Prenda Law Issues Subpoena For IP Addresses Of Every Visitor To Critic Blogs For The Past Two Years

from the what-are-they-smoking? dept

This is rather incredible. We already wrote about Prenda Law’s series of defamation lawsuits against commenters on two key blogs that have been instrumental in exposing their shenanigans: FightCopyrightTrolls and DieTrollDie. While John Steele has dismissed his claim, the other two suits are still moving forward as far as I know. And now it’s come out that Prenda Law’s Paul Duffy sent a ridiculously broad subpoena to WordPress demanding every IP address of every visitor who has visited either site since the beginning of 2011. Basically, they’re looking for everyone who has ever visited either site:

Our client is requesting all Internet Protocol addresses (including the date and time of that access in Universal Coordinated Time) that accessed the blogs located at dietrolldie.com and fightcopyrighttrolls.com between January 1, 2011 through the present. Please provide this information in an Excel spreadsheet.

The subpoena is from Paul Duffy, so it’s a bit ridiculous to claim “our client” since he is the client. This seems like a pretty clear abuse of the subpoena process, though, coming from Prenda Law, whose specialty is doing anything it possibly can to get IP addresses, perhaps it’s no surprise. The subpoena was issued in association with the original claim that was filed in state court. The cases have all been removed to federal court, and hopefully the lawyers at WordPress know better than to just cough up this info like that. Even more ridiculously, Duffy tries to claim that this is an “emergency” so they shouldn’t waste any time in handing over the info:

Due to the emergency nature of the requested information, it is imperative that your organization responds to the subpoena immediately. The requested information is perishable and vital to the claims asserted in a complaint alleging widespread and systematic defamation.

What hogwash. They’re looking for data going back to January of 2011. If WordPress has logs going back that far, it’s not like they’re suddenly going to disappear. And, of course, the “widespread and systematic defamation” claims are already pretty questionable.

It’s not difficult to look at this and see a likely attempt at creating chilling effects to try to scare people off from visiting those sites. Considering that Prenda has been collecting all sorts of IP addresses in its various copyright trolling lawsuits, can you imagine what they might do if they can cross reference IP addresses of visitors to those sites with the IP addresses they’ve already sued over?

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Companies: prenda, prenda law, wordpress

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Comments on “Prenda Law Issues Subpoena For IP Addresses Of Every Visitor To Critic Blogs For The Past Two Years”

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111 Comments
GMacGuffin says:

Um, guys... really...

If this case was removed to Fed Court prior to the subpoena, then the Superior Court has no jurisdiction, and it was issued with that knowledge, and that’s a big problem. If it was issued prior to removal, then it should have been withdrawn, as now there’s no jurisdiction, and that’s a big problem.

And … it demands production 10 days from the date the subpoena issued, seven after service, although by statute,they need to give 20 days …

“It shall command compliance . . . on a date that is no earlier than 20 days after the issuance, or 15 days after the service, of the deposition subpoena, whichever date is later.” CA CCP ?2020.410(c)

And why is the Complaint attached? Just to make a point? And what is the sudden urgency that the rules don’t matter? Urg! Makes you wanna tear your hair out.

G Thompson (profile) says:

Re: Um, guys... really...

There also might be other major other problems with the subpoena

WordPress (Automattic) might NOT control the domains of either of the two url’s.

Though it does look like Automattic was used to register DietrollDie, and therefore that domain MIGHT reside on a host server controlled by Automattic.

FightCopyrightTrolls on the other hand looks like it is totally separated from WordPress servers on a completely separate host server (ie: WP was just installed – it’s a software program when it boils down to it) and if that is the case then Automattic has no ability to provide any IP logs whatsoever.

The other problematic (though more a logistic problem) thing I can see is the requested format of supplied information. Excel (unless they classify CSV files as excel) can not be used here since any log files of IP address’s specific to the requested information would far exceed the limitations that Excel has. They could place it all in a huge CSV file but Excel would only read part – though since the format of Excel is specified in request then any information they receive is already suspect to reliability.

GMacGuffin says:

Re: Re: Um, guys... really...

Yo, G: It’s true that if it were a wordpress.org driven, then WordPress wouldn’t be hosting at all, but would be for wordpress.com.

Re the Excel issue: The subpoenaing party can specify the desired format for the production, but the producing party does not necessarily have to create documents in that format. They just have to produce in the format as kept in the ordinary course of business. (I hope that’s tractor-feed printouts, but that’s wishful thinking.)

My reaction to that was (again), um, guys… really?… Excel?

Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I think it’s cute that they believe IP addresses are a good way to identify people they want to sue.

It’s not a good way to identify people they want to sue, but it would be an excellent way to figure out what IPs to try to intimidate.

As far as intimidating random people based only on the flimsiest of IP address information, they are quite experienced.

sophisticatedjanedoe says:

Re: Nice

Are you saying that the scumbags have already achieved their goal, at least partially — to discourage citizens not only to speak out but to seek relevant information?

WordPress does not simply hands out information. While a motion to quash is pending (or after the case is SLAPPed down), they won’t cough out anything.

out_of_the_blue says:

The more I jibe at Mike, the more obsessed with Prenda he gets.

Also the fanboys. It’s like watching ankle-biters yap at the TV screen — even after it’s been turned off!

Take a loopy tour of Techdirt.com! You always end up at same place!
http://techdirt.com/
Prenda Law! A staple in the “At The Bench” series. Mike sez (short version): “Wow. Wow. Wow. … The story is gripping.”
http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130303/23353022182/prenda-law-sues-critics-defamation.shtml

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The more I jibe at Mike, the more obsessed with Prenda he gets.

Someone’s mad that now there’ll be more copyright heroes to join Evan Stone and Andrew Crossley in the list of people to demand amnesty for.

Isn’t it telling when the people propping up your copyright and corporations all happen to be complete scumbags?

DeP says:

Re: The more I jibe at Mike, the more obsessed with Prenda he gets.

This OOTB fella-me-lad really needs to get a life. I suppose he must get some sort of gratification by airing his crackpot anti-this and anti-that troll-ish views at the drop of a hat. Doesn’t sound as if he has an original thought in his head. Anyway – must fly now. Run out of troll food.

Anonymous Coward says:

I have provided translation.

“Due to the emergency nature of the requested information, it is imperative that your organization responds to the subpoena immediately. The requested information is perishable and vital to the claims asserted in a complaint alleging widespread and systematic defamation.”

Translation : Our ship is sinking we need more money.

Just Passin' Thru says:

Re: Excel spreadsheet?!

Ha ha! My thought exactly! Excel spreadsheets only hold 65536 rows. Prenda Law’s behavior has been so remarkably stupid, inept, and apparently illegal so far, that I’m pretty sure that there’ve been ‘way more than 65536 visitors! And now they’ll presumably be interested in me ๐Ÿ™‚ OTOH, maybe the subpoena’s parties can file their return with 1 entry per Excel spreadsheet or Excel file :-).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Excel spreadsheet?!

Can they even legally demand Excel format? IP logs are not generated in Excel. Assuming they can legally demand the IP logs in the first place, all they could get are the raw files, right?

But the subpoena itself seems overbroad at first glace. The IP of everyone accessing the site for several years? They can’t even limit it to the dates and times of the posts in question?

alanbleiweiss (profile) says:

Re: Re: Excel spreadsheet?!

I recently received a CSV from a client with 750,000 rows of data in it. Couldn’t open in excel because there were too many columns and too much content within some of those that the resulting combined processing power necessary was not within Excel. Maybe it would be on a super-computer. I ended up having to open it up in MS Access. So I guess the issue is whether Hansmeier or his brother the other “technician” would be intelligent enough to know how to do that.

Maybe one of them or their cronies are reading this comment thread and now they know. So if it gets that far, I’ll have to send them an invoice for this consulting service.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 4,294,967,296 (IPv4)

FILE *file = fopen(“DearestPrenda.txt”, “w”);

fprintf(file, “Here is the list you requested:nn”);

for (int a = 0; a <= 255; a++)
for (int b = 0; b <= 255; b++)
for (int c = 0; c <= 255; c++)
for (int d = 0; d <= 255; d++)
fprintf(file, “%d.%d.%d.%dn”, a, b, c, d);

trollificus (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Maybe they could hire a couple of “security consultants” to come with them to visit the interwebs in its office.

Pudenda Sleazebag Attorney 1: “Nice little internet you’ve got ‘ere mate. be a shame if somefin’ ‘APPENED to it.”

(knocks pen holder off desk)

Goon 1: (cracks knuckles

Pudenda Sleazebag Attorney 2: Or, like, if it was to catch on fire…

(flick lighter ominously)

um so weider….

ArkieGuy (profile) says:

We've got it backwards.

All this time we THOUGHT Prenda was about copyright trolling, but it turns out that they are WAY smarter than that. The copyright trolling and courtroom antics were just bate to get us to laugh at them and make comments to provide them with unbounded “proof” of defamation of “character”. Of course, I apparently have a different definition of “character” than they do, but hey… to each his own.

Jennifer (user link) says:

St. Clair County, Illinois

Interesting that the original suit was filed in St. Clair County, Illinois, which is a notorious defendant’s judicial hellhole, especially for class action lawsuits. St. Clair County is known as “America’s Asbestos Court” because only a tiny percentage of the massive numbers of asbestos claims filed there are filed by plaintiffs who actually reside in St. Clair County. (Neighboring Madison County is not much better.)

These guys look more and more shady with every move.

special-interesting (profile) says:

On the serious side (the one not aching from laughter) how can any law firm subpoena the sources of sites doing legitimate reporting and story discovery (FightCopyrightTrolls and DieTrollDie) using a public forum process. Even if the posts are not reporters themselves they would certainly be legitimate sources.

If these clowns actually had a defamation, or whatever complaint, case they would have to provide specific details for every instance. Is there any precedent for the type of generality described?

special-interesting (profile) says:

I have to argue against WordPress’s policy of storing a clients site’s format page only on their home server and the rest of the sites page is hosted elsewhere on a paid for server.

If you look at a DieTrollDie URL request it starts with *.DieTrollDie.com, *.wp.com, (and others) of which any discernig web crusader would of course notice and add them to the block list. The site looks funky without the formatting but who cares anyway? You can miss a lot of content but for general locked down web browsing its cool. (for most)

For sensitive sites vulnerable to an outright information, by hostile legal groups, grab I wold recommend using another forum program of which there are many. Why make yourself vulnerable to such nonsense when you can at least reduce the liability risk. WordPress is slick but it obviously creates extra risk. It is kind of like EA’s always online policy but in a much smaller way. I wonder if there is a setting on the WP server site settings that would prevent this type of URL leak. (getting out of my experience so will shut up)

I understand the bandwidth considerations and they are severe so there is no easy solution. It’s another privacy issue related to the immaturity of the information age.

Rich Steiner says:

IP addresses are only marginally useful.

An IP address doesn’t always identify an individual.

The entire multinational corporation that I work for shows up under the same European IP address, for example, even though many of us are located in other parts of the world. It drives geolocation attempts based on IP address crazy. ๐Ÿ™‚

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