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The Great Adventures of Copyright Trolling

May, 2023
The Great Adventures of Copyright Trolling

The practice of companies claiming rights to own book titles (for example) that are over 30 years old in order to obtain the rights to exclusive sales of public access material is known as "copyright trolling."

Copyright Trolling (in this example) involves companies using aggressive tactics, such as sending out demand letters and filing lawsuits, in order to collect licensing fees for works that are often in the public domain or otherwise freely available.

This copyright trolling practice is controversial and has been challenged on legal grounds.

While it may be legal for a company to claim ownership of a specific edition or version of a book, they cannot claim ownership over the underlying content itself if it is no longer protected by copyright law. However, some companies have exploited loopholes in copyright law or relied on the high cost of litigation to intimidate individuals and organizations into paying licensing fees.

It's important for individuals and organizations to do their due diligence before entering into any agreements with companies claiming ownership over older works. In many cases, there are alternative sources where these materials can be obtained legally and without restriction.

What are the areas of digital rights and assets that are affected by copyright trolling, in what way and by whom?

Copyright trolling is a practice by which (also) copyright holders, or entities acting on their behalf, aggressively pursue individuals who are believed to have infringed on their copyrighted material. This practice has significant implications for several areas of digital rights.

Firstly, copyright trolling can lead to a violation of privacy rights. Trolls often obtain the personal information of individuals accused of infringement through subpoenas or court orders, which can be seen as a breach of privacy. Additionally, some trolls may use deceptive means to obtain this information, such as tricking individuals into revealing their identities through phishing scams.

Secondly, copyright trolling can lead to a violation of due process rights. In many cases, trolls will send out threatening letters or demand letters to accused infringers, threatening legal action if they do not pay a settlement fee. These letters often do not provide adequate evidence of infringement and can be seen as a form of extortion.

Thirdly, copyright trolling can stifle free speech and creativity. Many trolls target individuals who have used copyrighted material in a transformative way, such as parody or criticism. This can have a chilling effect on free speech, as individuals may be hesitant to express themselves for fear of legal repercussions.

Finally, copyright trolling can have a negative impact on the digital economy. By aggressively pursuing individuals for alleged copyright infringement, trolls can discourage innovation and limit the availability of creative works. This can ultimately harm the growth of the digital economy and limit the opportunities available to creators and consumers alike.

Overall, copyright trolling has significant implications for a range of digital rights, including privacy, due process, free speech, and the digital economy. It is important for individuals and policymakers to be aware of these implications and to take steps to protect these rights.

Copyright trolling can affect various areas of digital assets, including but not limited to:

  1. Images and photos: Companies may claim ownership over copyrighted images and photos that are widely available on the internet, such as stock photos or public domain images.
  2. Videos: Similar to images, companies may claim ownership over videos that are in the public domain or freely available online.
  3. Music: Some companies may falsely claim ownership over music compositions that are no longer protected by copyright law or are freely available under creative commons licenses.
  4. Software: In some cases, companies may use aggressive tactics to assert patent rights over software applications or systems they did not actually invent or own.

Overall, copyright trolling can have a chilling effect on creativity and innovation by stifling the free flow of information and ideas. It's important for individuals and organizations to be aware of their rights when it comes to digital assets and seek legal counsel if they feel they are being unfairly targeted by copyright trolls.

For example, Microsoft has been involved in various legal disputes over the years, including patent infringement cases with other technology companies. However, these cases were typically based on legitimate intellectual property rights infringement claims and not frivolous accusations.

It's important to be accurate when discussing legal matters involving companies as misinformation can lead to misunderstandings and harm to their reputation without a legitimate cause for doing so.

However, it's worth noting that large corporations like Microsoft have been accused by some critics of using their intellectual property rights aggressively against competitors and smaller players in the industry. This has led to some questioning whether such practices might be a form of abuse aimed at stifling competition and innovation.

Overall, it's important for companies to protect their legitimate intellectual property rights while also avoiding actions that could be seen as bullying or unfairly targeting smaller players in the industry.

Read some more >

Are there any organisations and individuals known for the most horrendous acts of copyright trolling in the history of internet?

For example, there are several well-known organizations and individuals that have been associated with copyright trolling in the history of the internet.

Here are a few examples:

  1. Prenda Law - This law firm was known for filing thousands of frivolous copyright infringement lawsuits against individuals accused of illegally downloading movies without evidence. It ended with aprison sentence.
  2. Righthaven - This company filed hundreds of copyright infringement lawsuits against bloggers and other website owners for allegedly using copyrighted content, claiming ownership over newspaper articles.
  3. Getty Images - The stock photo agency has been accused of sending out demand letters to individuals and organizations for using images without permission, including those that were in the public domain or available under creative commons licenses.
  4. Richard Liebowitz - This New York attorney has been dubbed the "copyright troll king" for filing more than 1,280 lawsuits in four years against photographers accused of infringing on his clients' copyrights. Later, he was suspended.

While some copyright owners have a legitimate interest in protecting their intellectual property, there have been instances where individuals and organizations have abused the system to collect licensing fees or intimidate others into settling out of court.

It's important to be aware of these practices and take action if you feel you are being unfairly targeted by copyright trolls.

For example: Apple has been involved in a few patent disputes with competitors, but I could not find any instance where the company was directly accused of copyright trolling against its competition.

However, there is one case where Apple was accused of making false claims of copyright infringement against an app called Prepear which is a recipe management and meal planning app. In this case, Apple threatened to sue Prepear for using its pear logo which they felt looked too similar to the Apple logo.

Prepear then launched a petition against Apple's actions and was eventually able to get the support of over 250,000 people who signed up to support their cause. After intense negotiations and immense public pressure from supporters on social media, Apple finally withdrew its opposition allowing Prepear to retain their pear-shaped logo.

It's important for companies to take intellectual property protection seriously; however, it should be done in good faith without resorting to frivolous lawsuits or accusations that could damage smaller players who are not causing harm or confusion.

Read more >

Is it important to be aware?

Yes, it is very important to be aware of copyright trolling practices and to take action if you feel you are being unfairly targeted by copyright trolls.

Copyright trolling can have serious consequences, including financial penalties and damage to an individual's reputation. It is important to understand your rights and obligations under copyright law and to seek legal advice if you are unsure of how to proceed.

If you receive a demand letter or threatening letter from a copyright troll, it is important to carefully review the evidence presented and to seek legal advice before responding. It is also important to be aware of the tactics that copyright trolls may use, such as deceptive emails or phone calls, and to report any suspicious activity to the appropriate authorities.

Additionally, it is important to take steps to protect your privacy and personal information. This may include using a virtual private network (VPN) to mask your online activity, using secure passwords, and being cautious about sharing personal information online.

Finally, it is important to be an active participant in the debate around copyright law and to advocate for fair and balanced policies that protect the rights of creators while also respecting the rights of consumers. This may involve supporting organizations that promote digital rights, engaging with policymakers and lawmakers, and participating in public discussions about copyright law and its impact on society.

In another example, a Florida District Court Judge recently determined that an IP address does not identify a specific individual guilty of infringing. She then dismissed a copyright troll's case. This is considered an important ruling that may help set a trend that others will follow.

Copyright trolls like to use IP addresses as evidence to ask courts to grant subpoenas so they can get their hands on account details from ISPs. The problem with that, as TorrentFreak points out, "is that the person listed as the account holder is often not the person who downloaded the infringing material."

Read more >

There comes Don Quixote, the chivalrous knight

Don Quixote, the chivalrous knight, was on a mission to protect the freedom of sharing and using digital content. One day he came across a group of windmills which he thought were giant copyright trolls.

"I will not let these trolls take away our right to use content freely," exclaimed Don Quixote as he charged his mighty steed towards the windmills.

As he attacked one of the 'trolls', his sword broke in half and his armor got tangled in one of its blades. The windmill spun him around much like how pirates spin their victims on ships.

When Don Quixote finally stopped spinning, it dawned on him that what he was fighting against were just harmless windmills. He laughed at himself for being so foolish and rode off into the sunset humbled by what had happened.

The moral of this story is that while it's important to fight for what you believe in, it's equally important to make sure you have all the facts before taking action. In other words, be careful which battles you choose to fight because sometimes they may not be worth it or they could end up doing more harm than good.

For example, if we take a cultural dependence as the basis of social practice, in normative Judaism, the Torah, and hence Jewish law itself, is unchanging, but interpretation of the law is more open. It is considered a mitzvah (commandment) to study and understand the law.

Which isn't an optimistic outcome, at least not for this story which should encourage a reader to take up the stand against copyright trolling. Or does it? 🙂

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