Prenda law copyright troll lawyer pleads guilty to fraud and money laundering

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:

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.

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Pope Francis apologizes for church child abuse, vows to clean house

In an "unprecedented" letter to the the laity, Pope Francis described priestly child abuse as an atrocity and the Catholic Church's protection of abusers as complicity.

With shame and repentance, we acknowledge as an ecclesial community that we were not where we should have been, that we did not act in a timely manner, realizing the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives. We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them.

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Excellent advice for new law students

Ken "Popehat" White (previously), a former Federal prosecutor turned criminal defense attorney, has some excellent advice for all you newbie law-students who are just starting your law school career. Read the rest

New Zealand bans most offshore residential real-estate ownership

With today's passage of the Overseas Investment Amendment Bill, the Parliament of New Zealand has banned nonresidents from buying most residential property in the country, in an effort to end the skyrocketing housing expenses (Auckland is one of the world's least-affordable cities) by freezing out overseas speculators, though these account for less than 3% of total real-estate transactions, with the majority coming from China. Read the rest

Disney (yes, Disney) declares war on "overzealous copyright holders"

Disney is being sued by the Michael Jackson estate for using fair-use clips in a biopic called "The Last Days of Michael Jackson" -- in its brief, the company decries "overzealous copyright holders" whose unwillingness to consider fair use harms "the right of free speech under the First Amendment." Read the rest

EU resolution aims to comprehensively limit "planned obsolescence"

The European Parliament has passed a resolution calling on the European Commission (the EU's civil service) to craft rules that will severely limit planned obsolescence in electronics by forcing manufacturers to design products to facilitate repair by third parties, extend first-part warranties, warrant and support software, label products with an estimate of their overall life-expectancy, and publicly track and disclose how long products last in the field before breaking down. Read the rest

Police chief's son charged in brutal attack on Sikh man

One of two teen boys who kicked and beat a Sikh man in Manteca, California, turned out to be a local police chief's own son.

Tyrone McAllister, 18, the son of Union City, California, police Chief Darryl McAllister, was one of the two arrested, police in the city of Manteca, California, said.

The other suspect was identified as a 16-year-old boy whose name was withheld because he's underage. The two were taken into custody Wednesday for investigation of attempted robbery, elder abuse and assault with a deadly weapon, Manteca police said.

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What's at stake in the fight over printing files for guns

There's been a lot of news freakout over Defense Distributed (previously) and "3D printed guns" (a term that confusingly encompasses milled guns, 3D printed guns, and files that describe the shapes of guns). Read the rest

Canadian government investigating mall's use of biometric surveillance

Last week, it was revealed by a sharp-eyed Redditor that the information kiosks at a mall in Calgary, Canada, were full of software designed to track the age and sex of anyone that stopped to use it. Pretty damn greasy. Greasier still, the management company that operates the mall, Cadillac Fairview admitted that the software was in use at a number of its other properties. The greasiest bit out of all of it? They shrugged off privacy concerns raised by a number of news outlets as there’s nothing in Alberta’s laws that keeps them from doing it without permission, or warning mall patrons that it’s being done.

Well, that was last week.

From The CBC:

The privacy commissioners of Alberta and Canada are launching investigations into the use of facial recognition technology, without the public's consent, in at least two malls in Calgary.

A notice posted Friday to the Alberta privacy commissioner website says the investigation will look to determine, "what types of personal information are being collected, whether consent for collection or notice of collection is required or would be recommended, for what purposes personal information is collected, whether the data is being shared with other businesses, law enforcement or third parties, and what safeguards or security measures are in place to protect personal information."

It’s said that Alberta’s privacy commissioner opened the investigation, based on the level of public interest surrounding the issue of whether or not it’s cool for property owners to collect biometric information without a visitor’s knowledge or consent. Read the rest

New Jersey contemplates an official state microbe

Five years after Oregon designated Saccharomyces cerevisia (AKA brewer's yeast) as its official state microbe, the New Jersey senate has unanimously passed S1729, which names Streptomyces griseus (which produces a powerful antibiotic and was discovered at Rutgers) to high state honor -- now the microbe bill goes to the state assembly and thence to the governor. (Image: Docwarhol, CC-BY-SA) Read the rest

The future of "fake news": Pepsi gets Facebook to censor jokes about plastic in its Kurkure corn puffs

There is a conspiracy theory that Pepsico's Kurkure corn puffs -- developed and sold in India -- contain plastic; there's a much wider discussion in which people are making fun of this dumb theory (while simultaneously pointing out that Kurkure might as well be made of plastic, given their nutritional value and flavor). Read the rest

Appeals court kills the dirty trick of using Indian tribes as a front for patent trolls and claiming sovereign immunity

In late 2017, we learned that patent trolls (especially pharma patent gougers) were paying US Native Indian tribes to act as fronts for them in order to block review and cancellation of bogus patents -- the tribes have a treaty right to "sovereign immunity," which protects them from some forms of litigation. Read the rest

Equifax says it's spent $200m on security since the breach, so everything's OK now

It's been a year since Equifax doxed the nation of America through carelessness, deception and greed, lying about it and stalling while the problem got worse and worse. Read the rest

Facebook forced to drop "feature" that let advertisers block black people, old people and women

It's illegal to discriminate based on "protected classes," including "men and women on the basis of sex; any group which shares a common race, religion, color, or national origin; people over 40; and people with physical or mental handicaps" but from the earliest days of its self-serve ad platform, Facebook gave advertisers the ability to exclude people from ads for jobs, financial products, housing and other necessities based on these categories. Read the rest

Court orders carriers to remotely brick phones that have been smuggled into prisons

Back in 2015, California enacted legislation requiring cellphone makers to equip their products with over-the-air kill-switches that could be used to brick stolen phones; the idea was to reduce the incentive to steal phones (a crime that often involved a surprising amount of violence) because as soon as the phone was stolen, it would stop working forever. Read the rest

Former sheriff David Clarke has a Russian money problem

Wondering why the Milwaukee county sheriff with one hat and countless badges vanished from electoral politics? Wonder no more. Fox News:

Butina's group, The Right to Bear Arms, covered $6,000 of Clarke's meal, hotel, and transportation expenses, according to the ex-sheriff's Milwaukee County financial disclosure form.

Clarke did not respond to messages by phone or email. He now lives near Washington, D.C., where he has a political consulting business.

Maria Butina was charged this week with conspiracy as a foreign agent in connection with her activities with the National Rifle Association, which itself has a lot of questions to answer about Russian money. Read the rest

Ecuador expected to hand Assange to UK (Update: Ecuador denies)

Ecuador is to rescind Julian Assange's political asylum, reports Reuters, effectively dooming him to arrest by British authorities for jumping bail.

Assange has been living in Ecuador’s London embassy since June 2012 when he successfully sought asylum to avoid extradition to Sweden to face questioning about allegations of sex crimes which he has always denied.

Those allegations have since been dropped but Assange would be arrested by British police should he leave the embassy for breaching bail conditions. He believes that would pave the way for extradition to the United States for the publication of a huge cache of U.S. diplomatic and military secrets on the WikiLeaks website.

Update: An official statement from Ecuador's government denies it. [via Kevin Poulsen] Read the rest

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