May 30th, 2010

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Copyright Trolls Come To Your ISP.

This Ars piece is probably the first of many on people getting shakedown letters from copyright holders for stuff they claim they don't know jack about.

Here, a large lawfirm is sending out mass letters offering to settle claims that the individual receiving the letter downloaded a German movie "Far Cry." The problem is, as everyone who isn't an intellectual property attorney representing content providers knows, is that current efforts to identify downloaders of illegal material result in a large number of false positives.

An individual receiving a letter like this faces some unpleasant choices. Fighting these things generally takes money. But $1500 is a lot to pay if you are being fingered by mistake. It doesn't help that the party claiming you violated their copyright can bring the suit in a location very inconvenient for you, like across the country, requiring you to show up or get a default judgment against you.

If you win, you can get attorney's fees. But getting attorney's fees is not a sure thing even if you win.

It's time for us to recognize that we need a system that protects individuals from civil suits like this, while allowing rights holders to go after legitimate claims. But that requires a fundamental re-examination of the existing system that recognizes the realities of the situation -- that detection and identification are imperfect and that individuals need a system that will allow the genuinely innocent to defend themselves.