It’s a system that first started in Europe with games and especially pornography, where people were less likely to fight back due to fear of public embarrassment.
The aim for copyright holders is to avoid litigation while generating revenue. Their evidence is often questionable and as a result those that fight back often have their cases dropped – trolls tend to prefer the escape option over the consequences of an adverse verdict.
After moving to the U.S., settlement programs gained prominence through the actions of entities including Prenda and X-Art. These schemes have come under increasing fire in U.S. courts, so it’s perhaps unsurprising that a new country is now on the agenda.
Citizens of Finland are now being subjecting to pay-up-or-else letters, but the decision to target this Nordic country isn’t the most obvious one, thanks to less favorable laws than those in the US.
Letters that have recently gone out to some Finnish Internet subscribers (translated example below, from a DNA customer) accuse them of downloading porn using BitTorrent and include an offer to settle for ‘only 600 euros’ (about US$825). A vague reference to the police is also included, ratcheting up the pressure to comply.
According to Ville Oksanen, vice chair of the EFFi and Post-doc researcher at Aalto University, under Finnish law the account holder is presumed to be the infringer by the courts, unless the or she can show that someone may have used the account.
In addition, the loser of a case pays the costs, unlike in the U.S. where each side pays its own costs with a few exceptions (such as a baseless case). More and more courts around the world are starting to look closely into these kinds of cases, and in some instances throwing them out. That’s not so good if you’re liable for the substantial cost of defense.
TorrentFreak has been able to confirm that the letters relate to content from the Hustler stable, who committed to “turning piracy into profit”, presumably through these troll tactics, as far back as 2009.
Why this scheme is starting in Finland now is unknown, although the crowdsourced copyright law may make it less profitable in the future. According to Oksanen, the law as written would remove some sections of copyright law, making account-holder identification much harder.
The lawfirm behind this letter, Hedman Partners, did not respond to requests at the time of publication.