Tomorrow's EU vote on a new copyright directive will determine whether the EU internet will be governed by algorithmic censorship filters whose blacklist anyone can add anything to. (Visit Save Your Internet to tell your MEP to vote against this)
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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.
At this week's B-Sides Manchester security conference, James Williams gave a talk called "Next-gen AV vs my shitty code," in which he systematically revealed the dramatic shortcomings of anti-virus products that people pay good money for and trust to keep them safe -- making a strong case that these companies were selling defective goods.
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When the Danish copyright troll Njord Law started operating in Sweden, it went to court saying that it was planning on enforcing copyright, not engaging in "speculative invoicing" -- a kind of legal blackmail that involves sending out thousands of legal threats on the off chance that some people will pay you to go away.
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Rightscorp (previously) is the extortion outfit that terrifies people into paying it money for unproven accusations of copyright violations, enlisting ISPs to cut off subscribers who won't cough up.
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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
Jim from the UK Open Rights Group writes, "Why has the UK's Digital Economy Bill been drafted to criminalise file sharing and minor online copyright infringements? The government said they just wanted to bring online infringement into line with 'real world' fake DVD offences. However, that isn't how they offence is drawn up: and the government has now been told in Parliament twice that they are both criminalising minor infringements and helping copyright trolls." Read the rest
Copyright trolls like LA-based CEG TEK are exploiting Canada's "notice-and-notice" copyright system to force ISPs to pass on extortion letters to their customers, threatening them with dire consequences unless they pay hundreds of dollars to settle unsubstantiated accusations of copyright infringement. Read the rest
Robert Croucher owns Hatton & Berkeley, a firm that sent "speculative invoices" to people it accused of illegally downloading the Robert Redford movie "The Company You Keep" -- letters so egregious that Lord Lucas described the company as "scammers" and the letters as "extortion," urging Britons to "put them in the bin." Read the rest
The copyright troll business-model: a sleazy lawyer gets copyright holders to one or more films (often, but not always, porn) to deputize them to police those rights; then the lawyer's company uses sloppy investigative techniques to accuse internet users of violating those copyrights; they use deceptive notices to get ISPs to give them contact details for those users (or to get the ISPs to pass notices on to the users); then they send "speculative invoices" to their victims, demanding money not to sue -- usually a sum that's calculated to be less than it would cost to ask a lawyer whether it's worth paying. 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
The UK Intellectual Property Office has sent an official notice to Britons warning them that they don't have to pay the copyright trolls who send them threatening letters accusing them of copyright infringement. Read the rest
For decades, Warner/Chappell Music claimed to own the rights to the Happy Birthday song, despite the reams of copyright scholarship and historical research showing they had no legitimate claim. Read the rest
Tommy Funderburk used to be a copyright troll whose company, Payartists, sent legal threats to people accused of copyright infringement, though they didn't represent any actual artists (the closest they came was in representing Frank Zappa's widow). Read the rest
BMG hired Rightscorp, a publicly traded blackmail company, to send threatening letters to Cox Cable subscribers it accused of infringing its copyrights, demanding cash payments to stay out of court. Read the rest
The Happy Birthday song hasn't been in copyright for generations, and everybody knew it. That didn't stop Warner Chapell music from running a scam where they extorted "royalties" from movies and restaurants that featured the song, charging less than it would cost anyone to litigate the question. Read the rest