Emboldened by the selective permissiveness of the US legal system, Prenda’s staggering fraudulent activities continue unabated. The latest middle finger to the justice is being shown by Prenda as we speak. Steele Hansmeier / Prenda Law / Anti-Piracy Law group are currently working on a complete vertical integration of all the components necessary to continue and widen its racketeering campaign.

Part I. A missing link

Any organized crime operation tends to move towards vertical integration. A Mafiozo business is usually very effective, in part because it exercises control over all the operating stages. There are four main players/areas in any given porn copyright trolling operation:

  • Porn producer
  • Bittorent swarm monitor
  • Copyright holder / assignee (Plaintiff)
  • Lawyer’s network

 

If different people control these areas, all of them want their cut. Keith Lipscomb was lucky to find a somewhat talented, but not-so-smart porn producer, Brigham Field, who is happy to receive his 10% cut. Usually producers want more.

So far, John Steele’s criminal organization has been somewhat successfully integrating three areas out of four:

Bittorent monitoring

In-house “expert” Peter Hansmeier monitors bittorent swarms from the very beginning of Steele/Hansmeier involvement in the lucrative abuse of the court system. His software is still super-secret, and his company is not registered anywhere. Peter himself is not a certified forensic expert. His brother Paul, not John Steele, is the real Prenda’s mastermind according to some opinions.

Steele also experimented with Steve “Lightpeed” Jones’s own, extremely amateur “company” Arcadia Security (comprised of only Steve Jones himself), when he first tested CFAA waters. To the best of my knowledge, two former “friends” do not work together anymore (and even had some bad squabbles), although a couple of Lightspeed’s lawsuits, including the infamous Lightspeed Media Corporation v. Smith et al. (ILSD 12-cv-00889), are still lingering.

Plaintiffs

Plaintiffs AF Holdings, Ingenuity 13, LW Systems, Guava, Arte de Oaxaca, and maybe Quad International ¹ are shell or entirely bogus entities, assignees of copyrights to pornographic material. These “companies” do not use copyrights as intended, i.e. there are no sales, only lawsuits. Even more, it is reportedly impossible to find the titles used in those lawsuits in any online or brick-and-mortar store.

Prenda still works with real copyright holders, but obviously has been moving away from using them over recent couple of months: we witness mass dismissals of the cases assigned to plaintiffs other than the ones listed above. Only two categories of “real plaintiff” cases are still active: 1) cases that cannot be dismissed due to the defendants’ answers to complaints, and 2) cases in which default judgment was entered.

In addition to the fact that “real” plaintiffs demand their cut, they are unreliable and prone to unexpected problems.

The first experiment with a bogus plaintiff was attempted in 2010/2011 with creation of non-producing, Righthaven-like entity MCGIP. After TorrentFreak’s investigative reporting by Nicholas Ranallo was published, this entity was quickly dismantled. Crooks learned their lessons, and the next reincarnations of “mini-Righthavens” were obscured by ostensibly outsourcing to St. Kitts and Nevis. Even that may be not the case, and probably none of these corporations has been registered at all. It is only logical not to spend money on registration of a corporation that cannot be pierced anyway due to strict secrecy laws of this Caribbean state. Simply using someone else’s name as a CEO — Anthony Saltmarsh or Alan Cooper — will do.

Lawyer network

No explanation necessary. This category includes paralegals in charge of shaking down identified victims. Local counsels do not cost an arm and a leg to Prenda: usually underemployed, starving attorneys are hired only to submit pleadings written in the “troll command and control.” In a recent rare case when a local goon was trusted to write his own motion, he shamelessly lifted the entire pleading written by someone else.

Production

Ultimate bottomless greed did not let criminal masterminds sleep. Porn producers / initial copyright holders still require their cut and they are a hassle to deal with. Therefore, not surprisingly, John Steele decided to forge the missing link and hired a director and performers to film and subsequently license his own pornography. Of course I oversimplify, and greed is definitely not the only motivation: see a brilliant comment embedded at the bottom of this post.

As an anonymous commenter precisely described the situation after John’s plans became obvious,

It shows that the crook is now clearly involved at the very root of the scam. Directly involved in the MAKING of the smut that is soon to be licensed to AF Holdings or Ingenuity 13 or (insert new sham offshore LLC name here). Soon this newly produced smut will have a registered copyright, and be immediately seeded into honeypot torrents, and immediately monitored by the seeder (6881 Forensics LLC, or whatever they will call themselves since they cannot be found to be officially a licensed business either) for “OMG! Copyright Infringement!”

The smut that Steele is producing does not have to be of a particularly high quality: remember, it will not be sold, it will not be streamed, but it will be used only for extortion purposes. Bittorent curious porn hunters will download anything based solely on the filename and/or description, simply to check it out. Throw a relatively famous (in their universe) names to the mix, and you get your swarm to milk. It does not matter that only about 70% of harvested IP addresses more or less point to people who knowingly shared the pornography in question, the other 30% will be harassed and pushed to settle anyway.

John’s hubris was the main reason why he could not keep his mission under wraps. @bittorrentbull on Twitter thought that it is impossible that others can provably link John Steele to @bittorrentbull screen name, and he tweeted a myriad of self-incriminating things: from documenting vexatious and vindictive reasons behind federal Guava lawsuits to damaging his position in the ongoing Alan Cooper v. John Steele et al. He was probably drunk when he exchanged his Twitter screen name with a porn performer/director Marcus London and a pornstar Gaia. Unknowingly, they setup him later by tweeting about the filming, and even confirmed @bittorentbull’s identity (at the very bottom of the dialog):

(Click on the image to enlarge)

 

Featured comment

Anonymous on January 31, 2013 at 3:17 am:

Although vertical integration does have its benefits, especially with Steele crossing the line and doing completely illegal stuff like stealing Alan Cooper’s identity, I think another important consideration is that this is a sign of just how marginalized John has become.

All things being equal, with the reported 90% cut of settlement dollars for John, there would not be a huge monetary incentive to go through all of this trouble, so there are likely non-monetary reasons he has given up on having clients. A big one is publicity, we know from their own words in interviews that porn producers don’t like their neighbors to know what they do for a living. Another is fear of liability, I’m sure Paul Pilcher’s example of having to pay off two countersuits didn’t exactly instill confidence in other potential clients. Third is probably just that the money dried up. I thought it was a big-time tell when Boner from Chica’s Place mentioned on DTD’s site that he has not used Prenda in a while; no explanation, but the guy is obviously not sympathetic to troll-haters so he had reasons other than ethics to stop using John’s services and it was almost certainly because of money. We also have the insider’s report from Slashdot that confirmed Steele is basically a joke to his target market.

So at this point, with Prenda/APLG not even filing lawsuits anymore, it’s pretty clear this is also just a last desperate attempt to have something (anything) to work with. The sad thing is if LiveWire can come up with halfway decent content maybe John will figure out he can actually just make something people want and monetize it and actually do some honest work for a change.

If we can keep close enough tabs on their shenanigans it’s actually very possible to seriously undermine his scam. Just keep an eye out for their content going up on torrent sites and carpetbomb the comments with warnings and links to this site. It might even be smart to ask the tracker operators to take down John’s torrents. Actually, in retrospect, that would have been a great community project all along, getting the word out by spreading awareness at the source of distribution for torrent files that trolls are suing over. Obviously that’s not going to prevent false-positives and people who are getting fingered because someone leeches their Wi-Fi, but every little bit helps.

Continue to Part II: A new bogus company.

 


¹ On the surface, Quad International looks differently than the other “family members”: it even has its own Wikipedia page. Admittedly, we did not look closely enough, although there are some troubling reports (too early to reflect). Nonetheless, even a mere fact that Quad was not touched by the recent mass dismissals and currently enjoys the company of clearly artificial entities, warrants a serious suspicion. We will get there: it is just a matter of time.

Comments
  1. yerpirate says:

    Brilliant. Truly.

  2. TheHedgehogLives!!! says:

  3. Anonymous says:

    Although vertical integration does have its benefits, especially with Steele crossing the line and doing completely illegal stuff like stealing Alan Cooper’s identity, I think another important consideration is that this is a sign of just how marginalized John has become.

    All things being equal, with the reported 90% cut of settlement dollars for John, there would not be a huge monetary incentive to go through all of this trouble, so there are likely non-monetary reasons he has given up on having clients. A big one is publicity, we know from their own words in interviews that porn producers don’t like their neighbors to know what they do for a living. Another is fear of liability, I’m sure Paul Pilcher’s example of having to pay off two countersuits didn’t exactly instill confidence in other potential clients. Third is probably just that the money dried up. I thought it was a big-time tell when Boner from Chica’s Place mentioned on DTD’s site that he has not used Prenda in a while; no explanation, but the guy is obviously not sympathetic to troll-haters so he had reasons other than ethics to stop using John’s services and it was almost certainly because of money. We also have the insider’s report from Slashdot that confirmed Steele is basically a joke to his target market.

    So at this point, with Prenda/APLG not even filing lawsuits anymore, it’s pretty clear this is also just a last desperate attempt to have something (anything) to work with. The sad thing is if LiveWire can come up with halfway decent content maybe John will figure out he can actually just make something people want and monetize it and actually do some honest work for a change.

    If we can keep close enough tabs on their shenanigans it’s actually very possible to seriously undermine his scam. Just keep an eye out for their content going up on torrent sites and carpetbomb the comments with warnings and links to this site. It might even be smart to ask the tracker operators to take down John’s torrents. Actually, in retrospect, that would have been a great community project all along, getting the word out by spreading awareness at the source of distribution for torrent files that trolls are suing over. Obviously that’s not going to prevent false-positives and people who are getting fingered because someone leeches their Wi-Fi, but every little bit helps.

  4. Anonymous says:

    This could be a dangerous game John is playing. We know the porn industry guys don’t like publicity, and we also know they are convenient targets for moralizers and culture warriors.

    I don’t think the rest of the industry will be very appreciative when John draws a bunch of negative attention their way by creating an adult film studio that is nothing but a cog in his extortion scam. With the shell companies and identity theft he has made it clear he is willing to go beyond quasi-legal dealings, so depending on how far he gets into running an adult film company before this all blows up in his face, he may may end up drawing a lot of negative headlines about porn industry and extortion scams and identity theft and tax evasion, etc, etc, etc.

    People in xbiz, especially the ones that are working with and for John, likely without any idea of his history, need to be aware of the damage he may cause to their industry.

    • Anonymous3 says:

      Maybe even worse for Steele is that off shoring of his porn profits and shell businesses brings unwanted associations and attention to “havens” for some of the world’s largest financial interests, above and below board. This guy is creating antagonists not just among citizens, the courts, and the porn/video industry but also big players all over the world.

  5. doeminantchard says:

    It’s already quite clear that this was never about morals or justice, but a business schemed based on the efficient production of lawsuits. This case study should be declared to everyone, especially those who claim to speak on behalf of “poor, starving artists”, for John Steele and his operation are the shining-star heroes they support.

  6. Anony mouse says:

    when you do the sequel article tomorrow be sure to mention their possible hacking charges model. (if you want to use any parts of my description of it from the other recent threads feel free.)

    • SJD says:

      It’s a valid request, although Part II is already written and proofread. I fell asleep yesterday before I had chance to linkify and format it. There are so many things that cannot be fitted into a single post… As a matter of fact, I wanted to touch the topic of links with embedded usernames and passwords, but prior to that I want to check if Lightspeed’s site accepts such links, and ideally to find those links on forums. So I will talk about it in the future, but for now I’ll simply link to your comment.

      • Anonymous says:

        lightspeed’s site does accept those type of “@members.lightspeed.com” links however they do prompt you after you click them with a “you are about to enter site with XXX username are you sure you want to continue” warnings (this is a browser warning, not a site based one however and may be dis-ableable.)

        • Anony mouse says:

          I think lightspeed.com is a different site not connected to porn. as i mentioned below lightspeedgirls.com is one site in the mix.

  7. pissed Off Doe says:

    it would be great to know what this scumbag will actually publish. I think monitoring the torrent uploads and flagging them will help to reduce the list of potential does.

    • D'oh! says:

      That was my thought as well pissed Off Doe–it shouldn’t be too difficult through the copyright website itself to simply monitor what’s registered to these guys and throw a warning or three on the torrent sites. I bet some of the major torrent blogs already have a plan underway for this type of thing.

      • Anonymous says:

        The problem is the online copyright registration database lags a few months behind application dates. By the time any records are available to the public they will have had a lot of time to harvest IPs, so we need to be more vigilant or have inside sources to get on their stuff the moment it’s posted.

  8. The Tod says:

    Beautiful write up SJD! The twitter feed looks pretty incriminating. Way to go @AlanCooperGhost! The @BTB’s pride and big mouth is going to be his down fall.

    • Anonymous says:

      Shhh, don’t tell him that – he’s brilliant, and I swoon over his every brilliant word. ;-) Please John, dispense your wisdom, I can hardly breathe for fear I might miss your divine utterances.

  9. Anony mouse says:

    (warning to those reading this: do not click on any of the Google results I am about to mention.)

    If you Google lightspeedgirls username password – many sites offering cracked password links will show up. One such site in the search results alone said you can just click on the password listed for instant access (so it was likely linkified. I dare not even click through to the site offering the access.) hope this assists in your research. more and more systems are moving away from the whole ability to log in just by typing the web address with the username and password because it is easily exploitable. however, i can imagine steele using the old model to lure in ip addresses though “hacked links.” once again, to cover myself, i would like to believe that he wouldn’t set up such honey pot schemes like this and the one in the article above with torrents. so i presume his innocence on setting up such a scheme, unless it is proven otherwise if it occurs.

  10. […] LiveWire Holdings: Evolution of Prenda’s Fraud. Part 1 […]

  11. Anonymous says:

    SJD: Wow, you amaze. Big hat tip and a deep bow to you (and those you humbly give credit for assists in this team effort.)

    As to comments about watching for the torrents and commenting them profusely with warnings, kudos, great idea.

    AND what is needed goes a step further. Engage the trackers themselves and ask them to capture and track the first seeders. (But how to do that? i would not know, maybe others do.)

    I would guarantee, the cheap “Copyrighted content” recently produced in Las Vegas will not be put for sale, meaning only those with ties to the content producers will have the content to seed in the first place. And you know, the troll trackers (yeah you, Hansmeier and your 6881 Forensics) will be tracking the torrent immediately so they can fire up their infringement machine. Be sure to be on the lookout for new content with Gaia and that London guy in it – how could the egomaniac produce that crap and not put big stars in the spotlight to draw in the masses for extortion?

    Maybe also we can carpetbomb their crap with some DMCA takedowns of our own? Good citizens and all, looking out for the copyright holder’s best interests in their alleged mission of curbing infringement. hehe.. ;-)

    WILD THOUGHT: Of course the really gutsy might go so far as to get on a ‘safe’ VPN and proxy or two, or take a vacation in Antigua and then get on a torrent known to be from LW Holdings just to grab the IP addresses of the **first seeder(s)** and then cut before actually completing a download and becoming a seeder themselves (is that possible? i’m no techie. AND I AM NOT ADVOCATING OR ENDORSING ILLEGAL BEHAVIOR NOR I DO NOT CONDONE INFRINGEMENT AND IANAL SO HOW DO I KNOW WHERE TO DRAW THE LINE but dammmm, I abhor what Steele and his goons are doing even more than ‘infringement.’) We can surely make use of that kind of seeder information if it were obtainable – yes? I imagine the window of opportunity would be small and it would have to be caught early.

    p.s. I am only taking ideas & possible tactics aimed at troll machine evisceration, not trying to launch a debate about where lines can / should be drawn. But perhaps an educated (AND ETHICAL) legal mind could comment… (So JSTFU Steele.)

    Peace to the innocent, but the full wrath and fury of hell upon trolls and all that lie with them and their fleas (@BittorrentBetty).

    • Anony mouse says:

      as i have said elsewhere, i bet they WILL set up a site that sells the porn. because they can then do the double dip i have mentioned with “hacking” charges by dissemination of “hacked” username and passwords that, once anyone uses those names listed on porn password cracking sites, their ip address will be logged for future “hacking cases” even though the people using said passwords have never hacked.

  12. That Anonymous Dude says:

    She looks like she’s about to start doing what John, Paul, Peter and Paul (it’s like the Apostles…only they’re pure fucking evil) will be doing soon *toothy grin*

  13. […] absurd tactics have gone even farther with the creation of the Livewire Holdings, Inc. entity (see, Part I; Part II) using fake pictures on their website for their so-called […]

  14. […] absurd tactics have gone even farther with the creation of the Livewire Holdings, Inc. entity (see, Part I; Part II) using fake pictures on their website for their so-called […]

  15. […] absurd tactics have gone even farther with the creation of the Livewire Holdings, Inc. entity (see, Part I; Part II) using fake pictures on their website for their so-called […]

  16. […] have gone even farther, most recently with the creation of the Livewire Holdings, Inc. entity (see, Part I; Part II) using fake pictures on their website for their so-called “partners,” and […]

  17. […] about this lawsuit, DieTrollDie has blogged about it, I featured it in my “double-barrel” post (1, 2), yet the abuse of the legal system is so grave here that we must continue shedding light and […]

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