New Filing Presents Evidence That John Steele Uploaded Videos To BitTorrent Himself

from the johnny-boy's-in-trouble dept

If you thought Graham Syfert was done with taking on John Steele and Prenda law with the closing of the Sunlust case in Florida, you’d be wrong. Today he’s filed an incredible filing not just hitting back at Prenda in another case, First Time Videos vs. Paul Oppold, and asking for attorney’s fees, but also including an affidavit from an actual expert (i.e., not a Prenda-style “forensic” expert) named Delvan Neville, who lays out in astounding detail how it’s almost certain that John Steele himself uploaded the various videos to BitTorrent that were then used to sue various defendants for either “hacking” or copyright infringement. Oh, and in doing so, Steele appears to have made some choices that are pretty damning, including suggesting that he set up the file to effectively broadcast that it was free for the taking. In other words, there’s an incredibly strong argument that the release of the file on BitTorrent was very authorized.

The work builds on some earlier research that Syfert has put out exploring how many of the Prenda-related films seemed to have been initially offered on The Pirate Bay via the same user: sharkmp4. For all the mocking that people have made concerning Prenda’s “forensic” investigations into those they accuse of infringement (i.e., finding an IP address and not much else), Neville shows you how an actual investigation is done. You should read the whole thing for the layers upon layers of evidence that all seem to point the finger at John Steele.

Among other things, sharkmp4 seemed to be able to post these works on The Pirate Bay before the works were even mentioned anywhere else, and in at least one case, “sharkmp4” put a video up on The Pirate Bay three days before Prenda shell company Ingenuity 13 had even filed for the copyright. On top of that, the “forensics” company that Prenda uses — which is supposedly run by Paul Hansmeier’s brother Peter, but which had its domain registered and controlled by (you guessed it) John Steele — apparently identified “infringements” almost immediately after the videos were placed on The Pirate Bay — meaning they were likely looking for such infringement in conjunction with the upload.

At the end, however, Neville pulls together really damning evidence, tying together a website set up to distribute Ingenuity 13 porn films with the same exact IP address that was confirmed as being used by John Steele to log into his own GoDaddy account, highlighting how Steele — or someone with access to his logins — clearly has full access and control over Ingenuity 13 works. As you read through all of the evidence it appears highly likely that Steele is in control of Ingenuity 13, despite all his protests to the contrary.

As the filing notes:

Prenda Law’s business structure is such that it is pirate, forensic pirate hunter, and attorney. It also appears that Prenda Law also wants to/has formed/is forming a corporate structure where it is: pornography producer, copyright holder, pornography pirate, forensic investigator, attorney firm, and debt collector. Other than the omission of appearing in the pornography themselves, this would represent an entire in-house copyright trolling monopoly- not designed to promote their own works for distribution and sale, but to induce infringement of their works and reap profits seen from mass anti-piracy litigation.

It remains to be seen if the court bothers to explore this, but I would imagine that it may be of interest in other Prenda and related cases.



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Companies: af holdings, first time videos, ingenuity 13, prenda, prenda law

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Comments on “New Filing Presents Evidence That John Steele Uploaded Videos To BitTorrent Himself”

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98 Comments
That One Guy (profile) says:

Oh to be a fly on the wall at Prenda HQ...

“What do you mean he’s still coming after us, we paid him to drop that other case didn’t we, what possible reason could he have for continuing to harass us by making public our past actions like this?! You’d think he had some objection against extor- I mean Pro-IP people like us with the way he’s continually bringing to light our business practices!”

Pragmatic says:

Re: Re: SO? You pirates claim nothing wrong with that!

Heck, that should RAISE him in your view. He was just “sharing”. — AND IF there’s nothing wrong with downloading files from Bittorrent, what the HELL is your point?

Blue, take your meds, then read this sllllooooowwwwwwllllllyyyy…

Steele uploaded movies to The Pirate Bay.

Then he waited for chumps to download and share them.

Then he used the IP addresses of these people as “evidence” so he could sue them.

You know, that thing where you have to either go to court and defend yourself or pay to settle out of court. Since Steele hasn’t got much of a case and even less evidence, he prefers to settle out of court.

That’s not sharing, that’s “baiting the trap.”

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: SO? You pirates claim nothing wrong with that!

Flail little sycophant, flail as your idols continue to be brought down and the light is shined ever brighter on their actions.

What you seem to be intentionally missing, is that the evidence presented strongly suggests that Steele, who owned the copyrights on the movies in question, put them up on Pirate Bay, making them legal to download. To then sue over those same files is committing fraud, as he’d be suing over works that by his own actions were legal to be downloaded.

Tom Anderson says:

Re: Re: SO? You pirates claim nothing wrong with that!

I don’t know that just putting your files on Pirate Bay makes them legal to download. Just because there is a photocopier in the library doesn’t mean that it’s legal to copy all the books.

The thing that could change that is statements by the person who put the file on Pirate Bay who is also a copyright holder.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: SO? You pirates claim nothing wrong with that!

No…no-one can be this stupid. I mean, it is physically impossible to be this stupid. I’ve seen OOTB level stupid and while bad, it’s never been as bad as this.
I think I know what his plan is. He’s trying to kill us. That’s right. He’s trying to kill us by inducing aneurysms through sheer stupidity.

Chris Rhodes (profile) says:

Re: SO? You pirates claim nothing wrong with that!

“He was just “sharing”. — AND IF there’s nothing wrong with downloading files from Bittorrent, what the HELL is your point?”

Correct. Nothing wrong with him sharing.

I think (and I’m just spit-balling here) the problem people have with his actions begin after he starts suing people for downloading the very thing he was uploading. Surely, you’re not dense enough to miss the distinction, are you?

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: SO? You pirates claim nothing wrong with that!

Guess you already gave up for today on anything of importance.

Prenda is of importance.

In the future, when a defendant decides to fight a copyright accusation in court, the courts may take the defense a whole lot more seriously. Real due process. Real investigation.

Something your pay masters won’t like.

How can your business model of litigation work if the courts actually require proof of infringement?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: SO? You pirates claim nothing wrong with that!

“He was just “sharing”. — AND IF there’s nothing wrong with downloading files from Bittorrent, what the HELL is your point?”

There wouldn’t be a point – if that’s all he was doing. Indeed, a company sharing their property instead of the usual “piracy!” lies is laudable.

The problem is, not only did he share the files, he then attempts to extort the people he’s sharing with, falsely claiming the file is unauthorised.

I know terrorism apologists like you claim nothing wrong with that, but you’re wrong. Completely, utterly and undisputably.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I totally understand…
I’m just glad I was around to see it happen.

It confirmed what I thought they had evolved into, it has happened with trolls before… mysterious seedings of content and IPs quickly gathered…never any questions of who the source might have been.
I often wonder if that is the reason one of the trolls lost so many clients and then swore off porn cases… then a few months later was back on porn again. Because someone figured out what he was doing would bite them in the ass if someone was digging hard enough. And well I had a shovel, a big mouth, and wasn’t scared of him at all.

Anonymous Coward says:

i thought that would be classed as ‘entrapment’? i also thought that it was an illegal practice in the USA? if so, i wonder if Steele is now going through his law books trying to find some new way of getting out of the still deeper hole he has dug? and i doubt if this fiasco has reached the end yet!

G Thompson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Thanks… ๐Ÿ˜‰

Though admittedly I deal a lot with Laws (criminal, civil, and administrative) from different jurisdictions with what I do on a day to day basis. Also the differences between UK, Canada, USA, New Zealand and my own Australian laws on basic & historical principals are very similar (we all come under common law systems).

Franklin G Ryzzo (profile) says:

Re: Re:

IANAL but I don’t believe this would be considered entrapment. As the owner of the copyright, his offering of the films online would be considered an authorized use. To then turn around and demand money from these authorized downloaders to keep Prenda from publicly releasing their porn habits would be a classic example of extortion. Actual legally defined, no argument to the contrary, extortion. Time to buy some stock in PopSecret… this is going to get good!

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Entrapment is when Person A induces Person B to commit a crime out of their own free will. So, an undercover cop offering to sell drugs to someone isn’t entrapment: the potential buyer can always say no. But, the undercover cop saying to someone “You’d better take these drugs or I’m gonna shoot you!” would be entrapment if the person was then charged with possession of illegal narcotics.
In this case, since Steele allowed and aided in the movie’s P2P distribution, it was not entrapment. He created the username, created the torrent and wanted as many people as possible to download it. Meaning the action was legal.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Doesn’t hold water.

If a company distributes their works on a platform such as bittorrent, they cannot reasonably assume nobody will download (and thus also begin seeding) the files – as that is a feature of the distribution platform that was chosen in this case.

And this also brings up the problem of knowing what is legally distributable or not – one cannot look at a torrent and know whether it is legal or not to re-distribute the content – at least not until it has been fully downloaded (and thus also uploaded, since that is how bittorrent works), and the user can determine if the work in question is redistributable or not.

There is plenty of amatuer porn out there – there’s a lot of amatuer porn out there, and unless there’s a clear copyright on it, one can’t simply know what rights are reserved by the copyright holder and what rights they’ve given up without at least obtaining it in the first place.

Now, if someone was selling this copyrighted material, knowing that they do not have permission by the copyright holder, or declaring that they are in fact the copyright holder, then we have a whole different ball of wax that copyright law was actually designed to deal with.

Matthew Cline (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I agree with Franklin G Ryzzo that it isn’t entrapment. It’d be like if you put a table on the sidewalk in front of your house, put a bunch of jewelry/books/whatever on it, put up a sign saying “Free stuff”… and then accused anyone who took anything of theft. It’s not entrapment because what those people did wasn’t a crime.

PsychoDan says:

Re: Response to: Anonymous Coward on Jun 3rd, 2013 @ 12:19pm

It wouldn’t be entrapment. Entrapment only applies to law enforcement conduct, and it’s far more narrow than most cries of entrapment on the internet. It’s only entrapment if law enforcement coerces you into committing a crime. They are absolutely allowed to facilitate you in committing a crime as long as you do it freely.

As others have said, though, this is probably fraud.

sophisticatedjanedoe says:

It remains to be seen if the court bothers to explore this, but I would imagine that it may be of interest in other Prenda and related cases.

It is sure of interest in the ongoing criminal investigation (the fact that we don’t have information about it is naturally irrelevant).

Bravo, Delvan!

Anonymous Coward says:

Fwd: An interesting Filing

To: Judge Otis Wright

Please see attached. You may find this filing to the court interesting. I’m looking forward to hearing your gavel fall against Steele et al. And if I may, can you throw in a few more Trekkie references for those of us enjoying your work.

Regards,

FanOfYourWorkWithPrenda

Now to go get the popcorn and wait for the happy ending!

sophisticatedjanedoe says:

While Delvan Neville has been monitoring Prenda-related torrents from March, the question is: did he monitor any other troll “forensic” companies such as CEG, IPP International (a.k.a. Guardaley)et al?

This question will only be answered when/if a similar devastating declaration appears in other crooks’ cases. Until then, if I were a scumbag such as M. Keith Lipscomb, I would be very nervous and order an extra dozen of briefs.

Danny (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Two things, Mr. Coward,

1. In this case the IP addresses are being triangulated with significant additional information; and
2. The security expert (Neville) was careful to note that one can’t say for sure the user was John Steele; rather that it was someone who had access to his accounts (several of which were accessed from the same IP address.)

Anon E. Mous (profile) says:

Is anyone really surprised at the fact that Steele would upload the movies and then have Hansmeiers company use a bit torrent client to grab the IP addresses used to download the files?

This is why when you search the titles of the movies you find that:
1) They were never distributed anywhere by any distributor.
2) The titles were never available for purchase or through any VOD service.
3) Were never available at any website for viewing or download other than on a torrent file site.

This is why Prenda and especially Steele will be ripe
candidates for a RICO indictment. They fit the bill for an ongoing criminal conspiracy definition to a “T” in my opinion.

The whole premise of their supposed copyright enforcement litigation after a lot of the Hard Drive Production cases started to turn from having to give a cut of lawsuit revenues to the client, to lets cut the client out entirely and become the client through offshore entities and LLC’s and keep all the profits!

Gibbs will be the first to turn states evidence, his legal careers is in tatters, he is facing bar investigations. He has Prenda Law on his resume, and still is facing his share of Judge Wright’s sanction award. Gibbs will be the first to turn if a Grand Jury starts looking at RICO.

Duffy will be the next to fall due to his State Bar investigations, his name is the head of Prenda allegedly, and his precarious financial position with Judgements against him, I will bet he turns witness for a deal in a RICO case.

Hansmeier will stay true for a while but not when RICO comes after Gibbs’s and Duffy fall, he will want to save himself.

Steele’s ego will keep him feigning innocence and stall all the way to the end, and it will be Steele rattling the bars in the pen when RICO comes down.

Steele’s own ego in creating LLC and entities and offshore trusts and then using family members address to register them at and his Gmail address will be his downfall.

Steele will be a law schools section on “Ethics and when to know you have crossed the line” and Prenda will be the footnote of how not to run a law firm.

apauld (profile) says:

do I smell a large class action lawsuit coming on?

“there’s an incredibly strong argument that the release of the file on BitTorrent was very authorized.”

So I have to wonder if anyone/everyone who has ever paid a cent to these jackasses could now have grounds to start up a class action. Think about how funny it would be for Paul Hansmeier to try to object on behalf of his wife.

Violated (profile) says:

I was always wondering about those uploads when all from the same user does smell like a honey pot trap. Beyond the IP though there was no other proof until now where if you do accuse someone of a crime then you do need solid proof.

Good job Delvan Neville for finding that solid proof when Ingenuity 13 were sure involved in these movie uploads. Then to have John Steele admit to this is the final nail in his coffin.

Authorized uploads means non-infringing downloads. To then accuse people of infringement then seals the honey pot where a clear case of fraud it is.

The only remaining mystery is why the Police have not yet arrested John Steele and friends and carted them off in handcuff when that is what should happen.

At least the RICO investigation will be over the Moon today when here is proof of organized crime.

Ben (profile) says:

Impressive analysis

I must comment that the analysis by Amaragh Associates (Devan Neville) was comprehensive and well done. I can only hope it provides convincing enough evidence to nail Prenda.

I thought, however, the evidence indicated only one clear instance where sharkmp4 seeded a file before the file was available. The article implies there were multiple.

As a side note, it occurred to me that if one were to write a bittorrent client one might specifically look out for peers which are both looking and offering seeds for the same file and then specifically stay away from them (the report comments that both offering and looking for seeds is a contradiction and seemingly obvious attempt to capture data on downloaders). That seems like an obvious improvement if not already out there.

Novus Ordo says:

Either I'm missing it, or everyone else is

Normally when I think that everyone is wrong, and I’m right, it’s probably the other way around. I’m pretty sure in this case I’m actually right though.

People keep saying “well, if Steele offered the file, then it’s fine for other people to download it.” And you’re probably right – if it’s an authorized distribution, then you ARE allowed to download it. But Prenda isn’t suing people for downloading content, as far as I know. It’s very difficult to prove that someone downloaded a particular thing without authorization, and the awards aren’t worth the expense.

What people are being sued for is distributing the content, not downloading it. Once they download it then their BitTorrent client turns around and immediately starts offering the file again (as shown by 6881’s client’s repeated attempts to say it is interested in downloading the file). The users might have authorization to download the file, but they DO NOT have authorization to distribute the copyrighted content to other people. Only the copyright holder can grant that authorization. That distribution is what the Does are being sued for.

So this isn’t a question of completely waiving all rights to claim copyright infringement. Instead, it is a very thorough investigation to try and point out that John Steele is in fact intimately involved with all the business of AF and I13, contrary to what he has stated. If he, and the rest of Prenda, is directly involved in those businesses then that’s a major problem for their lawsuits. That is the power behind this investigation, not some sort of question about whether or not people are authorized to download the movies.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Either I'm missing it, or everyone else is

Even if everybody who was downloading the porn had modified their torrent client settings to not upload, that would be even more damning to Steele. That would mean that the only source for the porn videos would be Steele’s honeypot, and not anyone else, as would be the case with any other torrent. Since Steele put up the torrent willingly, the torrent is authorized.

Besides, your argument is I have to say completely silly. The very nature of P2P means that downloaders also act as uploaders. To try and make the argument that putting up a torrent file for download only and not give permission for uploading (the act of distribution) is just plain stupid.

Novus Ordo says:

Re: Re: Either I'm missing it, or everyone else is

Authorization to distribute a copyrighted work is not transferred by someone receiving a free copy of the work, even if their copy if authorized. They do not have the right to turn around and re-distribute that copyrighted content. It doesn’t matter what the “nature of BitTorrent” or the “nature of peer-to-peer” is, the Copyright Act of the US does not make an exception for the “nature of BitTorrent”.

There’s no reason for you to take my word for it though, look at Prenda’s initial filing in the case that would end up putting them before Judge Wright:

http://www.popehat.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/IngenuityComplaint.pdf

Some excerpts:

Unidentified Defendant John Doe (“Defendent”), … knowingly and illegally reproduced and distributed Plaintiff’s copyrighted Video by acting in concert with others via the BitTorrent file sharing protocol and, upon information and belief, continues to do the same.

No mention of downloading the file, the claim is that he reproduced and distributed the file. There’s a mention of downloading here, but look where it leads:

22. Defendant, using IP address 108.13.119.253, without Plaintiff’s authorization or license, intentionally downloaded a torrent file particular to Plaintiff’s Video, purposefully loaded that torrent file into his BitTorrent client – in this case, libtorrent/0.15.10.0 – entered a BitTorrent swarm particular to Plaintiff’s Video, and reproduced and distributed the Video to numerous third parties.

Again, reproducing and distributing. An interesting note is the “…without Plaintiff’s authorization or license” part, which may not have been the case, but again, receiving an authorized copy of a copyrighted work does not grant you a license to redistribute the copyrighted work.

But let’s move on, to the meat of the complaint. Count I – Copyright Infringement:

26. Defendant’s conduct infringes upon Plaintiff’s exclusive rights of reproduction and distribution that are protected under the Copyright Act.

There it is, that’s the accusation. Not downloading, not “stealing” copyrighted content, but infringing on the copyright holder’s exclusive right to reproduce and distribute the content. That is what copyright is all about, who is allowed to reproduce and distribute a given work. It’s not about who can receive it, it’s about who can reproduce it.

So, back to my original assertion, no one is being charged with downloading copyrighted content, so the claim that the download was authorized has exactly zero bearing on this. It’s not the real power of Delvin’s investigation. The power of his investigation is showing that Steele is actively working with AF and I13, which is contradictory to his claims. If Steele is involved with Prenda, AF, and I13, then that is the specific fraud that Judge Wright is investigating. That is the power of the investigation, not some assertion that everyone automatically has a right to do whatever they want with some video just because the guy with the right to reproduce and distribute it made it available on BitTorrent. There are other misrepresentations (you can read that “fraud”) in the claim, such as this one:

38. The infringement by the other BitTorrent users could not have occurred without Defendant’s participation in uploading Plaintiff’s copyrighted works.

If Steele was seeding the file, then that claim is patently false and is a misrepresentation to the court. In other words, fraud upon the court. That’s what Judge Wright is investigating, and that is what Delvin’s investigation lends ammo to.

Novus Ordo says:

Re: Re:

So if you share something on Bittorrent, you are necessarily authorizing BOTH downloading AND uploading of that content. It’s an inherent part of the Bittorrent system.

I’m not able to find anything in the US Copyright Act which says that if someone distributes their copyrighted work via BitTorrent, then they also grant anyone who downloads it a license for unlimited reproduction and distribution.

Matthew Cline (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

It’s not unlimited reproduction and distribution, but only reproduction and distribution while a member of that specific swarm. And “an implicit and temporary grant of rights because of how the technology used for distribution works” doesn’t explicitly need to be a part of the Constitution, as there’s tons of case-law that interprets the Constitution.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Hmm

And they bought the flyswatter for him…
No one will confirm or deny, stupid NDA’s, but when the defendant is winning in a big way there often is a settlement from plaintiff to defendants to get them out of the chokehold and let them run away.

Consider how much money it would take for you to let them off the hook when your winning after they trashed your name publicly… now add lawyer fees on top of that. I’m guessing it was a nice substantial amount… IMHO.

sophisticatedjanedoe says:

sharkmp4 on the TPB forum

Cross-comment from Ars:

One interesting tidbit that no one has mentioned. Back in March 2011, in the beginning of Prenda’s blitzkrieg on US courts, sharkmp4 commented on the TPB’s forum:

In that mass-wildebeest analogy, after many river crossings, last year I ended up being the poor sap caught in the jaws of the alligator (on a porn file, of course). Unlike everyone else who posts on suprbay(?!) I decided to settle quickly (much less than $5000; it was a different group). My former ISP gave up my information after a subpoena, so the trolls had my IP address paired up with the file I downloaded, etc. Big talk about ignoring letters and harassing phone calls from the trolls is all well and good, but speaking from experience, it is VERY stressful to have an expensive lawsuit hanging over your head. I am not rich enough to fight an extended legal battle and would be wiped out by any significant judgment, and I am not about to martyr myself so some guy can steal tranny porn. US law is not as friendly for us as European law seems to be. I just feel like an idiot, though, for getting caught in the first place.

So the “guy” has registered only to say THAT? (Total of 3 comments, the other two are followups.) Seems to me like Steele & Co. spreading FUD. Too suspicious, especially now, after the news.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Ars posted an update to their coverage as Steele decided to answer…

http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2013/06/prenda-seeded-its-own-porn-files-via-bittorrent-new-affidavit-shows/

UPDATE Tuesday 9:10am CT: We heard back from Steele, who wrote: “I have never uploaded a torrent in my life, I have never instructed anyone to do so, and I am not aware of anyone I have worked with in any capacity whatsoever (other than pirates of course). I am not sure how much more unequivocal about it I can be. I have no involvement with any case in Florida, including Mr. Oppold’s case. I have not read a single document in that case. I don’t intend to. As far as Mr. Syfert, you will have to ask him why he is hiring experts to try to connect me to a case I have no involvement with.”

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