John Steele is the colorful copyright troll whose work in shaking down people by threatening to link their names to gay porn with spurious lawsuits has been augmented by a series of bizarre legal maneuvers, including allegedly stealing his caretaker's identity in order to create a disposable buffer between Steele and his operation.
But he's got a new wheeze that takes the cake:
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Things aren't looking good for copyright trolls Prenda Law -- they've been ordered to pay $261K
in opponents' fees, and the judge has made all three of Prenda's principles -- Paul Hansmeier, John Steele, and Paul Duffy -- jointly liable for the sum. He also called them liars. They're much worse than that
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John Steele is one of the shadowy figures behind the notorious porno-copyright-trolls Prenda Law, about whom we've written rather a lot, as they are a colorful bunch of grifters. Steele had previously been accused of stealing the identity of Alan Cooper, the caretaker of one of his properties, making him the CEO of one of the shell companies behind which Prenda hides.
But that identity theft is hardly as damning as the latest revelation: Steele's mother-in-law has accused him of forging signatures in the course of Prenda's dirty business.
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Yesterday, I wrote about an expert witness's report on Prenda Law (previously), the notorious porno copyright trolls (they send you letters accusing you of downloading porn and demand money on pain of being sued and forever having your name linked with embarrassing pornography). The witness said that he believed that Prenda -- and its principal, John Steele -- had been responsible for seeding and sharing the files they accused others of pirating.
After hearing about this, the administrators for The Pirate Bay dug through their logs and published a damning selection of log entries showing that many of the files that Steele and his firm accused others of pirating were uploaded by Steele himself, or someone with access to his home PC.
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The Pirate Bay logs not only link Prenda to the sharing of their own files on BitTorrent, but also tie them directly to the Sharkmp4 user and the uploads of the actual torrent files.
The IP-address 126.96.36.199 was previously used by someone with access to John Steele’s GoDaddy account and was also used by Sharkmp4 to upload various torrents. Several of the other IP-addresses in the log resolve to the Mullvad VPN and are associated with Prenda-related comments on the previously mentioned anti-copyright troll blogs.
The logs provided by The Pirate Bay can be seen as the missing link in the evidence chain, undoubtedly linking Sharkmp4 to Prenda and John Steele. Needless to say, considering the stack of evidence above it’s not outrageous to conclude that the honeypot theory is viable.
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.
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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.
If you've been following the sad saga of the porno copyright trolls Prenda Law, you'll know that Alan Cooper is the former caretaker of John Steele, who is apparently the man behind a spiraling series of ever-scammier attempts to get people to pay money in order to keep their names out of embarrassing court filings over alleged illegal porn downloading. And you'll know that Alan Cooper has says that John Steele stole his identity and put his name down on various corporate and legal filings, identifying the former caretaker as the head honcho of the whole corrupt empire.
Now, a new filing in the court docket includes transcripts of threatening, bullying voicemails that Steele left for his alleged victim, trying to scare him into silence. Here's a taste, courtesy of TechDirt, which has more context:
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From second voicemail:
It's like if you refuse to, you know, return my calls or -- or engage in mandatory conference, then I'm going to have to be forced to ask the judge to, you know, force you to do things and it just gets ugly from there.
So if you do decide to get an attorney in either of those matters or in the other cases which we're filing against you in the upcoming weeks, please let them -- have them give me a call. This number's fine. Otherwise, I expect to hear from you shortly.
From third voicemail
Alan, this is John Steele again.
You have not responded or contacted me regarding litigation you're involved in.
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. Read the rest
Judge Beryl Howell used to work for the RIAA as a lobbyist. Or perhaps she still does. How else to explain her totally bizarre courtroom appearance in a copyright troll lawsuit -- where ISPs are arguing that they shouldn't have to turn over their customer data to discredited, laughable copyright troll John Steele, who can't get a break in any of the many other courtrooms where he's trying the stunt.
Mike Masnick has a highlight reel. The tl;dr is that Howell thinks that ISPs should bear responsibility for figuring out how to stop piracy on their networks (in the same breath in which she admits that the law says the opposite), and because they haven't taken this step, their customers have no right to privacy. Then she cites a GAO report on piracy (which actually says that all the RIAA's and MPAA's piracy numbers are total bullshit) and says it proves that piracy is a problem.
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But apparently copyright trolls have found a friend in Judge Howell, who not only is welcoming them with open arms, but seems to be using these trolling cases to further the goals of her former employer. She's released her decision on the motion to quash the subpoenas, and it's basically a 42-page screed on the evils of infringement and how ISPs should be responsible for stopping piracy (much of which has absolutely nothing to do with the case at all). The only nod towards the other side seems to be a weak acknowledgement that "the Court recognizes that other Judges on this Court have reached different conclusions with respect to the legal questions posed by the ISPs" and thus she's agreed to stay her decision until the appeals court weighs in.
John Steele, a notorious US lawyer who sent out thousands of extortionate copyright threats to alleged Bittorrent infringers, has been found to be in breach of copyright himself. Steele's website contains a FAQ for his victims, allegedly explaining US copyright law and why it means they should pay him (or else). This stilted text is a direct lift from one of Steele's competitors, The Copyright Enforcement Group, another leading copyright troll. CEG have vowed to pursue Steele for his infringement, and I can only hope that the two of them keep each other occupied for a good, long time.
A notorious anti-piracy lawyer who claims to have spent as much as $250,000 to develop a BitTorrent tracking tool, doesn’t even bother to write his own settlement letters. In theory one could argue that he’s profiting from infringing the work of others, something that’s not taken lightly by the courts nowadays.
Anti-Piracy Lawyers Rip Off Work From Competitor
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A quick search further reveals that Steele and his partner are not the only one who ripped off the FAQ from the Copyright Enforcement Group. Another group, operating under the name Copyright Action Network has done the same, again without permission from the copyright holders.