Paul Hansmeier pleaded guilty to of wire fraud and money laundering today for his role in the Prenda Law copyright scam. Prenda uploaded porn movies to download sites, got the IP addresses of users accessing the files, then shook them down for settlements with the threat of exposing them to their families and the public through court action.
Later on, it made its own pornographic films and put these on pirate sites so it could gather more cash. The documents suggest Prenda set up shell companies to gather the "settlement" fees and hide its involvement. The settlement scheme was uncovered by an investigation into Prenda Law, which saw both Hansmeier and Steele charged with fraud in 2016. Steele pleaded guilty in early 2017 to seven charges including mail and wire fraud. He also agreed to help prosecutors investigating the case.
He lost his law license in 2016. Cory:
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For more than four years, we've chronicled the sleazy story of Prenda Law, a copyright troll whose extortion racket included genuinely bizarre acts of identity theft, even weirder random homophobic dog-whistles, and uploading their own porn movies to entrap new victims, and, naturally, an FBI investigation into the firm's partners' illegal conduct.
For years, John Steele has been half of a criminal enterprise masquerading as a copyright law firms, "Prenda Law," whose owners, clients and employees were a mix of lies, impersonations, and crumbs of reality. In a guilty plea, John Steele admitted that the whole thing was a con, that they stole $6,000,000 from innocent internet users by threatening them with draconian copyright lawsuits, and then laundered the money. Read the rest
We've followed the saga of Prenda Law for years year, documenting the bizarre, criminal conduct of the firm's principles, Paul Hansmeier and John Steele, who used shaky methodologies to identify people to accuse of pirating pornographic material, then demanding money to "settle the claim" on pain of having your name linked with the porn downloads in a court filing. Read the rest
For more than four years, we've been writing about Prenda Law, a prolific copyright troll (that is, a company that sends dire legal threats and demands for money to people they accuse of copyright infringement, based on the flimsiest of evidence), whose conduct is so breathtakingly illegal that it feels like satire or performance art (but it's not). Read the rest
Copyright shakedown company Rightscorp, which threatens suspected music sharers with lawsuits unless they give Rightscorp money, has agreed to pay $450,000 to settle claims it illegally targeted thousands of people with recorded messages.
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Morgan Pietz, an attorney who played a key role in bringing down Prenda Law, sued Rightscorp in 2014, saying that the company's efforts to get settlements from alleged pirates went too far. Rightscorp's illegal "robocalls" violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), a 1991 law that limits how automated calling devices are used. The class-action lawsuit claimed that some Rightscorp targets were receiving one robocall on their cell phone per day. It's generally illegal to have automated devices call cell phones.
Earlier this week, Pietz and his co-counsel filed court papers outlining the settlement. Rightscorp will pay $450,000 into a settlement fund, which will be paid out to the 2,059 identified class members who received the allegedly illegal calls. Each class member who fills out an "affidavit of noninfringement" will receive up to $100. The rest of the fund will pay for costs of notice and claim administration (about $25,000) and attorneys' fees and costs, which cannot exceed $330,000. Rightscorp will also "release any and all alleged claims" against the class members. The company had accused the 2,059 class members of committing 126,409 acts of copyright infringement.
Mark wrote about the "just works" movie app a while ago, but if you're a fan, you're on a lawyer's hitlist. Read the rest
Now that evidence has surfaced suggesting that Guardaley, a disgraced firm of German copyright trolls, is secretly behind the legal actions of notorious US trolls like Malibu Media, the US plaintiffs are running scared, asking judges to dismiss their cases before they can be dragged into a discovery process that might confirm the link.
Guardaley is seriously toxic in the USA, and any suggestion that they were pulling the strings of US plaintiffs would likely be enough to get any case booted -- and possibly result in sanctions for the lawyers representing the trolls.
The defendants in a case over downloading the B-movie Elf-Man has presented evidence that not only links Guardaley to the suit, but also suggests that Guardaley was one of the seeders of the Elf-Man bittorrent file. In other words, they were sharing the file while acting as representatives for the copyright holders, making the downloads they're suing over authorized, and not infringing. Read the rest
Yesterday, a federal judge in the DC circuit court of appeals handed Prenda law -- the most loathed and evil porno copyright trolls in the business -- its own ass on a plate, and struck a blow against copyright trolling everywhere. The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Mitch Stoltz has a deep dive into the case, which EFF participated in.
Prenda (previously) is one of the leaders in the shady practice of accusing people of downloading pornographic films with embarrassing titles and then demanding money in exchange for not filing a lawsuit against them, using the threat of having your name associated with "Anal Invaders XII" in public records forever as a lever to get you to settle even if you've done nothing wrong. In AF Holdings v. Does 1-1058, Judge Tatel struck an important blow against this practice by ruling that trolls have to file cases in the same jurisdiction as their victims in order to get court orders to reveal the victims' names and addresses, without which the cases cannot proceed. But filing cases in the correct jurisdiction will likely cost more than the average blackmail payment that Prenda extorts from its victims, making the whole thing into a losing business.
The court also held that merely being accused of having, at some point, participated in a Bittorrent swarm does not join you with everyone else who ever joins that swarm, and that there is only joint liability for people who download from one another, as part of the same swarm at the same time. Read the rest
Remember the copyright trolls at Prenda Law, the slippery crooks who claimed that no one actually owned their extortionate racket, that no one made any money from it, and that no one was responsible for it? Yet another judge has called bullshit on them, insisting that they produce financial statements prepared by a chartered public accountant, and dismissing their objections as "attorney speak." Read the rest
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. Read the rest
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. Read the rest
Malibu Media is a notorious porno-copyright-troll, a company whose business-model is sending blackmail letters to Internet users threatening to sue them for downloading pornographic movies (and forever link their names to pornography) unless they pay up. They invented a particularly loathsome tactic that sets them apart from other pornotrolls: their blackmail letters make a point of mentioning extremely explicit pornographic titles associated with films that they have no interest in -- basically, a sideways way of implying that any legal action eventually taken against you will include a bunch of humiliating and embarrassing movie-titles, when nothing of the sort is possible, since they don't represent those rightsholders and can't take legal action on their behalf.
Finally, a court has seen fit to sanction Malibu for this tactic, after an amicus brief by the Electronic Frontier Foundation argued against it. The judge went so far as to call it extortion.
Mike Masnick points out that other copyright trolls like Prenda and Righthaven have flamed out after the courts caught on to their shady tactics and started issuing sanctions and ruling for defendants. We can only hope that this will be Malibu's (near) future. Read the rest
In an article published last week, TorrentFreak reproduced Comcast's response to a subpoena regarding the copyright troll Prenda Law. Since then, Comcast's agents Cyveillance have sent a series of escalating legal threats to TorrentFreak and its hosting provider, LeaseWeb, asserting copyright over a document that is not copyrightable, and whose reproduction would be Fair Use in any event. TorrentFreak's hosting provider has given them 24 hours to resolve the issue or face shutdown.
Update: Comcast has changed its mind. Here's an email I just received: Read the rest
Remember Jacques Nazaire? He's the lawyer who represented notorious, disgraced copyright trolls Prenda Law (who victimized thousands of Americans by threatening to link them to spurious lawsuits over downloads of pornography with embarrassing titles unless they paid hush-money). He got written up here when he told a judge in Georgia that a California judge's rebuke of Prenda should not be taken into consideration because California is a horrible, strange place where gay people get married.
Now Mr Nazaire has asked the court to seal the rest of the proceedings from the case, because he's worried that people might make fun of him on message boards. Because someone who thinks ZOMGCALIFORNIAGAY is a legal argument clearly has something to worry about on that score.
By the way, lawyers for one of Prenda's victims are fundraising to get the money to depose the Prenda team. I pitched in. Read the rest