Lawyers behind ‘sham’ copyright suits to be sentenced


Lawyers behind ‘sham’ copyright suits to be sentenced

Gabriel Ramos /

The US district attorney prosecuting the lawyers behind a so-called ‘honeypot’ copyright infringement scam has appealed to victims to apply for restitution.

John Steele and Paul Hansmeier will be sentenced on June 4, 2019 after they were convicted of obtaining payments to settle what prosecutors called “sham pornography film copyright infringement lawsuits”.

The US attorney for the District of Minnesota has now invited victims of the scheme to claim restitution pending sentencing.

“At the sentencing hearing, the court may, but is not required to, order Hansmeier and Steele to pay restitution to the victims of their scheme,” the attorney’s office said last Wednesday, April 24.

Restitution may be available to those who paid money to settle lawsuits brought by entities controlled by Steele and Hansmeier, including the now defunct Prenda Law.

According to the US Department of Justice (DoJ), Steele pleaded guilty in 2017 and admitted to having set up, with Hansmeier, “sham entities” to obtain copyright over pornographic films.

The two lawyers uploaded the films, “some of which they filmed themselves”, to torrent sharing websites “in order to lure people to download the movies”.

Steele and Hansmeier then filed copyright infringement lawsuits while concealing their role in distributing the films, the DoJ said.

US District Attorney for the District of Minnesota, John Steele, Paul Hansmeier, Prenda Law, torrent, copyright infringement, piracy

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