Anti-piracy lawyer John Steele is without doubt one of the most active proponents of the pay-up-or-else settlement scheme in the United States. In less than a year he filed more than 80 mass-lawsuits for his clients, targeting thousands of alleged BitTorrent users. Nevertheless it appears that Steele himself can be awarded the pirate label, since he’s blatantly ripped of the work of a competitor.
Copyright is a double-edged sword, and those who sharpen one side often get cut by the other. We see it happening time and time again, often revealing the double standard and one-sidedness of lawyers and copyright holders.
Last year, for example, the U.S Copyright Group ripped off the website of a competitor. They copied the design and code of the Copyright Enforcement Group and passed it off as their own. Only when we called them out on it did they remove all “infringing” content.
But the US Copyright Group are not the only infringing lawyers, there are plenty more.
The most recent example uncovers the copyright disregard of one the most active anti-piracy lawyers, John Steele. In less than a year Steele and his partner filed dozens of mass-lawsuits targeting thousands of BitTorrent users, but apparently their targets aren’t the only ones with a habit of copying content without permission.
In the settlement letters that Steele sends to alleged copyright infringers there’s a frequently asked questions section. Contrary to what one might expect, these questions were not written by Steele himself. Like the U.S. Copyright Group, Steele went for the lazy option and simply ripped off the FAQ section penned by the Copyright Enforcement Group.
Below is a comparison of the questions ‘stolen’ by Steele, which clearly reveals that they are identical.
Excerpt from Steele’s FAQ
Excerpt from CEG’s FAQ
TorrentFreak contacted the Copyright Enforcement Group to ask whether Steele has permission to use their copyrighted text, and we were told that he doesn’t. In fact, the Copyright Enforcement Group told us that they may take steps to prevent Steele from blatantly ‘stealing’ their work in the future.
So there we have it.
A notorious anti-piracy lawyer who claims to have spent as much as $250,000 to develop a BitTorrent tracking tool, doesn’t even bother to write his own settlement letters. In theory one could argue that he’s profiting from infringing the work of others, something that’s not taken lightly by the courts nowadays.
A quick search further reveals that Steele and his partner are not the only one who ripped off the FAQ from the Copyright Enforcement Group. Another group, operating under the name Copyright Action Network has done the same, again without permission from the copyright holders.
Oh the irony…