Hacker hater: Meet the star client of porn's "most prolific" copyright lawyer

Summary:In a bizarre crusade to get IP address identities, Lightspeed Media's lawyer John Steele named Comcast as a defendant claiming there's a huge hacking conspiracy to steal Lightspeed's porn.

Porn company Lightspeed Media excels in three things: "barely legal" female performers, over-the-top copyright enforcement tactics... and being singled out by "master hackers"?

Currently, Lightspeed (run by Steve "Lightspeed" Jones) is the star client of the nation's "most prolific porn copyright trolls" - Prenda Law's John Steele.

prenda law

Steele is known as the most prolific porn P2P copyright troll for more reasons than I can list here, but his most recent highlight is his charge to sue a bewildered 70-year-old woman for downloading porn - even if her wifi had been compromised.

Last week on behalf of Lightspeed, Prenda named AT&T and Comcast as defendants in an Illinois lawsuit. Prenda/Lightspeed says the corporate giants are protecting pirates by not turning over identities behind 6,600 IP addresses Lightspeed now claims are behind a vengeful hacking conspiracy to steal its porn content.

Just what is this coveted porn content, anyway?

Lightspeed's stock in trade is the "barely legal" genre.

According to a profile of Mr. Jones in the Wall Street Journal,

Lightspeed Media publishes photos and videos of youthful models, and has long used terms such as "barely legal" and "barely 18" in its marketing. (...)

"He's caught a lot of flak because some people feel he makes them look younger than" 18, said Farrell Timlake, president of adult-video publisher Homegrown Video.

Mr. Jones said his standard reply to such criticism is: "I'm sorry my porn stars don't look used up yet."

Of IP harvesting and "master hackers"

According to Ars Technica,

Prenda Law (...) issued subpoenas seeking the identity of 6,600 people. AT&T and Comcast objected to these subpoenas. In July, the Illinois Supreme Court sided with the ISPs and quashed the subpoenas.

Lightspeed's response to this setback? It added AT&T and Comcast as defendants in its lawsuit. The ISPs now stand accused of "negligence, computer fraud and abuse, civil conspiracy, violations of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Practice Act, and aiding and abetting.

In its opposition bid insisting it needs the identitiesLightspeed says there is a "master hacker" behind it all, who is the "worst of the worst" and runs a blog called "World's Biggest Hackers" - and that they're out to get him:

Finally, the hacking community has targeted Plaintiff for retribution (under the cover of anonymous IP addresses of course).

In addition to executing denial of service attacks on Lightspeed's website properties, the hacking communities have posted names and photos of Mr. Jones' family and house on websites (...)

Prenda/Lightspeed concluded that "These vicious efforts" (are) "all perpetrated from the shadow of Internet anonymity."

Lightspeed wants the identities of everyone behind the IP addresses it has collected - at any cost.

Tech journalist Timothy B. Lee explains why he thinks Lightspeed is accusing thousands of people of hacking into their Web sites instead of the usual copyright infringement claims,

(...) Lightspeed alleged that thousands of people "belong to a hacking community where hacked passwords are passed back and forth among the members."

Lightspeed "hired" a company called Arcadia Data Security Consultants (which, conveniently, shares an address with Lightspeed and its owner, Steve Jones) to identify the culprits.

So, if you're keeping track here...

Steve Jones is the principal in the case, who retained himself (Arcadia), to use forensic software - Trader Hacker and Intruder Evidence Finder 2.0 (T.H.I.E.F.) - software that was created by... Steve Jones (as Arcadia Data Security).

The Wall Street Journal provided background on Mr. Jones' engineering credentials,

Mr. Jones developed an interest in computers as a teenager, and attended Arizona State University to study computer engineering.

But he said he was expelled from the school's engineering department in the fall of 1985 after he was accused of cheating. (...)

Mr. Jones returned to his home state of Washington, where he earned a degree in computer programming at a trade school. By the late 1990s, Mr. Jones was an avid viewer of online porn, and decided to start dabbling in a second career.

As for what the ISP's think, hacking or not, they seem to think that Lightspeed wants the IP identities for an old-fashioned, Prohibition-era style shakedown.

When AT&T and Verizon successfully fought back against Lightspeed's subpoenas, the companies had said,

Lightspeed and its lawyers aren't really interested in pursuing their claims against a single individual in St. Clair County, nor are they interested in any discovery pertinent to those claims.

They actually want to harvest settlements of several thousand dollars each from individual Internet service subscribers to be identified from a list of approximately 6600 IP addresses (...)

According to letters that have been published online by people who have been identified by Lightspeed as alleged bad guys, the threats Lightspeed holds over people's heads are the fear of legal costs - and as with all porn IP shaekdowns, an underlying expectation of shame by public association with porn content.

When Prenda gets info associated with an IP, they call or mail the indivdual and attempt to wrestle $3-4,000 out of the target.

The physical letters sent out also include a convenient credit card payment form that can be mailed back to Prenda.

Lightspeed's curious history with copyright - and hackers

For five years Lightspeed's (now former) VP of Operations Richard Buss worked with Lightspeed's lawyers to enforce copyright and IP.

When Buss (aka "rochard") obtained personal information on people he believed has violated Lightspeed's ownership of porn content in the past, it was handled with a personal touch.

In 2003, Buss and Lightspeed's attorney Robert Apgood tangled with security bloggers at Attrition.org over an alleged "stolen" photo of Lightspeed's contract star Tawnee Stone that was found on Attrition's website.

Tawnee Stone's content is also named in the current "Doe" filing and IP address supoenas which involve defendant Comcast.

But back in 2003 when Attrition.org asked for a link or attachment supporting Lightspeed's copyright claim, Buss went postal with Lightspeed's legal threats.

Attriton "went postal" as well, notifying Lightspeed/Buss that all e-mails would be published. And they were.

Buss/Lightspeed responded to Attrition saying,

You are right; We do need to prove we have ownership. However, this is only a matter of filing a document in a courthouse.

Not only do we own the copyright on "ALL" Tawnee Stone pictures, but we also own her trademarked name. We go to court over copyright issues on a weekly basis.

Buss explained to Attrition the legal process Lightspeed's lawyers would use to go after Attrition, and that they might want to make it easy on themselves.

Lightspeed's VP of Ops then closed with,

Of course if we really wanted to be dicks about this, we can just file a complaint against you with your local police department and tell them we believe you are posting pictures of children under the age of eighteen.

Since you obviously don't have a model release and have no way of proving her age, you'd be in hot water. You might not go to jail for it, but it would seriously fuck up your life.

I used to be like you running a free site with stolen content. I used to get emails every day saying that "they own the picture". I was lucky and I was never taken to court.

Lucky, indeed.

It remains to be seen whether Lightspeed Media/Prenda Law's new strategy in naming Comcast and AT&T as defendants will be successful.

It will certainly be entertaining.

Topics: Legal, Privacy

About

Ms. Violet Blue (tinynibbles.com, @violetblue) is a freelance investigative reporter on hacking and cybercrime at Zero Day/ZDNet, CNET and CBS News, as well as a noted sex columnist. She has made regular appearances on CNN and The Oprah Winfrey Show and is regularly interviewed, quoted, and featured in a variety of publications that inclu... Full Bio

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