Copyright Troll In Finland Gets Dinged For Violating Copyright Law In Trolling Effort
from the troll-thyself dept
The last time we discussed Hedman Partners, the law firm in Finland that has for some time been on a copyright trolling tear throughout the country, it was to mention how the firm appeared to have overplayed its hand. After sending out some sixty-thousand settlement letters, the firm found itself in the cross hairs of the government, with the Ministry of Education and Culture noting that the nation’s copyright law was not intended to be a vehicle for milking the general public of money.
While it seems that the actual government response in the intervening year and a half must have been muted, evidenced by the fact that Hedman Partners is still happily trolling away, the firm has now for a second time been dinged for its practices. This time, ironically, the Finnish Bar Association is reprimanding Hedman Partners for violating copyright law in order to send out the settlement letters to supposed copyright infringers in the first place.
Now, this is something of a technicality, though it still speaks to the copyright troll’s willingness to route around the very law it cites to bilk money from an unwitting public. This specific complaint revolves around how Hedman Partners is getting the account holder information it is using for its letters, and, importantly, what letters it sends to which account for each alleged infringement. The way it’s supposed to work in Finland is that these trolls get an unmasking order from the courts for a specific infringement violation and then only use that account information to contact the account holder for that specific case of infringement. Instead, Hedman Partners appears to have used these unmasking requests more as a clearing house to build an IP address database.
However, it appears that after applying to obtain personal information on behalf of one client, Hatanmaa and Hedman Partners then used that same information to identify subscribers who had allegedly infringed the rights of other clients also managed by the law firm.
This means that when an IP address appeared on lists of those sharing multiple clients’ copyright works, the law firm made only one application to obtain the alleged infringer’s personal details instead of starting a new disclosure process for each client. When ISP subscriber data is handed over to a third-party, it is delivered on the basis that it will be used in a very narrow set of circumstances and certainly not for the benefit of many entertainment industry groups scouring the web for infringement.
The purpose for this is obvious. Customer data is jealously guarded for privacy purposes and account information is only to be handed over when a court finds there to be specific cause for it in a specific case. For a third party to then re-purpose that account information for a scope outside that which the court considered is essentially an end-around the legal process entirely. Each infringement accusation is considered on its own merits, in other words, with the court being involved in the important decision to circumvent the privacy of a customer based on the evidence presented.
For Hedman lawyer Joni Hatanmaa, however, this is all a matter of a vague interpretation of the law, and the Bar Association’s reprimand means nothing at all.
“In this case, the Board of Supervisors considered that the application process should have been handled in a different way under copyright law,” he told Helsingin Sanomat. “The decision has made it clear that the law has the potential for a wide range of interpretations.”
In any event, the lawyer says, the cases against infringers will continue. Plenty are still underway and the project continues to expand.
And thus the overplaying of the hand continues. For now, it seems that Hedman Partners will continue to operate unchecked, but it’s quite easy to imagine how this disregard for how the law is supposed to apply and be used, not to mention the ramping up of the targeting of Finland’s public, could result in eventual backlash.