Another day, another story having to with Prenda Law (the hits just keep on coming). Found via FightCopyrightTrolls, we discover some research done by lawyer Graham Syfert, who has taken on Prenda/John Steele in a number of cases, including the infamous Florida case that was tossed out for fraud on the court following an Abbott & Costello-worthy transcript involving John Steele, Mark Lutz, and a variety of guest appearances from others on Team Prenda (despite Prenda claiming to both have nothing to do with the case… and with hiring the lawyers for the case, who were all trying to get off the case).
Apparently getting curious about the whole shell within a shell within a shell setup of Livewire/AF Holdings/Ingenuity 13, Syfert began wondering about just what copyrighted works were actually at the center of those lawsuits. As you may recall, Prenda, used to represent actual porn studios, but at some point shifted to a variety of shell corporations, which it’s now accused of running itself (a big no no). But then what copyright was it using? Well, Syfert looked at the details of the lawsuits, and then looked around, and basically found that the “movies” in question never appear to be distributed in any way, except via BitTorrent, all seeded by the same user. Hmmmm….
So, four out of the Five Fan Favorites that Ingenuity 13 wishes to protect are shared by sharkmp4. (Other hash values referenced in complaints do not result in any valid torrent). One wonders if the “Five Fan Favorites” copy registered with the copyright office includes all of these sharkmp4 videos. Would that be proof that Prenda Law is seeding its own works and then suing? The honeypot. The venus fly trap. The pitcher plant? Or is sharkmp4 just another pirate?
Syfert digs a bit deeper and digs up a bit more info on this “sharkmp4” character:
Now of course, this all begs the question: Who is sharkmp4? Well, the IP address associated with this user can be determined by a technically skilled individual who could load up all the torrents, join the torrent swarms and then find the common seed. However, there is no reason to do this, because it will come back with a Mullvad VPN on an IP in Germany owned by Leaseweb and get you nowhere.
Well, almost nowhere. Because back at FightCopyrightTrolls, they add a little piece to the puzzle.
I want to point out to one coincidence that Graham did not mention (probably he did not know): a person who we strongly believe was John Steele had been commenting on this blog via Mullvad VPN (links at the bottom). Although it does not prove anything per se — a single exit IP address is shared by many VPN users — the fact that Mullvad VPN was allegedly used to seed certain pornographic movies is interesting.
Obviously, not conclusive proof of anything, but enough to leave you scratching your head and wondering. It’s not like Mullvad is one of the more popular VPNs either. And, of course if John Steele, or a representative of the copyright holder themselves is uploading and distributing the file in the first place (and that’s the only place where it’s released), there’s a reasonable argument to be made that any downloads are not infringing, since it’s clearly an authorized copy. At this point, Steele and Team Prenda are likely in enough hot water, but it seems like a court that wants to dig even deeper into the whole thing might uncover some more… interesting things during discovery.