Hunter Moore, widely recognized as the progenitor of ‘revenge porn’, has been held liable by a Federal Court for trademark infringement, fraud, defamation, and other claims in Passante v. Moore. Brandi Passante, star of “Storage Wars”, sued Moore after he posted a video purporting (falsely, as the court ruled) to show her performing sex acts. Moore failed to respond to the case, except to send Passante’s attorney a picture of his penis (NSFL) – and then quietly removed the offending content from his site.
Dick pics are not among the responsive pleadings permitted by Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 12.
In the court’s ruling (PDF), the judge issued a permanent injunction prohibiting Moore from re-posting the content and awarded Passante $750 in damages, plus attorney fees. The court reasoned that only minimal statutory damages were available, absent a showing by Passante of her actual damages. That doesn’t mean that Moore will only have to muster up $750 and be done with the matter: the court invited Passante to submit a new declaration establishing her actual damages. Given that Passante was asking for $1.25 million in damages, Moore may still be on the hook for much more.
This is Moore’s second legal defeat. The self-proclaimed ‘millionaire’ also failed to respond to a lawsuit by Bullyville’s James McGibney, to whom Moore now owes $250,000 for defamation.
One of the unfortunate aspects of revenge porn sites is that its creators, with few (if any) legitimate opportunities to profit via advertising, are often driven to extortionate “take down” scams. Recognizing that the men and women depicted on the sites are desperate to have their pictures removed, the sites advertise “take down” services by “independent” or “third party” companies that offer to negotiate to have their nude photos removed. Of course, these “take down” sites never disclose the fact that they’re operated by the same person running the revenge porn site, because that would start to sound a lot like extortion.
Take, for example, “WinByState,” a private forum (running VBulletin software) that allows users to view and submit “your ex-girlfriend, your current girlfriend, or any other girl that you might know.” To get access, users are required to submit photos, but must agree that they have “the person(s) permission who is in the picture/video[.]” If that were credible, few people would quarrel with the site — if people are comfortable with nude photos of themselves online, more power to them.
But if it were credible to claim that the people posted on the site are posted there with “permission,” why would the site advertise TakedownHammer.info, an “independent” and “third party” service that charges $250 to have photos removed? If this sounds familiar, it’s because Craig Brittain operated the same scam using the same name — and the text of this site is largely ripped off of Brittain’s now-defunct TakedownHammer.com.
Nor is this “TakedownHammer” remotely independent of the revenge porn-esque forum “WinByState”, as the site claims. A little digging into the ownership of both “WinByState” and “TakedownHammer.info” shows that both are owned (and apparently operated) by Casey Meyering of Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Hat missing. Also: basic sense of decency. If found, please return to Tulsa, OK. No reward.
Casey Meyering, 27, is the drummer for Tulsa halfway-rock group FM Pilots, which, judging solely on their sound, have probably never actually glided through any sort of F.M. band. Maybe A.M.
Almost all of the above websites were at one point registered to Casey Meyering or “KC” of various false addresses in Beverly Hills, California. (Get it? “KC”? Sigh.). Several of the websites are registered to Meyering using a WCPuppets.com email address. WCPuppets was once a porn site operated by Meyering which now redirects to revenge porn forum WinByState. Each of the above websites is hosted on the same server (identified as mazda.icertified.net in the headers of the emails sent when people register for an account on WinByState), and almost all of the sites hosted on the server are linked via whois records to Meyering. And here’s Meyering tweeting back and forth with iCertified, talking about his “mazda” server:
That might be enough to tie Meyering to the revenge porn forum, but what about the extortionate “TakedownHammer.info” site? Not only is it hosted on the same “mazda” server, but Meyering used the same Google Wallet account for both his drum lessons site and the “take down” site. That is, people who sign up for a drum lesson on Meyering’s drumming site will find that it lists their payment as going to “Takedown Hammer” at a fake address in Beverly Hills, California.
Now why would Meyering lie to his loyal customers about the nature and location of his business? You can draw your own conclusions. Shortly after I emailed Meyering asking for a comment (he never responded), his Twitter account was deleted.
Revenge pornographers don’t get much clumsier than this. And it’s a good thing, too. While the legality of revenge porn is the subject of much public debate, and law enforcement is unlikely to address the borderline-extortion perpetrated by sites such as Meyering’s, those running these sites can and should be exposed and criticized for their harmful acts. They hide their identities for a reason: so that they can expose, shame, and unethically take money from others without worrying about it disrupting their own lives too much.
In the wake of a Florida bill to criminalize revenge porn (which died after failing to receive a final vote before the Florida legislative session ended), a California state senator has introduced Senate Bill 255. SB255, as introduced by Sen. Anthony Canella (R-Ceres) would make it a misdemeanor to engage in a wide variety of acts associated with “revenge porn” — the practice of sharing nude photos of someone in order to sate a fleeting desire for revenge.
While I largely agree with Eugene Volokh (UCLA law professor and renowned First Amendment scholar) that revenge porn is not likely protected by the First Amendment (and I take great pride in shaming revenge pornographers), any legislative attempt to provide legal remedies for revenge porn victims must be narrowly drawn in order to be effective. If a bill is drafted in a manner that reaches too much protected speech, a revenge porn defendant might successfully escape prosecution by challenging the statute on overbredth grounds.
While the bill is in its earliest stages and can hopefully be amended, SB255 as drafted goes too far, criminalizing even linking to a revenge porn post.
Revenge porn site YouGotPosted (also known as “ugotposted”) has been sued in the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. The complaint is here (hat-tip: Bullyville).
Notably, this is the first lawsuit targeting a revenge porn site that focuses on copyright. I think intellectual property claims present the best chance victims of revenge porn sites have in prevailing in civil cases against site owners.
While sites even as despicable as YouGotPosted might have a CDA Section 230 defense against tort claims (although I think that’s debatable), CDA 230 expressly exempts intellectual property rights claims (like copyright) from its protection against liability. That is, although under CDA 230 many sites have immunity from liability for tortuous content submitted by users, they don’t have immunity when it comes to copyright and trademark claims. Rather, they can attempt to argue that they are exempt from copyright liability by way of the DMCA’s safe harbor, but they’re screwed on this front, having not registered an agent to receive DMCA takedown notices (among other failings).
While this will be a case to watch, I doubt that the main operators of the site (Eric Chanson and Kevin Bollaert) will respond. They failed to respond (at least in court) to the trademark lawsuit filed against them by Bullyville/ViaView, and a default judgment in excess of $300,000 was issued against them. Chanson’s parents, however, are now asking the court in the Bullyville case to set aside the judgment, claiming they weren’t properly served and had no idea about the lawsuit until recently. (They also claim that they had no idea about their son’s revenge porn site until Bullyville offered to pay Eric and Kevin to shut down their site).
Though Chanson and Bollaert’s scumbaggery is well-established by virtue of their running a revenge porn site, I’m surprised this lawsuit made no mention of the extortionate “ChangeYourReputation” scam. The only way their site makes a profit (its advertising affiliate jumped ship following a tip from yours-truly — oops!) is by charging victims to have their pictures removed. That idea was ripped off of the “Takedown Hammer” scheme operated by Craig Brittain (and probably Chance Trahan) of “ObamaNudes.”
And this suit is probably a preview of what’s to come for Craig Brittain and Chance Trahan — who are more likely to fight any claims against them. (I’m not saying they’ll fight well — but they’ll fight.)
This will be a quick post, but in my ongoing research into revenge porn and online extortion, I stumbled across (h/t Mandy Nagy) this press release and recently-unsealed complaint in the Eastern District of Michigan. It alleges, essentially, that a New York man — Adam Paul Savader — used a variety of Google Voice numbers to text women under the monicker “John Smith.” ”Smith” told the women that he had nude photos of them (or, in one victim’s case, her mother) and that he would post more online if they did not send more nude photos. He allegedly threatened to send the photos to their family members, sorority sisters, and the Republican National Committee, telling one that everyone in “D.C” would see the nude photos. The unidentified victims apparently attended the same college as Savader.
On Twitter, Adam Savader brags that he was “Formerly @PRyan’s sole intern on @MittRomney’s campaign and a @newtgingrich campaign staffer” and notes that his website is savader.com. The whois registration for the site lists his abode as being the same Great Neck, NY address as the address affiliated with the IP address used to register many of the online accounts allegedly used in the sextortion plot.
Savader is charged with internet extortion in violation of 18 USC 875(d) and cyberstalking in violation of 18 USC 2261A(2). While no money was apparently demanded of the victims, at least one court of Appeals has held (PDF) that demanding even intangibles can constitute a “thing of value” for purposes of the internet extortion statute.
It should go without saying that, if true, this kind of behavior is contemptuous, regardless of partisan affiliation. There are creeps on every side of the aisle.
While much focus has been on IsAnybodyDown (now known as “ObamaNudes”) and the antics of truth-challenged Craig Brittain, the largest revenge porn site is YouGotPosted (aka “ugotposted”). This lowly blog receives far more visitors searching for YouGotPosted than for any other revenge porn site, and far more victims of that site contact me than victims of Craig Brittain.
YouGotPosted’s ride, however, is about to come to a crashing halt, as the result of a lawsuit filed by ViaView (parent company of Bullyville). The site’s remaining operators – Eric Chanson, Kevin Bollaert, Chanson’s parents (Roy and Amy Chanson), and “Blue Mist Media LLC“ – have been held in contempt by a Federal court in Nevada. Additionally, the court determined that their violations of court orders merit terminating the case in Bullyville’s favor and requiring payment of Bullyville’s legal fees.
Yesterday, revenge porn’s Craig Brittain announced on Twitter that he was ending his site, IsAnybodyDown.com (synopsis here). Many (myself included) interpreted that to mean that Brittain was shutting down his site. And with tweets like these, wouldn’t you?:
The website, Is Anybody Down, will completely end.
Charles Carreon, still fighting lawyers Paul Alan Levy and Catherine Gellis over the Satirical Chas lawsuit, has filed his opposition to a motion to impose tens of thousands of dollars in attorneys’ fees. In his opposition (PDF), Carreon has the chutzpah to argue that the real speech threatened here is his.
Craig Brittain’s revenge porn site, IsAnybodyDown.com, might have been an unremarkable ripoff of Hunter Moore’s “Is Anyone Up?” site if not for “David Blade III, Esq.” Blade was an invention of Craig Brittain, a fake attorney created to add an aura of legitimacy to Brittain’s extortionate scheme: post nude photos along with full names, social media profiles, and phone numbers, then charge victims $250 to have them removed.
Nor was “David Blade” Brittain’s only only online impersonation. I theorized that Brittain’s efforts went a step further: pretend to be a Craigslist user arranging a sexual encounter, then take the photos and post them to IsAnybodyDown. That theory proved true when CBS Denver turned up emails bearing Brittain’s IP address, showing that he pretended to be a “Jess Davis” to solicit nude photos, using the photos of one of his victims.
But allegations in a 2005 harassment charge and restraining order naming Brittain are unsurprisingly predictive of his future behavior: impersonating people on the internet in an effort to harm women online and offline.
While I do have a J.D., I haven't been licensed quite yet. That means you shouldn't rely on anything I write for anything more than mere amusement. I'm not an attorney. I'm not your attorney. I can't -- and won't -- give you any legal advice, here or anywhere. Even if I did, relying on someone without a license is akin to entrusting your car to a precocious six-year old who has demonstrated a proficiency on his Big Wheels bike. Don't do that.