Weekly IP Buzz for the week ending June 28, 2019
Here's a summary of interesting developments in intellectual property, technology, social media, and Internet law for the week ending June 28, 2019.
Lengthy Saga of Porn Copyright Troll Finally Ends in Jail Time
It seems like ages since legal news last covered the protracted court battles and wrangling between the federal government and Prenda Law’s infamous duo, Paul Hansmeier and John Steele, two copyright attorneys allegedly turned copyright trolls that terrorized victims through threats of expensive and embarrassing lawsuits and legal actions concerning copyright infringement of pornographic videos and content.
Attorneys Turned Copyright Trolls?
The two Prenda Law attorneys were back in the news recently as a federal judge handed down the first of two sentences against the Prenda Law attorneys, finding Hansmeier guilty of multiple charges that included counts of identify theft, entrapment, fraud, money laundering, perjury, as well as mail and wire fraud. Ultimately, Hansmeier was sentenced to fourteen years, with Steele to be sentenced later.
Further, the two attorneys that allegedly acted as copyright trolls and had terrorized and extorted victims out of sizeable settlements were ultimately ordered to pay $1.5 million in restitution to their victims. The judge took especial affront to the attorneys’ use of their legal knowledge to intimidate and entrap their victims by creating a complex web that included pornography production and mass bit-torrent uploading designed to ultimately ensnare victims as copyright infringers.
Actions Courts Considered Indicative of Copyright Trolling
The court specifically denounced that Prenda Law attorneys did not merely chase down copyright infringers but were also often found guilty of creating the exact circumstances and situations that led to the instances of copyright infringement they later pursued and attempted to “rectify.” Specifically, Prenda Law was found by the court to have acted as copyright trolls, knowingly creating or exacerbating the situation by uploading the very torrents of pornographic content to websites such as Pirate Bay that were at the center of their lawsuits. By uploading the content themselves, the attorneys were able to more easily chase down “infringers” who downloaded the pornographic videos that Prenda Law itself had uploaded. To add insult to injury, the court noted that many of the pornographic videos uploaded were even produced by attorney Paul Hansmeier himself.
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Darin M. Klemchuk is founder of Klemchuk LLP, a litigation, intellectual property, and transactional law firm located in Dallas, Texas. He also co-founded Project K, a charitable movement devoted to changing the world one random act of kindness at a time, and publishes Thriving Attorney, a blog dedicated to exploring the business of the practice of law, productivity and performance for attorneys, and other topics such as law firm leadership and management, law firm culture, and business development for attorneys.
Click to learn more about Darin M. Klemchuk's law practice as an intellectual property lawyer.