Prenda law judge says porno copyright trolls are frauds, identity thieves; $80K in fines and disbarment pending

Judge Wright has issued his long-awaited ruling in the case of Prenda Law, the notorious porno copyright trolls who used fraud and bullying to extort millions from Internet users by threatening to sue them for downloading pornography videos with embarrassing titles. Prenda used a combination of offshore shell companies, obfuscation, and even identity theft to disguise the ownership of their con, and when they landed before Judge Wright, it all started to unravel.

The judge has fined Prenda $80,000 ($40K in fees, doubled for punitive measure) and asked the FBI to investigate them for racketeering. He held that their operation was a fraud, that they had committed identity theft, and, importantly, identified Steele, Hansmeier, and Paul Duffy as the "de facto owners" of Prenda. He's asked the lawyers' bar associations to have them disbarred. And he made a lot of Star Trek references!

Nevertheless, it is clear that the Principals’ enterprise relies on deception. Part of that ploy requires cooperation from the courts, which could only be achieved through deception. In other words, if the Principals assigned the copyright to themselves, brought suit in their own names, and disclosed that they had the sole financial interest in the suit, a court would scrutinize their conduct from the outset. But by being less than forthcoming, they defrauded the Court. They anticipated that the Court would blindly approve their early-discovery requests, thereby opening the door to more settlement proceeds.

As for penalties, they begin with attorneys' fees. Prenda will have to pay these to the two defense lawyers who have been instrumental in this case: Morgan Pietz and Nicholas Ranallo.

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Notorious porno copyright trolls Prenda Law have a very bad day in court

Today marked the long-awaited courtroom showdown of notorious copyright porno trolls Prenda Law (previous posts) and United States District Judge Otis D. Wright II, the judge who figured out that Prenda was running something that looked a blackmail racket that involved systematic fraud against courts around the country. After stalling and fum-fuhing, Prenda's lawyers and principals were dragged before Judge Wright, where they sat for a hearing that ran for 12 whole minutes before Wright furiously banished them from his courtroom. Ken "Popehat" White was there, and sent tantalizing tweets about the total trainwreck he'd witnessed, which he has now had a chance to write up in full.

In a nutshell, the Prendateers showed up and took the Fifth, refusing to speak. Their lawyer tried to enter some argument into the record, but the judge didn't allow it. Prenda had filed no briefs, and had been called to answer basic, factual questions about lawsuits. Wright wasn't happy about it. Ken has written up a list of likely consequences Prenda will now face. It's not pretty. At very least, the firm and its activities are at an end. At most (though not likely), this could end in prison for the principals here.

Judge Wright grew steadily and visibly more outraged. "I want to know if some of my conjecture is accurate — and the only way to know is to have the principals here and ask them questions. This is an opportunity for them to protect themselves," he said. But Steele's lawyer confirmed his client would exercise his right to remain silent.

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Transcripts of bullying voicemails left by porno copyright troll to ex-caretaker and alleged identity theft victim

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:

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.

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Porno-copyright trolls Prenda Law get hauled in front of a very angry judge

Popehat's Ken White attended a hearing in United States District Court Judge Otis D. Wright II's California courtroom. Judge Wright is the judge most likely to put a halt to the astounding shenanigans of the notorious porno-copyright trolls Prenda Law, who have been accused of lying to the court; blackmailing thousands of people with legal threats ("pay up or we'll file a lawsuit that will forever associate your name with pornography with an embarrassing title"); and, incredibly, stealing the identity of a humble caretaker and naming him the CEO of a semi-fictional company that allegedly hired the firm to make all those legal threats.

Judge Wright ordered all the parties to show up in his court yesterday -- the Prenda lawyers, the caretaker, defendants' lawyers, and more -- but not everyone obeyed his order. The main party in the courtroom was Brett Gibbs, a junior-seeming lawyer who appears to have been made bagman for a big con that he was only dimly aware of. White's writeup is somewhat sympathetic ("a young attorney out of his depth who fell in with the wrong crowd and made bad choices") but remember: he was a knowing part of a racket that terrorized thousands and thousands of people with what amounted to legal blackmail, where the demand came to "Guilty or innocent, you need to pay up or have your life ruined."

White is an excellent writer, and his account of the hearing is riveting. Now we're all waiting to hear what the judge's order will be. Read the rest

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. Read the rest

Why copyright trolls will have a hard time shaking down Canadians

Michael Geist sez, "Over the past couple of days, there have been multiple reports about the return of file sharing lawsuits to Canada, with fears that thousands of Canadians could be targeted. While it is possible that many will receive demand letters, it is important to note that recent changes to Canadian copyright law limit liability in non-commercial cases to a maximum of $5,000 for all infringement claims. In fact, it is likely that a court would award far less - perhaps as little as $100 - if the case went to court as even the government's FAQ on the recent copyright reform bill provided assurances that Canadians "will not face disproportionate penalties for minor infringements of copyright by distinguishing between commercial and non-commercial infringement.""

Why Liability Is Limited: A Primer on New Copyright Damages as File Sharing Lawsuits Head To Canada Read the rest

German copyright trolls will single out cops, Arab embassies and clergy for accusations of porn downloads

Urmann is a German copyright troll law firm that represents hardcore pornographers, sending shakedown notices to accused downloaders, threatening to publicly link them with porn unless they pay "settlements" to make it all go away. They've revealed that the core of their strategy will be the publication of accusations against police stations, churches and the embassies of conservative Arab nations:

According to comments an Urmann insider made to Wochenblatt, the law firm is planning to target the most vulnerable people first – those with IP addresses registered to churches, police stations and – quite unbelievably – the embassies of Arab countries.

Urmann insists that it is completely entitled to take this action because the law is on its side. The company is leaning on a 2007 Federal Constitutional Court ruling that deemed it legal for law firms to publish the names of their clients’ opponents in order to advertise their services. However, there is some debate if the ruling applies since it was targeted at commercial opponents, not regular citizens.

Bernd Schlömer of the German Pirate Party describes the law firm’s threats to undermine the privacy rights of individuals as “shocking” and says that Urmann’s actions could be construed as “legal coercion.

Anti-Piracy Law Firm Will Publicly Humiliate The Clergy, Police & Arabs Read the rest

Porno-copyright trolls named in RICO class action suit

A group of notorious copyright trolls from the pornography industry are the defendants in a new class action suit that alleges that they have violated the RICO Act (the law regarding organized crime syndicates), as well as "fraud, defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and unjust enrichment."

The trolls are pornography companies that accuse people of having downloaded movies with titles like "Blumpkin Blowjobs, "Teen Anal Sluts," "Jeff cums in Colby’s mouth," etc, and threaten lawsuits that will forever join the victims' names with these films, unless the victims cough up a quick settlement payout. The victims are chosen on the basis of very sloppy Internet sleuthing that is meant to produce a list of IP addresses that correspond to illegal downloaders.

Historically, the trolls have faced no penalty for getting their detective work wrong -- if they finger an innocent bystander, either the bystander pays up anyway (just to avoid the hassle), or s/he pays her own lawyers enough money to mount a spirited defense, at which point the trolls withdraw their threat and walk away.

With this class action suit, it's possible that the trolls will finally see a real penalty for tossing around sloppy accusations -- and with any luck, it'll be a penalty that will wipe them off the face of the earth, to the whole planet's betterment.

Henry and Associates, PLLC, a lawfirm from Louisville, Kentucky, filed a class action lawsuit against five porno purveyors — well-known copyright trolls. The lawsuit is filed on behalf of Jennifer Baker, one of the victims who did not want to forgive an unprovoked assault by a copyright troll M.

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Righthaven: copyright troll zombie!

Remember Righthaven, the copyright troll whose ass was handed to them by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and others, who got a court to declare that fair use exists, you can't license the right to sue over a copyright without licensing the copyright itself, and terrifying random bloggers into turning over their life's savings for quoting a news-article wasn't a fit business model? They're dead and dusted, domain name sold off to pay their legal bills, but they want to rise from the grave in order to appeal key rulings against them. Read the rest

Band and label president had no idea copyright trolls were suing on their behalf

The heavy metal band All Shall Perish and the president of their label, Nuclear Blast, were horrified to discover that a copyright troll called World Digital Rights had filed a suit against 180 music fans accused of sharing an ASP album online. The band and the label's president said that they had no knowledge a relationship with World Digital Rights and had not authorized the trolls to take legal action on their behalf. World Digital Rights is asking a Florida court to give it the names and addresses of 80 John Doe defendants. World Digital Rights, a Panama-based company, filed papers saying that the label signed over an "exclusive license" to the band's album "This is Where it Ends." They are seeking $150,000 from each of the fans named in the suit. More at TorrentFreak:

Downey, who told us that the band were totally blindsided by the revelations, describes this action against fans as “awful” and has promised to stay in touch with developments. Ideally these lawsuits will get withdrawn, not only for the sake of the Does but for the sake of the band. But if Nuclear Blast and World Digital Rights persist with this ridiculous project, All Shall Perish might have no choice but to personally intervene – their reputation could rely on it.

Copyright Troll Causes Chaos By Suing Fans Without Band’s Permission Read the rest

EFF to ask for sanctions against copyright trolling astrologers

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is asking a judge to sanction the lawyers for Astrolabe, who launched a frivolous copyright lawsuit against Arthur David Olson and Paul Eggert. These two researchers maintained the critical Internet timezone database, which is used by servers and PCs and phones all over the world to figure out how to correctly display timestamps and local time. The lawsuit claims that Astrolabe has a copyright on the facts of what timezone is in effect in what place, and this is plainly incorrect. US law "requires litigants to conduct a reasonable inquiry into the facts and law before filing any paper with the court," and any such inquiry would have shown that there was no basis for a suit.

Quick background: last fall, Astrolabe, an astrology software company, sued Arthur David Olson and Paul Eggert, researchers who have coordinated the development of a database of time zone information for decades. The database is an essential tool used by computers around the world to determine local time so, for example, files and email messages can organized and time-stamped accurately. Astrolabe claimed that Olson and Eggert had infringed its copyright because the database relies, in part on information in an atlas to which Astrolabe owns the rights (the ACS International Atlas).

We’ve seen a lot of bogus lawsuits over the years, but this one is a doozy. Facts are not copyrightable, which means the developers were free to use the Atlas as a source. What is more, it appears that Astrolabe knew that the database contained only facts from the Atlas – its Complaint states repeatedly that the database developers copied “information” – i.e., facts.

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HOWTO avoid a copyright shakedown legal threat: be famous, a politician, a cop, a soldier or a corpse

TorrentFreak looks at the sleazy mass lawsuits brought against alleged BitTorrent users by pornographers and compiles a list of the criteria that lawyers use for deciding who to let off the hook. Your best strategy for avoiding one of these suits is to be a politician, a cop, a soldier or a corpse

Besides undercover cops, the adult entertainment company also has a policy of dismissing their cases against military personnel stationed oversees, according to the lawyer. The dead and famous are not settlement material either.

“Several of the John Doe Defendants have died prior to being identified. Several John Does have been public or political figures who Plaintiff did not choose to sue,” White writes.

Although it’s no surprise that dead people are not the easiest group to settle with, it’s unclear why politicians and public figures have to be excluded. This group generally speaking can afford to pay a settlement fee, and as the settlements are undisclosed the press would never find out. It’s also possible, however, they may just put up an embarrassing and potentially expensive fight.

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