Friday 17 May 2013

A plague of trolls?

Can I  trade in the club?
I use embarrassing letters now
My oh my, trolls are in the news! I can hardly fight through the blizzard of furious outpourings of bloggers and webactivists rallying against the threat of copyright trolls, whose evil appears to be on a par with some of the worst crimes ever committed in human history and whose menace far surpasses the treats of nuclear war, plague, starvation, global warming and fur balls. Still, it IS an interesting topic. Well, to me it is.

In a blog titled “Welcome no more in U.S. courts, copyright trolls look to Canada” looks at the world of Canipre,  a Canadian company that seemingly offers to track down people who are illegally downloading copyrighted material on behalf of record companies and film studios, and whose own website says they have issued more than 3,500,000 takedown notices: Jesse Brown's blog says this: “Here’s how it works: you get a threatening letter in the mail from a law firm representing a film production company. It says you illegally downloaded Paparazzi Princess: The Paris Hilton Story. It demands you fork over $2,000, or else be hauled in to court where evidence of your guilt will be presented. You don’t remember downloading Paparazzi Princess: The Paris Hilton Story, but maybe your wife did? Or perhaps your niece … or that houseguest last summer?  What about your neighbours: you did give them your WiFi password that one time — You think about hiring a lawyer, but realize legal fees alone will likely top two grand. Instead you visit the website mentioned in the letter, enter your credit card number and pay some stranger a good deal of money to leave you alone.”  More at MacLeans here

However it seems Canipre have been caught using third party photographs without permission on their own website   – in particular a self-portrait by photographer Steve Houk who is less than amused by the alleged infringement – and the lack of meaningful response from Canipre, who are seemingly blaming a third party web designer.

Trolling tonight?
Arts Technica have published an update on one of the early 'trolls',  Righthaven, who they say tried to turn newspaper article copyright claims into a business model: We first wrote about Righthaven on the 1709 Blog in November 2011 (see here) and now the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has now ruled on the two Righthaven appeals in what appears to be a terminal judgment saying (amongst other things!)  which begins with this:

"Abraham Lincoln told a story about a lawyer who tried to establish that a calf had five legs by calling its tail a leg. But the calf had only four legs, Lincoln observed, because calling a tail a leg does not make it so" 

The Electronic Frontier Foundation have filed a brief urging the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit "to stop a copyright troll's shakedown scheme in a case linked to the notorious Prenda Law firm”. More at and see our previous blogs on Prenda here and here.

And more opinions on Prenda and the business of trolls on Boing Boing here

And number of US internet service providers including AT&T, Cox, Bright House and Verizon have filed an appeal in their ongoing battle against "porn copyright troll" AF Holdings whose name first surfaced in the 'Prenda' reports . AF Holdings has accused 1,058 broadband users of illegally sharing adult movies on BitTorrent, and last year won their initial legal attempt to force the ISPs to hand over the identities behind those IP addresses.

Finally on trolls, TorrentFreak says that it has uncovered a new tactic in the supposed war against piracy in the US: the threat of exposure. I am not sure it’s that new, but anyway, they say that a legal entity calling itself the Anti-Piracy Law Group (descried elsewhere as "the latest Prenda reincarnation" ) has sent letters to people suspected of pirating pornographic material that insinuates the group will be interviewing family and neighbours about the downloads saying “ The purpose of this step is to gather evidence about who used your internet account to steal from our client. The list of possible suspects includes you, members of your household, your neighbours (if you maintain an open Wi-Fi connection) and anyone who might have visited your house. In the coming days, we will contact these individuals to investigate whether they have any knowledge of the acts described in my client's prior letter.” The ‘extensive letter’  goes on to detail examples of people who have been fined large amounts for copyright infringement before offering this gently worded (but undeniably intimidating) suggestion that the accused make an out-of-court cash settlement. More on this one here and 

In related news, Gizmodo are (re)alerting the world to the TPP – the Trans Pacific Agreement – “the biggest global threat to the Internet since ACTA” saying “The United States and ten governments from around the Pacific are meeting yet again to hash out the secret Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) on May 15-24 in Lima, Peru. The TPP is one of the worst global threats to the Internet since ACTA. Since the negotiations have been secretive from the beginning, we mainly know what's in the current version of this trade agreement because of a leaked draft from February 2011. Based upon that text, some other leaked notes, and the undemocratic nature of the entire process, we have every reason to be alarmed about the copyright enforcement provisions contained in this multinational trade deal.” Countries involved are the USA, Peru, Chile, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Brunei, Australian and New Zealand - with Mexico, Japan and Canada in the process of joining the ring of copyright fire.

You can see a LOT more about copyright trolls at

And in the Autumn of 2013 we can look forward to an article by Brad Greenberg for the University of Colorado Law Review:  This article discusses the threat copyright trolls present to speech and innovation, and building on the historical evolution of the Fair Use Doctrine, it argues that a fair use presumption is warranted because: (1) There is no market harm because the troll has no market other than litigation; (2) the secondary use is for a different purpose and thus transformative; and (3) courts may excuse infringements because enforcement would not support the objectives of copyright law. Brad has kindly let the 1709 Blog know that an early draft of the entire article is downloadable (free) at this address:


Miri Frankel said...

The description of the tactics undertaken by Anti-Piracy Law Group sound similar to the now famous demand letter written by Hollywood celeb lawyer Marty Singer, which a court held constituted extortion (details at link below). Singer is, of course, appealing the judgment, but it seems to me that the same argument can be made against Anti-Piracy Law Group.

Ben said...

Golden Eye are back in the news with TorrentFreak saying the porn protector (linked to the 'Ben Dover films) has sent out a new batch letters which include a reference to the fact that the High Court has 'approved' the new letter saying Golden eye's letter “was approved by Mr Justice Arnold sitting in the High Court, after input from both 02′s legal representatives and Consumer Focus and Open Rights Group on behalf of consumers.”

Ben said...

Another update on this story as one of the Prenda / Steele Hansmeier
lawyers, Brett Gibbs, pleads poverty in court (saying he had substantial debts and no assets) and revealed he has serious brain cancer.