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A MN lawyer who was part of a ‘porn trolling collective’ loses his law license

A Minneapolis attorney who became notorious for filing copyright infringement lawsuits against people who download pornography has been stripped of his law license by the Minnesota Supreme Court.

A court order issued this week says Paul Hansmeier, 35, committed misconduct that included filing frivolous lawsuits, lying under oath, and failing to pay fees and fines.

Hansmeier’s license is suspended indefinitely. Under the court order, he must wait at least four years before he can ask to have it restored.

What did he do?

The director of the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility filed a complaint against Hansmeier that outlines how he and two Illinois attorneys filed hundreds of copyright infringement lawsuits around the country.

paul-hansmeier

Paul Hansmeier (Photo from Twitter)

Armed only with the IP address of a computer that had accessed a protected porn file, the lawyers would file a suit against “John Doe.” Then they would ask a court for permission to get the computer owner’s name from the internet service provider.

They would send that person a letter saying “forensic experts” detected they had downloaded copyright-protected porn and offering to settle the case out of court for a few thousand dollars – a little less than the cost of hiring a defense lawyer.

Courts have complained about Hansmeier for years

The Minnesota complaint against Hansmeier quotes from a couple of court rulings that slammed him for his practices.

In 2013 a judge in California said Hansmeier and his fellow attorneys had outmaneuvered the legal system by finding the intersection of  “antiquated copyright law, paralyzing social stigma, and unaffordable defense costs.”

A year later, the U.S. Court of Appeals for Washington D.C. referred to Hansmeier and the others as a “porno-trolling collective” and said they were “attorneys with shattered law practices … seeking easy money.”

Now focusing on disability law

A writer at the website techdirt notes that in recent years Hansmeier has moved away from copyright lawsuits and instead has been filing “questionable” lawsuits alleging that small businesses are violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The Supreme Court says Hansmeier admitted to all of the misconduct allegations against him except one, which was dropped from the complaint.

He told the Pioneer Press he’s not sure if he will try to have his law license restored after four years but said he will continue to work on behalf of people with disabilities.

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