In recent years, file-sharers around the world have been pressured to pay significant settlement fees, or face legal repercussions.
These so-called “copyright trolling” efforts have been a common occurrence in the United States for more than half a decade, and still are.
While rightsholders should be able to take legitimate piracy claims to court, there are some who resort to dodgy and extortion-like tactics to extract money from alleged pirates, including people who are innocent.
This practice has been a thorn in the side of Matthew Sag, a professor at Loyola University Chicago School of Law, and the Associate Director for Intellectual Property at the Institute for Consumer Antitrust Studies.
“Over the past few years, I have seen one example after another of innocent defendants being victimized by these lawsuits,” Sag explains to TorrentFreak.
This motivated the professor to take action. One of the problems he signals is that not all defense lawyers are familiar with these cases. They sometimes need dozens of hours to research them, which costs the defendant more than the cash settlement deal offered by the copyright holder.
As a result, paying off the trolls may seem like the most logical and safe option to the accused, even when they are innocent.
“Put simply, by the time your average lawyer has figured out what’s wrong with these cases and how to respond she has sunk 50 to 100 hours into a case that probably could’ve been settled for $2000 or $3000,” Sag notes.
“That makes no sense, so people settle cases with no merit. That, in turn, encourages meritless cases. We wanted to level the playing field and reduce the plaintiffs’ informational advantage,” he adds.
To balance the scales of justice, the professor wrote an article together with Jake Haskell, a recent Loyola University Law School graduate. Titled “Defense Against the Dark Arts of Copyright Trolling,” the paper provides a detailed overview of the various tactics the defense can use.
Not all cases filed by copyright holders can be characterized as “trolling.” According to Sag, copyright trolls can be best defined as “systematic opportunist” and he hopes that defense lawyers can use his article to prevent clear abuses.
Of course, judges play an important role as well, and some could certainly benefit from reading the paper.
“The federal courts should not be used as vending machines to issue indiscriminate hunting licenses. Judges need to keep a close eye on discovery and tactics used by the plaintiff to prolong proceedings or run up attorney’s fees,” Sag tells us.
“Hopefully, we have given defense lawyers a significant head start on figuring out how to defend these claims. If innocent defendants refused to settle, the plaintiffs would be forced to clean up their act,” he adds.
The article is a recommended read for everyone with an interest in copyright trolling in general, and is well worth a read for anyone who wants to learn more about how these companies operate.