The wheels, they turn slowly. But they do turn.
December 17, 2016 11:42 AM   Subscribe

The Prenda Law Saga has finally turned criminal. John Steele and Paul Hansmeier were arrested Friday and charged with 18 counts of fraud, perjury, and money laundering in a wide-ranging indictment [.pdf]. Prosecutors allege "an elaborate scheme to fraudulently obtain millions of dollars in copyright settlements by deceiving state and federal courts throughout the country".

Ken White of Popehat: "This is a devastating indictment. Its scope will make it extremely expensive and difficult to defend. The detail level suggests that the feds have amassed a vast amount of documentary evidence. Its reference to Prenda Law employees with initials like "M.L." and "P.H." strongly suggests that the feds have flipped some former employees, who are now testifying for the government."
posted by T.D. Strange (28 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
 
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posted by T.D. Strange at 11:44 AM on December 17, 2016


michaeljacksonpopcorn.gif
posted by rhizome at 11:50 AM on December 17, 2016 [9 favorites]


Prenda may have been the poster child of copyright trolling, but many other lawyers are still running the same scam. (I predict the next to get burned will be Malibu Media.) But the normal-Internet-citizen's takeaway needs to be:
  1. DO NOT TORRENT MOVIES1
  2. Respond immediately and decisively if you ever receive any suggestion that you are involved in one of these suits
1Seriously, who would pay $3-5k to watch an Adam Sandler flick? You can get those from the bargain basket at the discount scratch-n-dent supermarket, and you're still paying too much.
posted by spacewrench at 12:19 PM on December 17, 2016


DO NOT TORRENT MOVIES from public bittorrent trackers.

There's a whole 'nother world out there, folks.
posted by ryanrs at 12:35 PM on December 17, 2016 [7 favorites]


DO NOT TORRENT MOVIES from public bittorrent trackers

I haven't investigated the private tracker ecosystem as fully as I have the public, but the copyright-troll scam is (financially) dangerous regardless of whether you downloaded the movie, even if you downloaded it from an agent of the copyright holder. Sure, in a perfect world where you could prove you'd gotten it from an authorized seeder, you would beat an infringement rap, but in this world:
  • You can't afford to catch the seeder, who is operating out of Germany or China or someplace seedier
  • You won't be able to convince your judge or jury, even if you were somehow able to come up with a smoking gun
  • You'll be risking an enormous amount of money in the fight, and the judge has absolute discretion whether to award you that money even if you win.
So if you're going to download movies, at least don't run that risk for shitty Sandler films and Segal shoot-em-ups that you can get from RedBox for a buck.
posted by spacewrench at 12:46 PM on December 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


That's pretty much a "don't torrent movies" for a lot of us who don't have good enough internet or the connections to get an invite. So sad!

(Not too sad. Well, it will be very sad when the Netflix DVD service goes out of service or gets even more crappier. Can't really financially justify buying movies individually to myself, most of the time. A dense book has a much better $/hr ratio.)
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 12:49 PM on December 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


DO NOT TORRENT MOVIES from public bittorrent trackers

...without a vpn?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:50 PM on December 17, 2016 [14 favorites]


3. Expect many more copyright trolls to pop up during the Trump administration (do you really think his justice department will be in any way interested in going after them?) and with that the risk of torrenting movies to go up.
posted by dilaudid at 12:57 PM on December 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


...without a vpn?

Probably helps a lot, but still not enough to risk it for shitty movies.

All a troll needs is your IP address -- the rest is technical mumbo-jumbo that the court doesn't give a fuck about. A particularly brazen troll could make up IP addresses, or use IPs from a webserver log -- he doesn't need any actual network evidence of downloading. The allegations might not hold up in every case, but they don't have to -- the scam happens much earlier in the process, and you can make a ton of money just scamming random people. If you have a compliant judiciary and a good sense of when to cut & run, you can make a cush living at this.

If you don't have a good sense of when to cut & run, though: this happens.
posted by spacewrench at 1:04 PM on December 17, 2016


So first of all, Prenda-style copyright trolls aren't going after Adam Sandler movie downloaders because they don't own the rights to Adam Sandler movies. That's a key point of this whole ordeal. They used porn clips because they could easily buy the copyright, or even just make their own porn.

And as to private trackers, they wouldn't ever target private trackers because a random porn clip on Empornium gets 50 downloads. They go after public trackers where they can get log thousands of IPs, filter them for major US residential ISPs, and send out masses of form letters. Private trackers are too small for anyone to care.

spacewrench: the solution to that is to use a seedbox or vpn in a foreign country. Low-rent copyright trolls are paid by the letter, and they don't do international discovery.
posted by ryanrs at 1:08 PM on December 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


Expect many more copyright trolls to pop up during the Trump administration (do you really think his justice department will be in any way interested in going after them?)

Has Trump chosen these two to head the Justice Department yet ?
posted by devious truculent and unreliable at 1:09 PM on December 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


Our local troll purchases IP addresses from guys in Germany, who I believe are running their own seeders. So if you torrent to a foreign IP address, and then point-to-point from there to get the data into your own machine, you shouldn't show up. But that still forces all the data through a single pipe, which destroys much of the throughput advantage of BitTorrent.

Further, you're talking about a level of sophistication that I've never seen in a client (and I'd bet it's that very sophistication that keeps them out of my office). Copyright trolls make their money on naive people who installed Popcorn Time, or people whose kids installed Popcorn Time, or people whose kids had a sleepover and one of those kids had Popcorn Time on a laptop they brought over.

But I still say, even if you're the most 1337 h4x><0r in the world, you shouldn't be fucking around with Sandler or Segal films (names I keep bringing up because that's the movie companies the local troll has contracts with.)
posted by spacewrench at 1:16 PM on December 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


There's an entire industry built around bittorrent piracy. If you wanted, you could buy a server in Ukraine to route all your traffic through, and it would only cost you about $10/mo, payable in bitcoin.

These private sites, they have their own internal currencies based roughly on your disk and network resources. So you're not limited to stuff that's already been pirated, you can request new material that has never been uploaded. I've induced other people to purchase obscure, technical, $60 ebooks for me, just on the basis of my private tracker rep. It's actually a pretty great little community, living on the fringes of the internet.
posted by ryanrs at 1:30 PM on December 17, 2016 [5 favorites]


Was their porn any good?
posted by chavenet at 1:34 PM on December 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


It was pretty niche. Imagine a couple lawyer bros bending over random bittorrent nerds.
posted by ryanrs at 1:40 PM on December 17, 2016 [7 favorites]


I'd bet it's that very sophistication that keeps them out of my office

"Don't get caught" is actually really good legal advice.
posted by ryanrs at 2:43 PM on December 17, 2016 [6 favorites]


I'm going to be disappointed if the porn they made themselves weren't corny law-themed porn, named "Illegal Briefs" and the like.
posted by gyc at 3:44 PM on December 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


So a friend was wondering if using PIA with a foreign country selected was safe? For Harry Potter movies.
posted by sio42 at 3:54 PM on December 17, 2016


There's an entire industry built around bittorrent piracy. If you wanted, you could buy a server in Ukraine to route all your traffic through, and it would only cost you about $10/mo, payable in bitcoin.

The term, for those not in the know, is "seedbox." And yeah, you can get a nicely packaged setup - basically a torrent client and file browser (from which you download them to your home computer) displayed in your web browser - for $10-20/mo. Not that I endorse pirating absolutely everything, but for those of us interested in music or movies that are difficult to find otherwise...
posted by atoxyl at 3:55 PM on December 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


Sio42, PIA with any country selected is safe, since they don't keep logs.
posted by ryanrs at 4:00 PM on December 17, 2016


(the country selection is just for getting around geographic IP blocks, like on some youtube videos, BBC iplayer, etc)
posted by ryanrs at 4:00 PM on December 17, 2016


corny law-themed porn, named "Illegal Briefs" and the like.

Habeas corpus
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 4:53 PM on December 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


corny law-themed porn, named "Illegal Briefs" and the like

Quid Pro Quo
Penal Offenses
Hung Jury
Attractive Nuisance
Statutory Damage
posted by spacewrench at 5:53 PM on December 17, 2016 [9 favorites]


Happy Holidays, Metafilter: Gay T-Rex Law Firm: Executive Boner
posted by Munching Langolier at 7:48 PM on December 17, 2016


Happy Holidays, Metafilter: Gay T-Rex Law Firm: Executive Boner

Goddamnit. This is now on my kindle right next to Moan for Bigfoot. My Amazon suggestions may never recover.
posted by T.D. Strange at 8:01 PM on December 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


> Eventually Steele and Hansmeier filmed their own porn to upload to support this scheme

Steele/Hansmeier? They might find someone who'd like it, somewhere, but as a business plan it's … lacking
posted by scruss at 7:05 AM on December 18, 2016


Instead please just rent 14,000 VHS copies of Jerry Maguire.
posted by Monkey0nCrack at 3:37 PM on December 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


Gay T-Rex Law Firm: Executive Boner

Another unwieldy legal adventure book title suggested by Amazon.
posted by boilermonster at 11:35 PM on December 18, 2016


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