Porn copyright troll from Prenda Law sentenced to 14-years in prison

For years, the law firm have been up to no good.


A notorious copyright troll specializing in using pornography as bait, Prenda Law's Paul Hansmeier, has been sentenced to 14 years in prison by a US court.

And this sentence came as part of the plea agreements signed both by Hansmeier and another Prenda lawyer who stood accused in the case, John Steele.

Steele will find out next month how long he will spend in prison.

Hansmeier will also have to pay $1.5 million back to his victims, announced the judge, who picked the 14-year sentence despite the prosecutor recommending 12.5 years.

The judge made her distaste for the defendant obvious when she told Hansmeier that the extent to which his abuse of trust harmed the administration of justice was “almost incalculable.”

It inflicted harm, the judge continued “like a wrecking ball to the trust and confidence people have in the administration of justice,” Boing Boing writes citing James Renken, who live-tweeted the sentencing.

The US Department of Justice accused Hansmeier and Steele of committing crimes such as money laundering, perjury, and mail and wire fraud, finding out that their company had engaged in identity theft, entrapment, and fraud.

The way the pair extracted money from their victims was through settlements that would make alleged copyright infringement go away and allow the people accused of it to avoid costly legal procedures. These are the people Hansmeier will now have to pay $1.5 million in restitution.

Prenda Law did not merely go after copyright infringers – the firm actively worked on “creating” them by uploading torrents of pornographic content to websites such as the Pirate Bay, to then go after the people who downloaded the videos – or were accused of having done that. And these porn videos were produced by Hansmeier himself, the court discovered.

As the judge noted, Hansmeier by and large didn't bother investigating “whether the subscriber was, in fact, the infringer” thus catching innocent and uninvolved people in his net.

The scheme started to unravel in 2015, when the FBI had the co-founders of the Pirate Bay questioned in Sweden, in connection with Prenda Law's activities on the website, i.e., the torrents they were uploading to serve as “honeypots.”

The lawyer-turned-fraudster tried to get released on bail, but the request was denied.


Didi Rankovic

Didi Rankovic is an experienced online journalist, editor, and translator, with a career spanning over ten years writing for major a English-language website in Serbia, and previously working as translator for international organizations and peacekeepers in the Balkans. Rankovic is passionate about free and open source tech and is a head contributor for Reclaim The Net, focusing on lead stories. [email protected]