Don’t Fuel the Copyright Troll Fire, Supreme Court Hears * TorrentFreak

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The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has warned the US Supreme Court that the problem of copyright trolls could worsen if rights holders can seek damages beyond the three-year statute of limitations. Instead, the Supreme Court should strengthen judicial safeguards to ensure that trolls remain under its control.

Over the past few years we have covered dozens of copyright troll cases against tens of thousands of alleged copyright infringers.

Our coverage mainly focuses on cases related to piracy, but there are other variants as well. Sets aimed at blogs and other websites for using photos without permission, for example.

The definition of the term "copyright troll" is vague. In the area of ​​file sharing, it typically refers to parties accusing large numbers of people of copyright infringement, who are then threatened with legal action and the possibility of receiving large damages awards. Targets are encouraged to pay settlements to ensure these legal problems go away.

The phenomenon has continued for more than a decade and, although the most serious cases examples have disappeared, the business model is still active today. According to an amicus brief filed with the Supreme Court last week, the problem could get worse.

Copyright troll warning

These words of caution come from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the Authors Alliance, the American Library Association, and the Association of Research Libraries. They intervened in the Warner Chappell Music v. Nealy lawsuit, a music copyright case that itself has no bearing on copyright trolling.

The case in question concerns the period during which rights holders can recover damages for copyright infringement, known as the "discovery accrual rule."

Under US copyright law, there is a three-year statute of limitations for filing complaints. This period begins after a rights holder "discovers" the infringement. The courts have been divided on whether this three-year limitation also applies to damages that can be claimed, or whether the "accumulation of damages" can go back further.

amicus curiae brief

Don't feed the trolls

According to the amicus curiae brief, an extended damage accrual period could give more ammunition to copyright trolls. It would allow them to claim that they have just discovered violations that took place many years ago, allowing them to claim damages beyond three years.

“The discovery accumulation rule as interpreted by the Eleventh Circuit in this case […] encourages copyright trolling. The ability to recover damages for infringements that occurred an arbitrarily long time ago, provided litigation is initiated within three years of discovery, expands the opportunities to seek nuisance settlements against numerous Internet users.

"The problem of copyright trolling illustrates why the Court should hold that infringement claims accrue when the infringement occurs, with the statute of limitations of three years from that date," the groups add.

Torrents, photos and more

The presentation provides a detailed overview of the copyright trolling landscape. This includes the numerous lawsuits filed against BitTorrent users, who are attacked for sharing pirated movies. These lawsuits are typically settled or dismissed and rarely go to trial.

While this practice remains common today, courts have limited its scope; In some jurisdictions, trolls are no longer welcome.

“Many courts have dismissed these lawsuits on procedural grounds (such as improper joinder and lack of personal jurisdiction), and courts have recognized the inappropriateness of using the judicial process solely to obtain quick settlements,” the brief states.

In BitTorrent cases, rights holders have to actively monitor copyright infringements, so lawsuits are typically not filed after many years have passed. For image-related trolling, the position is different.

Reverse image search tools allow photographers and their attorneys to detect content published long ago. Then, years later, they can pursue alleged infringers, claiming damages.

“These lawsuits frequently refer to images published more than three years ago. "Such publications cause little or no monetary damage to rights holders, no significant profit to website authors, and would not otherwise be the subject of litigation," the brief reads.

Limited time damage

Amici are concerned that if rights holders can claim damages for much longer periods, this would only worsen the problem of trolling. In a recent blog postthe EFF explains its concerns in detail and calls on the Supreme Court to deal with the trolls.

Copyright disputes come in many forms, but the EFF emphasizes that courts must ensure that judicial safeguards are in place to prevent abuse. They note that limiting the damage period is key to avoiding excessive trolling.

“The EFF filed its brief in this case to ask the Supreme Court to expand these judicial guarantees, holding that damages for copyright infringement can only be recovered for acts that occurred three years before the complaint was filed.

“An indefinite statute of limitations would throw gasoline on the fire of copyright trolls and risk encouraging new trolls to come out from under the figurative bridge,” EFF concludes.

A copy of the full amicus brief, filed by the EFF, the Authors Alliance, the American Library Association, and the Association of Research Libraries, is available. here (pdf)

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