So-called copyright trolls are operating on most continents in 2015 but their aims are all the same.
The name of the game is generating revenue via intimidation. Alleged file-sharers are warned that they have two choices – settle now for a relatively small sum or risk an escalation in court where costs will be much higher.
Many file-sharers call trolls’ bluff at this point in the hope that the cases against them wither and die. Indeed, in some instances that’s exactly what happens. But actually taking cases to court is a powerful weapon for these companies since a poor outcome for a file-sharer has the effect of pressurizing others to settle early.
Over in Finland this precise strategy is being employed by Hedman Partners, a law firm acting on behalf of several movie, TV show and adult distributors. Since last summer the company has sent out thousands of settlement letters to alleged pirates, each demanding payments of between 600 and 3,000 euros.
It’s unclear how many recipients have paid up thus far but it will come as no surprise that some have ignored the warnings in the hope that the threats were hollow. Now the lawfirm says it will make an example of those who have failed to pay or are otherwise failing to engage with the law firm.
According to Hedman Partners lawyer Joni Hatanmaa, his company is now taking the first three cases against Finnish citizens to court. And, as previously promised, those individuals face the prospect of vastly increased costs.
Hatanmaa told Digitoday that the low settlement demands detailed above have now been replaced with compensation claims of between 1,500 and 10,000 euros. Those targeted by the law firm also face the prospect of extensive legal costs. Losing a case in Finland means that the defendant picks up the bill from both sides.
There is also the prospect of winning a case too, which could prove a major setback for the whole scheme in Finland. However, it is likely that Hedman Partners will hand-pick the defendants with the weakest cases. In other jurisdictions, defendants who have already incriminated themselves have proven excellent targets and a clear win for the law firm will prove a great propaganda tool.
Also in the company’s favor is that under Finnish law the ISP account payer is presumed to the infringer, unless he or she can show that another user was to blame.
“The owner of the connection is always a party to the infringement and obliged to endure investigation of the matter and may be targeted with different legal measures,” the law firm explains.
Interestingly, in other countries trolls have often gone out of their way to explain that they only target the worst offenders, but Hatanmaa appears to be trying to send a different message. While the company is indeed going after serial pirates, he says that those with just a couple of downloads/uploads to their name are also on the radar and face potential court action.
“Among them are those who have shared a lot of our principals’ movies, as well as those who have shared only two episodes,” Hatanmaa explains.
It appears that part of the strategy with these tests cases is to establish a precedent on the amount of compensation the court will award per file or number of files shared. That clarity, if in the law firm’s favor, would prove a valuable point of leverage in future.
And that will be needed. Hatanmaa suggests that the three cases currently being filed represent only the beginning and that more will be added in future.
Hedman Partners made headlines in 2014 when the company demanded a 600 euro settlement (over the movie ‘This Ain’t Game Of Thrones XXX’) from Sebastian Mäki, a Finnish Tor exit-node operator and vice president of the local Pirate Party.