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Lawyer Admits Making Porn to Trap Copyright Violators

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By William Vogeler, Esq. on March 10, 2017 5:55 AM

It turns out that Prenda Law was Prenda Porn.

John Steele, formerly of Prenda Law, has admitted that his firm made pornographic films to trick people into downloading them from file-sharing websites. Then, Steele said, he and his former law partner Paul Hansmeier would sue those people for copyright violations.

The scheme was illegal and resulted in Steele's pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering. Making porn was not against the law, but it's just shocking that the participatory porn credits somehow were overlooked by the Oscars.

Oscar Snubs

"On at least three separate occasions in Chicago, Miami, and Las Vegas, Steele and Hansmeier... contracted with adult film actresses and produced multiple short pornographic films," says the plea deal.

Perhaps the critics were offended by the titles -- "18 Year Old Girls Play With Toys," "Anything for Daddy," and "Great Teen Sex, Worst Plot Ever." In all, Steele and company made nine shorts. Oh, and because they were lawyers, they did their own copyright work.

Hansmeier has not plead guilty -- yet; he is in bankruptcy. It makes you wonder what happened to the $6 million they made in the scam.

Pay for Play

The Chicago law firm launched its business model in 2010, purchasing copyrights of pornographic movies, filing copyright infringement suits, issuing subpoenas to internet service providers, and sending demands to every person they could identify. Recipients routinely paid up -- about $4,000 each -- rather than suffer public embarrassment.

But opposing counsel and the courts eventually figured out that it was an abuse of the legal system. The Prenda firm got hit with more than $261,000 in sanctions before it really hit the fan.

Federal authorities filed criminal charges last year, alleging the men threatened fraudulent copyright lawsuits against hundreds of victims between 2011 and 2014. The 18-count indictment also revealed the embarrassing details of their porn productions. Turn-about-is-fair-play, right?

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