Justice has been served: A judge has told the co-founder of a fake copyright trolling law firm, Prenda Law, that he cannot continue to file piracy lawsuits from his prison cell. It seems like nothing, but the lawyer’s ultimate goal is to prove that the laws keeping him in prison are “unconstitutional”, so he should be released.
Disgraced Prenda Law lawyer Paul Hansmaier is serving a 14-year sentence for copyright fraud, which he pleaded guilty to in 2018. Since then, he has filed several lawsuits from his prison cell to avoid serving his sentence.
Hansmeier’s latest ploy was to file a petition with the U.S. District Court in Minnesota, the same court that convicted him, asking for a preliminary injunction against the application of fraud and money laundering laws against him. The stated goal is to allow him to continue filing copyright infringement cases while incarcerated by hiring a private investigator to do the running.
Of course, this is what brought him to prison in the first place. In fact, he asks that the court not recognize his guilty verdict, which is on appeal, in order to prevent him from protecting his copyrights and the copyrights of his clients.
Hansmeier founded Prenda with John Steele, and together they created a business model for settling fictitious copyright claims for about $3,000. Up until 2013, Prenda Law uploaded pornographic videos to sites such as The Pirate Bay, and then sued thousands of people who downloaded this content.
Hansmeier’s six-page petition promises that his future lawsuits will not be of this scale and will not be related to pornography. Instead, he assumes that he will pursue fewer clients and take legal action against people “pirating” materials such as “poetry.” He claims that the failure to grant an injunction violates his First Amendment rights.
“Hansmeyer will probably suffer irreparable damage in the absence of an injunction, because Hansmeyer has lost his freedoms enshrined in the First Amendment. In particular, Hansmeyer is prohibited from participating in activities protected by the First Amendment. Hansmeier’s proposed copyright protection activities are protected by the First Amendment petition clause. , which “protects the rights of individuals to appeal to courts and other instances established by the government to resolve legal disputes.”
While there is no law prohibiting an inmate from filing a lawsuit of any kind from prison, there are obvious concerns about allowing Hansmeier to continue running his business, given the nature of his conviction. It took the District Court just one paragraph to say “no” in the court precedent of Devose v. Herrington, 1994.
Summarizing and restating Hansmeier’s request, Judge Joan N. Eriksen said: “The defendant’s motion for a preliminary injunction [Document No. 270] has BEEN REJECTED. THIS IS ORDERED BY [highlighted by her].
Hansmaier has filed at least 16 petitions to the court while awaiting an appeal hearing, including a request for a commutation of the sentence (two years) for alleged ill-treatment in prison. In this, he claimed that the jailers locked him in solitary confinement for five months, limited him to only one phone call to his family per month, denied him a newspaper and did not allow him confidential calls from his lawyer and client. This application was also rejected.