A Southwestern Law School alum has helped hammer from the bench some notorious practitioners of what the blogosphere calls copyright trolling — the so-called Prenda porn cases in which a group of lawyers bought up rights to some online blue works, then sought mass infringment claims against their online viewers, all in hopes of embarrassing them sufficiently to settle for small sums that started to rack up to a lucrative and nefarious enterprise.

U.S. District Judge  Otis Wright, a Southwestern alum, slammed the lawyers for their conduct in an order that fines them, says they will be referred to the appropriate bar groups for discipline, disbarrment and sanctions — and the key players in the case now will be subject to recommended criminal conspiracy probes by the FBI. The judge, by the way, displays a wry touch with his blistering order, (online copy courtesy of ArsTechnica) replete with Star Trek references and crafted in a way to maximize the sting against what His Honor clearly sees as lawyers who give a bad name to the profession. 

As reported by various media (see here and here), the Prenda ploy, as the judge details it, involved lawyers creating a shell company to buy up copyrights to porn, then filing a raft of individual court actions against its suddenly red-faced online viewers, who were offered the chance to settle infringement claims for $4,000 each. The naughty alleged offenders, identified by their IP addresses, thereby could avert public humiliation and potentially greater exposure to legal penalties for their asserted infringment.

But attorneys for Prenda Law were caught in a “blatant lie” about a manse-like home they asserted was owned by one of the parties they sued. They quickly sought to cover their tracks by dismissing the case but Wright had caught on to a con. “Plaintiffs,” he noted, “do have a right to assert their intellectual property rights, so long as they do it right … Copyright laws originally designed to compensate starving artists allow starving attorneys in this electronic media era to plunder the citizenry.”

The judge imposed $80,000 in fines against the Prenda lawyers — a sum he noted was large enough to sting but just under the threshold in cost-terms for appeal. The ton of bricks that should continue to fall on the lawyers, however, potentially will be much more painful, with Wright referring them to bar groups for professional action, as well as to the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI.

Concerted efforts by authorities have shuttered previous legal maneuvers like those of Prenda, including in the Righthaven and related mass-filings and the Patrick Collins cases.