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A lawyer who sued thousands of people for copyright violations after they allegedly downloaded pornography that he planted on BitTorrent websites should be jailed for 12-and-a-half-years, the US government has said.
In a document filed at the US District Court for the District of Minnesota on Monday, March 25, the US described Paul Hansmeier as a “greedy, arrogant, devious” individual who “consistently positioned other people to be damaged by his conduct”.
In September 2010, Hansmeier and a partner formed a law firm. They used the firm to sue individuals accused of illegally downloading their supposed client’s copyrighted pornography.
However, it emerged that Hansmeier and his partner set up fake entities that they used as their clients.
These entities housed the copyrights to pornographic movies Hansmeier obtained, some of which he and his partner filmed themselves.
These movies were then uploaded to file-sharing websites like Pirate Bay, “in order to lure people to download the movies”, the court document said.
To learn the identities of those that had downloaded the movies, Hansmeier and his partner fraudulently obtained permission to subpoena internet service providers into giving them information about the IP addresses used to download the content.
After receiving this information, the partners—through extortion letters and phone calls—threatened the subscribers with enormous financial penalties and public embarrassment unless the subscribers agreed to pay a settlement, the filing said.
In its sentence recommendation, the US said Hansmeier’s scheme caused great distress and embarrassment to his shakedown victims.
“As much as he would like to think so, Hansmeier’s disgraceful conduct in this case has no morally equivalent counterpart in even the worst of the downloaders,” the US said.
BitTorrent, US District Court for the District of Minnesota, copyright, Paul Hansmeier