Chicago Lawyer Takes on Porn Pirates

John Steele has filed nearly 100 "Jane Doe" lawsuits to crack down on illegal porn downloads

Wednesday, Jul 20, 2011  |  Updated 11:23 AM CDT
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Call it the Napster trend for pornography -- thousands of videos illegally downloaded against copyright -- and one Chicago lawyer is taking it on.

John Steele continues his crackdown on porno pirates with nearly 100 "Jane Doe" lawsuits filed on behalf of clients to find those who allegedly downloaded the videos, according to msnbc.

None of the cases has ended in a verdict, and though the process of federally naming thousands of defendants in a lawsuit is legal, it's controversial.

When Steele filed his first suits last year, he drew ire from privacy groups accusing him of forcing internet providers to turn over alleged downloaders' names and using the fear of being linked to pornography in a court document to get defendants to pay up.

Julie Samuels, a staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told msnbc the process is a way for plaintiffs to get a quick settlement. Even downloaders who are wrongly identified will decide to settle because they want to stay anonymous, she said.

But Steele says he's taking legal action not for the money but to stop people from "stealing our clients' content."

Judges don't necessarily agree. Steele has been accused of "fishing," and indeed, the firm actively looks for illegally downloaded pornographic videos.

In May, a judge slammed Steele for using the court system to get money for pornographers, saying IP addresses don't match up well with the accused users.

But the lawyer is persistent. He said that if what he's doing is unethical, he wouldn't have a law license.

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