bribe. He was never accused of being bribed. Everyone lies to their employer and lawyers are often cast as liars: there is no surprise there.
On to the article itself, Ars displays a typical hypocrisy when it comes to people who feel harassed: Randazza says now that he feels the producer using his office for pornographic shoots was harassment. But when Ellen Pao or any other SJW-friendly person has sued an employer after-the-fact for harassment they take them at their word. Even if the change of heart came years later. Because Randazza has offended them somehow (he is very blunt and they get bent out of shape very easily if the wrong tone is used), he doesn’t get that benefit of the doubt.
I’m not even going to get into the bit about whether or not a porn star pissed on Randazza’s desk or not. It would have happened three years ago and it’d be difficult to prove either way, and it’s also irrelevant; Randazza believes someone pissed on his desk and he feels that crosses a line. The company says nobody did. But the article only talks to people from the former employer of Randazza — he is not quoted, except in a few legal brief excerpts.
Why would he go along with a hit piece?
They did say he provided court filings and stated he was working for his client — but he cannot disclose things that are confidential between he and his client. This is the truth. Marc Randazza cannot say anything that the client said to him as a part of their attorney-client relationship, and this severely limits his response to what Liberty (the production company) and COO Brian Dunlap can be.
They can say whatever they want and cherry-pick what to release, however, and this article reads that way.
The author is butthurt that Randazza won’t give them a picture for their smear, but his quote is self-explanatory: “I can’t see why I’d be inclined to provide a photo for a story that appears like it’s going to be the worst fucking thing that’s happened to me this year.” The feature image of Randazza they use has weird lines and boxes drawn over him and the color tables are an odd orange and green (these are not Ars’ colors), so they managed to find something to use just fine.
The worst thing they accuse Randazza of in the article is not disclosing to Liberty his conflict of interest regarding Xvideos, a “tube” site that hosted videos including those of Liberty. That’s a pretty serious — and probably unwise — move on Randazza’s part. He’s only human, though, and Ars has been much more forgiving of others for worse offenses. Also, with regards to sites that host user content, there is a DMCA issue that even Ars writers should be aware of because they talk about it so often. There is a reason copyright holders don’t go after YouTube: sites that allow user posted content are given leeway and immunity as long as they take down any offending content once notified.
The Ars article doesn’t touch on this anywhere.
But they do hint at it: “One year later, Liberty-owned Corbin Fisher videos were still popping up on the Xvideos site.” Yeah, user generated content and copyright violations are a game of whack-a-mole. Even if Randazza was a legitimate warlock he’d have trouble permanently protecting every video Liberty owned.
The second page of the article is where it gets strange.
They mention on page one that Xvideos is a “tube” site — which brings to mind YouTube. Then on the next page they refer to torrenters of files — these are two separate issues and separate types of data transfer. One involves getting data from a central server — the “tube” site — and another involves a mass, collaborative download from many users. In this way, the downloader is also taking part in propagating the file by sending bits back out into the ether to be retrieved by other downloaders. But the article exclusively refers to these users as “downloaders” which is at best a misunderstanding of how torrents work.
Remember, this is supposed to be a tech site. It’s right there in the title.
The strategy addressed is troubling, and very similar to the blackmail scheme that Prenda Law engaged in, but there’s little evidence that this was some big, bad machine orchestrated by Randazza — just un-sourced quotes from Brian Dunlap. Sure, they quote Randazza as referring to torrenters as “thieving little shits”. In fact, they like this line so much that it’s the header for page two. But even Dunlap says, “It was typical him.”
Yeah, that’s why a lot of us like Randazza. He’s brash, like Donald Trump (and I imagine he would hate that comparison). But not holding back and being rude doesn’t mean you’ve “fallen.” Randazza has always been that way. See his legal brief regarding the fake PUA guy who said he would grab a Japanese woman’s head and force it into his crotch — in a legal brief, Randazza offers a bounty for a video of the fake PUA getting his ass beat for trying this. It was awesome.
It is also strange when they conflate defending bloggers against the over-zealous Righthaven — a copyright troll that didn’t actually hold any copyrights, which is the primary reason it lost — with going after people actively engaged in piracy while employed by the copyright holder in question. Also:
“The company [Righthaven] ultimately paid Randazza $55,000 in legal fees, which he kept.” Yes, shock and awe: The lawyer got paid in the form of legal fees when he won a case. Just what is wrong with that? Oh, Liberty, a porn company, believes they’re entitled to legal fees relating to a completely unrelated case?
Get the fuck out of here.
The arbitrator agreed with Liberty which throws the decision into question. He also characterized money Randazza never received as a bribe (according to page three). Randazza, however, puts that idea to pasture: “Defendants in my copyright cases frequently ask if they can hire me once the case is over. I jokingly refer to that as, ‘They want to bribe me to never sue them again.’ They [Liberty] knowingly took it out of context.”
He’s accusing companies of engaging in the Tony Soprano marriage protection scheme: In one episode of the Sopranos, Carmella can’t find a lawyer to represent her because Tony already went and consulted with each of them, so to represent her against him is a conflict of interest. Randazza maintains that he was joking about the “bribes” because it’s a ridiculous notion.
Then there’s a very dramatic black and white picture of Ken White, probably because he sums up the Arbiter’s decision as: “such a one-sided screed…”
Now, Dunlap is mad because apparently Randazza filed for bankruptcy after being ordered to pay the $600,000 — despite the money he earned at Liberty. Well, yeah, money he earned in a period ending three years ago likely got spent. He does a lot of pro-bono work and traveling, he makes appearances, the man has expenses. Nobody ever saves 100% of the money they make in case some asshole sues them.
Most of the damning quotes by Randazza are just his brash attitude reflecting poorly against the weak-kneed Ars Technica. Keep in mind that at least one Ars employee was involved in the secret list that spawned the day of anti-gamer articles that started Gamergate and even signed on to the idea of the gaming press sending a “get well soon” card to Zoe Quinn. These people operate squarely in the hugbox and only rarely approve harsh language — although before this hit piece, they did seem to like Randazza and his methods a lot.
The question remains: Why are they trying to tear down Marc Randazza? My best guess is that Randazza went after someone Ars likes, or defended someone they don’t. Randazza has shown in his free speech cases that he cares about freedom more than he does about shielding the feelings of the weak.
Update: Crime and Federalism: Marc Randazza Learns A Hard Lesson on Loyalty and Life, with an interview with Randazza.
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