In what is beginning to look like a much-welcomed trend, it seems like copyright trolls are finally due to receive some pushback from powerful industry players. Whereas previous pushback has been both isolated and chiefly the province of smaller European government groups, the real curtailing of copyright trolling efforts was always going to come from a revolt by tangential corporate interests. It appears that the soldier on the front of that fight might be Telenor, an ISP that has previously pushed back against efforts for wholesale site-blocking in the name of copyright, and one that is is now looking to export its recent anti-troll win in Norway to the country of Denmark by gathering allies in the ISP industry to its side.
To stop the trolling efforts from getting out of hand, Telenor is now preparing to build a new case at the Frederiksberg Court, hoping to protect the identities of its subscribers. In Denmark, Telenor is supported by fellow Internet provider Telia, which says it will be more critical toward trolling efforts going forward.
The branch organization Telecommunications Industry in Denmark notes that other ISPs are backing Telenor’s efforts as well. The group’s director, Jakob Willer, describes the copyright trolling scheme as a “mafia-like” practice, which should be stopped.
“There is full support from the industry to Telenor to take this fight and protect customers against mafia-like practices,” Willer says.
This language choice is not remotely inappropriate. Copyright trolls rarely find themselves before an actual court against defendants, instead relying on well-crafted and often deceptive threat letters to generate settlement income for themselves and their clients. It should be immediately clear exactly what is going on here when a law firm so haphazardly threatens litigation yet never conducts it. Extortion is a word that leaps to mind, even if these wolves are garbed in the sheep’s clothing offered by the imprimatur of legal language and the status of being an otherwise valid law firm. What’s required to break these efforts is the unmasking of these tactics and the tenuous evidence on which they are based, as well as having the privacy erosion that these tactics require laid bare for all to see. ISPs are the perfect paladin for this, as they are the ones giving up customer information based typically on scant evidence.
Individuals will find themselves unable to compete with the legal teams of these copyright trolls. So much so, that the unmasking of account information is quickly getting out of control.
These so-called “copyright trolls” have also landed in Denmark, where the number of targeted Internet subscribers is growing at a rapid rate.
In 2015, rightsholders received permission from courts to obtain the personal details of 6,187 alleged BitTorrent pirates, based on their IP-addresses. A year later the number of accused subscribers increased by nearly 250 percent, to 21,163.
Why courts so often side with industry in this manner is a discussion for another day, but given that reality, ISPs too are an industry that can take up this fight. Seeing them begin to do so, and banding together to provide a more formidable legal defense of what is essentially their customers’ rights, is obviously a step in the right direction. And, while geography plays little role in internet-related questions of this kind, it strikes anyone looking at the map how Telenor appears to be surrounding Germany, the birthplace of copyright trolling, with its legal efforts.
All is not quiet on the copyright troll front, in other words, with ISPs now looking to ally against them.
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Author: Timothy Geigner