Minnesota
08 March 2017
Reporter: Mark Dugdale
Lawyer admits copyright troll charges
One of the lawyers behind alleged copyright troll Prenda Law has pleaded guilty to fraudulently obtaining $6 million from illegal copyright infringement lawsuits.

John Steele pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, as well as conspiracy to commit money laundering, at the US District Court for the District of Minnesota. He has yet to be sentenced.

As part of his plea deal, Steele accepted the charges brought against him and co-defendant Paul Hansmeier in December. Hansmeier has admitted no guilt and still faces a trial.

Steele admitted, through Prenda Law, to threatening individuals who supposedly downloaded adult movies from file-sharing websites with copyright infringement lawsuits between 2011 and 2014, and extracting some $6 million in settlements.

They went to extreme lengths in their scheme, Steele admitted, creating and using a series of sham entities to obtain the rights to adult movies—some of which they filmed themselves—and then uploading those movies to file-sharing websites such as The Pirate Bay in order to lure people to download them.

According to Steele, the pair filed bogus copyright infringement lawsuits to learn the identities of their potential victims. Once they obtained relevant subscriber information from ISPs, they used extortionate letters and phone calls to threaten the victims with enormous financial penalties and public embarrassment unless they agreed to pay a settlement of thousands of dollars.

Courts began to wake up to their tactics and restricted their ability to file suits against multiple defendants, prompting Hansmeier and Steele to claim that the computers of their various fake clients had been hacked.

Hansmeier and Steele then recruited the downloaders with whom they’d already settled to act as defendants and filed hacking lawsuits so that they could seek discovery against the ruse defendants’ supposed ‘co-conspirators’.

More news
The latest news from IPPro The Internet
Join Our Newsletter

Sign up today and never
miss the latest news or an issue again

Subscribe now
Safe harbour reforms dropped from Australian bill
24 March 2017 | Canberra | Reporter: Barney Dixon
The reforms may have delayed passage of other important provisions
FilmOn X fails to get judicial support
23 March 2017 | California | Reporter: Barney Dixon
Classing the service as a ‘cable provider’ could “jeopardise” the values of the Copyright Act
Supreme Court rules in Star Athletica v Varsity Brands
23 March 2017 | Washington DC | Reporter: Barney Dixon
Ruling heralded as a “big step forward for clothing designers”
Amazon to broaden anti-counterfeiting programme
22 March 2017 | Las Vegas | Reporter: Barney Dixon
Brands should not “rest on their laurels” when it comes to the new initiative
CJCH to spearhead government-backed anti-piracy HQ
22 March 2017 | Cardiff | Reporter: Barney Dixon
CJCH Solicitors is backed by £432,000 from the Welsh government
Owner of .feedback lacks transparency
22 March 2017 | Los Angeles | Reporter: Barney Dixon
TLS owner Jay Westerdal "disappointed in a number of factors of the ruling"
Brazil floats new copyright rules under WTO
21 March 2017 | Brasília | Reporter: Barney Dixon
The new proposals were circulated in a paper on electronic commerce and copyright