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May 6, 2013 6:51 PM   Subscribe

To update followers of the Prenda Law porn-trolling copyright lawyers saga, Judge Wright has just issued a catastrophic order [.pdf] imposing sanctions and making criminal referrals, entertainingly littered with Star Trek references.
posted by T.D. Strange (70 comments total) 52 users marked this as a favorite

 
My favorite part of the order is the "SaltMarsh" in the Attorney's section of the org chart. Can some one fill me on the reference? I've been following the saga, but I missed the salt marsh.
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 6:55 PM on May 6, 2013


OMG, I'm totally in love with this judge. "Boldly probe" - Ha!
posted by PorcineWithMe at 7:00 PM on May 6, 2013


"Salt Marsh" is a trust that purportedly owns AF Holdings, with the beneficiaries named as the yet unborn future children of Mark Lutz, the paralegal. Yes, really. Prenda has been ordered to disclose who actually signed for "Salt Marsh" in another one of these cases.

Here's all of Popehat's great prior coverage for all the really gritty details again.
posted by T.D. Strange at 7:01 PM on May 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Otis Wright is my hero.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 7:03 PM on May 6, 2013


Note he concluded that Prenda's model was to demand settlement "a sum calculated to be just below the cost of a bare-bones defense." In footnote 5, explaining the amount of sanctions he imposed, he says "This punitive portion is calculated to be just below the cost of an effective appeal."

Awesome.
posted by iamabot at 7:03 PM on May 6, 2013 [20 favorites]


So these guys are lawyers, they are also principals in a company which owns, through various shell companies and blinds, the copyright to several porn films. The porn films are on BitTorrent. They go after people who torrent the movies and say "pay us money or end up in the public record as someone who dowloaded anal sluts 23".Do I have that right?

Really ingeniously reprehensible. I say we make one of them Grand Nagus.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:04 PM on May 6, 2013 [13 favorites]


They also resort to outright fraud in hiding their ownership of the shell companies, and they have apparently been using that shell game to avoid paying tax on the profit stream from their settlements. Which is why this order is getting forwarded to the IRS' criminal investigations division.

That is going to be fun.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 7:06 PM on May 6, 2013 [9 favorites]


It's grating that these entitled dipshits are basically standard issue models out of the same mould that brought us all the sociopathic assholes that created the bank meltdown, except that they forgot that there's no SEC-equivalent in the world of intellectual property that can be captured through a revolving door regulator/regulated scenario thus rendering them immune to penalty.

In other words: these guys are just little fish in a remote and lonely pond and thus really easy to fry.

Still, nicely written judgement.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:10 PM on May 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


Oh man. I somehow missed the original case. This is fantastic. Thanks for the update!
posted by Phire at 7:11 PM on May 6, 2013


Oh my! </takei>
posted by five fresh fish at 7:12 PM on May 6, 2013 [12 favorites]


Well, bear in mind that they did pull off their schtick pretty well for some time. What they forgot is that the courts, unlike the SEC, aren't centralized - just because you get away with it once, or even a dozen times, doesn't mean you're set for life. Every trial starts from scratch. And every so often, you draw the short straw and get a judge who actually cares.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 7:13 PM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


And every so often, you draw the short straw and get a judge who actually cares.

Eh, I'd say the EFF and the defense lawyer had a lot to do with the whole thing getting to the judge's ....desk? .... in the first place.

Do you think the feds really will string 'em up on RICO charges? Normally they're on Hollywood's side on this stuff, n'est-ce pas?
posted by Diablevert at 7:26 PM on May 6, 2013


Actually this judge just lost Q's challenge and we're all doomed, folks; he was supposed to realize that the reason nothing going on made any damn sense in the present is because Prenda law is the manifestation of a temporal paradox the judge himself would go on to create only a few short years into our future, and in fact if he could only connect -- only stretch beyond our feeble human concept of linear time and *get it* -- he would realize that the much of the chaos of the 20th century was itself due to the Prenda anomaly growing ever stranger the further back into the past it traveled.

But, alas, our judge failed, and in just a little more "time" our reality itself will soon be torn asunder.
posted by hoople at 7:30 PM on May 6, 2013 [7 favorites]


RICO, probably not. But tax evasion? The IRS doesn't like to be cheated.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 7:33 PM on May 6, 2013


Judge Wright is my new GeekCrush.

Also, the Popehat archives are GOLD.
posted by 26.2 at 7:34 PM on May 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Thankfully cheggit imploded before I snatched one of these offending files or I'd be right up there with the rest of the people unfairly being fucked by these attorneys.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 7:40 PM on May 6, 2013


Every trial starts from scratch.

Well, not quite.
posted by jedicus at 7:41 PM on May 6, 2013


In 2 or 3 years, when Paul Hansmeier walks into prison, I hope somebody slaps him on the back and says "Welcome to the big leagues." Also I hope John Steele cuts a deal, goes into witness protection, and is forced to adopt a more realistic name such as "T. Rex Cialis".
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 7:42 PM on May 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Third, though Plaintiffs boldly probe the outskirts of law, the only enterprise
they resemble is RICO. The federal agency eleven decks up is familiar with their
prime directive and will gladly refit them for their next voyage.
That is just gold (pressed latinum)
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:49 PM on May 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


THIS IS AWESOME! clap!--clap!--clap-clap-clap!
posted by ShutterBun at 7:52 PM on May 6, 2013


Well, bear in mind that they did pull off their schtick pretty well for some time.

Isn't that Porn's prime directive anyway?
posted by ShutterBun at 7:54 PM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


What are the odds that something - anything - out of this legal circus can someday be used against the copyright trolls of the RIAA, MPAA and other Big Media?

Zero?

OK, continue to enjoy the show (it's safer than watching a torrented copy of Game of Thrones and just as realistic)
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:54 PM on May 6, 2013


What are the odds that something - anything - out of this legal circus can someday be used against the copyright trolls of the RIAA, MPAA and other Big Media?

See People vs. Tribbles, 2165.
posted by ShutterBun at 7:56 PM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well that settles it. I need to become a judge. And be half as awesome as Judge Wright.

As someone who will be a lawyer in 40 days, this kind of order puts the living terror in me. Not that I can see myself doing such shady things, of course, but hell I don't like arguing/losing with an administrative tribunal that much. Just....fuuuuuucking hell.
posted by Lemurrhea at 7:58 PM on May 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Wright's ruling does actually address the inherent flaws of litigating over BitTorrent data - you can't prove who downloaded the bits or that they actually got a complete copy. It would be a nice ruling to have if Big Hollywood cases were about the judgment and not bleeding the defendant dry with the cost of ongoing litigation.

But at the same time, don't forget that Prenda had a LOT of victims. Stopping them does in fact help a good number of people who would otherwise be hit by copyright trolls.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:01 PM on May 6, 2013


Then there's this awesome observation from Popehat:
Several people on Twitter pointed to something I missed, something that illustrates how outraged Judge Wright is. Note he concluded that Prenda's model was to demand settlement "a sum calculated to be just below the cost of a bare-bones defense." In footnote 5, explaining the amount of sanctions he imposed, he says "This punitive portion is calculated to be just below the cost of an effective appeal." Daaaaayuuuum.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:04 PM on May 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


Popehat always gives such great explanations. Just reading about this, makes my butt pucker, and I have never engaged in any kind of fraud.

Judge Wright should have a fan club. I love geeks!
posted by annsunny at 8:07 PM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


When Startups Need More Lawyers Than Employees, The Patent System Isn't Working
posted by homunculus at 8:10 PM on May 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


So as I understand it, Prenda et al have already managed to collect from a swarm of people. Right?

I smell a class action counter-suit coming.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:14 PM on May 6, 2013


This is so, so great, in so many alternate dimensions.
posted by rtha at 8:48 PM on May 6, 2013


"Salt Marsh" is a trust that purportedly owns AF Holdings, with the beneficiaries named as the yet unborn future children of Mark Lutz, the paralegal. Yes, really. Prenda has been ordered to disclose who actually signed for "Salt Marsh" in another one of these cases. --T.D. Strange

Apparently, there really is a person named Saltmarsh, who seems to be Steele's sister's live-in partner. I'm betting he's like Alan Cooper and probably didn't even realize they were putting his signature on things.
posted by eye of newt at 8:56 PM on May 6, 2013


Also, the Popehat archives are GOLD.
Indeed. I *love* the whole pony thing.
posted by Ambient Echo at 8:56 PM on May 6, 2013


Highlight: "the attorneys directing this litigation just took the Fifth rather than answer another judge's questions about their conduct in this litigation campaign."
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 9:01 PM on May 6, 2013


This was the best thing I've read in months. Who doesn't love justice meted out to the deserving?

Is there a repository anywhere of legal decisions like this? Can anyone recommend similar judicial opinions that even approach this in sheer awesome? The constant star trek references are icing on an already delicious cake.

It's Old Testament biblical and hopefully Judge Wright will pardon me for placing him in the position of the Almighty.

(A butchering of Isaiah 59)
Surely the arm of the [Judge Wright] is not too short to save,
nor his ear too dull to hear...
No one calls for justice;
no one pleads a case with integrity.
They rely on empty arguments, they utter lies;
they conceive trouble and give birth to evil...
Their deeds are evil deeds,
and acts of violence are in their hands.
Their feet rush into sin;
they are swift to shed innocent blood.
They pursue evil schemes;
acts of violence mark their ways...
So justice is driven back,
and righteousness stands at a distance;
truth has stumbled in the streets,
honesty cannot enter.
Truth is nowhere to be found,
and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey.

The [Judge Wright] looked and was displeased
that there was no justice.
He saw that there was no one,
he was appalled that there was no one to intervene;
so his own arm achieved salvation for him,
and his own righteousness sustained him.
He put on righteousness as his breastplate,
and the helmet of salvation on his head;
he put on the garments of vengeance
and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak.
According to what they have done,
so will he repay
wrath to his enemies
and retribution to his foes;
he will repay the islands their due.
From the west, people will fear the name of the [Judge Wright],
and from the rising of the sun, they will revere his glory.
posted by pseudonick at 9:02 PM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is there a repository anywhere of legal decisions like this? Can anyone recommend similar judicial opinions that even approach this in sheer awesome?

Well, there's this elegant, lyrical passage from Reeves v Northrop [2013] EWCA Civ 362:
I am afraid, therefore, that Randy Northrop must lose and the appeal must be dismissed. I have a sneaking sympathy for him because he did not use many of the services which council tax is supposed to provide and it may have been harsh to list him in band A.

But all of that is of no moment. He had indicated that he was soon to move and he has moved from the mooring. He has thrown off the bow lines and sailed away from the safe harbour though whether to catch the trade winds in his sails or just withstand the buffetings of the gales in the English Channel I know not.

In as much as this is the penultimate judgment I shall write after 18 years in the Court of Appeal, I am a kindred spirit who has sailed away from the safe harbour of the Royal Courts of Justice, not at all sure how to explore, or what to dream or what I am about to discover.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:25 PM on May 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


But really, I think you're looking for something like Findlaw's Judges say the darndest things, the University of Washington's Law Library list of judicial humour, or perhaps this list from Duhaime.org.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:30 PM on May 6, 2013 [7 favorites]


I wish I was next to my boyfriend when I saw this post so I could grab his arm and act like a kid in a candy store around him while reading this.

Instead, I am acting like a kid in a candy store while all alone, which is a significantly less fun way of doing things.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 9:54 PM on May 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


As a young lawyer, if Im Gibbs, I'd start turning on my former bosses, quickly, as the arstechnia link above already shows. Judge Wright's Order imposed joint and several liability, and with much of the ill gotten gains apparently absconded away in offshore accounts, Steele et al may have much of those assets beyond the effective reach of the Court or even IRS. Not so with young local counsel. Gibbs may be left holding the bag for the entire sum.

From one perspective, this is really every struggling young lawyer scrounging for work's worst nightmare, not that economic motives justify fraud on the court. Hopefully Gibbs (for his sake) at least took advantage of the deals on malpractice insurance that flood your mail box after signing up for bar study courses, although even so this episode probably just ended his law career before it much got started.
posted by T.D. Strange at 10:27 PM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I couldn't have asked for anything better after a three hour exam focusing on the rule against perpetuities. Other thought reserved for when my brain isn't goddamned mush.
posted by snuffleupagus at 10:31 PM on May 6, 2013


That Judge should be considered a national treasure.
posted by mephron at 11:07 PM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Great (terrible) story!!
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 11:22 PM on May 6, 2013


This is wonderful.
posted by JHarris at 2:17 AM on May 7, 2013


So these guys are lawyers, they are also principals in a company which owns, through various shell companies and blinds, the copyright to several porn films. The porn films are on BitTorrent. They go after people who torrent the movies and say "pay us money or end up in the public record as someone who dowloaded anal sluts 23".Do I have that right?

Even worse, the films in question are available ONLY on BitTorrent, and Prenda itself is suspected of being the seed.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 4:13 AM on May 7, 2013


Amazing. Just. Amazing.

/that's a paddlin'!
posted by zerobyproxy at 4:24 AM on May 7, 2013


It's not just Star Trek jokes.

These parties were ordered to show cause why they should not be sanctioned for their behind-the-scenes role in the conduct facially perpetrated by Gibbs.

ಠ_ಠ
posted by Mayor West at 4:31 AM on May 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I guess, Mayor West, but something like "facially perpetrated" isn't something that most lawyers would look at twice, it's just law jargon for "ostensibly" or "supposedly".

Is there a repository anywhere of legal decisions like this? Can anyone recommend similar judicial opinions that even approach this in sheer awesome?

There's also a few more on Slaw, which has some Canadian ones. It's hard not to love:
I am bound by decisions of Queen's Bench judges, by decisions of the Alberta Court of Appeal and by decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada. Very simply, Masters in Chambers of a superior trial court occupy the bottom rung of the superior courts judicial ladder.
I do not overrule decisions of a judge of this Court.

The judicial pecking order does not permit little peckers to overrule big peckers. It is the other way around.
posted by Lemurrhea at 4:54 AM on May 7, 2013


Please, please tell me that the judge uses the phrase "the sinister secret of Salt Marsh" at some point in the document.
posted by Hogshead at 6:37 AM on May 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have developed a huge internet-crush on popehat (partly because they're helping some friends out who are involved in a lawsuit of great stupidity).
posted by rmd1023 at 6:45 AM on May 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ars has an article about Judge Wright's devastating decision as well, with a rather memorable illustration of Judge Wright.
posted by RichardP at 7:05 AM on May 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I would say the facially perpetrated line was unintentional, Mayor West. If he referred to the settlement as the "money shot", I'd say you have a case.
posted by dr_dank at 8:27 AM on May 7, 2013


They've discovered the nexus of antiquated copyright laws, paralyzing social stigma, and unaffordable defense costs.

The original axis of evil!
posted by Leezie at 8:40 AM on May 7, 2013


Popehat: come for the Preda lulz, stay for the great writing.

It's interesting to see how much internet people, including MeFites, instinctually want to love Wright based on the blog coverage. And it's true that's he's been amazing on this, but I've been an observer in his court a few times now and his...brusqueness...isn't always reserved for only those who really deserve it. It's always fun to watch him up there being The Judge, but if he was handling something like the Aaron Swartz case the internet might react differently to his Marine vet/former-Sheriff vibe.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:41 AM on May 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


The "salt marsh" aspect is ringing a bell that I sadly can't make more specific, but I *know* I've seen someone attempt something like it before. That is, I distinctly recall reading somewhere about a "brilliant" scheme that involved having a few very distinct identities with almost-identical names, and then deliberately introducing small typos into documents to leave investigators confused and (in theory) supply some room for plausible deniability.

That I read about it at all means it must not have worked out, but the confusion between the "salt marsh" trust and the similarly-named individual has the same whiff of (attempted) obfuscation.
posted by hoople at 9:02 AM on May 7, 2013


This?

KINGZ Capital Management Corp. (KCM) might have been used or contemplated for use as a tool in two far-reaching, incredibly elaborate Ponzi schemes, according to an analysis of public records and other information.

One of the schemes ultimately appears to have consumed tens of millions of dollars in a squalid venture that used a royalty theme trading off the name “Crown.” It involved purported forex trading in Switzerland under the name “Crown Forex SA” and an American namesake called “Crown Forex LLC” allegedly set up to confuse investors and perhaps authorities.

The other scheme, which appears to have been nipped before it could mushroom on a grand scale, sought to kickstart a rapidly collapsing autosurf believed to be an offshoot of an existing criminal enterprise desperately seeking to extend its reach from the United States into the Caribbean, Central America, South America and perhaps Europe to keep itself alive.

The first scheme, which included other confusingly similar corporate names such asOxford Global Partners LLC and Oxford Global Advisors LLC, became the subject of fraud charges filed by the SEC and the CFTC in November. Investors appear to be out tens of millions of dollars.

Charged in the $190 million November case were Trevor Cook, former Christian radio host Pat Kiley and several other companies. The allegations paint the picture that Crown Forex LLC set up a U.S.-based bank account to siphon money investors believed was destined for the Swiss entity, which they knew as Crown Forex SA.

“Cook and [Pat] Kiley, directly and acting through others, deposited checks from many investors, into a U.S. bank account in the name of a domestic shell company, with a name — Crown Forex, LLC –that was misleadingly similar to the Swiss firm Crown Forex, S.A.,” the SEC said.

posted by snuffleupagus at 9:26 AM on May 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


And it's true that's he's been amazing on this, but I've been an observer in his court a few times now and his...brusqueness...isn't always reserved for only those who really deserve it. It's always fun to watch him up there being The Judge, but if he was handling something like the Aaron Swartz case the internet might react differently to his Marine vet/former-Sheriff vibe.

This is true, we like it because it's arrayed in our favor. If it weren't, we would find it more off-putting.

However... the Preda people have been using the legal system as their carousel of large-scale fuckery for a while, they've bullied lots of people, probably engaged in a couple of cases of identity theft, and committed fraud to try to hide it, and it's arguably those things, and their dancing around trying to hide or obscure them, that have so enraged Judge Wright. They're playing games in his courtroom. Aaron Swartz would probably not have relied on counsel that would have attempt to lead the court on such a merry dance.
posted by JHarris at 9:44 AM on May 7, 2013


No, I agree with that. Certainly. And these people deserve their comeuppance and more. But I'd conjecture that Wright would have little patience for arguments that Swartz's actions at MIT didn't constitute criminal violations of the CFAA. But I don't mean to derail.
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:48 AM on May 7, 2013


Great post. I wonder if Judge Wright had recently seen a Star Trek movie and he unintentionally stuck in a 'reference' to it, noticed that, and then decided to keep it up.

Btw, that popehat site is ... sui generis, or something like that. This post had me crying. Among the topics is the absence of ponies and a hypothetical about eliminating the taste of expired podiatrists from jacuzzis. Great stuff.
posted by Transl3y at 1:35 PM on May 7, 2013


Why weren’t the Prenda porn trolls stopped years ago? Judges have complained about their tactics for years.
posted by homunculus at 5:22 PM on May 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Welcome to the century of the copyright troll: Prenda Law was just the beginning
posted by homunculus at 12:36 PM on May 9, 2013


“Look, you may hate me”: 90 minutes with John Steele, porn troll. Says Judge Wright's Star Trek references were "beneath the dignity of the court."
posted by zarq at 10:31 AM on May 10, 2013


Prenda Lawyer Says Judge Wright's Order Is Inapplicable In Georgia Because California Recognizes Gay Marriage
posted by homunculus at 1:11 PM on May 10, 2013


Also, there's a drive-by reference to "Hangin' With Mr. Cooper". So.
posted by Johnny Assay at 4:09 PM on May 10, 2013


Team Prenda Not Only Still Shaking Down People, But Also Threatening To Tell Their Neighbors About Porn Habits
posted by homunculus at 3:18 PM on May 13, 2013


Prenda lawyers file appeals, meanwhile are unable to get admitted to the 9th Circuit pending results of discipline inquiry
posted by T.D. Strange at 10:10 AM on May 20, 2013


Popehat: The Sound of One Shoe Dropping
posted by snuffleupagus at 11:44 AM on May 20, 2013


And from the Popehat comments:

Breaking (but unsurprising) news: the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals just denied Paul Hansmeier's request for an emergency stay of Judge Wright's sanctions order:

Before: O’SCANNLAIN and CALLAHAN, Circuit Judges.

Appellant's emergency motion for a stay of the district court’s May 6, 2013 sanctions order is denied without prejudice to renewal, if necessary, upon the filing and disposition of such request in the district court. See Fed. R. App. P. 8(a)(1).

The briefing schedule established previously shall remain in effect.

posted by snuffleupagus at 11:46 AM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hollywood Studios Censor Pirate Bay Documentary With Takedown Notices
posted by jeffburdges at 10:31 AM on May 21, 2013


Ex-Prenda Lawyer Brett Gibbs Pleads Poverty To Judge Wright
posted by T.D. Strange at 12:49 PM on May 24, 2013


Almost worth a new post: New filing presents evidence at John Steele uploaded videos to BitTorrent himself.
posted by supercres at 7:26 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


From the filing:

Prenda Law's business structure is such that it is pirate, forensic pirate hunter, and attorney. It also appears that Prenda Law also wants to/has formed/is forming a corporate structure where it is: pornography producer, copyright holder, pornography pirate, forensic investigator, attorney firm, and debt collector. Other than the omission of appearing in the pornography themselves, this would represent an entire in-house copyright trolling monopoly- not designed to promote their own works for distribution and sale, but to induce infringement of their works and reap profits seen from mass anti-piracy litigation.
posted by supercres at 7:27 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


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