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Entries in Porn (2)

Wednesday
May082013

Judge Slaps Attorneys for Alleged Porn Shakedown

Comstock/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- A federal judge has sanctioned four alleged perpetrators of a porn shakedown scheme -- all of them attorneys.

In a scathing decision, Judge Otis Wright for the central district of California earlier this week imposed sanctions against a group of lawyers who, he said, had "outmaneuvered the legal system" by figuring out a way to squeeze money from hundreds of people they accused of having illegally downloaded porn from the Internet.

The persons, rather than face the ignominy of having their porn habits made public, and lacking the resources to mount a legal self-defense, opted instead to settle with their accusers -- typically for around $4,000 per case. The result: the alleged perpetrators of the scheme, described by Wright as a "porno-trolling collective," made millions of dollars, according to Wright's May 6 order.

The four lawyers named in the case are John Steele, Paul Hansmeier, Paul Duffy, and Brett Gibbs. They routinely falsified court papers and testimony to advance their suits, the judge wrote, even using the identity of one of the lawyers' gardeners to fake documents submitted to courts. He recommended that the lawyers be disbarred for "moral turpitude" and systematically lying to the courts.

The genius of the scheme, according to Wright, was that the alleged perpetrators had "discovered the nexus of antiquated copyright laws, paralyzing social stigma, and unaffordable defense costs. They exploit this anomaly by accusing individuals of illegally downloading a single pornographic video. Then they offer to settle -- for a sum calculated to be just below the cost of a bare-bones defense."

Downloaders were accused of having failed to pay royalties due the copyright holders of the pornography, who in many cases, according to Wright, were the attorneys themselves, a fact that the lawyers worked to conceal from the courts and the defendants in the cases they filed.

"So, now," Wright writes, "copyright laws originally designed to compensate starving artists allow starving attorneys in this electronic-media era to plunder the citizenry."

A request by ABC News for further comment from Judge Wright went unanswered, as did similar requests to the accused attorneys.

The judge wrote that any resistance at all from the defendants in the porn trolling cases was swiftly met with a dismissal of the case. The lawyers were not willing or able to meet the high hurdles needed to prove in court that the people they sued had actually downloaded the porn, the judge wrote. The lawyers would simply put out their flypaper video clips on sites like Bittorent, and then file papers seeking the identities of the downloaders through IP addresses.

Star Trek references festoon Wright's order, which opens with a quote from Spock: "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few." The trolls are rebuked for having "cloaked" their fraud in such a way as to cause Judge Wright to go "to battlestations."

In imposing his sanctions, which include punitive fees totaling more than $81,000 and a promise to report the four attorneys to their respective Bar Associations, Wright, sticking with his Star Trek analogy, warns that far more serious punishments may lie ahead:

"Though plaintiffs boldly probe the outskirts of law, the only enterprise they resemble is RICO. The federal agency eleven decks up is familiar with their prime directive and will gladly refit them for their next voyage. The Court will refer this matter to the United States Attorney for the Central District of California [and] to the Criminal Investigation Divisions of the Internal Revenue Service."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
May222012

FBI Investigates 'Revenge Porn' Website Founder

Photos.com/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The FBI is investigating the founder of a "revenge porn" website, where scorned lovers were posting nude photos and videos of their ex-partners anonymously.

Officials would only confirm to Nightline that there was an investigation, but declined to comment further on any other details.

Hunter Moore, 26, used to run a website called IsAnyoneUp.com, which he told Nightline he had launched as a place for "public humiliation." On the site, users could upload sexually explicit photos and videos without a victim's permission, and include screen grabs of Facebook accounts and links to Twitter accounts. A section on the website also allowed people to comment on the photos and videos.

The site became so popular that Moore said he was getting nearly 5 million hits a month. But in April, Moore sold his website for less than $15,000 to BullyVille.com, a social website on which people can share stories about being bullied and seek help. IsAnyoneUp.com was taken down.

But before that, Kayla Laws, a 25-year-old aspiring actress, said nude photos of herself that she took but never distributed surfaced on IsAnyoneUp.com. Laws claims her computer was hacked.

"To be seen on that website is like, breaks my heart inside," she said. "It ruins everything I've built up for myself. It's embarrassing to know that they've seen that photo of me and they know what I look like topless because of that site."

Her mother Charlotte Laws, who is a private investigator, said she was outraged and contacted the FBI after Moore refused to take down her daughter's photos.

"We first asked him, we sent him a cease-and-desist and a take-down notice, and he basically said 'screw off,' in so many words," Charlotte Laws said.

She said she convinced the FBI to launch an investigation into whether Kayle's computer was hacked.

"The FBI, I've been extremely impressed with them," Charlotte Laws said. "They're highly competent and extremely responsive."

Moore denied that he ever hacked anyone's naked photos.

Before IsAnyoneUp.com was shut down in April, Moore boasted to Nightline that he was a self-proclaimed "professional life ruin-er" and he had no scruples about hosting the website because the people on it were simply "characters and avatars and icons on a screen" to him and he wanted to take "full advantage of people's mistakes."

Moore also bragged about the multiple cease-and-desist letters and complaints he got from victims' lawyers, and said his typical response was either to send a dirty picture or a simple "LOL."

Just as YouTube hosts other people's videos, IsAnyoneUp.com fell into the same category -- the person submitting the picture accepts full responsibility for uploading it.

"Your only remedy is against the person who took the picture and posted it," said Bruce Johnson, an attorney in Seattle who specializes in First Amendment and media cases. "There's no real remedy against the website that's posting that photo. The best advice is not to disseminate the picture to begin with."

When BullyVille.com bought Moore's site and shut it down -- IsAnyoneUp.com's URL now re-directs to BullyVille.com -- it seemed that Moore had changed his tune. The site hosted a letter from him filled with words that sounded nothing like the rebel Nightline had previously interviewed.

"I think it's important that everyone realizes the damage that online bullying can cause," Moore wrote.

James McGibney, a former marine and founder of BullyVille.com, told Nightline he did a public service by shutting down Moore, something he said even the government wasn't able to do. However, several critics called the move a media stunt because the re-direct from IsAnyoneUp.com occurred less than a week after BullyVille.com launched, and BullyVille.com received two million visitors from it.

McGibney denied that shutting down IsAnyoneUp.com was for personal gain.

"Do you know what kind of base [Moore has], the subscriber base?" he said. "It's not the type of people I want on BullyVille."

But BullyVille.com isn't McGibney's only website. His bread and butter is CheaterVille.com, a website where anyone can accuse someone of cheating on a spouse or a partner and post it anonymously. But McGibney said CheaterVille.com is nothing like Moore's "revenge porn" website.

"There is no doubt I believe in what I'm doing or I wouldn't do it," McGibney said. "[CheaterVille.com] was not started for revenge or for malicious intent. It was designed to warn people, and I'm never going to change that thought because that's what I believe in."

Moore may have turned humiliation into a business model, but he hasn't cornered the market on getting even. Today, revenge is something he is trying to avoid.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio