Porno copyright trolls Prenda: expert says they pirated their own movies to get victims to download

The saga of porno-copyright-trolls Prenda Law (previously) just keeps getting more tawdry. Prenda is a mysterious extortionate lawsuit-threat-factory that claimed to represent pornographers when it sent thousands (and thousands!) of legal threats to people, telling them they'd get embroiled in ugly litigation that would forever tie their names to embarrassing pornography titles unless they paid hush money.

Their con has unraveled in a series of legal losses. Now, one of their victims has had an expert witness file an affidavit in First Time Videos vs. Paul Oppold, a case in Florida. The expert fields an astonishing accusation: Prenda Law's principle, John Steele, is the person who uploaded the infringing pornography in the first place, listing it on BitTorrent index sites with information inviting people to download it -- people whom he then sent legal threats to for downloading those selfsame movies.

Among other things, sharkmp4 seemed to be able to post these works on The Pirate Bay before the works were even mentioned anywhere else, and in at least one case, "sharkmp4" put a video up on The Pirate Bay three days before Prenda shell company Ingenuity 13 had even filed for the copyright. On top of that, the "forensics" company that Prenda uses -- which is supposedly run by Paul Hansmeier's brother Peter, but which had its domain registered and controlled by (you guessed it) John Steele -- apparently identified "infringements" almost immediately after the videos were placed on The Pirate Bay -- meaning they were likely looking for such infringement in conjunction with the upload.

At the end, however, Neville pulls together really damning evidence, tying together a website set up to distribute Ingenuity 13 porn films with the same exact IP address that was confirmed as being used by John Steele to log into his own GoDaddy account, highlighting how Steele -- or someone with access to his logins -- clearly has full access and control over Ingenuity 13 works. As you read through all of the evidence it appears highly likely that Steele is in control of Ingenuity 13, despite all his protests to the contrary.

As the filing notes:

Prenda Law's business structure is such that it is pirate, forensic pirate hunter, and attorney. It also appears that Prenda Law also wants to/has formed/is forming a corporate structure where it is: pornography producer, copyright holder, pornography pirate, forensic investigator, attorney firm, and debt collector. Other than the omission of appearing in the pornography themselves, this would represent an entire in-house copyright trolling monopoly- not designed to promote their own works for distribution and sale, but to induce infringement of their works and reap profits seen from mass anti-piracy litigation.

New Filing Presents Evidence That John Steele Uploaded Videos To BitTorrent Himself

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  1. Now why didn’t I think of that? It seems obvious in retrospect. Like turning the neighborhood kids into junkies then running for Sheriff on a law-and-order platform.

      1. If Rob Ford starts a post-political porn career, I’m moving to Bhutan.

  2. But but I thought media companies were police who could conduct their own ‘stings’?

    I would suggest it’s likely that all of these Anti P2P douchebags do exactly that: by seeding their own original torrents they can then say with confidence that every IP who is also seeding that particular torrent has acquired it illegally.

    1.  Except IS it illegal, if the copyright holder is making it publicly available for free and you choose to partake?
      Does this work for physical products as well?
      Because I’ve got this great idea for giving out free bracelets…

      1. not illegal if the rights holder is the one making it available. so there is no pirating involved

        1. I guess Preda owes all those people who they claimed “stole” their pornos some money. If they are willing to step forward and claim it.

      2. Your logic would be sound if it were apparent who is the originator of particular torrent files (it’s not). Since one wouldn’t know that the rights holder upped the content, it’s still illegal. Furthermore: merely uploading a file to a public space does not mean the rights to that file are revoked. Newspapers print pictures, but that doesn’t mean I have any rights to those pictures (outside of rights protected by fair use).

        Is upping the torrents themselves voiding their property rights to the content? No.
        Is it *inviting* piracy? Yeah.. that’s kinda the point.

        Full Disclosure: I pirate basically everything

        1. I created the event so that I could profit from it.
          Doctrine of Unclean Hands.

          This is bad for Pretenda, very bad.

        2. “Furthermore: merely uploading a file to a public space does not mean the rights to that file are revoked. ”

          Is it, though? 
          That’s a serious question – are there any experts on US (copyright) law around?
          Because to me, it sure seems like uploading your own works to a site that *explicitly invites sharing* would pretty clearly mean that you’ll waive your rights, at least when it comes to that source. 

          1. No, it doesn’t. IANAL but I do understand the rights that a content creator has to their own material.

            Since (I assume) their porn flicks have a copyright notice on the back of the package I’d say there’s no doubt as to the licence type.. simply distributing the content via another mechanism does nothing to change the rights on the work itself.

            Most torrent sites explicitly invite sharing whether that content is legal or illegal so I don’t see how that would void any copyright.

            Now you’ve got me sounding like I’m on their side – I’m not – it’s just that when dealing with assholes like Prenda you’ve got to be able to articulate what exactly they’re doing wrong and not distract ourselves with things they’re within their rights to do. Basically, Coward had it right with the “Doctrine of Unclean Hands” bit.

          2. @sqlrob:disqus This is all irrelevant to my point. There IS a package that exists which clearly lists that the work is protected under copyright.

            Even if the copyright holder chooses to distribute that media via torrents it does not affect the validity of the copyright.

            People are confusing a distribution technology for a licensing scheme. If I play you a copyrighted song over the phone it doesn’t mean that the song is no longer copyrighted  just cause I broadcast it to another place/person.

          3.  the D’s argument would be that the P has created a license to download the movie by uploading the film himself.

            see also TAC’s response about the Clean Hands Doctrine – since P uploaded the film to TPB, he should be barred from arguing that it was downloaded against his wishes.

  3. So this means that these Prenda evil douchebags are going down soon, right?  I mean, I know the “law is an ass” and all that. But aren’t there at least a few good judges and legislators who might just smack them down in to oblivion? Or am I just being to idealistic?
     

    1. Lawyers usually get away with it, but this behavior is a bit too brazen. This John Steele character didn’t know when to quit.

      1. Being brazen, amoral, and venal does not help Prenda’s case. Doing everything but loading porn onto the people’s computers themselves does not help. Being sloppy, and leaving their fingerprints everywhere does not help either. I long to see them all in dungeon deep in durance vile, and this may actually happen.

        However, there will be a sequel. Someone else will learn from Prenda’s mistakes, and do something similar but a bit more slickly. I hope the investigators are smart enough and law is agile enough to deal with the second wave people too.

  4. come on who didn’t see this coming.  im pretty sure i made a comment to this effect during the whole prenda trainwreck.

    its the classic “cutting you to sell you a bandaid” it’s the venus flytrap maneuver, it’s the pedophile with free candy.

    they had a good scam going, and they woulda got away with it if wasn’t for that pesky lawsuit.

    1. Once upon a time there was an Anonymous Coward who tried to tell people about these horrible copyright trolls… and the stories he told seemed so fantastical no one believed him.
      Now one by one these stories are being proven to not be fables but fact.

      It is one thing to assume, it is another to have evidence to support the position.

  5. OHAI Cory!
    I was coming to share this, but someone beat me to it…

    So are we going to post a grid so we can bet on how long till the first rat cracks and starts talking to save their own ass or maybe which one heads to a nice sunny place with no extradition treaty…

    1. I have been following a bit on Ars, I think their main strategy now is to throw Gibbs under the bus.

      1. ArsTechnica, TechDirt, Popehat, TorrentFreak, Slashdot, Forbes, BusinessWeek and a few other places…

        If you want the deep dirt dive into the dark places…
        http://www.fightcopyrighttrolls.com and http://www.dietrolldie.com
        Run by Sophisticated Jane Doe and DieTrollDie respectively.
        They are lovely people who go sucked into the path of some trolls, and now have founded a growing community of people actively working to fight the trolls.

        There is more dirt recorded in their posts and discussion than has made the news so far.  People didn’t want to believe what was being said there, I think the entire community is pretty much vindicated now.

        They both were sued by Pretenda, Duffy, and Steele as the case was reaching critical mass in Judge Wrights courtroom… maybe they were doing something right.  (Disclosure: Yes that is my smiling avatar and words in all 3 lawsuits as a Doe defendant who defamed them.  Apparently butthurt is an actionable claim.)

        I spend a lot of time reminding people that without the work of FCT and DTD we might not have reached his point yet, taking cheap shots at trolls, and adding historical information to discussions.

        And when your bored of Pretenda… there are other trolls to focus on, and we can always use more eyes looking.

  6. If this doesn’t convince everyone that there are just too many damn lawyers…I don’t know what will. Funny how all this is not really about justice and the rule of law….only making money by gaming weak laws. It’s happening in lots of areas…not just porn copyright trolls. The Prenda wiz kids are just a symptom…the problem is much  bigger and pervasive.

    Anytime a profession turns into an “industry” a functioning society has got a problem on its hands. 

    All these new law school grads might want to broaden their horizons and bring their financial pipe-dreams down a few notches.

  7. At this point, I’d give it about three more days before someone reveals that John Steele broke into people’s houses while they were out, installed a BitTorrent client on their computers and downloaded the porn himself.

  8. Cory – you might want to correct your spelling of ‘principle’ before anyone else notices. Tsk, tsk!

  9. I thought that one of the reasons Prenda was in so much trouble was that they were claiming to represent material that wasn’t theirs to begin with?
     

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