- R. Scott Kimsey
Prenda Copyright Troll Arrests
The team behind Prenda Law have a long and sordid history as copyright trolls, and that history finally gave way to a federal indictment. Prenda principals Paul Hansmeier and John L. Steele were charged with 18 counts related to running an extortion and fraud scheme that brought them millions of dollars. U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger brought the charges.
Prenda's scheme worked like this: Prenda obtained copyright to various pornographic films, or in some cases apparently made the films themselves. They then uploaded the films to file-sharing sites like PirateBay as an inducement to people to download them illegally. Once the films were downloaded, Prenda obtained the IP address of the downloader and threatened to expose them publicly unless paid. In cases where they filed suit, they hid their role in distributing the movies and their own personal stake in the outcome of the case. Courts don't appreciate that kind of deception, and this happened in hundreds of lawsuits.
Both attorneys had their licenses to practice law suspended earlier this year, and now they're looking at criminal charges. Not many in the IP and tech communities are shedding tears over this.