Why Is Congress Moving Forward With Its Plan To Encourage Copyright Trolling?

from the shameful dept

You would be hard pressed to think what the world needs is more copyright lawsuits. As we’ve discussed for years now, the US is already inundated with copyright lawsuits, many (perhaps most) of them filed by so-called “copyright trolls” who are seeking to shakedown recipients with “settlement” demands. A competent Congress would respond by looking at this abuse of the court system for extortionate purposes and maybe make it less inclined to abuse.

But not this Congress.

Instead, it has decided to bring back a truly awful idea: a special copyright trolling court, which it likes to say is the equivalent of a “small claims court” for copyright. The latest version of the CASE (Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Act of 2019) in the House and the Senate was introduced recently, and is getting lots of love from all the usual sources.

We should note, that the House bill is sponsored by Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, along with Jerry Nadler. You may recall that those two Congressman were recently seen hosting a giant $5k per ticket fundraiser at the Recording Industry’s biggest party of the year, the Grammys. And, right afterwards, they suddenly introduce a bill that will help enable more copyright trolling? Welcome to the world of soft corruption.

As we explained last year when this monstrosity was introduced as well, the bill is written in a manner totally disconnected from reality. Supporters insist it is “too difficult” to sue over copyright, yet provide no evidence that this is true. But, more importantly, the entire framing of the bill is based on the idea that those who sue for copyright infringement only do so when they have valid claims. Indeed, anyone paying even the slightest bit of attention to copyright lawsuits over the last decade would know this is laughable.

The entire bill is disconnected from reality and would only serve to make copyright trolling become an even bigger problem, and would enable an even more significant level of the copyright shakedown game, in which dubious claims of infringement are tossed around in hopes of extracting settlement fees. At a time when we should be looking to stop such extortionate acts, these bills move in the other direction. It’s a joke.

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Comments on “Why Is Congress Moving Forward With Its Plan To Encourage Copyright Trolling?”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: I can answer that question in one word.

I was unaware of the law(s) that say I have to purchase music, movies, whatever. Is there a mandatory viewing list too? What if I do not want to watch or listen to that crappy shit they call media? Come and arrest me for not watching and listening to your shit … the fake news will have a hay day.

Anonmylous says:

Call a spade a spade.

When does "soft" corruption become "actual" corruption, cause the line doesn’t really seem to exist anymore. Bringing in benefits to your constituents in exchange for jobs, economic spending, etc would at least have some justification for considering the speech of a business or industry over that of the people who actually put you in power. Even if all this money does go into a campaign fund… why is it not corruption? Its using the power granted you by the people of the United States to raise cash simply to get re-elected by considering the words of private industry over the voice of the people.

We’re tired of endless copyright legislation extension. In fact we’re sick and tired of all so-called "Intellectual Property" overreach.

Copyright "Industry", you better take note. You’ve decided to go up against the 1st Amendment. We’re gonna call you task on it sooner rather than later, and there will be a reckoning. Your ‘right’ to make money against my actual right to expression is going to be your downfall.

Toom1275 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Call a spade a spade.

Everybody is talkin‘ these days about Tammany men growin’ rich on graft, but nobody thinks of drawin‘ the distinction between honest graft and dishonest graft. There’s all the difference in the world between the two. Yes, many of our men have grown rich in politics. I have myself. I’ve made a big fortune out of the game, and I’m gettin’ richer every day, but I’ve not gone in for dishonest graft—blackmailin’ gamblers, saloonkeepers, disorderly people, etc.—and neither has any of the men who have made big fortunes in politics.

There’s an honest graft, and I’m an example of how it works. I might sum up the whole thing by sayin‘: “I seen my opportunities and I took ’em.”

Just let me explain by examples. My party’s in power in the city, and it’s goin’ to undertake a lot of public improvements. Well, I’m tipped off, say, that they’re going to lay out a new park at a certain place.

I see my opportunity and I take it. I go to that place and I buy up all the land I can in the neighborhood. Then the board of this or that makes its plan public, and there is a rush to get my land, which nobody cared particular for before.

Ain’t it perfectly honest to charge a good price and make a profit on my investment and foresight? Of course, it is. Well, that’s honest graft. Or supposin‘ it’s a new bridge they’re goin’ to build. I get tipped off and I buy as much property as I can that has to be taken for approaches. I sell at my own price later on and drop some more money in the bank.

Wouldn’t you? It’s just like lookin‘ ahead in Wall Street or in the coffee or cotton market. It’s honest graft, and I’m lookin’ for it every day in the year. I will tell you frankly that I’ve got a good lot of it, too.


I’ve told you how I got rich by honest graft. Now, let me tell you that most politicians who are accused of robbin’ the city get rich the same way.

They didn’t steal a dollar from the city treasury. They just seen their opportunities and took them. That is why, when a reform administration comes in and spends a half million dollars in tryin’ to find the public robberies they talked about in the campaign, they don’t find them.

The books are always all right. The money in the city treasury is all right. Everything is all right. All they can show is that the Tammany heads of departments looked after their friends, within the law, and gave them what opportunities they could to make honest graft. Now, let me tell you that’s never goin’ to hurt Tammany with the people. Every good man looks after his friends, and any man who doesn’t isn’t likely to be popular. If I have a good thing to hand out in private life, I give it to a friend. Why shouldn’t I do the same in public life?


  • George Washington Plunkitt
Harry Plank-Walker says:

Instead, it has decided to bring back a truly awful idea: a special copyright trolling court, which it likes to say is the equivalent of a "small claims court" for copyright.

Listen. If you’re going to claim that your non-thefts at most cause loss of potential income to creators, then YOU have provided the reason for a special court.

All you do is continue your 20-year jihad to destroy copyright entirely. — Oh, sure, you all "support copyright" (new readers will be interested to learn that Techdirt / Masnick used to claim that did!) until there’s least hampering of your ability to download, service cut-off as you agreed in your ISP contract, or any other tiny bit of enforcement.

AJ (profile) says:

Taste their own medicine?

How legal/illegal is copyright trolling? If the only real cost of doing it is the court filings, why haven’t opponents to the copyright maximalists ever sued politicians pushing this kind of thing for (possibly fake) copyright violations using the laws they wrote?

This might make some interesting blog stories: Politicians indicted/convicted by the laws they wrote (or voted for at least).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Taste their own medicine?

Copyright trolling isn’t listed as illegal in any law, particularly when you’re prone to calling all enforcement of copyright, "trolling".

Who in god’s name would want to pirate these days anyway? The experience is really unpleasant compared to just paying for the actual service.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Taste their own medicine?

Copyright trolling isn’t listed as illegal in any law

Being an idiot isn’t listed as illegal in any law either. Just because something isn’t listed as illegal doesn’t mean it stops being annoying as fuck. The good news is that the Prenda Law convictions are going to set plenty of nice precedents to make "copyright trolling" more than a term judges are now more willing to use.

Well, I never said the good news would be for you.

particularly when you’re prone to calling all enforcement of copyright, "trolling"

Copyright cases typically resolve either with the defendant getting scared into settling, or the plaintiffs running like hell when the judge asks to verify the accuracy of their claims. Neither scenario involves any meaningful scrutiny of the standards of evidence.

If I smell smoke, feel uncomfortable levels of heat, and see bursts of flame in front of me, I don’t need to be a chemist, or to be told by you that I need to be one, to tell when my house is on fire.

Who in god’s name would want to pirate these days anyway? The experience is really unpleasant compared to just paying for the actual service.

This might actually counted as a point if not for the fact that copyright trolling doesn’t care if the person on the receiving end of a subpoena is a pirate or not. Children, grandparents, misnamed people, homeless people, computer-less people, Internet-less people, dead people have all been asked to pay up by copyright enforcement.

So close, but no cigar.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Taste their own medicine?

"Copyright trolling isn’t listed as illegal in any law"

I typed "Copy right trolling is fraud".
Followed by "Last I checked, that was still on the books as illegal"

Using contextual inference … it is plainly obvious that I am saying fraud is illegal.

Hope this helps, have a good day 🙂

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

"the entire framing of the bill is based on the idea that those who sue for copyright infringement only do so when they have valid claims"

If only there were a case where the Feds took some copyright trolls who abused the system to the woodshed… o_O

I think we need to demand they use actual evidence when crafting laws, as opposed to the whining of cartel members who have been enjoying such success despite the decades of claiming they were being robbed blind.

That One Guy (profile) says:

'Because fuck you' is not a joke

At a time when we should be looking to stop such extortionate acts, these bills move in the other direction. It’s a joke.

No, see, jokes are supposed to be funny, that’s kinda how they’re defined. This is both insult and injury, insult to the intelligence of anyone who has any knowledge on the subject, and injury to the large numbers of victims the bills/politicians will be creating.

Anonymous Coward says:

This alternative forum suffers from some of the problems of arbitration, such as limited/plaintiff-friendly discovery, no penalty for the "judges" who rule arbitrarily, and the fact that this alternative forum exists, in part, as a way to reduce the risk that any cases will get to the appellate courts, where things could potentially go the "wrong" way for the plaintiffs, or where a circuit split would eventually be resolved by a Supreme Court case or by new laws favorable to defendants.

The proposed text of the law requires the small claims court to defer to district court precedents, including for 512(f) claims, without addressing the fact that district courts have concluded that 512(f) is entirely toothless.

Real courts keep defendants anonymous (when identified only by IP address) as long as possible, and they take a dim view of cases being dismissed once the defendants are identified. Would the copyright small claims court be similarly inclined? Or is it something that only would be available as a forum after the defendants are personally identified?

Regardless, it sounds like it is not just a court for the benefit of copyright trolls, but also for legitimate claims against the general public, i.e. meme sharers, file sharers, photo bloggers, etc., with lower stakes but also fewer protections for the defendants.

Just a layperson’s impressions here; correct me if I was off the mark.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Richard's comment is so wrong

That article is a lot of bluff, bluster, and assertions with zero actual facts to back them up. (Even the one external link in that blog article doesn’t provide any actual facts, it just makes more assertions, FROM THE COPYRIGHT ALLIANCE, oh gee) Meanwhile Mike links to THE ACTUAL BILLS and other primary sources to support his assertions.

Not to mention that blog has other articles that are BLATANTLY wrong and completely misrepresent or misinterpret actual law. For instance, he makes the claim that the recent Pelosi "video" is illegal. And I quote:

For consideration, recognize that the Pelosi “drunk” video is intrinsically copyright infringement, libel, and an infringement of the subject’s first amendment rights.

Let’s break this down:

video is intrinsically copyright infringement

Whose copyright is being infringed here? The news organization that made the initial recording and then posted it publicly all over the internet for anyone to watch and share and someone subsequently took it, modified, and put it up as a joke/criticism? Hm, that’s not copyright infringement.


She is a public figure, as such libel or slander pretty much doesn’t apply except in extreme cases where you can prove actual malice and intent to deceive. Joke videos don’t even budge the needle. To make it even worse, she’s a member of the GOVERNMENT. That takes it to a whole new level to even begin to approach being illegal, because the First Amendment was pretty much designed to protect people in exactly this case, criticizing or mocking the government. The government isn’t allowed to get offended and punish it’s citizens for it.

infringement of the subject’s first amendment rights

This has to be the most laughable of them all. How is Nancy Pelosi’s right to free speech being infringed by this video? It’s not stopping her from continuing to speak and it’s not coming from the government (which is where the First Amendment would apply, not a private company kicking her off their platform).

I’m sorry but I just can’t take that blog seriously when it’s full of so many factual errors or deliberate lies. The only "illusion" on that blog is that he says he knows what he is talking about.

Try again Richard.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Richard's comment is so wrong redux

Also of note, I started perusing that site’s articles, going all the way back to its inception, and imagine my entire lack of surprise to find that even back when it was founded in 2012, one of the very first articles was a grudge article against Techdirt. And they only continued from then on. Gee, it’s almost like this guy has a grudge against Mike.

If your only "proof" that TD is wrong is a fluff blog that doesn’t understand what he’s talking about or deliberately misleads his readers because of a grudge, then I’m sorry but you’ll have to do a lot better than that to actually convince anyone that what you say isn’t a load of BS.

Try again Richard.

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