This site is about copyright trolls in general, but I mostly concentrate on IO Group peer-to-peer filesharing mass lawsuits. Who are copyright trolls?
The image is borrowed from ArsTechnica, this article. I hope they don’t mind: ArsTechnica’s illustrations are astonishingly good and always relevant. Copyright trolls are law firms or individual lawyers who adopted a lucrative scheme to profit from copyright infringement allegations through extortion. Copyright trolls represent holders of copyrights on movies (mostly pornography).
Troll lawyers or firms conspire with technological companies that monitor peer-to-peer (p2p) networks (BitTorrent or eDonkey2000) and find instances of alleged Adult Sex Torrents?. IP addresses, timestamps and file names are being recorded. Peer-to-peer networks survive because while downloading a file, a p2p client is also forced to upload already obtained pieces of that file to other participants, therefore trolls can claim not only illegal access to copyrighted works but also distribution. In some cases trolls themselves seed (upload) their client’s copyrighted works to p2p networks with the goal to entrap those who start sharing those works.
The next step is to match IP addresses to real people. For that purpose a troll files a lawsuit against John Does (judicial term for persons not yet known), lumping together many defendants, sometimes thousands, regardless of jurisdiction. Lumping together many people, trolls save on filing fees: a fee to file a civil lawsuit is $350; if they would file a lawsuit for each defendant separately, they would end up paying prohibitively large amount of money. Then they secure (obtain judge’s order for) a subpoena to the ISP that own the recorded IP addresses. ISPs keep the records of dynamically assigned addresses at each moment and as such they can match IP + time stamp to a subscriber.
Once the names and contact information of subscribers accused in infringement are obtained, trolls send out virtually identical “litigation settlement” demand letters. These letters (and sometimes telephone calls) threaten defendants with costly lawsuits that can potentially result in as much as $150,000 statutory damage payments plus attorney fees. In addition, they threaten to raid your computer(s) in search for proof. To let this suit go away, trolls demand a couple of thousand dollars, increasing the amount if not paid promptly. Profit is split among trolls, rightholders and companies that detected IPs.
It is not hard to see that this scheme is nothing else than extortion, where “settlement” is a euphemism of “ransom”. Given the settlement rate (30% and higher, especially in porn sex torrent? cases) this scheme is indeed lucrative, and in some cases can top the profit from a movie sale. In most cases trolls have no intention of bringing their lawsuits to actual trial. The only goal is to obtain settlements - not judgments, which would require litigating and proving allegations. The only reason for bringing a case to a trial is to scare defendants and increase the pressure to settle. It is not difficult to see immorality and flaws of this extortion scheme. I’ll cover only few points. Please read this blog and comments (as well as other Internet resources) to find out more.