What Every Website Owner Should Know About Copyright Trolls


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What every website owner should know about copyright trolls

First off…

A copyright, is an exclusive legal right to

[literary,] [artistic] or [musical material.]

And to authorize others to do the same.

A copyright troll enforces copyrights it owns in aggressive, opportunistic, or money seeking ways.

What material is copyrighted?
Copyright is secured automatically when a work is created.
No copyright notice required.
After Jan 1 1978, all work automatically protected through author’s life+70 years.

Who is at risk?
Website owners
Internet Users
Content Creators

Crooked copyright trolls

Common scheme: EXTORTION
1.) Mass mail $1 letters written in legalese
–>Intimidate those contacted
10% of recipients agree to settle for $500-$3000
2.) Press harder, file claims for $400
–>40% settle
3.) Re-target, even those who already settled

Tip: Don’t take a copyright trolls claim that you owe “damages and liability” as fact. This must be proven in court.

Fair Use
[Use of portions of work for]
[Commentary ]
Are protected

Otherwise, get permission
Just ask the owner.
The U.S. Copyright Office has an online database of owners back to 1978.

Become friends with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act
1.) OCILLA (“Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitations Act”) is your friend[1]

Copyright holders must send notification of copyright infringement claims to Online and Internet Service providers;
Online and Internet Service providers can then send a counter-notification claiming they aren’t infringing;
Or remove the allegedly infringing material


a.) Physical or electronic signature of owner of copyrighted material
b.) Identification of allegedly infringed material
c.) Identification of location of allegedly infringed material online
d.) Contact info for the complaining party
e.) Statement of good faith
f.) Statement of truth of claim under perjury

2.) CMCAA (“Computer maintenance competition assurance act”) is your friend
Technicians can make temporary copies of material
While repairing computers

3.) Links are your friend[2]
Site administrators cannot be held liable for links to copyright infringing material.

4.)User posted content is your friend[2]
Site administrators cannot be held liable for user posted content when “notice and takedown” procedures are in place

Copyright is thought of as a limited, legally-sanctioned monopoly. But can hinder competition if too restrictive.

History of copyright trolls
1.) [3]Harry Wall husband of 19th century comic singer Annie Wall, set up “the authors’, composers’, and artists’ copyright protection office” to ensure compensation for unauthorized use of his wife’s songs under threat of prosecution.
2.) [3]1990’s, SCO group demanded licensing royalties from 1,500 companies using open-source operating system Linux.
3.) [6] 2003, RIAA vs. The People, the recording industry sued thousands of p2p sharing users, with many students, grandparents, single mothers, and adolescents settling for $10,000-$20,000 claims.Jammie Thomas, a single mother, was found liable for $220,000 in damages for sharing 24 songs online.
[3] 2006, adult magazine Perfect 10 set up image links without the industry standard “noindex” opt out tags. They then sued–and subsequently lost–their claims against google that google was using copyrighted material.
4.) [5]2008, TIffany and Co. brings suite against Ebay for selling “thousands of counterfeit Tiffany items from 2003-2006.” Judge finds for Ebay, that it is Tiffany’s responsibility to monitor the online marketplace.
5.) [4]2010, Righthaven LLC bought up rights to Law Vegas Review-Journal articles that it saw were being used without authorization and attempted to sue.
6.) [4]U.S. Copyright group approaches independent film makers and asks to seek compensation for pirated material on Bittorrent. Seeking the maximum amount under law ($150,000) they then settle for $1,500-$2,500 per infringer to remain profitable.
note: copyright trolls often seek maximum allowable-by-law compensation for alleged infringements, and then settle for much lower, cycling through a large volume of cases quickly.
7.) [7] 2013, UMG vs. Veoh: Universal Music Group sued Veoh and lost by summary action as Veoh has a system in place to take down infringing material on their sites.

Copyright trolls game the legal system and harm the circulation of ideas. Know your rights, and fight back if you are the victim of a copyright troll.



  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Online_Copyright_Infringement_Liability_Limitation_Act
  2. http://www.dmlp.org/legal-guide/protecting-yourself-against-copyright-claims-based-user-content
  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright_troll
  4. https://www.eff.org/issues/copyright-trolls
  5. https://www.eff.org/wp/riaa-v-people-five-years-later
  6. http://beckermanlegal.com/Lawyer_Copyright_Internet_Law/umg_veoh_130314Decision.pdf