So-called copyright trolls come in all shapes and sizes and while most have a cynical approach to copyright law, some are prepared to go to extremes.
The most notable case in the United States involved Prenda Law. After playing the victim for years, an investigation found that the law firm uploaded movies to sites like The Pirate Bay and then sued those who downloaded them. Two lawyers were later sentenced to prison, one of them for 14 years.
Taiwanese authorities are currently dealing with a similar case, with lawyers at the helm once again.
Licensed ‘Copyright Cockroaches’
Early June 2022, news outlets in Taiwan reported that former ultramarathon runner, entrepreneur, political critic, and law graduate Kevin Lin was a suspect in a “copyright cockroach” case.
According to a police investigation, Truth Intellectual Property Consulting Co – a company owned by Kevin Lin – obtained public transmission licenses which enabled it to distribute several films to the public. Movies covered by these licenses subsequently turned up on BitTorrent networks and people who downloaded them began receiving legal threats.
According to reports, Lin’s company enticed users to download the torrents, tracked their IP addresses, and then filed copyright lawsuits in an effort to profit from cash settlements. Lin said that due to his support for the opposition government and his criticism of its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, the investigation against him is politically motivated.
Five Indicted For Running Copyright Troll Scheme
This morning Taipei prosecutors announced that Kevin Lin had been indicted for his role in the copyright-trolling operation. Since August 2021, hundreds of lawsuits had been filed against alleged movie downloaders by Lin’s company, prosecutors said, something that should attract a heavy sentence.
It’s alleged that Lin was admitted to the College of Law at National Chengchi University in 2018 and graduated two years later. From there he set up a copyright consultancy company with the goal of turning litigation against file-sharers into profit for his company.
In May 2021, licenses were obtained from Vie Vision Pictures Co. and Applause Entertainment Ltd, which led to 18 movies being uploaded to BitTorrent networks, to tempt users into downloading them. After capturing their IP addresses, Lin’s company obtained their identities from ISPs and sued them. The goal was to obtain out-of-court settlements.
Big Crimes Deserve Heavy Sentences
Since August 2021, Lin’s company filed 937 lawsuits for copyright infringement. In just 25 of those cases, the company managed to “extort” settlements of NT$900,000 (US$29,207), FocusTaiwan reports. In addition to Lin, several other people have also been indicted for their part in the operation.
Prosecutors are demanding heavy sentences for Lin and a lawyer identified by the surname Cheng, who played a key role in devising the litigation strategy. The company’s lawsuits overwhelmed the Intellectual Property Police Corps, other police agencies, and prosecutors’ offices, authorities say.
Three other men, identified by their surnames and alleged roles in the operation – Lin (lawyer), Hsu (company owner on paper), and Chen (employee) – have also been indicted. A third lawyer, an accountant, and a client of the lawyer are subjects of deferred prosecution.