Copyright Troll In Taiwan Accused Of Uploading Movies Itself To Entice, Sue, And Threaten ‘Pirates’
from the gon'-fishing dept
It’s no secret that copyright trolls have been a scourge on many countries for some time now. The typical method of the copyright troll is quite simple. You buy or acquire the rights to some media, you watch for any of that media to show up on the internet illicitly, and then you attempt to legal-fu the IP addresses out of ISPs or site hosts and then threaten those using those IPs with a lawsuit if they don’t pay a “settlement fee.” This scheme is problematic for any number of reasons: this isn’t how copyright laws were intended to work, IP addresses are not people representing guilty parties, there have been a ton of false positives, etc. etc. etc.
But one of the theories or questions that gets tossed around on occasion is: how do we know that the rightsholders themselves aren’t uploading the content themselves on a settlement fee fishing expedition? Well, one lawyer in Taiwan is accused by authorities of doing exactly that.
Prosecutors in Taiwan have indicted five men for running an operation that uploaded movies to the internet and then extorted cash settlements from the BitTorrent users who downloaded them. One of the men is former ultramarathon runner Kevin Lin, who founded a copyright consultancy company after graduating from law school in 2020.
According to reports, Lin’s company enticed users to download the torrents, tracked their IP addresses, and then filed copyright lawsuits in an effort to profit from cash settlements. Lin said that due to his support for the opposition government and his criticism of its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, the investigation against him is politically motivated.
If true, the scheme spanned 18 movie titles. Not content to wait for the films to actually be pirated, Lin is accused of uploading the films. If that is the case, then obviously this is not piracy. The rightsholder appears to have released these films on torrent sites. Anyone downloading them would simply be taking what the rightsholder freely gave, and therefore licensed.
As with so many of these criminal schemes, it appears that Lin and his company may have gotten found out as a result of being simply too greedy and the scheme running too big.
Prosecutors are demanding heavy sentences for Lin and a lawyer identified by the surname Cheng, who played a key role in devising the litigation strategy. The company’s lawsuits overwhelmed the Intellectual Property Police Corps, other police agencies, and prosecutors’ offices, authorities say.
Is this the first time throughout the world this has ever happened? Obviously not. Nor does it excuse copyright infringement generally.
But what it certainly does is demonstrate how the current copyright enforcement mechanisms throughout the world are open for abuse.