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Prenda Judge Refers Porn Trolling Attorneys for Criminal Investigation

In the most recent development in the ongoing saga of the now-defunct Prenda law firm, the presiding US District Court Judge, Otis Wright, issued an order that the “shattered” firm’s future is bleak.

The Court held that John Steele, Paul Hansmeier, and Paul Duffy, the principals of Prenda, sought easy money by conspiring to engage in bullying practices and accusing individuals of infringing the copyright of pronographic material. Prenda would then hustle a settlement marginally below the cost of a minimal defense. The Court effectively claimed that the attorneys played the legal system and found a sweet spot where the cost to the defendant was just little enough that it wouldn’t make sense for the person to hire a lawyer, as the attorney’s fee would cost more than the settlement.

How did the the company do it? Prenda Law owned several copyrights for porn movies. The firm then monitored download activity of these movies through the online torrent site BitTorrent. After identifying the IP address that the movie(s) were downloaded to, the firm would file suit, and issue a subpoena to the internet service provider to disclose the identity of the subscriber to the address. Then Prenda would issue a cease-and desist letter to the defendant along with an offer to settle the claim for approximately $4,000.

If a defendant fought the firm over the litigation, Prenda would misdirect and respond to discovery requests (requests that parties are entitled to for information from each other) with, to quote the order, “disinformation” and would eventually dismiss the case before having to reveal that it owned the copyright it was suing over.

The judge refutes several of the attorneys that represented Prenda’s claims and goes so far as to state that one of the claims made by the attorney Brett Gibbs is “a blatant lie.” Without such misrepresentations, of which the prior is certainly only one of many, the court would have been better equipped to scrutinize the firm’s practices. Unfortunately, the attorneys for Prenda abused the power given them as officers of the court.

Judge Wright appears to have little patience for the misconduct of the miscreants at the Prenda Law firm. His order refers Steele, Hansmeier, Duffy, & Gibbs to their state and federal bars citing that they suffer from a form of “moral turpitude unbecoming of an officer of the court.” Though monetary recompense and sanctions are limited according to the order, the judge recommends that criminal charges be pursued for their misconduct.

“…though Plaintiffs [Prenda] boldly probe the outskirts of law, the only enterprise they resemble is RICO. The federal agency eleven decks up is familiar with their prime directive and will gladly refit them for their next voyage.”

The full text of the order is available here.

Joshua is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire.

About the Author

Justin Lane

Justin Lane is a contributor to Ring of Fire. Email him at ROFJLane@gmail.com. Follow at Twitter @liberalfire

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