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Copyright troll: EFF has “the same goals” as “terrorist group Wikileaks”


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Firm accuses EFF of witness tampering for financing accuser's travel to court.

Prenda Law's litigation campaign against people allegedly sharing obscure pornographic films on BitTorrent hasn't been going well. A growing number of judges has taken notice of accusations that Prenda stole the identity of a Minnesota man named Alan Cooper and named him CEO of the litigious shell company AF Holdings. Prenda's lawyers have invoked the Fifth Amendment to avoid answering potentially incriminating questions about how Cooper's signature wound up on AF Holdings legal documents.

Prenda has been seeking dismissal of pending lawsuits around the country in an effort to contain the fallout. In one North Georgia case, Prenda had already obtained a default judgment after the defendant, Rajesh Patel, failed to respond to Prenda's lawsuit. Yet the law firm is now seeking to dismiss the case without Patel paying a dime.

But Patel has said that before dismissing the case, the judge should investigate Prenda's misconduct and force Prenda to pay Patel's legal bills. In a strident response filed on Saturday, Prenda lawyer Jacques Nazaire accused Patel's lawyer Blair Chintella of engaging in an ideological witch hunt with the support of the dastardly Electronic Frontier Foundation.

"The EFF is a left-wing organization which has some of the same goals as the anti-government group 'Anonymous' as well as the terrorist group 'Wikileaks,'" Nazaire wrote in his Saturday response. "The EFF has been actively and unsuccessfully fighting digital copyright enforcement efforts for over one decade. As the sweeping nature of his requests for relief make clear, Chintella’s interests in this case are far broader than those of his client."

Chintella's primary request is for an investigation similar to the one that has done Prenda so much damage in Los Angeles. Chintella wants the judge to force Prenda to disclose how much of the settlement money Prenda has received in Georgia might be the result of misconduct alleged by Cooper. And he wants the judge to order that cash be returned.

As for EFF, the digital rights group isn't directly involved in this case, but it has generally supported the fight against Prenda and other "copyright trolls" who try to make money with mass copyright lawsuits. It has also referred victims of copyright trolling to lawyers who take such cases.

Remarkably, Nazaire accused the EFF of witness tampering for covering the costs of Alan Cooper's March trip to the Los Angeles courtroom of Judge Otis Wright. "Any statements made by Mr. Cooper should be suspect," the Prenda lawyer wrote. "There is no evidence to suggest that Mr. Cooper has worked an honest day in his life. Rather, it appears that Mr. Cooper has spent his lifetime depending on the kindness of others. Logic dictates that the more Mr. Cooper testifies against those opposed to the EFF, the longer he is allowed to travel from state to state."

Finally, Prenda submitted a sworn statement clearing up a long-standing mystery. Sort of. In a February deposition, Prenda mastermind Paul Hansmeier claimed that the shell company AF Holdings was itself owned by an "undefined beneficiary trust," but he refused to say if the trust had a name.

Now Mark Lutz, a Prenda operative who currently serves as the CEO of AF Holdings, has revealed that the trust in question is called "Salt Marsh." That suggests that the "Salt Marsh" who electronically "signed" a 2012 document was a legal entity rather than a human being.

This is of interest because, as discussed in a San Francisco courtroom last week, the statement "Salt Marsh" signed says that "the undersigned certifies that he or she has read the handbook entitled 'Dispute Resolution Procedures in the Northern District of California' on the Court’s ADR Internet site" and "discussed the available dispute options." It's a bit of a puzzle how an intangible legal entity could have read a document and had a discussion about it.

Lutz also reveals what Hansmeier meant by an "undefined beneficiary trust." The beneficiaries of Salt Marsh are "any children born to or adopted by" Lutz. Lutz is currently childless.

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