The internet is filled with all sorts of trolls. From the people who comment on Twitter threads specifically to get you riled up to the patent trolls that buy up patents just to sue people, it seems like everyone is looking to annoy someone. However, there is one group that might have the title of King of Trolls, and that is Prenda Law. This company is infamous for its activities and, it would appear, they are back and looking to get themselves into the same trouble as before.
Who is Prenda Law?
If you've never heard of Prenda Law before, you're one of the lucky ones. The company purports to be a law firm, but in reality, is a scam organization. Founded by John Steele, the group has three primaries: Steele, Paul Duffy, and Paul Hansmeier. The scam, while ingenious, is evil. The company would buy up the legal rights to adult-oriented materials. Once they owned the rights, they, or an agent of the company, would upload that content to file-sharing sites. This could be direct P2P services like LimeWire, or torrent directories, like The Pirate Bay.
Once the media was available on these file-sharing platforms, they would sit back and track who downloaded the files. Once they had the info, they would reverse lookup the IP address, or whatever info they might have had, and file a copyright infringement suit against each individual.
The company would often send a letter in the mail, indicating that the individual was being sued, but that the plaintiff would be willing to settle to keep the story out of the paper. The ultimate goal was to use intimidation and extortion in order to get the defendant to settle quietly out of court. Unfortunately for Steele and Hansmeier, one of their biggest mistakes turned out to be the letters.
The legal ramifications
In the end, both Steele and Hansmeier were charged with a variety of crimes, including mail fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and extortion. Steele is currently five years in prison, with his sentence starting in 2019. Hansmeier, on the other hand, is serving 14 years in prison, as he appears to have been the mastermind and the primary extortionist.
Prenda Law the phoenix?
Now, to ensure that everyone knows just how crazy and evil he is, Hansmeier is back and up to his same old tricks. Except this time, he is trying to do it from behind bars. He just lost a court case in which he tried to get the court to allow him to file copyright claims from prison.
On Monday, a court denied his injunction petition. He was trying to get the court to prevent the government from enforcing laws that govern perpetrators of money laundering, mail fraud, and wire fraud crimes and what they can and cannot do. Hansmeier asked to be allowed to "hire an undercover investigator to protect his copyrights against Internet piracy and bring claims under the Copyright Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act against people who trespass on his computers to infringe his works." He also claimed that his "litigation will be socially valuable." Doesn't seem likely to me, champ.