Final defendant pleads guilty in long-term copyright fraud dispute


A lawyer in Minnesota has pleaded guilty to fraud charges, bringing the end near to a long-running dispute over his firm’s alleged attempts to extort millions of dollars from thousands of people by creating circumstances in which they would breach copyright laws by downloading pornography.

Paul Hansmeier, formerly of Prenda Law, submitted a plea deal agreed with the U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota, admitting two charges which could carry up to 20 years in prison.

The charges, among 18 total allegations, are related to a scheme by the law firm in which they purchased the copyright to pornographic films, then approached people who had downloaded the films and accused them of copyright infringement, forcing them to settle for thousands of dollars.
The scheme, according to the plea deal, developed to the point where the lawyers were making their own pornographic films and uploading them to sites from which they could then be downloaded.
Hansmeier was the last defendant still fighting charges, after his co-defendant John Steele pleaded guilty in March 2017 to  conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

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The plea deal

Hansmeier’s plea deal can be read here.

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Background to the dispute

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Legal implications

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