Notorious Porn, Copyright, Patent Trolls Down But Not Out - Technologist
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Notorious Porn, Copyright, Patent Trolls Down But Not Out

By now, many of you have heard of Prenda Law. The porn-trolling "law firm" spent years sending demand letters to (and filing boilerplate lawsuits against) those who illegally downloaded porn. Many of the letters contained shades of blackmail, with hints that their investigation of the matter would reveal that person's pornographic proclivities to neighbors and relatives if a settlement wasn't reached quickly.

The legal basis of the scheme was simple: The lawyers acquired the copyrights to pornographic films and assigned the rights to a number of newly-formed shell companies, such as Ingenuity 13. Prenda Law would then monitor BitTorrent for IP addresses and file subpoenas to obtain the identities behind the IPs.

The lawyers would then send the blackmail letters, offering to settle for about $4,000. They'd also file boilerplate lawsuits in bulk, hoping for default judgments. If anyone lawyered up and fought the case, they'd drop it and move on to the next porn pirate.

It All Falls Down: The 'Trekkie' Court's Decision

After years of granting subpoenas and default judgments, one court finally took notice. Judge Otis Wright of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California issued an order that boldly went where few others have gone before: the Trekkie universe. Though the case had nothing to do with "Star Trek," the court's order for sanctions, which eviscerated the "law" firm and its principal attorneys, was peppered with Spock quotes, mentions of cloaks, and of course, the phrase "resistance is futile."

The court ordered $81,319.72 in attorneys' fees for the defendant which, considering the estimated millions of dollars of income of the firm's porn-trolling operations, isn't much. However, Judge Wright also noted that the firm's misdeeds will be referred to law enforcement agencies, the Internal Revenue Service, and to every court that currently has a Prenda matter pending.

Down, But Not Out: Independent Judiciaries, Copycats, and Other Trolls

The court's ruling should've been the death knell. Apparently not. Merely one day later, the newly renamed "Anti-Piracy Law Group" sent out similar letters, signed by a Prenda principal (Paul Duffy), which included the following veiled threat:

The purpose of this step is to gather evidence about who used your Internet account to steal from our client. The list of possible suspects includes you, members of your household, your neighbors (if you maintain an open wi-fi connection) and anyone who might have visited your house. In the coming days we will contact these individuals to investigate whether they have any knowledge of the acts described in my client's prior letter.

Perhaps the firm-formerly-known-as-Prenda is trying to squeeze out a few more settlements before the IRS, Department of Justice, and the state bar associations put them out of business for good. It won't matter, however. They aren't the only copyright/patent/porn trolls out there. The Ninth Circuit nixed Righthaven, which sued over newspaper article copyrights, last week, while Project Paperless LLC is suing users of scanners for patent infringement.

As long as there is intellectual property to be exploited, and the cost to defend these suits remains higher than the nominal settlement amounts requested, there will be shady shysters ready to "enforce IP rights."

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