Duffy v. Godfread

NOTE: The information and commentary contained in this database entry are based on court filings and other informational sources that may contain unproven allegations made by the parties. The truthfulness and accuracy of such information is likely to be in dispute. Information contained in this entry is current as of the last event mentioned in the "Description" section below; additional proceedings might have taken place in this matter since this event.


Threat Type: 







Florida, Illinois

Verdict or Settlement Amount: 

This action is closely linked to two other threats in the database: Prenda Law v. Godfread and Steele v. Godfread. Several of the related filings can be found in the database entry for Prenda Law v.... read full description

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Paul Godfread, Alan Cooper, and Does 1-10

Type of Party: 


Type of Party: 


Location of Party: 

  • Illinois

Location of Party: 

  • Minnesota

Legal Counsel: 

Erin Kathryn Russell, The Russell Firm; Jason E. Sweet, Booth Sweet LLP

This action is closely linked to two other threats in the database: Prenda Law v. Godfread and Steele v. Godfread. Several of the related filings can be found in the database entry for Prenda Law v. Godfread.

Plaintiff Paul Duffy is an attorney affiliated with a law firm (Prenda Law, Inc.) that has been representing clients in numerous plaintiff-side copyright cases concerning the sharing of movies over the BitTorrent protocol. These cases have been brought on behalf of several different asserted rightsholders, including the entities AF Holdings LLC and Ingenuity 13 LLC. According to a statement made by attorney Brett Gibbs, who identified himself as Of Counsel to the firm, both AF Holdings and Ingenuity 13 are incorporated in the Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis. The defendant in one proceeding initiated by the firm has alleged that these entities are shell companies, and that the attorneys bringing the lawsuits own some or all of the these companies.

Multiple filings in these copyright proceedings have included the signature of an "Alan Cooper," who has been identified as a principal of both AF Holdings and Ingenuity 13. On November 29, 2012, an Alan Cooper, through his attorney Paul Godfread, filed a letter with two federal judges in the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota, stating that he had reason to believe that John Steele and Prenda Law were using his name on filings related to these lawsuits without his permission, and that he is not in any way affiliated with AF Holdings or Ingenuity 13. On January 23, 2013, Cooper (through Godfread) sued John Steele, Prenda Law, AF Holdings, and Ingenuity 13 for invasion of privacy and violation of Minnesota's deceptive trade practices statute in the Minnesota District Court for the Fourth Judicial District.

On February 15, 2013, Duffy sued Cooper, his attorney, and 10 unnamed defendants for defamation, false light, tortious interference, and civil conspiracy in the Illinois Circuit Court for Cook County. This follows a nearly-identical lawsuit filed by Prenda Law against the same defendants for the same claims in the Illinois Circuit Court for St. Clair County, and was shortly followed by a high similar lawsuit by John Steele in Florida Circuit Court for the Eleventh Judicial Circuit. All three complaints alleges that Cooper and Godfread have falsely accused the respective plaintiffs of committing crimes and frauds, in both statements online and filings before the Minnesota courts. The complaints identify dozens of statements that are alleged to have been made on different online fora about Prenda Law and its members. 

All three of these cases were removed to federal courts: the United States District Courts for the Northern District of Illinois, Southern District of Illinois, and the Southern District of Florida, respectively. On March 6, 2013, John Steele voluntarily dismissed the complaint in the Florida action.


On March 7, 2013, the website dietrolldie.com reported that a subpoena had been issued on February 25, 2013 by the plaintiff in the closely related case Prenda Law v. Godfread to Automattic, Inc., the owner of Wordpress.com, seeking all IP addresses that accessed that website and fightcopyrighttrolls.com. Both websites extensively criticize Prenda Law and its litigation methods, and appear to be the host of many of the comments alleged to be defamatory in Prenda Law's complaint. The subpoena seeks the IP addresses of all machines that accessed the two websites from January 1, 2011 through present. The subpoena had a return date of March 4, 2013. 

On March 21, 2013, Godfread and Cooper filed an answer and counterclaims. In addition to denying the claims asserted by Duffy, defendants claimed a series of affirmative defenses, including truth, litigation privilege, a bar on the claim based on Minnesota's anti-SLAPP statute, and the doctrine of unclean hands, based on Duffy's use of defendant Cooper's name in litigation. The defendants also asserted counterclaims, seeking a declaratory judgment of immunity from suit based on Minnesota's anti-SLAPP law, noting the threats of suit made both in communications to the defendants and in the two other defamation filings. The pleading also asserts claims of civil conspiracy and breach of privacy, and seeks to pierce the corporate veil of AF Holdings LLC, Ingenuity 13 LLC, and Prenda Law, Inc.

On April 11, 2013, Duffy filed a motion to strike the affirmative defenses and dismiss the counterclaims. The motion alleges that the counterclaims do not assert facts related to Paul Duffy personally, but instead are based on actions of non-parties John Steele and Prenda Law, Inc. The motion also alleges that the affirmative defenses lack any factual allegations.

On April  16, 2013, Godfread and Cooper filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Minnesota's anti-SLAPP act. The motion argues that under Illinois conflict-of-laws analysis the Minnesota anti-SLAPP is appropriately applied against the Illinois defamation claim, as Minnesota's interest in the anti-SLAPP is to protect Minnesota speakers.

On April 23, 2013, the court issued a scheduling order staying discovery pending resolution of the anti-SLAPP motion. According to the order, responsive pleadings to the pending motions are due May 15, 2013, with replies due May 29th and argument scheduled for August 14, 2013.

On May 14, 2013, Cooper and Godfread filed an opposition to Duffy's motion to dismiss the counterclaims and motion to strike the affirmative defenses. Defendants argue that Duffy is precluded from further litigating the merits of the defendant's counterclaims following a widely-reported case in the United States District Court for the Central District of California, where a judge made a judicial finding that AF Holdings and Ingenuity 13 were created "for the sole purpose of litigating copyright-infringement lawsuits," and that Prenda Law's principals "stole the identity of Alan Cooper," and "fraudulently signed the copyright assignment . . . using Alan Cooper's signature." The court in that case sanctioned Prenda Law and its principals, including Duffy, following their invocation of the Fifth Amendment to questions concerning their business practices. The defendants further argued that the counterclaims satisfy the pleading standard under Bell Atlantic v. Twombly by giving the plaintiff fair notice of the claims against it, and that striking the affirmative defenses under FRCP 12(f) is inappropriate as the pleading standards of Twombly have not been applied to affirmative defenses. 

On May 15, 2013, plaintiff Prenda Law filed a motion in opposition of the motion to dismiss under Minnesota's anti-SLAPP statute. Plaintiff argues that the Minnesota statute does not apply to the action because there is no evidence that the statements were made in Minnesota. Prenda Law also argues that Illinois choice-of-law provisions should prevent application of the Minnesota statute, that application of the anti-SLAPP statute fails on the merits, and that federal courts should not be applying this statute, as it is largely procedural under the Erie doctrine. The defendants replied to this motion on May 28, 2013.

Following the transfer of venue in Prenda Law v. Godfread to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, the defendants filed a motion to reassign and consolidate these two cases on June 13, 2013. In a minute order on June 28th, the court noted that the plaintiff did not object to the motion to consolidate, and the court consolidated the two actions accordingly.

On August 14, 2013, the court filed an order denying Godfread and Cooper's motion to dismiss under the Minnesota anti-SLAPP, denying Duffy's motion to strike the affirmative defenses, and granting Duffy's motion to dismiss Godfread and Cooper's counterclaims (but allowing those claims to be refiled). Although the court found that Illinois's choice of law provisions dictated that application of Minnesota's anti-SLAPP law was proper in this case, the statute did not apply because the statements at issue were not shown to be directed toward public participation. The court also rejected Godfread and Cooper's counterclaims due to being largely directed toward Prenda Law's actions, instead of those personally done by Duffy, but allowed the defendants to refile amended counterclaims.


Content Type: 

  • Text

Publication Medium: 


Subject Area: 

  • Defamation
  • False Light
Court Information & Documents


  • Florida
  • Illinois

Source of Law: 

  • Illinois

Court Name: 

Illinois Circuit Court, Cook County; United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois

Court Type: 


Case Number: 

No. 13-L-1656 (Cook County); No. 1:13-cv-1569 (N.D. Ill.)

Relevant Documents: