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Former Porn Copyright Troll Hit With $50K ADA Counterclaim

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By Mark Wilson, Esq. on April 10, 2015 10:58 AM

Everyone's favorite disgraced, copyright porno trolls are back -- and this time, they're championing the rights of the disabled.

Sort of.

Paul Hansmeier, a former principal of Prenda Law, now calls his firm "Class Justice," and he's suing Kahler Hotels for ADA violations. Kahler, though, isn't interested and instead is counterclaiming for abuse of process and civil conspiracy.

A Brief History of Prenda Law

The Prenda Law story is a legal legend at this point. A group of lawyers registered copyrights to pornographic videos, then tried to sue people who allegedly downloaded those videos from the Internet.

Prenda Law used a combination of lying to courts about its interest in the copyrights and the threat of embarrassment to extract settlements out of the alleged infringers. Prenda was never interested in going to court -- which is good, because whenever it did, judges around the country saw through their deception, dismissed the cases, and levied sanctions against Prenda Law's lawyers. Prenda Law never could prove that the defendants actually downloaded the files, and when repeatedly ordered to disclose who owned the copyrights to the illegally downloaded movies, they dissembled and stalled. Even after courts levied sanctions against them, Prenda Law continued to dissemble and stall when it came time to provide financial disclosures, resulting in civil contempt fines.

On the Up and Up?

It could be that Hansmeier has changed and truly is interested in championing the rights of the disabled. But that's probably not the case. According to the Mankato Free Press in Minnesota, a plaintiff in one of Hansmeier's cases had no idea she was even a party to a lawsuit.

Lily Poss, a visually impaired woman, thought she was "providing information about websites that would be used to educate businesses" on the need to be more accessible to the visually impaired. Color her shocked when she turned up on the caption of an ADA case against a dentist's office claiming its website wasn't ADA-compliant.

Mystery Plaintiff

Hansmeier's lawsuits -- which are all virtually identical save for the plaintiff's name -- focus on websites' alleged incompatibility with screen readers, which they claim denies the visually impaired "'full and equal enjoyment' of a public accommodation's goods, services, facilities, privileges, and advantages." Though they claim this is a violation of the ADA, whether websites have to be ADA-compliant is actually an open question.

From Poss' description of her work, and from the description of plaintiffs in Hansmeier's suits, it appears that Class Justice recruits visually impaired people to scour the Internet for websites that aren't screen reader-compliant, then files lawsuits against the websites' owners on behalf of the "testers" whose job was to find out-of-compliance websites to sue in the first place.

As an interesting aside, the organization suing on behalf of the plaintiffs in these cases is "Disability Support Alliance," the registered address of which is the same as Hansmeier's new firm. Oh, and Class Justice is also Disability Support Alliance's registered agent for service of process. I guess you really can't teach old dogs new tricks.

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