Suing File-Sharers Doesn’t Work, Lawyers Warn


The American Bar Association has released a detailed white paper advising the Government on how to tackle online piracy. The lawyers recommend several SOPA-like anti-piracy measures including injunctions against companies hosting pirate sites. At the same time, however, they advise against suing file-sharers as that would be ineffective or even counterproductive.

pirate-runningFor more than a decade copyright holders and the U.S. Government have been trying to find the silver bullet to beat piracy.

This week the American Bar Association joined the discussion with a 113-page white paper. With their “call for action” the lawyers encourage Congress to draft new anti-piracy legislation and promote voluntary agreements between stakeholders.

Among the options on the table is the filing of lawsuits against individual file-sharers, something the RIAA did extensively in the past. Interestingly, the lawyers advise against this option as it’s unlikely to have an impact on current piracy rates.

According to the lawyers these type of lawsuits are also financially ineffective, oftentimes costing more than they bring in. In addition, they can create bad PR for the copyright holders involved.

“While it is technically possible for trademark and copyright owners to proceed with civil litigation against the consuming public who […] engage in illegal file sharing, campaigns like this have been expensive, do not yield significant financial returns, and can cause a public relations problem for the plaintiff in addressing its consuming public,” the lawyers write.

“The [American Bar Association] does not believe that legislative action directly targeting consumers would prove effective in reducing piracy or counterfeiting at this time,” the white paper adds.

While the above may be true for any of the cases that go to trial, various copyright trolls might tend to disagree as they have shown that targeting file-sharers can be quite lucrative.

Pirates shouldn’t be too quick to cheer on the lawyers though, as the white paper also contains some pretty draconian suggestions.

The American Bar Association says that future legislation should target infringing websites, and it names The Pirate Bay as an example. Since site owners are often unknown and therefore hard to prosecute in America, they advise a series of more indirect tactics.

The lawyers are in favor of a “follow the money” principle where anti-piracy measures are targeted at strangling the finances of pirate sites. They call for legislation that makes it easier to cut off advertising, and to seize funds through banks or payment processors.

In addition, the white paper calls for new legislation that would allow copyright holders to obtain injunctions against the hosting companies of pirate sites. The American Bar Association also considered similar injunctions against domain registrars and search engines, but it couldn’t reach agreement on these issues.

Overall copyright holders will be pleased to see the recommendations put forward in the white paper, but it’s doubtful whether lawmakers will be quick pick them up.

Several of the suggestions were previously listed in the SOPA and PIPA bills, so if these are ever drafted into legislation Congress can expect a lot of public backlash.

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