When ISPs Become Anti-Troll Advocates: Bahnhof Turns The IP Tables On A Copyright Troll
from the good-guys dept
Copyright trolls still plague the world, unfortunately. While many are the group and individuals that advocate against this form of legal extortion, nearly always built upon shaky evidence at best, too silent have been the ISPs that copyright trolls utilize to send out their settlement letters. For whatever reason, ISPs en masse have decided that it isn't prudent to advocate for their clients. But not all ISPs behave this way. In Sweden, ISP Bahnhof, which we have written about previously for its client-friendly practices, is fighting back against one copyright troll on behalf of its customers in the best way possible: by turning the intellectual property tables back upon them.
Sweden has recently become something of a target for copyright trolls, with Spridningskollen leading the charge. This group, the name of which translates into English as "Distribution Check," uses data gathered by anti-piracy groups to send out the typical threat letters and settlement requests to people who have IP addresses accused of infringing on copyrighted material. A spokesman for Spridningskollen, Gordon Odenbark, insisted that his group's work was necessary for both providing revenue to rights holders and, more importantly, to deter the general public from violating the intellectual property rights of others.
There's just one problem: Bahnhof has a valid trademark for the term "spridningskollen."
“Bahnhof was the first to apply for the Spridningskollen trademark rights at the Swedish Patent and Registration Office,” the ISP announced.
Earlier this year Bahnhof was the first ISP to warn the public about the looming flood of settlement requests. To help the public understand the severity of the issue the ISP launched the site Spridningskollen.org, which they say maps the “spread of extortion letters” from copyright holders.
It's somewhat poetic that a consumer-friendly ISP started a website and got a trademark on a term that a copyright troll then chose to adopt as its name. Bahnhof appears to have started this website in April or so of this year, while the copyright troll's operations appear to have started more recently, which means that this isn't a case of Bahnhof squatting. Instead, it appears that the copyright troll, so concerned in appearance with piracy, didn't bother to do its homework in the trademark arena. And Bahnhof, seeing an opportunity to strike back legitimately in its customers' interests, isn't going to let this chance go by quietly.
Now that the anti-piracy group has ‘stolen’ their name, Bahnhof plans to take action over the apparent trademark infringement.
“It is surprising that those who claim to defend intellectual property rights don’t track it better themselves. It says a lot about the quality level of their so-called initiative,” Bahnhof CEO Jon Karlung says.
The ISP is demanding that the website of the anti-piracy group, Spridningskollen.se, is shut down.
“Our lawyers are looking into it. We see the many different ways that interfere with their operation. Extortion letters are unethical, anachronistic and counter-productive,” Karlung says.
The rest of the world needs ISPs like this to assist in the stamping out of disease-fire that is copyright trolls. One can only hope that Sweden will successfully export the concept of an ISP that actually looks out for its customers.