Danish Anti-Piracy Lawyers Jailed For Real, Actual Stealing From Copyright Holders

from the three-times-is-a-trend dept

There’s an old saying: once is an accident, twice is a coincidence, and three times is a trend. It seems now we are officially in the coincidence part of that mantra. You will recall that we recently discussed famed author Chuck Palahniuk’s apology for blaming piracy for his stagnant finances when the real story was that a business partner at his literary agency was simply stealing money from him. We noted at the time that this business partner was the one feeding Palahniuk the false story that piracy was responsible for his dwindling money and that such a story was made believable in part because of the efforts of the copyright industry and its lawyers demonizing the internet and copyright infringement at every turn.

Well, recent news reports detail the sentencing of three Danish lawyers to years in prison for defrauding their copyright holder clients, while supposedly working for them on anti-piracy efforts. The organization now known as Rights Alliance, previously Antipiratgruppen, had hired lawyers from the Johan Schluter law firm for representation in piracy cases. The firm worked on these efforts for Rights Alliance for years before an audit showed just how shady these beacons of justice for rightsholders actually were.

Following an investigation into the company’s accounts by auditing company Deloitte, financial irregularities amounting to millions of dollars were reported in the media during 2015. The Johan Schlüter law firm should have been distributing huge sums to movie and TV industry associations and their underlying rightsholders but its three partners – Johan Schlüter himself, Lars Halgreen and Susanne Fryland – had been lining their own pockets instead. Massive sums were siphoned away from their clients.

Yesterday, after more than 20 hearings during which the defendants maintained their innocence (with Schlüter and Halgreen painting themselves as victims of Fryland’s actions), all three were found guilty of fraud and false accounting to the tune of 100 million Danish kroner (US$15.83m).

Now, look, there are shitty people in every profession and I dare say that the legal industry is not underrepresented. Still, it says something that the very law firm rightsholders and an anti-piracy group hired in order to recover supposed losses of income due to piracy was itself bilking rightsholders to the tune of eight figure sums. And far from simply not reporting money collected, the Johan Schluter firm’s incestuous relationship with groups “protecting” rightsholders, and the manner in which the firm used that relationship in order to improperly invoice for services not rendered, was spotlighted during the trial.

It transpired that in addition to being a partner in the law firm, Susanne Fryland was also a director of a subsidiary company which was responsible for managing registration, collection and administration rights for various film and TV associations. The prosecutor presented an email sent by Fryland to the account manager at the subsidiary noting that Johan Schlüter in Copenhagen was “screaming for liquidity”. When asked who was screaming, Fryland pointed the finger at Schlüter and Halgreen.

“When they looked at liquidity in Copenhagen, did Susanne Fryland print an invoice to an association?” the prosecutor asked.

“Yes,” Fryland confirmed.

All three lawyers have either been banned from practicing law, sentenced to prison, or both. And this is the firm that represented rightsholders against Danish citizens in piracy cases. While none of this excuses piracy or copyright infringement, boy, it sure would be nice if copyright holders and anti-piracy groups, paragons of virtue as they portend to be, wouldn’t mind not using the shadiest lawyers they can find in their efforts.

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Comments on “Danish Anti-Piracy Lawyers Jailed For Real, Actual Stealing From Copyright Holders”

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Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

And where would the money go?

Let’s see. The lawyers collect the money (the legitimacy of that is another discussion) and give it to associations who in turn give it to, presumably, rights holders. Who gives it to the creators that are so vaunted by those that decry piracy so much?

Another question is, how much in ‘administrative fees’ do the various levels…levy?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: And where would the money go?

Dane here. a bit involved in the case.

He took a standard 10% fee on everything already, so he was making loads of money

Johan Schluter is also convicted 3 times in france for fraud.

The worst part is the entertainment industry still hails him as a hero

Anonymous Coward says:

Yeah, we know: Lawyers are sleazy, therefore copyright is evil.

Actually, a condition is never necessary here, except to tenuously and wrongly associate copyright with something bad for surely over ten thousand times now.

Hey, if you want to see good lawyers in action and the actual state of pirate sites, LONG before Techdirt gets around to re-writing the few stories of late that don’t blow its piratey premises out of the water, go to https://torrentfreak.com.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Johan Schluter, John Steele, Evan Stone, Andrew Crossley… you copyright fans sure know how to pick people to enforce your copyright for you, don’t you?

if you want to see good lawyers in action

Which you always say are sleazy, and you’ve voiced your desire for all lawyers to die on multiple occasions. Nice way to contradict yourself, genius!

Considering that your "anomalies" keep happening anyone with a rational mind will chalk it up to a "trend", a "consistency". You keep hiring the sleaziest of the sleaze because that’s how you run.

out_of_the_blue just hates it when due process is enforced.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Yeah, we know: Lawyers are sleazy, therefore copyright is evil.

“tenuously and wrongly associate copyright with something bad “

Copyright IS something bad, at least in its current form. It needs to be taken back to something reasonable, and not the current setup that’s designed to rob from artists and the public alike.

“the actual state of pirate sites”

They seem to be going quite well, from what I understand. A quick perusal of that site – which IIRC anonymous morons here were at one point lambasting as pro-piracy – seems to show a lot of stories about The Pirate Bay. How many years has that been going for, again? How many alternatives have sprung up in the meantime? Every site mentioned in those headlines has a hundred alternatives.

The only answer to piracy is to offer good, legal alternatives. Your paymasters are slowly realising that, while they’re still trying to take down the boogeyman from 10 years ago that became popular before Netflix and Spotify gave people a lot of what they want. Not everything, of course – which is why piracy still exists – but it wasn’t the corrupt lawyers you glorify that made the studios and labels start getting more money.

Anonymous Coward says:

@ "ow we are officially in the coincidence part of that mantra"

A), you’re again using "mantra" wrong. And do so proudly, just as I predicted! — It is a HINDU PRAYER, Timmy, not repeated similar events or mere sayings even if repeated, or whatever it is that you wish. You strain all the utility out of words when mis-use, besides are being HIGHLY disrespectful of… that bunch.

II) Your opening hook is simply silly. You’re taking two entirely unrelated thefts and linking them only because there’s copyright vaguely near. By the same degree of association, you and all the pirates here should be jailed, because you definitely support theft of intellectual property.

3) I’m fairly sure that Ian Fleming made up the "old saying".

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

You strain all the utility out of words when mis-use

Like "common law", which you swore not to use then started using it within a week of swearing so?

You’re a fan of Technopolitical and darryl, whose use of grammar would make kindergartners look like multiple Ph.D holders. You’re really not in any position to criticize anyone for linguistic flair.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: @ "ow we are officially in the coincidence part of that mantra"

“It is a HINDU PRAYER, Timmy, not repeated similar events or mere sayings even if repeated”

Of course you’d be too stupid to understand that words can have multiple definitions…


1. Hinduism. a word or formula, as from the Veda, chanted or sung as an incantation or prayer.
2. an often repeated word, formula, or phrase, often a truism:

“3) I’m fairly sure that Ian Fleming made up the “old saying”.”


Anonymous Coward says:

Sleazy vs Non-Sleazy Copyright lawyers

We noticed you have some of our copyrighted material on your website, pay us $8192 or we will file lawsuit in < insert distant location > where we can get damages of $150,000! You have two days to respond.

We noticed you have some of our copyrighted material on your website at < insert url >
Kindly remove the infringing material within two weeks or we will take further action.
If you feel you have properly licensed said material please provide us with proof.

Thank you for your cooperation

Anonymous Cowherd says:

Par for the course

Anti-piracy as a concept is largerly based on defrauding both rightsholders and society in general. Whether it be producing expensive DRM that only ever succeeds in annoying paying customers, spamming Google et al with bot-generated “takedown notices” of dubious quality, or filing frivolous mass lawsuits with intent to extort “settlements” from random people with no evidence.

Lawyers and collection agencies routinely pocket moneys meant for the artists they are allegedly “protecting,” the only thing special about this case is they weren’t good enough to get away with it.

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