Alleged Copyright Porn Trolls Indicted

Justice Department outlines complicated scheme involving subpoenaing ISPs for info
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The Justice Department has indicted two lawyers for an alleged scheme involving internet trolling, porn film copyrights, file-sharing websites and extortion.

The attorneys—Paul R. Hansmeier of St. Paul, Minn., and John L. Steele of Florida—were charged in an 18-count indictment including wire fraud, mail fraud, money laundering and conspiracy to commit perjury.

Their scheme—it remains only an allegation—is that they collected a total of $6 million after securing the copyrights to porn movies and uploading them on file-sharing internet video sites. Then when they were downloaded by the Pirate Bay site, they filed copyright infringement lawsuits on behalf of the porn producers to gain the ability—through the discovery process—to subpoena ISPs to get access to subcriber information associated with IP addresses used to download the porn. After getting that access due to unsuspecting courts who granted early discovery, extorted the money through phone calls and letters threatening financial penalties and public exposure.

DOJ also said that after courts began limiting the lawyers' ability to sue multiple clients and subpoena ISPs, they began filing bogus suits alleging that bogus clients' computers had been hacked.

“The charges announced today describe a fraud scheme perpetrated by lawyers and officers of the court who abused their positions of trust for personal enrichment,” said special agent in charge Richard Thornton. “The FBI remains committed to uncovering fraud such as this to protect the integrity of our civil justice system.”

Congress has been working to combat nuisance copyright and patent suits to strike the right balance between protecting copyrighs and discouraging innovation. The FCC recently adopted broadband privacy rules to protect subscriber privacy, like what movies they may have downloaded.

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