Copyright Trolls: Tips for Dealing with Them

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Copyright trolls aren’t a novel problem. In fact, the first high-profile instance of copyright trolling took place in 2003 when the recording industry filed “John Doe” lawsuits against peer-to-peer file sharers using their IP addresses. Once they subpoenaed the names behind the IP addresses they either demanded a settlement or amended the suit to include those names. That effort is where today’s copyright trolling originated. While these lawsuits have evolved and expanded, their objective has largely remained the same. Here are some things individuals and businesses can do when they fall prey to copyright trolls.

What Is a Copyright Troll?

A copyright troll is someone who makes a living through frivolous lawsuits alleging copyright infringement. These lawsuits may target one defendant or thousands. One of the most objectionable strategies of copyright trolling litigation is targeting infringers and noninfringers indiscriminately.  

Who Is Behind Trolling? 

The trolls behind these lawsuits usually own the copyright at issue, but not always. Often, they don’t use the copyright to license or distribute the work for pay. In other words, they own the copyright solely to troll. The goal is to scare infringers and noninfringers into expensive settlements.

Copyright Trolling: A Case Study

The Golden v. Michael Grecco Productions case came out of the Eastern District court of New York in 2021. A blogger who made no money from his work included a photo of an actress taken by a certain photographer in one of his blogs. The photo had yielded just $4 in revenue for the photographer over the years but he threatened to sue the blogger for infringement for $150,000 or settle for $25,000. The blogger countersued claiming fair use, and the judge awarded the photographer $750 in damages. 

Moral of the Golden v. Michael Grecco Case

The award in the case was the least amount statutorily possible but far less than each side likely spent on attorneys’ fees. It’s important to consult an intellectual property or corporate law attorney before deciding to engage in a lawsuit. 

5 Ways to Defeat Copyright Trolls

The secret to dealing with copyright trolls is to not fall prey to intimidation. These strategies can help defeat even the most nefarious copyright trolls: 

  1. Don’t ignore communication. Deadlines are important, and a copyright troll can prevail if one gets missed.
  2. Don’t communicate directly with a copyright troll. While silence between a plaintiff, or the troll, and the defendant isn’t ideal, a defendant should also have a buffer in the form of legal counsel.
  3. Make sure the troll actually owns the copyright to the item in question. The copyright troll should be able to provide proof of copyright registration. 
  4. Lawyer up. Trolls don’t like dealing with attorneys who understand the issues at play nor do they like having to communicate through an attorney. An attorney can also advise on whether to settle, countersue, and file motions. 
  5. Don’t settle without an attorney’s advice. Don’t rush into a settlement unless an attorney has advised it.

Trolls take advantage of people unrepresented by counsel. They can intimidate people into a settlement or initiate endless litigation. Have the peace of mind of one of America’s best law firms fighting them by getting in touch today.