In the latest twist to the long-running saga of Prenda Law, the firm’s former lawyer Brett Gibbs revealed financial data belonging to the so-called “copyright troll.” Prenda has sued thousands of people for illegally downloading pornographic movies, but now it’s on the ropes; it has had to answer tough questions in several courts and has been accused of creating a “honeypot” on The Pirate Bay to induce the downloading.
Gibbs, who is trying to escape the $81,000 sanctions order that was slapped on Prenda back in May, filed spreadsheets revealing that the company made $1.9 million last year, of which about 70 percent went to the two men most often pointed to as its founders, Paul Hansmeier and John Steele.
Paul Godfried, an attorney who has opposed Prenda and was actually sued by the firm for defamation , wants to file the spreadsheets as evidence in a Minnesota court where a federal judge has re-opened several Prenda cases. And now, Hansmeier has filed a response (PDF) to those damning documents.
Hansmeier gave five excuses—some of which conflict—as to why the document can’t be filed as evidence.
First, he says that Godfried should make a public filing with his request, which is sensible enough. Then Hansmeier goes on to note that the documents are “not authenticated” and could be fake. But then again, maybe they’re not. “Perhaps [Godfried] is right,” ventures Hansmeier in his one-page letter to the judge. “But I have not reviewed Prenda’s financials and neither, presumably, has he.”
But if they are real, well, they’re actually no big deal because they just list him as the “old owner.” Any money he got was for the sale of his law firm, Steele Hansmeier, he writes.
Even if they are real, the spreadsheets—the “day-to-day ledgers of a law firm”—are irrelevant to the original question of copyright infringement (which Hansmeier would surely like to get back to.)
And if they’re real, they’re “stolen,” he adds. “No business would release sensitive financial documents to its adversaries,” writes Hansmeier. “I understand that this matter is being investigated and will be reported to law enforcement, as appropriate.”
Of course, the source of these documents—former Prenda associate Brett Gibbs—wasn’t always an “adversary.” He has testified that he used to work for Hansmeier and that Hansmeier and Steele were the bosses at Prenda. It’s their denials, and their recent attacks on Gibbs himself, that compelled Gibbs to file the document.
This Minnesota case isn’t the only one where a judge continues to pursue the Prenda situation. US District Judge Edward Chen has already dinged Prenda for attorney’s fees and has scheduled a hearing for December to decide whether further sanctions would be appropriate.
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