Prenda Law's 'Copyright Trolling' Operation Blasted at the 9th Circuit

PASADENA, Calif. — A 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel today heard an appeal made by the now-defunct “copyright trolling” Prenda Law Firm, which two years ago was ordered to pay $81,000 in sanctions after a federal judge ruled that it engaged in fraud while coercing those who allegedly downloaded porn videos illegally into financial settlements.

The appeal has its roots in an order made by U.S. District Judge Otis Wright, who said in a May 2013 opinion that Prenda Law, along with attorneys John Steele, Paul Duffy and Paul Hansmeier, “outmaneuvered the legal system" in their porn piracy cases representing adult companies AF Holdings LLC and Ingenuity 13 LLC, purportedly started up by the law firm.

Wright in his May 2013 order said he found evidence of forgery in the assignee of the copyrights of the adult entertainment movies.

His lower court ruling said that Prenda Law and its attorneys should not only be sanctioned but also held accountable over possible federal racketeering violations and probed over their tax returns, among other disciplinary measures.

In today’s hour-long oral argument, Daniel Voelker, Prenda Law’s appellate attorney, said that the copyright trolling firm was denied due process with the $81,000 in punitive sanctions by Wright.

Prenda Law, with the appeal, posted a $250,000 bond that will go to defense attorney Morgan Pietz and a John Doe client if it loses. Voelker has asked the 9th Circuit to either dismiss the case involving the sanctions or remand the case back to the lower court without sanctions.

In his argument, Voelker said that Wright punished the firm and its attorneys for invoking their 5th Amendment right.

But 9th Circuit Judge Harry Pregerson said that Wright “got on it and started thinking about” Prenda Law’s “clever scheme.”

“He smelled a rat, didn’t he?” Pregerson asked Voelker about Prenda Law’s operations.

Pregerson noted that Wright went through five similar cases involving Prenda Law and “found the same operation going on” and he probably said, “'Things don’t look right' … and one thing leads to another. He’s an old Marine Corps drill instruction, and he was checking things out and hit on it.”

Pregerson early on began reading Prenda Law’s threat letters to porn downloaders that had been entered into evidence. The letters asked for a $3,400 payment in order to avoid being named in a federal lawsuit over the content.

"This was a very clever scheme they were involved in,” Pregerson said. “Buy several copyrighted [adult movies], then seed the Internet and find addresses. Then they used our court system for illegal purposes to extort money; they used our discovery system."

Voelker said that Prenda Law should prevail in the appeal and that the sanctions should be thrown out entirely because the firm wasn’t given the opportunity to defend themselves after its attorneys invoked the 5th Amendment. He said that Wright imposed criminal contempt penalties without extending criminal contempt procedural protections.

"The entire proceeding was tainted," Voelker said. "Mark Lutz, the CEO of Ingenuity 13, was not allowed to testify. As soon as they asserted their 5th Amendment rights, the judge stopped the proceeding.

"My clients want their day in court, with procedural protections. There was no due process.”

Pietz, in his arguments before the three-judge panel, said that testimony from Lutz wouldn’t have amounted to very much.

"Lutz was a paralegal for [Prenda Law]," said Pietz. "This notion that he went from a humble paralegal at Prenda to the mastermind overseeing shell companies, and overseeing 20 lawyers across the country — it doesn’t hold water."

Listen to today’s appellate hearing in Paul Hansmeier vs. John Doe here.

Related:  

Copyright © 2023 Adnet Media. All Rights Reserved. XBIZ is a trademark of Adnet Media.
Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission is prohibited.

More News

Ethical Capital Partners' Solomon Friedman to Deliver XBIZ 2024 Keynote

XBIZ is pleased to announce that Ethical Capital Partners (ECP) partner and VP of Compliance Solomon Friedman will deliver the keynote address at XBIZ 2024, set for Jan. 15-18.

The Guardian Continues Publishing Anti-Porn Articles Funded by U.S. Billionaire

Over three years after XBIZ reported on how an obscure U.S. foundation was funding sponsored anti-porn content that ran amidst the actual journalistic pieces written by the staff of The Guardian newspaper, the self-proclaimed “world's leading liberal voice” continues publishing similarly produced slanted pieces calling for state regulation of adult content online.

Ron Jeremy's Release to Private Residence Granted at Hollywood Mental Health Court

An LA County judge in the Hollywood mental health courthouse granted on Thursday a petition by Ron Jeremy’s conservator to release him to a private residence.

MeanFeetFetish Launches Through YourPaysitePartner

MeanFeetFetish, a site dedicated to dominant women and foot fetishes, has launched through YourPaysitePartner.

Adult Time Launches 'Consent is Sexy!' Awareness Campaign

Adult Time has launched a new awareness campaign, “Consent is Sexy!” emphasizing the importance of communication during sex, as well as consent in the industry.

Performers, Creators With LLCs Urged to Review Corporate Transparency Act Requirements

Performers and creators who have formed limited liability companies (LLCs) are being advised to consult with accounting and legal professionals before the Jan. 1, 2024 implementation of the new Corporate Transparency Act (CTA).

Australian Right Foregrounds Age Verification as Political Wedge Issue

Australia’s conservative Liberal Party and the country’s influential right-wing media have recently begun foregrounding age verification for viewing adult content as a political wedge issue against the Australian Labor Party government led by Prime Minister Norman Albanese.

Google Cracks Down on Adult Sites That Utilize Its 'Programmable Search Engine' Tool

Google disabled its Programmable Search Engine (ProSE) product on several adult sites on Tuesday, after ad industry trade publications sensationalized a report claiming that ads for major mainstream brands were appearing alongside pornographic and other controversial content.

FSC to Host Members' Briefing on Legislative Work

The Free Speech Coalition (FSC) will host an end-of-year members’ briefing Monday, addressing the fight for industry rights in statehouses and Congress.

Adult All Access Joins Pineapple Support as Supporter-Level Sponsor

Adult All Access has enlisted as a supporter-level sponsor of Pineapple Support, joining the ranks of over 70 adult businesses and organizations committing funds and resources to the group.

Show More