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Continued: Lawyers in BitTorrent copyright trolling cases under scrutiny

  • Article by: DAN BROWNING , Star Tribune
  • Last update: March 11, 2013 - 6:00 AM

“That would be news to me,” Mooney said. “I’m not involved in any of that type of stuff. I’m more or less a personal trainer.”

Asked about Guava, Paul Hansmeier sent the Star Tribune notarized affidavits in which Mooney declares that he’s “a principal officer” of Guava and that his “standard practice” is to decline comment about the company if strangers call.

Mooney did not respond to efforts to verify that statement.

The name of another Minnesotan, Alan Cooper of Isle, appears as a representative of two West Indies entities that have filed nearly 300 lawsuits nationwide, including nine in Minnesota.

Cooper, a 39-year-old cabin caretaker from the Lake Mille Lacs area, also is named as president, treasurer, secretary and director of a Nevada company involved in at least two infringement suits. That company listed an address that has been linked to Steele in public records.

Cooper said he met Steele in 2006 when he agreed to take care of his 3,500-square-foot cabin on 125 acres in rural Aitkin County.

Cooper filed suit last month in Hennepin County against Steele and others, alleging that the documents bearing his signature are forgeries and that his name was used without his knowledge or consent.

In Florida, Steele sued Cooper and his attorney for libel, but dropped the suit last week and declined to comment on it.

Judges’ rulings vary

Presented with lawsuits in copyright trolling cases, some judges have compelled Internet service providers to turn over the identities of suspected pornography downloaders, while others have not.

Steele and Paul Hansmeier acknowledge that they’ve lost some cases, but say that they’ve won most of the time, including in Minnesota. They say their most significant victory came last August in a case filed in Washington, D.C.

In that case, U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell refused motions by several major Internet service providers — including Comcast, AT&T and Verizon — to quash subpoenas seeking the identities of 1,058 subscribers. Howell wrote that a plaintiff is entitled to ask them to identify customers who might be illegally downloading movies. But because courts have split on the issue, she agreed to stay her order pending an appeal.

In an Illinois case, U.S. District Judge Harold Baker refused to issue subpoenas, saying the subscribers might not be the ones downloading.

“The ISPs include a number of universities, such as Carnegie Mellon, Columbia, and the University of Minnesota, as well as corporations and utility companies,” he wrote. “The infringer might be the subscriber, someone in the subscriber’s household, a visitor with her laptop, a neighbor, or someone parked on the street.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation submitted a brief in the case arguing that the suit should be dismissed and challenging 10 of 11 copyrights the plaintiff claimed were pirated.

Steele withdrew the suit, but declined to explain why.

Fraud on the courts?

Steele Hansmeier has since sold its practice to a Chicago firm called Prenda Law, headed by Paul Duffy.

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