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Porn Troll, Prenda Law, Is In Hot Water

There are universal rules and guidelines put in place for all attorneys and if these rules are violated, there can be serious repercussions. Instances such as hiding profits or committing fraud are very quick routes for an attorney or firm to end their career.

Prenda Law, a firm that has targeted and sued over 20,000 users for violating copyright laws alleging they illegally downloaded pornography, plead the Fifth Amendment in court yesterday after being asked by the judge why there were no other plaintiffs besides Prenda pursuing copyright cases taken on by the firm. Presiding Judge Otis Wright cross-examined head Prenda lawyer John Steele, his firm partner Paul Hansmeier, and colleagues, with Wright asking Steele to whom the profits from these cases were actually going. Wright also wanted to know who controlled the litigation for these cases, why appropriate procedures were not followed, and why relationships within Prenda were not revealed. However, Wright’s questions were some that Prenda lawyers did not seem to have the answers to.

During his interrogation of Steele, Wright stood firm on his notion that the firm was acting as its own client, and instead of the profits going to adult film company clients, Prenda was pocketing the money gained, through a process known as copyright trolling, from suing thousands of illegal porn downloaders through payout deals. If true, Prenda Law will have committed serious attorney misconduct.

Over the past few years, Prenda Law has targeted “John Does”, a nickname dubbed for users who violate copyright laws by illegally downloading pornography for free. The firm has been a forerunner on the prosecution of these violations with their aggressive strategy involving lawsuits against violating users and then pushing the user’s Internet Service Provider (ISP) to provide user information. “Deal letters” sent to those being targeted were used as scare tactics by Prenda to extort money from a quick settlement, offering a form of “payout” by the violator to avoid the firm publicly naming them in court.  These payout fees have a high price tag—some as much as $3000.

In Wright’s last statement before cutting off the defense and exiting the courtroom, he expressed his strong belief that Prenda was sending profits from these lawsuits to the firm’s bank account.

Krysta Loera is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire.

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