Prenda Law, Inc. takes over Steele | Hansmeier, PLLC

Obviously I will write more as I learn more, but to the best of my knowledge, Prenda Law, Inc. has taken over Steele|Hansmeier, PLLC’s cases.

You will see that Steele’s “We Fight Piracy” website at has been replaced with a cheap looking WordPress blog with a few articles on intellectual property. No doubt, a new website is being built now as we speak (you can see Steele’s old website on the Way Back Machine at

This appears not to be another name change as it was just a few months ago from “Steele Law Firm, PLLC” (specializing in Illinois family law) to “Steele|Hansmeier, PLLC” (specializing in copyright litigation). This appears to be a new plaintiff attorney that we will be seeing more from as these cases advance. I am told that Paul Duffy is the one in charge now, and not John Steele (funny how Paul Duffy’s first two cases are AF Holdings, Inc. v. Does 1-1,140 and Hard Drive Productions, Inc. v. Does 1-1,495 in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, both of which will probably go bust).

While this name change could all be a diversion so that attorneys such as me on the defense side will “leak” the story and focus on Paul Duffy (who for all we know can still be John Steele’s local counsel and just someone to create a diversion), as far as I know, this take-over / sale / buy-out of Steele|Hansmeier, PLLC will be a new chapter in the bittorrent litigation cases. I have been told that Prenda Law, Inc. has many more attorneys, although I will confirm this if and when I learn more about how they operate.

In order to uncover what is really going on, I could use as many of you as possible to post what you know about Paul Duffy, his history, and Prenda Law, Inc.

All I know about Paul Duffy so far is that he appears to have worked for Freeborn & Peters, LLP. He appears to have been born in Illinois on November 1, 1959. He was admitted to practice law in Illinois (’92), in Massechusetts (’93), and in California (’03). He went to Elmhurst College where he graduated in 1981 with a BS, spent four years doing something, and then got his MBA at Loyola University in 1987. He has two years where there are no whereabouts about him, and then in 1992, he graduated from DePaul University law school.

Again, this could all be a rouge to take your attention off of something else. Plus, this information I gathered on Duffy was from basic guesswork by pulling things off of the internet. I could be completely off base. That being said, it will be interesting to see what Prenda Law, Inc. does with these cases.

52 thoughts on “Prenda Law, Inc. takes over Steele | Hansmeier, PLLC”

  1. He voluntarily dismissed all Does without prejudice today. I guess the fact that it was assigned to Judge Robert Wilkins had something to do with it?

    The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree of Steele….

  2. So sad. Posting private information about a man’s wife and where they live because you don’t like his clients or what area of law he practices. Stay classy pirates.

    • I’m almost never one to agree with John Steele, but I agree that his information about his wife (and his family, for that matter) should be hands off. Please continue to post and send me anything else you can find regarding Paul Duffy; if you would like to e-mail me privately as many of you already have, I have found the information you provided to be quite informative. -Rob

      • I also agree with Steele.. Which is hard to stomach. Rob, it is obvious is=f Lutz is still handling the cold calls and Steele is following these blogs all day that nothing has changed. I think this is a tactical decision to move the damaged steele brand to the backround to dupe judges as they file cases in new states. Nothing about the operations has changed. This seemed to all happen after that west virginia case where the lawyer faced possible sanctions and was asked about his affiliation with Steele

        • I am also cautious about what you have written, although looking at the Prenda Law, Inc. filing date for incorporation (I don’t have the date handy), it appears to me that this may have been in the works for a while. Until the so-called “takeover,” I was sure Duffy was just a local counsel puppet. We will have to see who does what next to find out the truth.

      • The same info was posted on my blog. I redacted it (which I almost never do) saying…

        [sjd: Guys, please don’t put me in trouble. I understand that there is nothing illegal in revealing someone’s address, we are not in UK, but still I prefer to fight with scumbags without using questionable methods, otherwise we can fall lower than trolls. Especially trolls’ relatives… While I can accept some innocent tricks as prank calls etc., I believe that targeting relatives is unethical]

    • Not that I defend giving out someone’s personal info but you guys are going for personal info and extorting money out of people. Last time I checked extortion was a crime and not classy! Also by reading your comments on this blog as well as others you have shown how much class you possess. I am not a pirate and I have been affected by this scam and will refuse to pay up because we are innocent and have nothing to hide. I look forward to my lawyer fees being paid by Paul Duffy and then the class action suit that will be filed! How much have you extorted out of people John? I know you say that everyone is guilty because of an ip address but do you truly believe that?

      • We have also gotten the supposed “Extortion” letter stating that we downloaded some crap porno (which we didn’t) and we could be liable for $150,000 but we can mail Prenda Law $3400 to settle or else we will be sued. How can anyone get away with this extortion. Let’ him them sue me. Hopefully I will be able to counter sue.

    • Mr. Duffy’s practice focuses on complex commercial litigation covering numerous substantive areas and industries. His representative client list spans across the country on matters involving business torts, contract disputes, secured transactions, shareholder disputes and environmental matters. Defending numerous toxic tort suits involving pharmaceuticals, food products, industrial chemicals and environmental contamination…

      How could anyone don’t like… what area of law he practices???

      Divorce law practitioners add a lot of value to the society too!

    • Classy? From you? That’s like a serial killer calling someone “evil”. I would not call what you guys are doing to people practicing law. It is, for now, a legal form of extortion. You are using an antiquated law to try and make a quick buck. I am not defending the pirating of copyrighted material at all, just the “proof” that an IP adress is evidence. Granted I am sure that many of the people are guilty, but an IP address can be spoofed or hacked relatively easily. Not that you care about guilt or innocence all you and your “classy” counterparts are interested in is backing people into a corner where paying you is cheaper than fighting you. So i say to you Mr. Steele… stay classy!

    • LOL you hypocrite, you’re in the business of having the courts supply others’ personal information to you so that you can do evil things to them.

      If you were in an honorable and honest line of work it wouldn’t matter who knew your personal information.

    • Just want to add one more note to make sure nobody here is unclear as to the context.

      You, John Steele, and your co-conspirators are filing suits demanding $150,000 in compensation for a single consumer-level act of copyright infringement. (A normal person understands that this is a violation on the order of double-parking.) This is under a law you know full well was 100% intended for commercial infringement, not consumer infringement.

      By interesting coincidence, the average life savings of the median American is approximately $150,000.

      So what you have been doing is mass demanding entire families’ life savings in compensation for the most minor copyright infringement imaginable.

      This of course is a prima facie monstrous position to take, and the fact that you have asserted this to be your lawful privilege against many thousands of people makes you a monster.

      And you are doing it totally blind, too. You know as well as we do that the evidence that you are using is totally insufficient to prove the assertions you make.

      We know why you don’t take these cases to court – every time a sane 3rd party (e.g. a judge, or a tech reporter) looks at what you are doing, they think you’re of the lowest order. 70 year old grandma with an unsecured wi-fi is responsible for a 3rd party downloading a dirty movie? Seriously? “Transparent extortion scheme” is a phrase that comes to mind.

      Why you would expect anyone person would treat you with anything but total contempt and hostility, I can’t explain. You should be shunned by society and honest merchants should refuse to do business with you.

      Also, you’re a bit too clever for your own good. Because you are suing so many people, it is statistically certain that you have sued a great many emotionally unstable individuals with nothing left to lose.

      Sleep well, demon. May everyone in your life share your ethics.

  3. Mr. Duffy will not speak on the phone, he had some guy Mark try and talk and kept asking for a reference number, which I would not give. I stated that I would not pay for something that I did not do a d he said well we have evidence, I said what? An ip address? That is weak evidence and would not hold up in court. He then said again I need the reference number to continue this conversation. I said no thanks not until I speak with Paul himself! He said Paul trusts me to handle these things. The guy that answered the phone hardly spoke a lick of English as well!

    • They are named in the complaint as the subscriber, determined by IP address through discovery in a previous case. According to the complaints they have not been named as defendants at this time because more discovery is needed to determine who the actual infringer is. Looks like they are sticking with not actually naming a defendant and stalling as usual; I wonder how many of these will go 120 days without really naming a defendant…

      • strange that this case was filed in the Eastern District instead of the Northern District as in the original case. Filing with new Name & District to avoid association with scumbag Steele?

      • Oh and look at this, one of Brett Gibbs’ individual cases in the California Northern District was assigned to Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler, who has previously been unkind to his antics. This morning he filed a declination to proceed before a magistrate judge and requested reassignment to a district judge…

        Judge shopping.

    • I suppose they intend to try to determine the actual infringer, quite the opposite of what they use to say about the subscriber being the guilty part no matter what.

  4. They are avoiding the North District because they are getting crushed there. I would be shocked if a majority of those Does even live in the Eastern District. Forum shopping… Stay classy!

    • No doubt about the use of the word “crushed”. Refer to the footnote from Judge Beeler back in September:

      Copyright infringement cases such as this ordinarily maintain a common arc: (1) a plaintiff sues anywhere from a few to thousands of Doe defendants for copyright infringement in one action; (2) the plaintiff seeks leave to take early discovery; (3) once the plaintiff obtains the identities of the
      IP subscribers through early discovery, it serves the subscribers with a settlement demand; (4) the subscribers, often embarrassed about the prospect of being named in a suit involving pornographic
      movies, settle. IO Group, Inc. v. Does 1-435, No. C 10-04382 SI, 2011 WL 445043, at *6 (N.D. Cal. Feb. 3, 2011). Thus, these mass copyright infringement cases have emerged as a strong tool for
      leveraging settlements – a tool whose efficiency is largely derived from the plaintiffs’ success in avoiding the filing fees for multiple suits and gaining early access en masse to the identities of alleged infringers.

      Indeed, as of September 1, 2011, it appears that MCGIP’s counsel, Brett Gibbs, has filed 49 cases (eight on behalf of MCGIP) in the Northern District that are largely identical to this case. He has sued thousands of Doe defendants (hundreds on behalf of MCGIP) in these cases but has yet to
      serve any of them. Thus, the facts belie MCGIP’s assertion that it will “fully identify” the Doe defendants during the course of the litigation. On the contrary, MCGIP and its counsel appear content to force settlements without incurring any of the burdens involved in proving their cases. And, while the courts favor settlements, “filing one mass action in order to identify hundreds of doe defendants through pre-service discovery and facilitate mass settlement, is not what the joinder rules were established for.” IO Group, Inc., 2011 WL 445043 at *6.

    • There are some in the Northern District, and a couple are coming before judges who have seen these guys before. Hell at this point maybe every judge in that district has had one of these cases before them but I only took a look at a few and two are before Spero and one before Grewal, who have previously severed Does from the mass lawsuits. Also one before Corley who has not been friendly to Gibbs in the past according to this writeup from Stewart Kellar:

      So they will surely recognize Gibbs, Bittorrent, and the generous copying and pasting between the mass suit complaints and the new single-Doe complaints.

    • I would say give them time. It is thanksgiving. They could also be asking for waivers cause its cheaper. It also allows the cases to proceed slower.

  5. Hmm…so what does a summons actually mean? If I get one, I have to appear in court (and, I assume, lawyer-up)? Up until this point, the best way to play this extortion game was to just ignore. I just got my “pay us $3,000 or we’ll name you” letter giving me til the end of Nov. to pay up. I guess I should expect to be summoned next?

    Won’t all these summons/namings cost Prenda a lot of money? I don’t see how they’re going to profit here by forcing people to get lawyers. Why settle when you can fight then join the impending class action suit that is sure to come?

    • In what context are you asking about a summons? A summons usually comes along with a complaint which is what you get when you are served. You are only served once you are named as a defendant; service of process on you does not happen before that (by the way, ISPs get served these subpoenas, then they forward it to you, the subscriber).

      If you’ve read my articles, you know I am against ignoring them. If you wait until you are named as a defendant, your options at that point are severely diminished and getting an attorney can be quite costly at that point of the litigation. Better a bit of proactive medicine than treating a full outbreak of the disease.

      Did they only ask for $3,000? or $3,400? If you do not settle, you will start getting phone calls. Up front, based on your circumstances, I am often NOT in favor of settling. There are ways to defend these cases.

      Yes, in my opinion the plaintiffs (not just Prenda, but every plaintiff in these bittorrent lawsuits [with the exception of Larry Flint Productions, Inc.]) do not have the funds to name and serve each and every Doe Defendant. If they do have the funds, they certainly do not have the attorney manpower. If they are going to name and sue certain people, it will be carefully selected defendants. They cannot sue everyone.

      Last, but not least, so far there is no class action lawsuit (except against Dunlap Grubb and Weaver in MA), and I do not see one any time soon. However, I do suggest contacting your state’s attorney general and the U.S. attorney general and SPEAK UP regarding the abuses that takes place in these cases. I hope this was helpful. Enjoy your thanksgiving. -Rob

  6. found some more info about Duffy. Practice area while at Freeborn & Peters are Commercial Litigation; Environmental Law; Commercial Transactions; Commercial Crimes. He claims to have worked at Winston & Strawn from 1994 – 2004. Started Law Offices of Paul Duffy in March 2011.

    • Doe Boy, there are different types of lawyers out there, e.g., those who charge tens of thousands of dollars to those willing to take your case pro bono (without taking a fee). Obviously do your research, as I am not the most expensive, nor am I the cheapest. That being said, you often get what you pay for, and a simple calculation of what you are being charged can give you an idea of what services you’ll get for what you’re paying for. In a lawyer’s mind, time to be spent on a case often equates with how much you’ll be billed. A lawyer who bills you $500 (assuming he bills at $250/hour) expects to only spend two hours on your case. Then again, in my practice, I often find myself doing the same thing for MANY clients, so I am able to drastically cut down my fee because I am already doing the same legwork for other clients in the same case, so there is no sense in billing twice for the same work. While for some purposes charging for just an hour or so is sufficient, in these bittorrent cases, as far as I am concerned, it is malpractice because as my clients can attest, it takes a lot of time to properly service clients. Last, but not least, if you cannot even afford an attorney for barebones representation (and a pro bono attorney won’t take your case), then you should ask yourself whether you are judgement proof. In other words, if you were hit with a $150K judgement (or even a $30K) judgement, would you have some property they could take from you? Or do you have nothing in your name and thus they could freeze whatever bank accounts they want — they’re not getting a cent from you because you have nothing to lose? In cases such as that (and obviously you should ask an attorney about creditor’s rights as they vary from state-to-state), you might be judgement proof.

  7. Prenda Law just voluntarily dismissed 1:11-cv-02176-RLW MILLENNIUM TGA INC. v. DOES 1-939 today, a week after the case was filed. I guess Paul Duffy didn’t like the fact that the case was assigned to Judge Wilkins.

    This is the second case Duffy has dismissed after being assigned to Judge Wilkins.

  8. Mr. Houstonlawy3r.

    First, THANK YOU very much for your information. Second I have some questions would you please help me? Because you are the best one can help me here. Thanks in advance.

    My questions are:
    Is this case dismissed for real? (Sorry anonymous for my doublechecking), and
    If this happened, which case would it fall into? Case 1 or Case 2? (from your previous post)

    • If your case is voluntarily dismissed they can still refile against you, but only one more time per FRCP 41. If they dismiss you twice they are out of luck, as the second dismissal counts as being on the merits.

  9. Mr. Houstonlawy3r

    I need your help. Would you provide me your email address? Or you can email me at [PRIVATE].


  10. I just received a subpoena order for my personal information for one of these cases. It was for a company, Guava LLC vs skyler case in cook county Illinois. The lawyer is Paul Duffy. Does anyone have any advice from similar cases?

    • I received one also on the same day from my ISP. Sure smells llike a fishing expedition as the case isn’t even listed at the Clerk of Courts for Cook County, IL. Same lawyer – Paul A. Duffy. My ISP had no additional information on this, but that was customer service, not the person on the letter from the ISP. Sure would like to know how to proceed, even with contacting my attorney.

    • Fascinating! Would you be willing to share the documents you found online? [You can use something like to post it; obviously set up the account without using your real information.]


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