When the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) declared an end to its litigation campaign against music fans who used peer-to-peer technology to share music, many people thought that would be the end of mass copyright litigation — after all, hadn’t the RIAA demonstrated that suing customers was no way to improve the bottom line?
Apparently, not everyone got the memo. In the past year, at least three groups have begun to experiment with using mass copyright litigation to extract settlements from individuals. These copyright trolls try to grow businesses out of suing Internet users — their tactics include targeting large groups of anonymous "Doe defendants," improperly minimizing their court costs, and exploiting the massive damages in copyright law in order to pressure defendants into settling quickly.
EFF is working hard to help victims get access to the resources they need to defend their rights, call the court's attention to trolls' disrespect for due process, and educate the public about the harms of copyright trolling.
Have you been targeted by a USCG subpoena? Learn more about the claims made against you, explore possible defenses, and try to find legal counsel.
The U.S. Copyright Group (USCG) approaches independent film producers and offers to collect money from people who are illegally downloading their movies on BitTorrent. USCG currently represents the producers of several films, including The Hurt Locker and Far Cry. USCG then files predatory lawsuits implicating thousands of unnamed John Does, subpoenas their identities from the ISP's, and then sues the individuals themselves. Once the user's identity is known, USCG threatens a judgment of up to $150,000 per downloaded movie — the maximum penalty allowable by law in copyright suits and a very unlikely judgment in cases arising from a single, noncommercial infringement — in order to pressure the alleged infringers to settle quickly for $1,500 to $2,500 per person. The judge in two of USCG's cases has dismissed many of the defendants, though thousands more remain.
If you are the target for a Righthaven lawsuit in need of representation, please contact Rebecca Reagan at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please understand that we have a relatively small number of very hard-working attorneys, so we do not have the resources to defend everyone who asks, no matter how deserving. However, if we cannot represent you directly, we will make every effort to put you in touch with attorneys who can.
Righthaven LLC, has brought over a hundred lawsuits in a Nevada federal court claiming copyright infringement. They find cases by searching the Internet for parts of newspaper stories posted online by individuals, nonprofits, political organizations, and others; buying the copyright to that newspaper story; and then suing the operator of the website for copyright infringement. Like the U.S. Copyright Group, Righthaven relies on the threat of copyright liability (and in a unique twist, an entirely bogus threat of loss of the target’s domain name) to scare the posters into a quick settlement. Reported settlements have fallen between $2,000 and $3,000.
In these cases, the owners of the adult movies filed mass lawsuits based on single counts of copyright infringement stemming from the downloading of a pornographic film, and improperly lumped hundreds of defendants together regardless of where the IP addresses indicate the defendants live. To date, over 50,000 Does have been targeted in cases filed in West Virginia, Texas, Illinois, and the Northern District of California. The motivation behind these cases appears to be to leverage the risk of embarrassment associated with pornography to coerce settlement payments despite serious problems with the underlying claims. The judge in several of the cases filed in West Virginia has blocked plaintiffs from proceeding against almost all of the defendants in those cases-- approximately 5400 people. Unfortunately, thousands of defendants in other cases are still under threat.
In The News
- DALLAS OBSERVER | February 16, 2011 Judge Drops 1,105 Defendants from Denton Lawyer's Case Over BitTorrent Porn Piracy
- INFORMATIONWEEK | February 07, 2011 Mass P2P Lawsuits Targeted Nearly 100,000 Last Year
- TECHDIRT | February 04, 2011 Public Citizen & EFF Plan To Continue Pursuing Evan Stone Over Questionable Subpoenas
- February 24, 2011 Over 40,000 Does Dismissed In Copyright Troll Cases
- February 16, 2011 Don't Mess With Texas Continued: Thousands of Defendants Severed
- February 15, 2011 Don't Mess With Texas: Another Texas Judge Scrutinizes Mass Copyright Litigation
- February 01, 2011 Copyright Troll Gives Up in Porn-Downloading Case
- January 17, 2011 EFF Asks Judges to Quash Subpoenas in Porn-Downloading Lawsuits
- December 16, 2010 Judge Blocks Copyright Trolls in Porn-Downloading Lawsuits
Documents and Files
- February 23, 2011 Media Bloggers Assoc. Amicus Brief in Righthaven LLC v. Hyatt, Case No. 2:10-cv-01736 (D. Nev.)[PDF, 1.50 MB]
- January 28, 2011 Mick Haig v Does 1-670 Notice of Dismissal with Prejudice[PDF, 83.29 KB]
- January 26, 2011 Letter re: subpoenas in Mick Haig v Does 1-670[PDF, 221.44 KB]
- January 10, 2011 IO Group V Does 1-435 Severence Order[PDF, 109.48 KB] Order severing doe 1 and dismissing claims against does 2 - 435 without prejudice; modifying discovery order
- December 14, 2010 Amicus brief in Righthaven v. Center for Intercultural Organizing from Professor Jason Schultz[PDF, 167.57 KB]
- Center for Intercultural Organizing's opposition to Righthaven's response to order to show cause[PDF, 555.12 KB]
- December 7, 2010 IO Group V Does 1-19 Severence Order[PDF, 131.45 KB] Order denying motion to quash; granting a limited protective order; denying motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction; and granting motion to sever
- November 29, 2010 Righthaven's response to order to show cause in Righthaven v. Center for Intercultural Organizing[PDF, 291.61 KB]
- November 24, 2010 Opposition to motion for leave to take discovery in Mick Haig Productions v. Does[PDF, 362.44 KB]
- November 23, 2010 Third World Media v. Does amicus brief[PDF, 1.17 MB]
- January 14, 2010 Amicus brief in First Time Videos v Does[PDF, 221.88 KB]
- Go there...
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Copyright Infringement Notification
If you believe there is content on the EFF website that violates copyright law, let us know. Specifically, send us an email or letter that includes substantially the following:
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- Identification of the copyrighted work claimed to have been infringed, or, if multiple copyrighted works at a single online site are covered by a single notification, a representative list of such works at that site.
- Identification of the material that is claimed to be infringing or to be the subject of infringing activity and that is to be removed or access to which is to be disabled, and information reasonably sufficient to permit the service provider to locate the material.
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- A statement that the information in the notification is accurate, and under penalty of perjury, that the complaining party is authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed.
The notice should be sent to our designated agent, Corynne McSherry, via email (email@example.com) or fax (415-436-9993).
We may display a copy of your DMCA notice in place of the removed content.
Note: Under Section 512(f) of the DMCA, any person who knowingly materially misrepresents that material or activity is infringing may be subject to liability for damages. One company that sent an infringement notification seeking removal of online materials that were protected by the fair use doctrine was ordered to pay such costs and attorneys fees under this provision. See http://www.eff.org/cases/online-policy-group-v-diebold. In addition, “in order for a copyright owner to proceed under the DMCA with “a good faith belief that use of the material in the manner complained of is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law,” the owner must evaluate whether the material makes fair use of the copyright.” Lenz v. Universal, 572 F. Supp. 2d 1150, 1155 (2008)
EFF reserves the right to review the allegedly infringing material and independently determine whether it is infringing.
Please also note that the information provided in this legal notice will be forwarded to the person who provided the allegedly infringing content. A copy of this legal notice may also be sent (with your personal information removed) to a third-party that may publish and/or annotate it for noncommercial research and educational purposes.
Counter-Notification: What You Can Do If Your Content Was Removed
If you believe material you posted to EFF’s site was not infringing, you can submit a counter-notice. If you need assistance in determining whether the material was not infringing, please contact our Intake Coordinator (via email at firstname.lastname@example.org), who may be able to help you find an independent attorney to evaluate your situation.
A counter-notification must include the following:
- Identification of the specific URLs of material that EFF has removed or to which EFF has disabled access.
- Your full name, address, telephone number, and email address.
- The statement: "I consent to the jurisdiction of the Federal District Court for the district in which my address is located, or if my address is outside of the United States, the judicial district in which EFF is located, and will accept service of process from the claimant." EFF is located in the Northern District of California.
- The statement: "I swear, under penalty of perjury, that I have a good faith belief that the material was removed or disabled as a result of a mistake or misidentification of the material to be removed or disabled."
A scanned physical signature or a valid electronic signature is fine.
Please send your counter-notice to Corynne McSherry, via email (email@example.com) or fax (415-436-9993)
Please note that under Section 512(f) of the Copyright Act, any person who knowingly materially misrepresents that material or activity was removed or disabled by mistake or misidentification may be subject to liability.
After we receive your counter-notification, we will forward it to the party who submitted the original claim of copyright infringement. Please note that when we forward the counter-notification, it includes your personal information. If you are concerned about protecting your anonymity, please consult with an attorney about other options.
After we send out the counter-notification, the claimant must then notify us within 10 business days that the claimant has filed an action seeking a court order to restrain you from engaging in infringing activity relating to the material on EFF’s site. If we receive such notification we will be unable to restore the material. If we do not receive such notification, generally we will reinstate the material.
Please also be advised that in appropriate circumstances we terminate repeat infringers.