Attorney Mike Meier Meets The Streisand Effect, Does Not Enjoy Experience

Attorney Mike Meier used to be only a little bit infamous. A few sites like Fight Copyright Trolls criticized him, painting him as someone who used to decry copyright trolling but then switched sides and became a copyright troll.

But those posts were relatively obscure.

Then Meier, whom one senses did not come to the law via rocketry, came up with a cunning plan: he sent DMCA notices complaining about blog posts criticizing him. There were several problems with these notices: (1) he sent them to the sites' registrars rather than their hosts, (2) he used them to complain about defamation, which is not covered by the DMCA, and (3) he complained about uses of his images that were clearly, on their face, fair use.

The natural and probable result of Meier's flailing attack was widespread infamy. His targets Fight Copyright Trolls and Extortion Letters ridiculed his hamfisted efforts. Those posts were picked up, and gleefully discussed, by far bigger sites including The Consumerist, BoingBoing, TorrentFreak, Techdirt, and others. The number of people who have read negative things about him has gone up by a couple of orders of magnitude. Some of the past unpleasantness he has experienced — like the time a federal court excoriated him in a sanctions order, or the time he stipulated to a reprimand by a state bar — have reached a far wider audience.

But Mike Meier's legal threat was not foolish just because it exposed his behavior to more readers. It was foolish because it exposed him widely as a fool. People hire lawyers they trust. They want to be able to rely upon their lawyer's advice, and to make difficult decisions based upon that advice. But who would trust the advice of a lawyer who would engage in a legal tactic that is so foreseeably self-destructive? If Meier had sent the DMCA notices on behalf of a client, I would call it rank malpractice and tell his client to consider suing him. In 2014, minimal legal competence requires an attorney to anticipate and understand the Streisand Effect.

Last 5 posts by Ken White

Comments

  1. Wshuff says

    The day I file a motion with the Court and receive a one-word response — "No" — is the day I hang it up as a lawyer and head off to clown college.

  2. melK says

    Cunning?

    As cunning as a fox who's just been appointed Professor of Cunning at Oxford University?

  3. Ulkeshnaranek says

    People hire lawyers they trust.

    Perhaps he could pursue a new career tying balloon animals at kid parties. Seems like that would suit him far better than lawyering.

  4. Meaculpa says

    I'm not a lawyer (although I spent some time as phone jockey/copy bitch/collections hassler for a small DUI firm), so would someone explain for me why it's odd that Meier stupilated to his own reprimand? It does seem like an unnecessary gesture, but I'm just guessing.

  5. Matt says

    @Meaculpa, I would assume it's sort of like a plea bargain – stipulate to a reprimand, or face X time of suspension?

    @Ken – I see the footnote in the sanctions order, "As a general matter, when the Court refers to the Plaintiffsin this order, the Court is actually referring to Plaintiffs’ counsel as § 1927 addresses counsel action and a party’s counsel pays a fees award under § 1927, not the parties themselves." This may have been discussed in the past, but is the presumption here that the attorneys should sufficiently warn off their clients from doing crazy/vexatious stuff, and thus, if this stuff happens, it's the attorneys' fault for not stopping it? Is there the possibility of sanctioning the offending party directly, instead of their counsel?

  6. Meaculpa says

    @Matt I think you're right—I misread Ken's emphasis.

    @Wshuff

    No. The Court is unsure what more it need say.

    Sometimes I regret never having studied law.

  7. Mike H says

    Then Meier, whom one senses did not come to the law via rocketry, came up with a cunning plan:

    I know your people have no tradition of proofreading, so consider my privilege checked, but I think you want to use "who one senses did not come…" Subjective case, not objective.

  8. Roy says

    Another excellent quote from the opinion which I would advise any potential clients of Mike Meier to read:

    The Court will not opine on which is more accurate, but
    notes that it has the authority to award fees regardless of whether the motion was based on an
    unacceptable, reckless misinterpretation and misunderstanding or on blatant and knowing
    misrepresentations

  9. J.R. says

    I know your people have no tradition of proofreading, so consider my privilege checked, but I think you want to use "who one senses did not come…" Subjective case, not objective.

    Looks to me that one is the subject, senses is the verb, so whom is the object and should be an objective case, accusative in this case. All puns accidental but … whatever.

  10. sinij says

    How is Mike Meier's incompetence is structurally different from incompetence of any below-average practitioner in any certified field that does not require continuous re-certification and education? The key and only difference is Streisand Effect, and you could argue that Mike 'won the lottery' on this, as I am willing to bet there are thousands of abusive and idiotic DMCAs filed every day all over the country.

    The real issues are a) DMCAs are so easy to abuse b) Law in general is so easy to abuse c) Human condition.

  11. JTM says

    For anyone who wants to learn more about copyright and the DMCA (and lots of other stuff too), some Duke professors just put out a free casebook on IP law.

  12. En Passant says

    @J.R., August 27, 2014 at 5:08 pm

    Agreed.

    I think the fact that the entire embedded sentence "one senses whom" is properly used in subjective case makes the "whom" sound wonky to some ears. But the verb "senses" is used as transitive and so takes an object, "whom".

    In any case (no pun intended), this saga of wounds self inflicted by disregard of the first rule of holes is yet one more reason I find Popehat both edifying and amusing.

  13. Pierre says

    @J.R./En Passant

    I think it should be "who" — "one senses" is an aposition, and could be removed from the clause without changing its meaning. Or it could be parenthesized: "who (one senses) did not come…". One is not simply sensing him: one is sensing the fact that he did not come via rocketry.

  14. mcinsand says

    The sanctions order was indeed entertaining, but it left me wondering whether 'attorney' Meier might have been involved in the SCOX lawsuits against IBM, Redhat, Daimler-Chrysler, Autozone, … The basic litigation strategy is awfully similar; get smacked down for a flawed legal argument, attempt to apply the same argument in the next filing, repeat.

  15. Bu'bha al-Teksani says

    'Who' is the subject of the clause that in its entirety is object of what 'one senses.' Think 'one senses he did not come …' The whole damn online world is besotted with 'whom' these days. I suppose people think it elegant.

  16. Ernie Gordon says

    Just a thought – and likely not true here – but what if Mike Meier (or any other bumbling public figure) had an extremely devious adversary who posed as Mike Meier and sent out a similar ill-advised DMCA notice intentionally designed to make him look incompetent? I'm struck over the maelstrom of coverage and how easy it would be to use the Streisand Effect as a tool to destroy someone.

  17. Babs says

    @J.R./En Passant: Mike H and Pierre are correct. The object of "one senses" is not merely "who/whom" but the entire phrase "who did not come…". The subjective case in that phrase supersedes the objective case of the phrase in the larger sentence.

    Hi, Ken!

  18. I Was Anonymous says

    The whole grammar thing reminds me of the grafitti scene from Monty Python's Life Of Brian.

    "The People called Romans, they go to the House"?

  19. says

    @Ernie: the was a plenty of time for him to react. I received the notice from my registrar on Friday night, and I wrote to Meier on Saturday morning. We made this ordeal public on Tuesday, so he had plenty of time to say: look, this is a mistake, let's sort it out privately. Do you think I would proceed knowing that there was a likelihood of foul play?

  20. Ernie Gordon says

    @SJD

    Given Meier's past performance this is indeed likely him, but I'm more struck by the intensity of the reaction is all. What got me thinking this way is I have Fight Copyright Trolls, Popehat, Ars Technica, Techdirt and others all bookmarked and visit the sites daily. Except for some reason Mike Meier flew right past without my noticing until it landed here. And I routinely miss emails sent to my private email accounts from people – not spam – who are initiating conversations I didn't start, so to me the delayed response to your email isn't unusual. You mentioned at FCT that you didn't go public until someone else did, and that is my point – once it got out there, everyone pounced. I'm not concerned about Meiers – I agree with your opinion that Meier's conduct behind the Virginia State Bar action may be grounds for disbarment – but the intensity of the coverage and how quickly it escalated makes me wonder how long it will be before someone gets set up to disastrous effect.

  21. JTG says

    I love the little note in the Techdirt article mentioning how John steele has claimed to be the person who "flipped" Mike Meier to become an IP protection attorney. Now given Mr. Steele's record, that feels more like a brag, than anything else. But if it has even the smallest kernel of truth, then it would say so much.

  22. says

    People hire lawyers they trust. They want to be able to rely upon their lawyer's advice, and to make difficult decisions based upon that advice.

    Sometimes. Other times, people just hire lawyers who tell them whatever it is they really really want to hear. No shortage of those attorneys practicing under Divorce or Personal Injury.

  23. Nancy says

    Ken, I want to thank you for the link to Fight Copyright Trolls, because I found a link that has led me to the comments of Federal Judge Lynn Hughes, Texas SD, in regard to a Prenda suit that landed in his court. My favorite line so far is "The court is not an ex-girlfriend’s Facebook wall. All documents must be filed with the court, captioned, signed by counsel, and with service certified." My life brightened considerably when I read that. For others who want to enjoy the fun: http://fightcopyrighttrolls.com/2012/05/04/the-court-is-not-an-ex-girlfriends-facebook-wall-judge-teaches-a-troll-douglas-mcintyre/

  24. ElSuerte says

    Ken, I saw your recent tweets about the new Kimberlin article and how that creep Schmalfeldt is trolling the comments there, and I was hoping I could get you to write a lawsplainer post about the copyright case(s) [It's hard to keep track of all the litigation in this kimberlan mess] between Schmalfeldt and a couple of anti-kimberlin bloggers. The anti-Kimberlin bloggers are/have been suing Schmalfeldt for copyright infringement. I feel like I need to add a disclaimer that I find Schmalfeldt extremely creepy, repellent, etc ad vomitum. IANAL, but I think the infringement case against Schmalfeldt is getting too close to copyright trolling for my taste. IMO, he arguments range from meretricious* to farcical**. I hope I'm wrong, and I hope your calm headed perspicacity can improve the situation.

    Re banchan, Water spinach (aka on choy) makes a really good banchan, even though it's not a korean vegetable. It's really easy to find in asian markets here in LA. The hollow stem gives it a great texture. Just treat it like any other namul. Be sure to wash it in a big bucket of water to get all the dirt out.

    * http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2014/07/10/blogger-w-j-j-hoge-hogewash-sues-blogger-bill-schmalfeldt-patriot-ombudsman-for-copyright-infringement/
    ** http://hogewash.com/2014/08/29/one-of-these-things-is-not-like-the-others/

  25. says

    If you ask me, Meier needs to say "Plugh", then maybe he'll have time to reflect on why DMCA abuse is such a bad idea once he's back in the well house.
    (Geek reference for this post. Job done!)

  26. jetty says

    "People hire lawyers they trust."
    No.
    People hire lawyers that they think will win their case in court.

  27. Jason says

    About the grammar; here's how you figure it out. Just change the sentence back to the original sentence without the relative clause.
    "One senses that he didn't come to the law via rocketry."
    Since the relative pronoun takes the place of "he" in the sentence above, it should be in the subjective form, "who", just as the pronoun "he" is.

    Also, if you want to know whether to use "John and I" or "John and me", just take the name out and only use "I" or "me".
    For example: "That story had John and me cracking up" uses "me" not "I", which is very clear if you try to say, "That story had I cracking up."

    English is hard! Good luck.

  28. says

    Unfortunately idiots like this are not, at the end of the day, a threat to pretty much anyone but themselves. On the other hand, when lawyers from major firms do things that are essentially at the same early-hominid level of evolution ("uses tools; basic grooming"), judges never sanction them, reprimand them or sanction them. I mean, friends, I can show you (I can if you want) a transcript where a federal judge in New York asked my adversary, an associate from one of America's Greatest Law Firms — Harvard Law grad, of course — during oral argument in support of a motion for a preliminary injunction, whether, based on the stupidity of the argument he had just made, he had even passed the bar… Ha, ha, ha…. I was feeling puh-ritty good right about then!

    He got the injunction.

    So this is, at the end of the day, just cheap fun, Ken. And I know you know exactly what I'm-a talkin' 'bout.

  29. That Anonymous Coward says

    @Erinie – Had someone set him up for this, he would have actual legal recourse.
    The entire under Penalty of Perjury thing only covers that the sender owns or is authorized by the rightsholder to make the claim, not that the claims themselves are fraudulent.
    (yet another failing in the law, forcing others to spend money to clean up bogus requests and offering no recourse to make submitters actually have to be accurate).

    So he completely could have initiated action against the person allegedly posing as him.
    If he had filed a case pursing that, I am sure that FCT & ELI would have modified their posts to include the claim that the notices might not have been sent by him.
    If he were to win a case, they would report on that as well – and most likely have then dug into the background of the why.
    FCT & ELI have very good reputations (despite handwringing court filings) for reporting the facts as facts, the opinions as opinions and if they have to eating a bit of crow.
    It is confusing sometimes that the anti-copyright trolling community (aka Internet Hate Group) is highly transparent about everything (well except who some of us are) while those on the otherside like to hide as much as the law will allow (and then some).

  30. says

    I loved Mike Meier in Austin Powers. It is a shame he fell on hard times and had to take work as a lawyer. I guess he is still trying to get his mojo back.

  31. Random Eddie says

    So, CJK Fossman, you're claiming that Patrick and Clark are somehow spamming by posting at their own blog?

    What a tool you must be.

  32. TomB says

    I imagine some of the more serious-minded are losing theirs right about now…

    Heh. "Boob bait for the bubbas"

  33. David C says

    For those of you wondering about all the posts, this was on Popehat's Twitter:

    "In honor of labor, Popehat is marking @instapundit day today. Don't freak out. We've done this before."

  34. says

    @ElSuerte, I am deliberately not commenting on the lawsuits against Schmalfeldt, for reasons I have discussed here. Don't interpret that as approval of the suits in question.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Flap over fantasy-art DMCA takedown demand seems to be over, but we can still enjoy Ken's take [Popehat] More Popehat highlights: 7th Circuit affirms sanctions vs. Team Prenda of copyright troll fame; multi-level marketer threatens blogger; controversial doctor resorts "to threats and legal analysis that are at least as innovative as his cancer theories"; "In 2014, minimal legal competence requires an attorney to anticipate and understand the Streisand Effect"; […]