EFF/DC Circuit Court Strike A Blow To Copyright Troll Business Model

Patent Trolls The Hobbit Wikimedia Commons-readwrite
Patent Trolls The Hobbit Wikimedia Commons-readwrite

Photo Courtesy of Readwrite.com

Good news everybody!  The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) on Tuesday scored a huge victory against a shady Copyright Troll, and the DC Circuit Court of Appeals set precedent for rules that should hopefully limit the abilities of these trolls to operate in the future.  Boing Boing offers a description of these practices:

Prenda is one of the leaders in the shady practice of accusing people of downloading pornographic films with embarrassing titles and then demanding money in exchange for not filing a lawsuit against them, using the threat of having your name associated with “Anal Invaders XII” in public records forever as a lever to get you to settle even if you’ve done nothing wrong.

The EFF describes this particular case further:

In this case, Prenda sued 1058 Does (anonymous defendants identified only by an Internet Protocol address) in federal district court in the District of Columbia. It then issued subpoenas demanding that ISPs give them the names of subscribers. The ISPs objected to this request, arguing that most of the IP addresses were associated with computers located outside of the DC court’s jurisdiction. Limits on the courts’ jurisdiction are a vital protection for the rights of defendants, because without this safeguard, Internet subscribers in Oregon (for example) can be forced to defend themselves in D.C. That made it even more likely that subscribers would choose to pay the troll a few thousand dollars to make the case go away, even if they had not infringed any copyright.


The benefit of the mass-subpoenas to the Copyright Troll is that it took minimal effort, and provided maximum defendants.  The company – Prenda in this case – could simply file their complaint in one court, and sue defendants all over the country.  The EFF goes on to explain that their objections to this practice were initially rejected in 2012, but they continued the fight and brought the case before the DC Circuit Court of Appeals.  On Tuesday, they emerged victorious with the appellate court setting several strong precedents:

On the jurisdiction issue, Circuit Judge Tatel ruled that in order to subpoena ISPs for subscribers’ names, a plaintiff must show a “good faith belief” that Doe Defendants have a connection to the court’s geographic territory.

The court also put a major limit on the number of Doe Defendants who can be lumped into one suit.  While many people may share files in a single BitTorrent swarm over the course of days or months, the court suggested that only those who participate at the same time could be joined together in a single copyright infringement case.

I highly recommend reading the source article at the EFF for more information on this case and the outcome.  They do a terrific job explaining some of the intricacies in palatable ways.  I’m no law expert, but everything made sense to me =).

This is a great first step in the fight against Trolls, and one which I hope will lead to further reform in all areas of copyright/patent/etc. trolling.  What do you think of these results?  Let us know in the comments below, or on Google+, Facebook, or Twitter.


Source: Boing Boing, Electronic Frontier Foundation

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