March 12, 2013 | By Kurt Opsahl and Mitch Stoltz

Copyright Troll Faces Hard Questions In Federal Court

Yesterday, the federal court in Los Angeles held a hearing in a consolidated set of copyright troll cases, filed by the notorious Prenda Law on behalf of holding companies AF Holdings and Ingenuity 13. At first, this case was just one of hundreds of similar lawsuits in which copyright trolls have sued John Doe defendants from all over the country, alleging copyright infringement of pornographic works. These cases don't seem to be filed with the intention of litigating them. Instead, the apparent strategy is to take advantage of the threat of an award of massive damages and the stigma associated with downloading pornographic movies to induce defendants into settling for a payment of roughly $1,500 to $4,000 each—less than the cost of defending a lawsuit.

But this particular troll case is something new, because the tables have been turned on the troll. As Judge Otis Wright explained, the hearing was "about fraudulent practice in federal court," such as whether the supposed plaintiffs AF Holdings and Ingenuity 13 are genuine entities, whether Prenda Law violated a court order to stop seeking the identities of the John Doe defendants, and whether Prenda Law faked the signatures on key documents. Subpoena defense attorney Morgan Pietz also argued that Prenda does little or no investigation before deciding who to sue, and he laid out a case for sanctioning all of the Prenda-affiliated attorneys—not just the one who appeared in court.

EFF attended the landmark hearing, but we couldn't summarize it better than Ken White's detailed discussion at the Popehat blog.

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