Porn pirating lawyer jailed for five years

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Pirate flag on keyImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Piracy sites provided data that helped uncover the Prenda Law scheme

A US lawyer who uploaded pornography on to file-sharing sites then sued people who downloaded it, has been sentenced to five years in jail.

John Steele co-founded a firm called Prenda Law that set up and ran the porn-trolling scheme.

His Prenda partner Paul Hansmeier was jailed for 14 years in June for his role in the scam.

Steele faced a sentence of more than 10 years but this was reduced because he co-operated with prosecutors.

Hidden route

Prenda Law ran its porn-trolling con from 2010 to 2013 and it is believed to have netted the firm more than $6m (£4.8m).

It accused people of pirating pornographic films it had uploaded to file-sharing sites.

And many people preferred to pay several thousand dollars to Prenda rather than challenge the accusation in the courts.

Federal investigators began probing Prenda in 2012 after it sued two large US ISPs it accused of helping subscribers pirate pornographic films.

This investigation discovered Prenda had been uploading the pornographic films, to which it owned the copyright, to file-sharing sites itself - to encourage people to pirate them.

In addition, the fees paid by many of the alleged pirates had been funnelled through shell companies to hide the fact they were actually going to Steele and Hansmeier.

At his sentencing hearing, Steele said he had made "stupid decisions", reported tech news site Ars Technica.

His lawyer agreed, adding his actions had been "reprehensible, abhorrent, and criminal".

Steele and Hansmeier have also been ordered to repay $1.5m to victims of the porn-piracy scheme.