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The Courts DRM Piracy

The Lawyer Who Founded Prenda Law Just Got Disbarred (engadget.com) 62

Long-time Slashdot reader lactose99 writes: One of the original copyright trolls finally got their comeuppance. From TFA: "John L. Steele, a Chicago lawyer who pled guilty to perjury, fraud and money laundering resulting from alleged 'honeypot' schemes, has just been disbarred by an Illinois court." John L. Steele, as you may know, is one of the principals of Prenda Law, a notorious copyright troll who has been featured on /. several times. The article goes on to describe how the Prenda lawyers used honeypot-like tactics to trick people into downloads and then subsequently scammed them for copyright violations.
Their operation brought in $6 million in settlement fees, reports Engadget, adding "While it is illegal to download copyrighted files from file-sharing sites, it is also against the law to extort downloaders."
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The Lawyer Who Founded Prenda Law Just Got Disbarred

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  • Not disbarred! Now this poor soul will have to practice law in another state. How about some fines greater than his scammed income?

    • Re:Oh man (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Theaetetus ( 590071 ) <theaetetus...slashdot@@@gmail...com> on Saturday May 27, 2017 @05:21PM (#54499031) Homepage Journal

      Not disbarred! Now this poor soul will have to practice law in another state. How about some fines greater than his scammed income?

      The first question any bar association asks is "have you been subject to discipline by any other bar?" He's not going to practice law ever again.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Sure he is. This is a dupe of course, as it was covered several days ago after the Ars Technica article. But it was pretty clear that he accepted "voluntary" disbarment rather than go through the full on hearings and all. And it was a four year thing - after which he simply has to show that he has "reformed" and has his life in order and he is back in.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Think again. Canter & Siegel, the first professional spammers, were disbarred from *5* states before they stopped practicing law. They didn't stop until Martha died.

    • While state bars are independent of each other, disbarment in one state means the end to a legal career in all states.
  • This happened almost a week ago, but this is Slashdot so, grudgingly, I'll accept our new usage of the word 'just' in this context. Arstechnica has a good article:
    https://arstechnica.com/tech-p... [arstechnica.com]
  • What took so long? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by JustAnotherOldGuy ( 4145623 ) on Saturday May 27, 2017 @05:19PM (#54499017)

    "John L. Steele, a Chicago lawyer who pled guilty to perjury, fraud and money laundering resulting from alleged 'honeypot' schemes, has just been disbarred by an Illinois court."

    Great, but what took so long?

    I'd have been happier if he served some serious prison time, but this is better than nothing.

    • by Fire_Wraith ( 1460385 ) on Saturday May 27, 2017 @06:35PM (#54499239)
      This is separate from his convictions. He's still going to prison, he just hasn't been sentenced yet. Think of it as the icing on the cake.
    • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Saturday May 27, 2017 @11:57PM (#54500089)
      It took so long because you can't sue lawyers for malpractice. The rate at which lawyers are disbarred is about 0.08% per year [usatoday.com]. Compared to about 0.3% of doctors losing their license [huffingtonpost.com] for malpractice. So either lawyers are 4x more honest than doctors, or self-policing by the American Bar Association is inadequate.

      Since lawyers insist being able to sue doctors for malpractice is vital for keeping the medical profession honest, why not let us sue lawyers for malpractice? After all, what's good for the goose...
      • by mjwx ( 966435 )

        It took so long because you can't sue lawyers for malpractice. The rate at which lawyers are disbarred is about 0.08% per year [usatoday.com]. Compared to about 0.3% of doctors losing their license [huffingtonpost.com] for malpractice. So either lawyers are 4x more honest than doctors, or self-policing by the American Bar Association is inadequate.

        The corollary to that is that lawyers are 4 times less likely to be punished for improper, illegal or negligent practice.

        Since lawyers insist being able to sue doctors for malpractice is vital for keeping the medical profession honest, why not let us sue lawyers for malpractice? After all, what's good for the goose...

        If we're using the old goose/gander cliche, shouldn't we perform medical experimentation on the lawyers that get disbarred?

  • Maybe he can get with Jack Thompson [kotaku.com] and start a law firm in Florida...

  • when they were just buying up porno and suing people for what they owned they did just fine. It worked until they started doing things that were actively illegal. I wonder if anyone else is out there running the original scam and just keeping a lower profile doing it legally.
  • The article ends with this line:

    Their operation brought in $6 million in settlement fees, reports Engadget, adding "While it is illegal to download copyrighted files from file-sharing sites, it is also against the law to extort downloaders."

    A threat to initiate legal action is not extortion. Otherwise, how would anyone bring any case to court?

    This lawyer had pled guilty to "perjury, fraud and money laundering" - not extortion. He was disbarred for perjury, fraud, and money laundering, not extortion. Sheesh people, use some common sense, or at least read the summary and note any contradictions.

    • It sounds like it meets the definition of "barratry" [slashdot.org] which is a crime in most states, but is difficult to prove. I'm guessing perjury and fraud were easier to prove (money laundering is just a catchall to inflate penalties if you have some other offence to start with).

      IANAL, in case that isn't blindingly obvious.

    • by phorm ( 591458 )

      IIRC, in many cases these trolls would misrepresent the information they had in order to get subscriber details for their "demand" letters. That's where the "perjury" part came in.

  • While it is illegal to download copyrighted files

    Often illegal but certainly not always illegal, this of course depends entirely on whether the copyright holder has given permission and/or what license the files are under.

    it is also against the law to extort downloaders

    Well of course it is, extortion is by definition illegal, but there's a thin line between extortion and lawful prevention of copyright infringement.

  • If you don't understand it, then you have a lot of reading to do.

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