Copyright trolls facing legal sanctions for in-court fraud file defamation suits against identity theft victim and online critics

Prenda Law is the notorious, scandal-haunted copyright trolling lawfirm that represents various pornography producers, sending extortionate letters to people allegedly detected illegally downloading videos, demanding money to go away -- the alternative being to have your name linked with embarrassing pornography titles in a public record forever.

Prenda made headlines lately for claiming that it was working for a man called Alan Cooper, allegedly the CEO of offshore companies that had hired Prenda to send legal threats on their behalf. Only one problem: Cooper says he has nothing to do with the companies or Prenda. When they were caught in this bit of alleged in-court identity theft, Prenda's lawyers complained that their judge was being mean to them and tried to get him taken off their case. When this gambit failed, they tried several others -- everything, in fact, except for admitting what seems obvious on its face: they'd misrepresented the facts to the court and stolen Cooper's identity.

In my opinion, Prenda is a shitshow from stem to stern. From absurd claims like the existence of an adolescent male in a household is proof that illegal porn downloading must be taking place to weird legal theories about BitTorrent users being in conspiracy with one another despite never having met, communicated, and not being aware of one another, every one of Prenda's actions smacks of utter desperation.

But Prenda's desperation has reached new depths with its latest gambit: filing three defamation lawsuits each against people who called them out for their bad behavior, including Alan Cooper (the man whose identity was allegedly stolen in Prenda's court filings) and his lawyer; and, apparently online news sites like Fight Copyright Trolls (who've tirelessly chronicled Prenda's misdeeds), and message-board commenters who expressed shock at the bad behavior on exhibit in Prenda's deeds.

This desperate move comes mere days before a California hearing on sanctions for Prenda's counsel. Hilariously, in para 104, the lawyers for Prenda (who have given numerous grandstanding interviews to the national and global press) claim that they are not public figures. They also characterize countless instances of obvious opinion and hyperbole as libelous. And they are clearly fuzzy on the liability for libel on message boards, and the limitations thereof, as set out in the Communications Decency Act.

This feels to me like a last attempt to punish Prenda's victims for daring to refuse to be victimized, a final shot before the inevitable court sanctions, bankruptcy, and potential jail time. It's the kind of wickedness that makes it hard to believe in humanity's essential morality. My goodness, it will be delightful to roast marshmallows over Prenda's funeral pyre when that glorious day comes.

Copyright trolls Prenda Law, Paul Duffy, and John Steele commence three lawsuits v. Paul Godfread, Alan Cooper and our community (Thanks, That Anonymous Coward!)


  1. Fortunately there are a number of entities that offer help to bloggers and anonymous commenters threatened with bogus lawsuits — Public Citizen, the EFF, Digital Media Law Project.  There are also attorneys out there who will take cases pro bono.  These complaints call for a vigorous and knowledgeable defense.

    I’m trying to connect defendants with entities and lawyers.

  2. They can’t implement a law punishing copyright and patent trolls soon enough. They really need to curb this legal system bullying. It’s been out of control for way too long.

  3. > From absurd claims like the existence of an adolescent male in a household is proof that illegal porn downloading must be taking place


    1.  Why would they download illegal porn?  There’s plenty of free porn on the intertubes.

      1. Exactly. Amateur porn, pin up art, illustrations of just about any kind of porn you can imagine, free “erotic” samples from subscription websites… It’s kind of hard NOT to stumble across all kinds of images to masturbate to that’s being freely distributed by the IP holders for the express purposes of masturbating to. Never mind the tons of catalogue and ethnographic pictures that were “good enough” in pre-internet years, but are now available in vast quantities over the internet.

        Go fumble around on Flikr or Deviant Art!

      1. this is the best thing I’ve seen all week.

        I am having a hard time believing that the PB actually did this themselves though. regardless, awesome.

  4. Unfortunately the courts are historically extremely resistant to sanctions against even the worst of lawyerly behaviors. This may be a good thing when sanctions might otherwise be used as a weapon in politically charged cases or cases where the prosecution or judiciary is corrupt, but even so it’s hard to understand how these and similar trolling lawyers have avoided first paying heavy fines and second being disbarred.

  5. Thank you, Cory, for your ongoing support to our humble efforts. 

    Overall, the Internet was amazing today. Thanks everyone.

  6. “In my opinion, Prenda is a shitshow from stem to stern.”

    “My goodness, it will be delightful to roast marshmallows over Prenda’s funeral pyre when that glorious day comes.”

    Don’t hold back, Cory. Tell us how you really feel about them!

    1. Let’s see… a little editing….

      “In my opinion, Prenda is a […] delightful […] glorious day” –Cory Doctorow

      There we go, cleared it up for you and ready for the movie poster!

    1. California is a SLAPP state, but the lawsuits in question are pending in Illinois and Florida (which are also SLAPP states).

  7. Back in the olden-days, law was a respected and fairly honorable profession. Unfortunately law-schools have been turning out so many graduates there’s no longer sufficient “proper” business to go round so the excess lawyers have gone feral… time for a culling?!

    1. Hmm, smells like a ‘back in my day’ statement to me.  Was it really any better in the past? I figure lawyers must have got their reputation from somewhere, and it isn’t from the past decade.

      1. It *was* better actually.

        Now the feral lawyers advertise on TV.

        My personal favorite: the class-action lawsuit. You (the plaintiff) get a coupon for a free sandwich and I (the lawyer) get rich beyond the dreams of avarice.

          1. We regret to inform you that we are only able to share that information with members of the class.

    2. …so the excess lawyers have gone feral…

      This made my morning. Absolutely no better way to describe it.

      There are now lawyers that don’t lawyer at all–they hunt down plaintiffs for other lawyers.

    3. The culling should be done on peak breeding season. Oh, and no limit on what you can bag!

  8. Here in England, Northern Ireland (& Wales, don’t forget, but not Scotland necessarily) we have a sanction against bringing “frivolous and vexatious” lawsuits.  Don’t you guys have similar in the USA?

    Basically, the judge can turn around, inclining of course to the protection of their professional reputation, and tell a plaintiff the suit is f&v so please leave my court and go under to the bridge whence you came. 

    1. It’s very difficult to get someone declared a vexatious litigant. Here’s a famous one in SF.

      In the past two decades, McColm has sued the federal government, the Bank of America, Kaiser, at least three department stores, a host of city workers, numerous private businesses, tenants, and at least two newspapers that printed articles about her. And when I called her yesterday to talk to her about the foreclosure sale and other matters, she told me she will sue me as well.
      After she was denied tenure at San Francisco State University, she filed suit contending sex discrimination. When she failed the state bar the second time, she sued the state bar…
      …She has sued contractors. She has sued churches. She has sued people for unseen injuries she claimed to have incurred in at least nine car accidents. And she has sued her neighbors so many times that they could form their own support group, if they weren’t so busy scrambling to retain legal counsel.

      1. zomg!

        Maybe she’s just CV building – y’know, showing what a rainmaker she is so that she can slide a greasy sponsored path through the state bar!

    2. Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is designed to limit frivolous suits and motions by requiring that (1) the case or motion is not presented for an improper purpose; and (2) reasonable inquiry was made into the factual and legal contentions made..  The second requirement is particularly helpful in limiting frivolous suits because it requires the attorney to make an independent investigation of the facts underlying the case and his or her signature attests that a reasonable attorney would file such a document and that it is supported by existing law or a reasonable extension of existing law.  The upcoming hearing before  in Judge Wright’s courtroom is just such a hearing and Prenda’s attorneys  could face serious sanctions including jail time.

    3. we have a sanction against bringing “frivolous and vexatious” lawsuits.  Don’t you guys have similar in the USA?

      Basically, no. Nothing quite like what you have, or what we have in Canada. I especially like the law here in Canada where, if your lawsuit gets crushed by the Judge, you have to pay the defendant’s legal fees.

  9. I can’t substantiate this rumour, but I heard someone say that prior to taking up shaking down people for money with the threat of being talked about in the newspaper in conjunction with raunchy gay porn, Prenda’s legal counsel exclusively defended child molesters and wife-beaters. You never know.

  10. In many European countries, Prenda’s behaviour would land them several years in jail just for the identity theft alone, and ordered to pay back the identity theft victim’s losses, even if the victim himself didn’t sue them over it.

    I’m actually a bit surprised that identity theft in the US doesn’t carry a mandatory jail sentence when the evidence is right there.

  11. “Corporations are people too, my friend. And like people, some of them turn out to be complete, 100%, irredeemable assholes.”

  12. Ohai Cory!
    Thanks for picking this up.  Trolls fear the light, and once again a bright light is being shined on their activities.

  13. I just have to say; IMHO the concept of “BitTorrent users being in conspiracy with one another despite never having met, communicated, and not being aware of one another” actually makes a bit of sense to me, and I think could be argued in court successfully.
    There is an unspoken comradery ‘tween pirates, wherein they are aware of each other, as nameless numbers in a swarm, all with the same intention of providing for, and supporting each others desire for allegedly illicit materials. On private trackers, much more so.

  14. If anyone wonders about the sanctions…

    Judge Wright has ordered the following personnel to be present at the 11 Mar 13, hearing.
    John Steele, of Steele Hansmeier PLLC and/or Livewire Holdings
    Paul Hansmeier, of Steele Hansmeier PLLC and/or Livewire Holdings LLC
    Paul Duffy, of Prenda Law, Inc.
    Angela Van Den Hemel, of Prenda Law, Inc.
    Mark Lutz, CEO of AF Holdings LLC and Ingenuity 13 LLC
    Alan Cooper, of AF Holdings LLC
    Peter Hansemeier of 6881 Forensics, LLC
    Alan Cooper, of 2170 Highway 47 North, Isle, MN 56342.

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