While the overall volume of lawsuits continues to fall, copyright trolling is still a live and viable business model in the United States. However, things don’t always go smoothly.
After demanding payments from alleged pirates for some time, last November it was reported that LHF Productions, the company behind the action movie London Has Fallen, was having difficulty with a spirited defendant in one of its cases.
In communications with LHF’s legal team, James Collins and his lawyer J. Christopher Lynch systematically took apart LHF’s claims, threatening to expose their foreign representatives, the notorious Guardaley, MaverickEye and Crystal Bay organizations, and their “fictitious witnesses.”
But just as LHF Productions were dismissing that case, new opportunities were opening up thousands of miles away. According to reports coming out of Norway this week, letters are now being sent out to locals accusing them of downloading London Has Fallen using Popcorn Time and other BitTorrent-based systems.
In common with similar claims elsewhere, the law firm involved (Denmark-based Njord Law) is demanding a cash payment to make a supposed lawsuit go away.
A copy of the letter obtained by IPpro reveals that 2,700 NOK (around US$320) can make the case disappear. Failure to comply, on the other hand, could result in a court case and damages of around $12,000, the company warns.
Like the UK, where the Citizens Advice Bureau has taken an interest in the activities of copyright trolls, in Norway The Consumer Council (Forbrukerrådet) has also been commenting this week.
“This is a very funny way of working, we think. An IP address is not an indicator that can be used to determine that someone has done something illegal. At least not the specific person – so this would not hold up in court,” their technical director explained.
“First, we wondered if this was to do with fraud, then if the letters were part of a campaign by licensees to inform users that it is illegal to download movies,” he added.
While that was obviously not the case, even the local organization representing the rights of the major US movie studios was quick to distance itself from the activities of the trolls. Willy Johansen, chairman of Norwegian organization Rights Alliance, said the demands have nothing to do with them and his group had already refused to work with the law firm.
“Njord says they represent producer companies directly in the United States. We have told them clearly that in Norway we do not want to go against consumers in this way,” Johansen said.
So what should recipients of these letters do? According to the Consumer Council, the answer is to dispute the claim. Torgeir Waterhouse of Internet interest group ICT Norway suggests going a step further.
“They claim to have a case, but they have not – at best they have identified the correct broadband subscription at the time the movie was downloaded. I strongly recommend that everyone who receives this letter does not pay,” he told Side3.no.
“We want the Norwegian Data Protection Authority to look at this. One thing is the collection of information, but another thing is that we know nothing about the processing of the information and if it can be presented as evidence in a trial.”
While it is clearly scary for people to receive these kinds of letters, it is only because recipients cave in and pay that the business model keeps rolling. Whether in the US, Europe, or elsewhere, trolls like Guardaley will continue until the money dries up – or someone in authority stops them.