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.”
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.
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
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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
If you can’t stand the heat, whip out the DMCA notices, I guess. Earlier this week, in response to criticism, a game developer hit a YouTuber with dozens of bogus DMCA claims. “Eroktic,” who has posted several videos of him playing Battlestate Games’ multiplayer shooter “Escape from Tarkov,” was on the receiving end of nearly 50 claims.Rather than pretend this is about copyright by claiming it didn’t give Eroktic permission to use footage of its game, the Russian developer has been surprisingly open about its abuse of the DMCA system. Comments given to Polygon’s Charlie Hall show Battlestate is well aware it’s misusing YouTube’s copyright claim process, but says that’s the only way it can protect its good name.
Richard Nixon is a no good, lying bastard. He can lie out of both sides of his mouth at the same time, and if he ever caught himself telling the truth, he’d lie just to keep his hand in. Harr…
Copyright holders have leveled some quite outrageous accusations over the years, but Malibu Media is taking it to the next level. The company is trying to convince a Texas woman to settle a piracy lawsuit over 15 downloads while accusing her of a further 54,000 downloads of content belonging to other rightsholders’ to increase the pressure.
The copyright trolls behind the action movie London Has Fallen are testing out the Norwegian market after things got tricky in the US. In November, LHF Productions backed away from suing a US citizen after they were threatened with exposure, but now they’re demanding money in Europe.