OAKLAND, Calif. — A federal judge has ruled that U.K.-based GLBT Ltd., which was accused of mass infringement by Channel 1 Releasing, Corbin Fisher and Titan Media, is liable for damages that could amount to more than $29 million.
In a decision on a motion for summary judgment, U.S. District Judge Maxine Chesney ruled that GLBT Ltd. operators Steven and David Compton are liable for direct copyright infringement, vicarious copyright infringement and contributory copyright infringement.
The ruling now paves the way for collection efforts for the three studios after two years of litigation over content allegedly poached and streamed on the Compton's JerkYourTube.com, GayForIt.com and ItsAllGay.com tube sites.
Adult industry attorney Gill Sperlein of Sperlein Law, who represented Titan Media, told XBIZ on Wednesday that the judgment against the Comptons was inevitable.
"They knew this and only engaged in litigation in order to delay the judgment for as long as possible so they could continue to infringe," he said. "We can't comment on how collection efforts will work except to say we will chase them to the ends of the Earth."
The long-running case was brought on by the California gay studios in 2010 after they decided to take a stand on blatant copyright infringement.
"United we stand, divided we fall!" Keith Webb of Titan Media told XBIZ at the time. "I’m gonna be working in a sweat shop soon if we don’t do something about these pirates."
In its original suit, the Comptons' three sites were described as "prime examples of websites designed with the sole purpose of redirecting profits from copyright holders to the un-invested poachers operating the infringing sites."
It also said that the sites try to shield behind the possible legal angle that content is user-generated and that the "defendants place their brand on plaintiff’s intellectual property as if it belonged to them."
But the Comptons, who at one point marketed COP-CMS, a software program that proclaims to protect adult studios from copyright infringement, claimed in their response to the suit that they were immune from civil liability because they operate as an ISP under the provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
The Comptons also contended in their responses that they couldn't be sued in the U.S. because it is an "inconvenient forum" because they operate as an U.K.-based company.
Later, the Comptons dumped their .com sites and transferred content to .eu sites, rebranding efforts as JerkYourTube.eu, GayForIt.eu and ItsAllGay.eu.
At the time, attorneys for the gay adult studios said that the "defendants recognized it was time to jump from the sinking ship" by moving their assets out of the U.S.
But after they refused to hand over the tube sites to a receiver and not honor an injunction, a federal judge imposed $1,000-a-day fines, while also ruling that the Comptons destroyed internal emails, takedown notices and removal notifications, allowing for sanctions.
In the past six months, however, the Comptons have turned their backs on the U.S. justice system, not responding to court communications and orders after they fired their California attorney.
Chesney, in her summary judgment ruling, said that the three gay studios relied on "rebuttable factual presumptions."
"[But] no evidence has been offered to rebut said presumptions, and, consequently, the court finds it is undisputed that the Comptons have directly infringed plaintiffs’ copyrights by publicly displaying plaintiffs’ copyrighted works on the Comptons’ websites," Chesney ruled.
With the ruling, Chesney vacated a scheduled hearing for Friday.
XBIZ was unable to reach the Comptons by post time.