By Zach Arnold | February 17, 2014
There’s a lot of paranoia on display these days at UFC headquarters in Las Vegas. By far the most high-profile display of aggression from Zuffa comes in the form of attacking piracy, both at the bar scene and online. This article at Torrent Freak titled “Scary UFC copyright propaganda matters to everyone” contains the following paragraph:
If the UFC is to be taken on face value, anyone watching an unauthorized video on YouTube or Vimeo for example, can be subjected to legal action by the UFC. However, rather than go through the messy process of subpoenas and the like, the UFC can turn up at any unauthorized site, threaten the owner, and walk away with the site’s entire database and use it for legal action.
The Torrent article was based on this Iain Kidd article at Bloody Elbow talking about the UFC getting a default judgment of $12,000 against Greenfeedz. Attorney Julie Lonstein filed the lawsuit in the Northern District of New York and was awarded a rate of $200/hour for attorney fees. She claimed 25 hours of billable time. The decision in the case can be read here. She’s now going after viewers of online streams in addition to the original streamers and doing so on home turf in the courts.
What hasn’t been discussed much is who the law firm involved on behalf of UFC is. The story of the Lonstein Law Office in smalltown Ellenville, New York is quite illuminating. It’s crazy enough that Homeland Security is now involved in combating illegal UFC video streams but how did a small law firm like Lonstein Law Office obtain clients like DirecTV, Cox Communications, Joe Hand Promotions, and the UFC?
For starters, one look at Wayne D & Julie S (Cohen) Lonstein’s web site should give you a clue. Not only do they work with firms that use private investigators to scout bars on fight nights, they happen to also be associated with an Ellenville, New York based company called Signal Auditing that hires “auditors” (independent contractors) to go fish for fresh evidence in order to file more copyright lawsuits. And their operation, Signal Auditing, pitches a phone number for prospective business at 1-87SIGNALHITS. Signal Auditing was founded in June of 2001 with Steven Levine listed as CEO.
Lonstein Law Office & Signal Auditing Inc. were sued by Florida-based Secure Signal, Inc in March of 2008.
How much does Signal Auditing pay “auditors” to fish for copyright claims?
According to a 2009 bulletin they distributed for UFC 100 (Lesnar/Mir), they were offering $750 per “auditor” to find new targets.
So, where’s the money for the Lonsteins with their copyright claims? Once Signal Auditing or another private investigator turns over potential evidence, they go to court. The money for Lonstein Law Office is in attorney fees, primarily through default judgments if the people they sue don’t settle for a few thousand dollars for each claim. The kind of benevolence you expect from the MPAA or Righthaven. If there isn’t proof of service and you don’t know about Lonstein filing a lawsuit against you, you have to go through PACER instead of the Northern District court online to view the document. You can either get sued by Lonstein in Albany, New York or get sued by the UFC on their home turf in Las Vegas.
In the case of the recent default judgment against Greenfeedz the UFC got $12,000 for, a reported 50% of that money went to the Lonsteins.
Two very interesting articles, one in Arkansas Business and the other in the Las Vegas Sun, detail just how much money is at stake for the Lonsteins on default judgments and what the asking price is for settlement. However, when the default judgments are handed down, Lonstein claims that any default judgment ruling can penetrate through a claim of bankruptcy.
Julie Lonstein’s name is quite omnipresent in media articles on copyright suits. Her name was floated in this article on MMA Junkie about going after a Massachusetts bar owner for $640,000. This New York Examiner article argued that the strong-arming court tactics would turn away fans in the long run.
So, what are the Lonsteins doing when they aren’t cashing in on default judgments over copyright claims? Running for political office and donating money to various causes. Julie Lonstein happens to be socially active. In 2008, she ran for the Wawarsing Town Justice seat. She has donated money to The John Wilkes Society and the SUNY New Paltz Foundation.
Wayne Lonstein happens to be a Wawarsing town justice. Julie Lonstein wanted to become the other town justice, too. In Julie Lonstein’s 2008 race for town justice, she stated the following:
“I have no affiliation with any organization. I am not biased in any way. I have not taken any campaign contributions from any source. I don’t owe any favors to anybody, and have no preconceived notions of justice.”
Of course she didn’t need to take campaign contributions for a small town race. Her clients that pay the bills are big media organizations willing to give a good $ cut of the action on copyright lawsuits.
No preconceived notions of justice, huh?
When the issue about Wayne Lonstein being the other town justice became an issue for her political campaign, here’s how she responded in October 2008:
There is no conflict if I am elected Judge and Wayne Lonstein is the other Judge. To suggest otherwise behind the cover of anonymity is purely mudslinging and issue baiting.
I know that I have the ability and qualifications to accept the position of Town Justice, if elected, and respectfully request that anyone that has anything to inquire about me personally, my qualifications or any other question to please identify yourself and contact me directly at 845-647-8500 or email me at email@example.com . I am happy to discuss any issue that is pertinent to this campaign in an appropriate manner with dignity and respect to the Judicial position that I am seeking.
Her election opponent, Charlie Dechon, became town judge after winning by a 4% margin. And Julie Lonstein went back to doing what the Lonsteins do best — suing people over copyright claims and collecting fees from default judgments. Appearing in “over 2,000 federal litigation matters” is her claim to fame.