Swedish Copyright Trolls Have Brought Exactly Zero Of Their 'Cases' To Trial, Exposing Their Shitty Business Model

from the legal-blackmail dept

You may recall that the Swedish Pirate Party recently declared war on copyright trolls operating within Sweden. The party's newfound efforts, which had remained far too dormant for far too long, come on the heels of an explosion in so-called "settlement letters" being sent out to Swedish citizens. Those letters, as is typical elsewhere, are armed merely with an IP address and a claim of infringing behavior. Despite this, Danish law firm Njord Law has been able to collect millions of dollars in "settlments" after sending out notices to tens of thousands of account holders of IP addresses alleged to have engaged in copyright infringement. Njord Law was able to get this data from Swedish ISPs by spending a great deal of time in court, claiming that it needed this customer information in order to get justice for the copyright holders it represents.

What makes that stated goal somewhat odd is that Njord Law appears to spend almost no time in the courtroom for literally anything else beyond getting this customer data. Despite the firm's own admission that nearly half of the recipients of these letters don't even bother to respond, the firm has brought exactly zero of these cases to the courtroom.

After trawling records held by the Patent and Market Court and all those held by the District Courts dating back five years, SVT did not find a single case of a troll taking a citizen to court and winning a case. Furthermore, no law firm contacted by the publication could show that such a thing had happened.

“In Sweden, we have not yet taken someone to court, but we are planning to file for the right in 2018,” Emelie Svensson, lawyer at Njord Law, told SVT.

Njord Law has made promises of courtroom appearances in the past as well, which have yet to materialize. And that really should tell you everything you need to know about the copyright troll business model. Whatever noises trolls might make about justice and the law, they have no interest in actually engaging the accused in the courtroom. Such litigation is expensive, for starters, compared with simply scaring people into handing over small settlement amounts essentially for free. Also, it would be in the courtroom that any challenge as to the quality of evidence being used to extract these settlements would occur.

The reality is that these trolls want to exist in something of a copyright DMZ, tossing out legal threats while never actually ending up in a courtroom battle. If that sounds like a species of blackmail to you, you aren't alone.

“There is a risk of what is known in English as ‘legal blackmailing’,” says Mårten Schultz, professor of civil law at Stockholm University.

“With [the copyright holders’] legal and economic muscles, small citizens are scared into paying claims that they do not legally have to pay.”

Why the political representatives of the citizens of Sweden would choose not to outlaw these sorts of tactics is an open question. Surely a political party called The Pirate Party cannot be the only group opposed to the legal blackmailing of the Swedish public.


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 May 2018 @ 9:08pm

    Same thing happened for Malibu Media too, which out_of_the_blue vigorously defended. So much for the merit of copyright enforcement.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 30 May 2018 @ 9:27pm

    “There is a risk of what is known in English as ‘legal blackmailing’,” says Mårten Schultz, professor of civil law at Stockholm University.

    Extortion is extortion, don't try to call it something nice.
    If they didn't have a dead sheep on the wall you'd assume they were gangsters... its just the courts & legal systems keep blessing these shakedowns based on the word of those who have a stake in the financial outcome.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    oliver, 30 May 2018 @ 11:55pm

    There is something even more sinister going on!
    These "shysters" have no case, because an IP address that is collected somewhere deep in the bowels of the 'net doesn't prove shit!!!!
    It is laughably easy to fake those IP addresses, and this is scientifically proven. Just read the relevant literature.

    There needs to be sharp censure, short of losing their licence, for these "shysters"!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Bergman (profile), 30 May 2018 @ 11:58pm

      Re:

      If they have wi-fi in their offices, wouldn't it be amusing if someone captured evidence of their IP address being used to commit copyright violations?

      After all, if that's all the evidence they need to get a fat settlement or to win in a Swedish court...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        MathFox, 31 May 2018 @ 12:58am

        You assume they have real office-space and not just a post-address.
        You know that rent costs real money, buying an access point too.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 31 May 2018 @ 8:58am

        Re: Re:

        Wi-fi? You don't need access to their network to frame them. Just give their address(es) to a BitTorrent tracker.

        The real threat here may not be the court time/fines/costs, but the invasion of privacy that will result. Either you give them all your storage devices (all your personal data) to prove your innocence, or you give them a hundred euro and the case goes away.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Bergman (profile), 30 May 2018 @ 11:57pm

    Laws

    In the US, threatening to sue without intending to carry through the lawsuit is illegal, a form of extortion. Perhaps Sweden should consider adopting a similar law?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 31 May 2018 @ 12:57am

      Re: Laws

      It would also have to be enforced, which isn't something that seems to be happening in the US either. These things work (in terms of extortion, not in terms of fighting piracy) - not because there's no recourse for the victims, but because it's so much cheaper and easier to give in than fight that very few see the inside of a courtroom.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 31 May 2018 @ 7:44am

        Re: Re: Laws

        Selective enforcement of the law is a tool that has been in use since the establishment of laws ... back when america was great, we used to hang horse thieves and we used to tar and feather miscreants. I suppose making america great again is also very selective.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 31 May 2018 @ 6:19am

      Re: Laws

      And how are you going to get the proof? Mindreading? It is one of those things you cannot get a conviction on under ordinary circumstances!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 31 May 2018 @ 7:49am

        Re: Re: Laws

        How does one prove fraud? Certainly there have been cases ending with a conviction and I doubt they are all plea bargains.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 31 May 2018 @ 10:10am

        Re: Re: Laws

        Well, n thousand letters issued, n/2 thousand letters ignored, 0 court cases initiated. That looks like a speculative invoicing scheme to me.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    peter, 31 May 2018 @ 12:09am

    Excuse me?

    "we are planning to file for the right"

    You are claiming money for infringement but you have not even got the right to take someone to court yet?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 May 2018 @ 7:54am

    It's just that you PIRATES believe THEFT OF PRODUCT is legal!

    That colors and biases and mis-informs ALL that you do and think.

    It IS illegal to download copyrighted content without paying. -- Anyone here (still openly) dispute that?

    SO if the alleged illegal activity has occurred, and were admitted in court, then there WOULD be costs, perhaps jail. -- As the person who re-broadcast some sports event on Facebook to over 6 million people found.

    It's NOT ILLEGAL to settle in private! Why is Techdirt against guilty people paying for content they've stolen?

    This practice gets you PIRATES nervous and upset, period. You believe that persons including you are entitled to download all the copyrighted content that want. But that's WRONG and criminal too. This practice doesn't affect and doesn't bother non-pirates.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 31 May 2018 @ 8:25am

      Re: It's just that you PIRATES believe THEFT OF PRODUCT is legal!

      "It's just that you PIRATES believe THEFT OF PRODUCT is legal!"

      Including the money your heroes are extorting from potentially innocent people with zero due process. Glad you admit you support crime, yet again, as long as it benefits corporations.

      "SO if the alleged illegal activity has occurred"

      Key word - alleged. Why are your heroes so scared of going to court if their victims are so obviously guilty? Could it be that they know they're fleecing innocent people?

      "Why is Techdirt against guilty people paying for content they've stolen?"

      They're not. They're just for due process to ensure they are guilty of such a thing before being ordered to pay up - and also against an organisation that clearly has zero desire to grant them such an opportunity. The fact that you have to lie about people here in order to make your points is noted, however.

      "This practice doesn't affect and doesn't bother non-pirates."

      Lies upon lies. Even your internal logic is faulty. If these are only alleged infringements, so innocent people may be affected as the allegations have not been proven. Not to mention the fact that while lying about the people you're talking to here you ignore the many obstacles put in front of both consumers and artists alike in your pursuit of mythical lost profits.

      It's pathetic, really. You claim to be the only honest person on the side of law and order, yet you openly support fraud, theft and extortion so long as a corporation is behind it, and lie at every opportunity to make your case.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      MathFox, 31 May 2018 @ 8:33am

      Re: It's just that you PIRATES believe COPYING is legal!

      So, fixed the title for you.

      It IS illegal to download copyrighted content without paying. -- Anyone here (still openly) dispute that? Linus Torvalds offers his kernel sources as free software; there is a lot more FOSS available that can be copied legally. There even are people offering their music (and movies) for free.

      It's NOT ILLEGAL to settle in private! I have to agree with that. But it is immoral to threaten a lawsuit without having intent to follow through. It could be called extortion to ask someone to pay up for "copyright infringement" when the evidence is so flimsy that you don't dare to risk to bring a case to court. Following the local (Dutch) lawsuits on copyrights it seems that "copyright trolls" tend to demand much more than a judge would award... Compensation for illegal use tends to be close to a reasonable retail price.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 31 May 2018 @ 9:00am

      Re: It's just that you PIRATES believe THEFT OF PRODUCT is legal!

      Uh, no it's not unlawful to download copyright material. It's unlawful to distribute it ( upload, stream etc )without license or permission, at least here in the US.

      Any court action is for the alleged unlawful distribution of copyright material.

      Anyone who has gotten one of "those" letters from their ISP for Torrenting is because they are allegedly distributing copyright material.

      From what I understand, all the Torrent software shares out ( uploads ) everything you are downloading while it is running. Therefore what is being captured as alleged piracy is that IP sending copyright material back out to the other users.

      That's why people get letters from their ISPs. For the stuff going back out, not the stuff they are downloading.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 31 May 2018 @ 9:06am

      Re:

      SO if the alleged illegal activity has occurred, and were admitted in court

      Which hasn't happened, dumbass, so you might want to put that dick back into your pants before jumping the gun.

      It's NOT ILLEGAL to settle in private

      It's not, but settling in private means you forfeit the legal precedent or support that says whether your case had any merit, which isn't happening because the case doesn't even enter the docket or court for a judge to scrutinize. Which was already pointed out to you when you bitched in defense of Malibu Media.

      Here's the thing: if your cases don't enter the courtroom, you don't get to claim legal merits that don't exist without the involvement of the courts. Which you constantly do, then throw a tantrum when you get called out on it.

      Have a SESTA vote.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Seegras (profile), 31 May 2018 @ 9:30am

      Re: It's just that you PIRATES believe THEFT OF PRODUCT is legal!

      It IS illegal to download copyrighted content without paying. -- > Anyone here (still openly) dispute that?

      Totally, because it's wrong. First off, it's not the downloading which is illegal, but the publication. Otherwise you reading my comments would be doing so illegally, because in order to read this, a copy has to be made onto your computer. And I do hold copyright for my words (yes, it might be that these words here lack originality and art, so they might not be subject to copyright; but I think this is a different debate, because there is plenty of content on the internet, like essays and blogposts, which clearly are subject to copyright).

      And second, for the publication, it's also not "without paying" but "without license". And the license in question could be something like Creative Commons, but also something you pay for.

      SO if the alleged illegal activity has occurred, and were admitted in court, then there WOULD be costs, perhaps jail.

      There has (probably) been illegal activity going on. But it's on the part of the person who published the aforementioned content without being licensed to do so. The trouble is, that case is not clear cut. Somebody alleges a) its his work b) it's falling under copyright c) it's not a fair use case and d) the defendant had no license to publish. All this can really only be answered by a court in a lot of the cases; and all of these points above have already been claimed fraudulently.

      a) people were suing other people for violations of copyright, of works for which they did not have the copyright at all, and for which they did not have any permission by the rights holder. (Please note: copyright is civil law, not criminal law; if it's not your copyright, you have no standing) This is actually what is probably going on here.

      b) people tried to shakedown other people for alleged copyright violations for the use of data, like statistics. data is not copyrightable.

      c) people have been sued for posting thumbnails of pictures, which clearly is fair use, and actually only a "citation" of a work

      and d) movie studios have sent takedown requests for their own movies which were put up the internet by themselves.

      That all means, is that only a court can decide over copyright cases.

      You believe that persons including you are entitled to download all the copyrighted content that want.

      Well, all there is published.

      But that's WRONG and criminal too.

      It may sometimes be wrong. You can suspect that this blockbuster-movie that was released last week and now turned up on some filesharing-site was probably published there illegally; so that makes your downloading it questionable. But it's never criminal.

      And please note, while downloading via bittorrent or some other service that also uploads the content while downloading, you might actually be doing something criminal: publishing without license. I think much of your confusion comes exactly from the conflagration of up and download that takes place when using something like bittorrent.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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