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The Courts

The Rise of the Copyright Trolls 169

Posted by kdawson
from the encouraging-champarty dept.
NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "In the new mass filesharing suit brought in Washington, DC, on behalf of a filmmaker, Achte/Neunte v. Does 1-2094, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Public Citizen, and two ACLU organizations have filed an amicus curiae brief supporting a motion by Time Warner to quash the subpoena. EFF commented: 'We've long been concerned that some attorneys would attempt to create a business by cutting corners in mass copyright lawsuits against fans, shaking settlements out of people who aren't in a position to raise legitimate defenses and becoming a category of 'copyright trolls' to rival those seen in patent law.'" And reader ericgoldman notes a case that arguably falls under the same umbrella: "Sherman Frederick, publisher of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, wrote a blog post declaring 'Copyright theft: We're not taking it anymore.' Apparently upset that third-party websites are republishing its stories in full, the newspaper 'grubstaked and contracted with a company called Righthaven ... a local technology company whose only job is to protect copyrighted content.' Righthaven has brought 'about 22' lawsuits on behalf of the newspaper, including lawsuits against marijuana- and gambling-related websites. Frederick hopes 'if Righthaven shows continued success, that it will find other clients looking for a solution to the theft of copyrighted material' and ends his 'editorial' (or is it an ad?) inviting other newspapers to become Righthaven customers. A couple of months back Wendy Davis of MediaPost deconstructed some of Frederick's logic gaps."
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The Rise of the Copyright Trolls

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  • by mcgrew (92797) * on Friday June 04, 2010 @10:20AM (#32457928) Homepage Journal

    If one equates copyright infringement with theft, he or she is either trolling of ignorant. The same goes for "think of the poor starving artists, homeless in their nansions", "I don't just have a monopoly, I own the work itself", etc.

    Of course, many of these aren't trolls but astroturfing. Sadly, the trolls seem to be winning on all fronts -- copyright trolls, patent trolls, and slashdot trolls.

  • heh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Pojut (1027544) on Friday June 04, 2010 @10:22AM (#32457946) Homepage

    Frederick hopes 'if Righthaven shows continued success, that it will find other clients looking for a solution to the theft of copyrighted material' and ends his 'editorial' (or is it an ad?) inviting other newspapers to become Righthaven customers.

    So, is this possibly a Glenn Beck/Goldline [yahoo.com] type of situation?

  • by Rusty KB (1778458) on Friday June 04, 2010 @10:36AM (#32458136)
    I don't know. If you complement someone by making out with their girlfriend, aren't you initiating a threesome? I'm not sure what that has to do with paper, bit I compliment you on your creativity!
  • by cornicefire (610241) on Friday June 04, 2010 @10:37AM (#32458148)
    But it can have the same effect on a newspaper or a blog. They make money when people look at ads or buy subscriptions. If you reproduce a large part of the article or somehow intercept the readers, it has the same effect as stealing some money directly from their bank account. So you can quibble over the word "theft", but the comptroller who needs to issue the paychecks and the people who have to write their mortgage checks feel the same thing.
  • Moderation? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mister_playboy (1474163) on Friday June 04, 2010 @10:41AM (#32458190)

    Whatever happened to moderation?

    Moderate posts tend to go unmoderated on /. Where's the fun in that? :)

  • I really think the newspaper is right in this case and I can't belive why the blogger belive he is allowed to just put a copy of (large parts of) an article online on his own page. What he should do is to put a snippet(Normally the first paragraph or so) and then link to the newspaper. (Like google news does).

    But when that is said, I still think that suing without even sending a warning is a bit aggresive.

    Oh and the reason this kind of lawsuits are so seldom seen is that if the newspaper just send an takedown email, the article will normally be taken down, simply because the guy who put it up there normally know he has no right do so, so he will just take it down when asked.

  • by jedidiah (1196) on Friday June 04, 2010 @10:44AM (#32458242) Homepage

    Yes, "information wants to be free" trolls like Thomas Jefferson.

    Expansive copyright interferes with free speech in general, political discourse and basic academic pursuits. It also allows for Big Media to bully new talent.

    The Review-Journal is more in danger of becoming irrelevant than "stolen from".

  • by ThisIsAnonymous (1146121) on Friday June 04, 2010 @10:45AM (#32458262)

    Look at this way. Say I owned a beautiful 1967 Corvette and kept it parked in my front yard. And you, being a Corvette enthusiast, saw my Vette from the street. You stopped and stood on the sidewalk admiring it. You liked it so much you called friends and gave them my address in case they also wanted to drive over for a gander. There'd be nothing wrong with that. I like my '67 Vette and I keep in the front yard because I like people to see it. But then, you entered my front yard, climbed into the front seat and drove it away. I'm absolutely, 100% not OK with that. In fact, I'm calling the police and reporting that you stole my car. Every jury in the land would convict you. Yet, when it comes to copyrighted material -- news that my company spends money to gather and constitutes the essence of what we are as a business -- some people think they can not only look at it, but also steal it. And they do. They essentially step into the front yard and drive that content away.

    The part in bold is my emphasis. Is he saying that facts, meaning news, can be copyrighted? That if his paper is the first to publish an article about the outcome of a sporting event, that that should be copyrighted? I agree that an article about the game shouldn't be copied verbatim to another site but copyrighting the facts is ridiculous.
    Also worth a laugh is the entire analogy of the Corvette and the "news." They are very different. With the Corvette, he would no longer physically have the Corvette. With the news, he has a copy and now the thief has a copy. What has actually been stolen is the possibility that someone might only see that article on his site. It's now available in two places. This is a lot different than the Corvette. I'm not saying it makes copying articles verbatim OK, I just think the analogy is incorrect.

  • by AlexiaDeath (1616055) on Friday June 04, 2010 @10:48AM (#32458312)
    You try to make it sound like its a fair game. Its not. Guilty or not, a lot of small people people cant afford to fight these attacks and why would they when everybody that has tried has gotten statutory damages awarded to the bullies in amounts that equate direct bankruptcy and do not even resemble fair compensation in way way. Smart legal people see a low cost moneymaking machine in these cases. Sue crap-ton of people on dubious proof, get a contact to go with that IP, that does NOT represent an individual in any way, shape or form and then extort settlements from as many as possible. Legal extortion. Retarded.
  • by morphotomy (1655417) on Friday June 04, 2010 @10:49AM (#32458326)
    Its ok to try to protect something you poured your blood sweat and tears into, even if copying it only costs a few pennies. Whats not OK is trying to claim that each infringement costs them thousands of dollars. If youre going to sue for a few MP3s, then do it in small claims court, and do it often. Don't blame one person for the crimes of 10,000.
  • by Bill_the_Engineer (772575) on Friday June 04, 2010 @10:51AM (#32458362)

    If one equates copyright infringement with theft, he or she is either trolling of ignorant.

    So you are saying if I disagree with you then I *must* be a troll because you are obviously right...

    Republishing stories in full without crediting the original author is plagiarism. Basically taking someone else's work and passing them off as their own in order to garner hits, elevate the status of their blog, and possibly earn some revenue from Google advertising.

    Even if they give proper credit to the original author, they are republishing the work without the author's consent which equals copyright infringement.

    Copyrights exist to protect the works of the authors. The author had to spend money to research their articles and should expect some protection from poachers. I see nothing wrong with fair use that republishes a small portion of the article with a link to the full article, but to republish a significant portion of an article is not only bad manners it's also copyright infringement which is a crime.

    The fact that copyright infringement does not equate to what is traditionally thought of as theft does not make copyright infringement any less wrong or any less of a crime. Save your strawman arguments for another time. This has nothing to do with your addiction to share MP3s.

  • Re:"Protection" (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 04, 2010 @10:54AM (#32458406)

    When will one of you offer a system that compensates the creator of the content?

    You focus on the making of copies because it is easy for you to argue, but you always start from the point where the content already exists.

  • by morphotomy (1655417) on Friday June 04, 2010 @10:55AM (#32458428)
    It doesnt protect the information, it sustains the creator. The fact is that it takes time and energy to produce intellectual property, and if the rightful owner decides to charge a license fee, thats fully within his rights. Trying to claim that illegally downloading it has caused 1000 dollars worth of damage when its sold for only $10 is ludicrous.
  • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Friday June 04, 2010 @10:58AM (#32458488)
    You know, I can still remember a time when the Web and the Internet in general were being hailed as the coming of a golden age of information availability, where people would be able to find information faster than ever before. What happened to that view of the Internet?

    Oh, that's right, a group of people whose businesses are based on information not being available started suing people left and right.
  • Re:"Protection" (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Bill_the_Engineer (772575) on Friday June 04, 2010 @11:03AM (#32458548)

    What is being "protected" here is an out of date business model, created in an era where making a high quality copy required specialized and expensive equipment.

    You've seem to left out the part that includes money being spent to pay the reporter's salary and his travel expenses. Not to mention the salaries of the support staff that doesn't include distribution.

    It appears that the business model that you support involves taking someone else's work, republish it, garner web hits for free, and cash the check from Google. This doesn't sound like a sustainable business model. Of course, you are preserving the work itself by helping it being distributed to a wider audience. This is a flimsy moral argument that ignores the original author's intent or the need to sustain the actual sources of these articles.

    Why does it appear that the "new business model" is parasitic? How does this model continue when the host dies?

  • How many deaths? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by stephenn1001 (1780930) on Friday June 04, 2010 @11:15AM (#32458748)
    Interesting study would be to see how many deaths are caused by these mass court orders. I know at least one person that could "tip over the edge" if they are hit with a $5,000 lawsuit.
  • by mcgrew (92797) * on Friday June 04, 2010 @11:24AM (#32458910) Homepage Journal

    Information doesn't want to be free, but when it isn't, neither are you.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 04, 2010 @11:26AM (#32458932)

    It seems odd that one is allowed to prevent a specific wording, no matter how large, from being spread by others.
    Yes, prehaps it "protects" their model of income, perhaps it is necessary for them to continue with what they do. But do we really want it to be allowed to lock in information in that way? Does their income outweight the benefit to society?
    If the information they provide is important enough to protect then it is probably too important not to spread.
    If it is so damn important to protect a newspaper and the information they provide then perhaps it is better to fund it by public means and provide the information they provide to everybody.

  • by truetorment (919200) on Friday June 04, 2010 @11:33AM (#32459032)

    Plagiarism is plagiarism. Newsworthyness means nothing if it's lifted wholesale and unaltered. That copyrighted works are a 'body' like a 'Vette is real.

    Steal the news, steal a 'Vette, both are stealing.

    You can take a picture of the 'Vette. Fine.

    You can look at it. Fine.

    Drive it away, and it's stealing, as its *owner* is denied its benefit, a benefit that he may have paid nothing for, or a lot of money. It matters not what the ownership was worth, rather, that he (presuming his gender; I could be wrong) the fact that he's the actual owner.

    To extrapolate, the news was done by someone, and written by them. Someone picked it up and republished it in its entirety, denying the person that owns it (no matter how it came into being) benefits their original work is due them.

    Except that there is NO evidence that a single article was "...republished in its entirety...", at least according to the articles listed above. And despite your claims, the owner is NOT "denied its benefit", either. They still get traffic to their website, and all those ad impressions. What you're arguing is that the content owner lost *potential* benefits from their content, which is an entirely different discussion and--in my opinion--not the intent of the DMCA.

    Either way, you're still using a terrible analogy using physical goods, and the content they've created is not physical, it's digital. We need to stop using such awful physical goods analogies when discussing intellectual property.

  • by Fujisawa Sensei (207127) on Friday June 04, 2010 @11:35AM (#32459072) Journal

    Its ok to try to protect something you poured your blood sweat and tears into, even if copying it only costs a few pennies. Whats not OK is trying to claim that each infringement costs them thousands of dollars. If youre going to sue for a few MP3s, then do it in small claims court, and do it often. Don't blame one person for the crimes of 10,000.

    Its too easy to defend yourself in small claim's court so they don't want to sue there. They want a lawsuit where its cheaper to just fork out the money and pay them off than it is to fight.

  • by Picass0 (147474) on Friday June 04, 2010 @11:37AM (#32459092) Homepage Journal

    1) A lawyer copies a story from your newspaper and posts it anonymously on a blog or user aggregated news site. Then that same attorney runs to you and says "They stole your story! You should sue!!!"

    2) Repeat

    3) Profit.

  • Re:"Protection" (Score:4, Insightful)

    by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Friday June 04, 2010 @11:38AM (#32459106)
    Actually, the whole point of the GPL is that the authors of creative works should not retain absolute control over the distribution of the work. The fact that the GPL uses copyright law as a means to that end is entirely incidental; it would have been just as effective to rewrite the law itself to grant the public the same rights that the GPL grants.

    The whole "GPL is built on copyrights, so free software supporters should not opposed other uses of the copyright system" is misleading and attempts to portray the GPL as another case of "creators get to decide the rules." The point of the GPL is to improve the public's access to software, and the philosophy is based on improving the public's access to information and creative works in general. Sure, dismantling the copyright system entirely, without creating a new set of laws protecting the public's access to creative works, would be a problem for free software supporters. Replacing the current copyright system with a new system that encourages sharing and increases the ability of people to find information, that is perfectly fine for a free software supporter.
  • by LordAndrewSama (1216602) on Friday June 04, 2010 @12:10PM (#32459540)
    The fact that they have a revenue stream from the adverts is the evidence you need that people would otherwise have read the original work.
  • Re:"Protection" (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jdgeorge (18767) on Friday June 04, 2010 @12:41PM (#32459874)

    Actually, the whole point of the GPL is that the authors of creative works should not retain absolute control over the distribution of the work. The fact that the GPL uses copyright law as a means to that end is entirely incidental; it would have been just as effective to rewrite the law itself to grant the public the same rights that the GPL grants.
     

    Baloney. Fundamentally, the copyright system works as intended as a protection for the creators of publishable material. I only see problems in two areas: Duration and enforcement.

    This argument about "improving the public's access to information and creative works" suggests that that ONLY appropriate model for managing publication rights is the GPL model. Even the FSF doesn't promote this view, as evidenced by the various FSF-created licenses (various GPL versions, LGPL versions, GFDL). What the "replacing tthe current copyright system with a new system that encourages sharing..." arguement appears suggest is that it is not the creator of the content, but the government that should determine how published material is distributed.

    Consider that MOST of the copyrighted content being created is not source code. If the creator of the work doesn't have the right to control distribution of his product, the incentive to create is seriously damaged.

    The patent system is problematic, but a completely separate issue. The abuse of the copyright system to extort payment wrongfully is a problem. However, the basic copyright system, which gives publication control to content creators, is NOT a problem.

  • Re:"Protection" (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) * on Friday June 04, 2010 @01:11PM (#32460228) Homepage Journal

    the system whereby creators can get paid

    A system whereby creators can get paid ... just not very well. This doesn't mean it's the only possible system.

    Most of the payment currently goes to people who have nothing to do with the creation. This is one of the reasons why it's hard to take the IP lobby's "rights of the artists" cant seriously -- anyone who pays any attention knows that "the artists" are the last people to get paid under the MAFIAA system. I don't know about journalism, but it wouldn't surprise me if it works the same way there; certainly reporting isn't known as a high-pay profession.

  • by Chowderbags (847952) on Friday June 04, 2010 @01:36PM (#32460598)
    And when shoplifting a $20 item results in a fine of $150,000 or more.
  • by andymadigan (792996) <amadigan @ g m a i l.com> on Friday June 04, 2010 @01:42PM (#32460666)
    Would you go to the original site more or less if BoingBoing didn't exist? I'm subscribed to the BBC RSS feed, I'm sure I go there more because of the feed even though I skip most of the articles after reading the summary.
  • I think these lawyers handling these small bogus cases on a contingent basis might possibly be in for a surprise. Maybe they thought the RIAA was 'making it up on volume', but I doubt it. I have a strong hunch that the RIAA spent more on prosecuting the cases than it received in settlements and other recoveries.

    I'm guessing that these lawyers will be laying out a lot of money, and a whole lot of time, and their fees won't even come close to what they expend.

    Which of course, serves them right for being involved in extortionate, champertous, unnecessary litigation.
  • Re:What a tool (Score:3, Insightful)

    by WillyWanker (1502057) on Friday June 04, 2010 @02:13PM (#32461200)
    If he was really interested in "protecting" his copyright he would just issue cease and desist letters. These guys aren't in competition with him, so it's not like they are causing any kind of financial harm. Hell, they aren't even in the news business.

    No, this is all about extorting money from these schlumps in order to generate revenue to save his dying newspaper empire.

    Why bother trying to reinvent yourself for the 21st century when you can make up for lost profits thru extortion?

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