Former attorney John Steele was sentenced this week to five years in prison for his role in the Prenda Law porn-trolling scheme, putting an end to a years-long legal drama wild and stupid enough to be prime-time TV.Steele pleaded guilty in 2017 to federal charges of fraud and money laundering and then cooperated with authorities in the investigation into his former legal partner Paul Hansmeier. That cooperation weighed heavily in Steele’s favor at his sentencing, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.US District Judge Joan Ericksen said federal guidelines recommended a sentence of 10 to 12-1/2 years for Steele’s “vile scheme” but agreed that given Steele’s extreme willingness to cooperate, his defense attorney’s recommendation of five years was “eminently fair.”
The film, called “IPIDENTICAL: Imagine a world without creativity” is supposed to be an example of what the world would look like without intellectual property. In this world, everything is the same. There is one song in the world, called “The Song” and that’s it. There is one movie, “The Movie.” There is one car in one color. Everyone wears the same clothes. All products on store shelves are identical. See? How dystopian.
Paul Hansmeier, one of the lead attorneys behind the controversial Prenda law firm, is appealing his conviction as well as the 14-year prison sentence. The former attorney will await the result of his appeal in prison. The court further ruled that a $75,000 settlement Hansmeier recently received, will be reserved for the victims of the copyright-trolling scheme.
A couple of weeks back, we discussed the story of Caterpillar Inc., famous manufacturers of tractor equipment, deciding to bully Cat & Cloud Coffee, makers of you’ll-never-guess-what, all because the former had long ago trademarked “CAT” as a truncated brand. At issue specifically is Cat & Cloud’s use of the word “cat” on clothing and merchandise it sells, with Caterpillar claiming there is the potential for public confusion with its own clothing and merch lines. This is, of course, plainly ridiculous. There is no overlap in the branding and nobody is going to confuse the tractor folks with the coffee folks.Others pointed out that there are tons of other companies out there that sell apparel and/or merch while holding trademarks that incorporate the word “cat.” If those other companies are allowed to exist, why not Cat & Cloud? Caterpillar Inc. heard you dear friends, but its response is probably not the one you were hoping for.
It’s the trademark story that simply won’t go away and in which the legal system appears to get everything wrong. The saga of the San Diego Comic-Con’s legal adventures against what was formerly the Salt Lake Comic Con (now rebranded as FanX Salt Lake Comic Convention) has been brutally frustrating. The whole thing started when the SDCC decided somewhat out of the blue to begin enforcing a trademark it had been granted for “Comic-Con” against the Utah production. The trademark original sin of this story began all the way back with the USPTO, which absurdly granted the SDCC its trademark for a purely descriptive term, one which is only unrecognizable as such due to the shortening of the second word from “convention” to “con.” Despite that, the trademark suit brought against the Salt Lake Comic Con somehow ended in a win by jury for the SDCC, which was awarded only $20k. In the trial, SLCC had pointed out several times that the term “comic-con” was both descriptive in nature and clearly had been abandoned by SDCC, evidenced by the long list of other comic conventions going by the term carried out throughout the country.
Inadvertently highlights easy abuse of IP protection
The U.S. is recommending a 12.5 year prison sentence for Paul Hansmeier, one of the lead attorneys of the controversial law firm Prenda. The Pirate Bay played a crucial role in the case, since it’s where Prenda uploaded porn movies to extract settlements from alleged pirates. Hansmeier admitted his wrongdoing but is requesting a more lenient prison sentence of little over 7 years.
the German delegation had actually pushed back on the more extreme versions of Article 13 — and, in particular, had demanded that a final version have a clear carve-out for smaller companies, so as not to have them forced out of business by the onerous demands of the law. However, after some back and forth, Germany caved in to France’s demands, with many left scratching their heads as to why. However, some noted the “coincidence” in timing, that right after this, France also withdrew its objections to the pipeline which is very controversial in the EU (and the US, which is threatening sanctions).
As a leader in the global movement toward open access to publicly funded research, the University of California is taking a firm stand by deciding not to renew its subscriptions with Elsevier. Despite months of contract negotiations, Elsevier was unwilling to meet UC’s key goal: securing universal open access to UC research while containing the rapidly escalating costs associated with for-profit journals.In negotiating with Elsevier, UC aimed to accelerate the pace of scientific discovery by ensuring that research produced by UC’s 10 campuses — which accounts for nearly 10 percent of all U.S. publishing output — would be immediately available to the world, without cost to the reader. Under Elsevier’s proposed terms, the publisher would have charged UC authors large publishing fees on top of the university’s multi-million dollar subscription, resulting in much greater cost to the university and much higher profits for Elsevier.
Over the last few months, I’ve been hearing an awful lot about a copyright trolling operation that goes by the name Higbee and Associates. We had written about them years back when they (incredibly) threatened Something Awful for using a photo in a movie review (which was clear fair use). A few months back we wrote about them again when they (you guessed it) threatened Something Awful again over someone in its forums hotlinking a picture of Hitler that was actually hosted on Imgur.While that’s all we’ve written about the firm on Techdirt, Higbee’s name keeps coming up in other conversations — among copyright lawyers who have been seeing a massive increase in Higbee demand letters, and even from some friends who have received such letters (which nearly always involve clearly bogus threats). One thing that has happened over and over with Higbee claims that I’ve been privy to is that they are over unregistered images, meaning that Higbee is unlikely to actually be able to sue over those images, and even if they could, it wouldn’t be for statutory damages. And yet, the threat letters tend to allude to statutory damages are part of the scare tactic.Public Citizen’s Paul Levy has apparently seen enough of Higbee and Associates and their trolling activity that he’s done a pretty thorough investigation of Higbee’s activities and written up a long description calling out many of the sketchy practices of the firm and its principal, Mathew Higbee