State takes action against Minneapolis 'copyright troll'

The state's legal ethics agency is taking action against a Minneapolis attorney who is a central figure in hundreds of lawsuits accusing people of infringing on copyright by downloading porn or gaining unauthorized access to copyrighted material.

The Minnesota Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility is seeking disbarment or suspension of Minneapolis attorney Paul Robert Hansmeier.

In one of the cases in question, a California court said Hansmeier and two collaborators were "attorneys with shattered law practices," who, "seeking easy money, ... formed AF Holdings," acquired "several copyrights to pornographic movies," then initiated massive John Doe copyright infringement lawsuits.

Typically the lawsuits would seek to discover the identities of hundreds of people based on an IP address. The people whose names were turned over were threatened with litigation but also provided an opportunity to make the whole thing go away for a price — $4,000 according to the judge in the California Case.

The complaint accuses Hansmeier of multiple acts of making false statements in court, failing to pay attorneys fees assessed against him, and launching litigation that was either frivolous, lacked a basis in fact, or was without merit and for an improper purpose.

Hansmeier has until Nov. 29 to answer the allegations. The Minnesota Supreme Court will make a final decision on any discipline to be meted out.

Hansmeier's attorney, Eric Cooperstein, said they look forward to presenting their side of the case.

Editor's note (Nov. 17, 2015): This story has been updated to clarify the date by which Hansmeier has to respond to allegations.

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