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 Copyright 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
Clear balance needs to be struck for VPNs
18 August 2017 | London | Reporter: Barney Dixon
A clear balance needs to be struck between enforcement and ethical circumvention when it comes to virtual private networks, according to experts
BREIN shuts down sheet music group
17 August 2017 | Amsterdam | Reporter: Barney Dixon
Dutch anti-piracy group Brein has closed down a Facebook group that was offering infringing sheet music
Prosecutions are coming following GoT leak
17 August 2017 | Maharashtra | Reporter: Barney Dixon
Four people have been arrested in connection with the leak of an episode of hit HBO TV show Game of Thrones, Star India has confirmed
Sci-Hub holds more than two thirds of all scholarly articles
16 August 2017 | | Reporter: Barney Dixon
Academic pirate website, Sci-Hub contains nearly 69 percent of all 81.6 million scholarly articles, which rises to 85 percent for those published in closed access journals
Take-Two scores slam dunk in NBA case
14 August 2017 | New York | Reporter: Barney Dixon
The maker of the NBA 2K video game series, Take-Two, has won the dismissal of statutory damages of as much as $150,000 per copyright infringement in its legal battle with Solid Oak Sketches
ImageRights acquires Image Witness
11 August 2017 | Boston | Reporter: Barney Dixon
ImageRights said the acquisition will bolster its “technology leadership position in the fast-growing copyright enforcement services industry”
Binded announces US Copyright Office integration
09 August 2017 | San Francisco | Reporter: Barney Dixon
Blockchain-based copyright protection startup Binded has introduced one click-registration with the US Copyright Office