Copyright Trolls Overplay Their Hand In Finland, Bringing A Government Microscope To Their Practices
from the oops dept
Copyright trolls operate on a precarious edge.They have to find enough people willing to fall for their threat settlement letters to be profitable, while at the same time not causing enough of a stir to be noticed by the general public or risk backlash. Quite often, copyright trolls do indeed cross this line. It's not all that often, however, that they cross it in spectacular fashion.
Yet that appears to be exactly what they've done in Finland, where so many internet account holders have been sent threat letters that both local law enforcement groups and the national government have been forced to respond.
HS estimates that as many as 60,000 people could be in line to receive cash demands similar to the one detailed above. They come from Hedman Partners, the Helsinki law firm that’s been involved in copyright trolling cases in Finland for the past couple of years. Based on a 2,200 euro settlement, the cash involved is potentially enormous. For every hundred cases settled, the law firm reportedly pockets 130,000 euros for “monitoring costs”, with 90,000 euros going to the rightsholders.
Due to the scale of the problem, complaints from letter recipients are now being reported to various local authorities. After receiving dozens of complaints from bewildered Internet account holders, police were forced to issue a statement last Friday.
That statement from the police essentially amounted to stating that there was no criminal aspect to any of this, that it was instead a civil matter, and could the public please stop inundating them with calls about it, please? It's not surprising that the police were called, however, as these types of threat letters are typically constructed in a manner that might lead the reader to assume there are criminal penalties that could be levied against them. It also seems that many of the bewildered account holders had contacted the police to make a claim of fraud against the copyright troll, a claim the police decided not to pursue.
But the Finnish government might, it seems.
With the police backing away from any involvement, expectations have now fallen on the government to tackle the problem. Thankfully for those involved, the Ministry of Education and Culture appears to be taking the matter seriously and has promised an investigation.
“It is not intended that our legislation should be used for milking [the public],” said Government Counsellor Anna Vuopala. “It seems that it is appropriate for the Ministry to convene the parties involved in order to find out whether the law is being complied with in all respects,” she said.
This is probably the worst case scenario for a copyright troll: creating enough of a fervor with the public to warrant a look-see from the public officials beholden to that public for votes. Specifically, the government is going to examine whether Finnish ISPs are following the law that requires them to hand over account holder information if piracy occurs on an account to a "significant degree." It seems that some of the settlement letters are going to account holders that have, at most, engaged in something of a one-off case of filesharing. Whatever the definition of the laughably vague term "significant degree" might be, it certainly seems obvious that such a degree can't be a single instance.
A crackdown on copyright trolling may now be on the menu, all because the trolls overplayed their hand.