ArticleDo Not Feed the Copyright Trolls

Defending Yourself is Critical

Do Not Feed the Copyright Trolls
Written Dec 07, 2020 by Ted Eader

Many companies fall victim to Copyright trolls each year. This post will address how to deal with Copyright trolls once legal proceedings have been initiated against your business. If you would like to know more about preemptively avoiding and preparing for litigation against Copyright trolls, contact Conway Eader for a free consultation. We would be happy to give an overview of what we can do to help your business establish a policy and practice that avoids the potential for Copyright infringement claims, as well as protect your business against Copyright troll litigation.

Many businesses post content to the internet that was not created by themselves or that they do not own the rights to. There are massive markets for stock images to be licensed for relatively affordable prices, as well as a large pool of royalty free images that can be found on websites such as Shutterstock and Wikimedia Commons. So often owners of websites that host digital photographs or illustrations get shocked when they get demand letters threatening lawsuits unless they pay somewhere between $5,000 and $20,000 for infringement on a Copyrighted work. Sometimes they do not get a demand letter at all, they just get served with a lawsuit.

These are typical actions of a Copyright troll, typically a lawyer who brings or threatens to bring lawsuits for the purpose of making money and not to protect their client. This is not to say that every lawyer representing plaintiffs in a Copyright case is a “troll”, they may just have unrealistic expectations for the value of a Copyrighted work. An ethical lawyer will couch royalty values in real numbers and generally offer to settle for a reasonable license fee, with some multiple for past use. However, there are some lawyers who approach publications or media companies in a way that might be considered overly aggressive or predatory. These are the people that demand thousands of dollars when the Copyrighted work would only fetch hundreds in the open market.

Copyright trolling started in the 1970s with the passing of the US Copyright Act, but has dramatically increased in frequency with the advent of the internet. The Act institutes something called “statutory damages”, which often far exceeds any amounts of money the infringer might have made off the image being posted. While not every infringement is grounds for statutory damages, hiring a defense lawyer to provide this advice often costs somewhere between $5,000-$20,000. This is the basis for why a Copyright troll demands thousands and thousands of dollars because they make you believe you can avoid spending the defense fees by just concluding the matter with the Copyright troll directly.

That may make sense in theory, but there is a reason most successful media outlets do not feed trolls. Hiring a defense firm is not a perfect situation either – you will end up paying a thousand dollars or more in defense fees and still may be forced to settle, albeit for a much smaller figure – but you will end the troll’s perception that you are an easy meal. Stopping a Copyright troll from thinking you are a pushover is necessary. Once a Copyright troll sees your business as a source of potential income due to its revenue or perceived revenue, you must break that perception if you want the troll problem to be effectively solved.

Mounting a thorough defense is best achieved by finding a diligent, principled firm with a low hourly rate and a general disdain for predatory litigation. A strategic defense can take up a lot of time on the part of the Copyright troll, while forcing them to settle for a smaller and smaller settlement figure. Eventually, you and your defense lawyers will get blacklisted as “more trouble than you are worth”. Only then will you be free from the troll entirely and permanent. If you think your business might be facing a Copyright troll, Conway Eader is happy to analyze the situation and provide a quote on defense services free of charge. Contact us for a free consultation today.