Originally published June 16 2013
Copyright trolls, image bullies exposed by ExtortionLetterInfo.com
by PF Louis
(NaturalNews) Copyright protection and infringement enforcement has morphed over the last few decades into a monster worse than copyright theft itself and well beyond the spirit of copyright laws.
The copyright infringement mania has crossed over to cyberspace and other media platforms. A legal extortion racket called "copyright trolling" has risen from the depths of hell to extend its wrath on anyone who appears to have violated copyright laws.
A brief explanation of copyright trollingIt's called copyright trolling because some law firms make the bulk of their revenue by trolling or looking for potential violations as a means of grossing large revenues by shaking down those who cannot afford an attorney but are willing to pay a settlement fee to that law firm or attorney.
It has little or nothing to do with protecting copyrights. It is extortion by legal means.
A law firm out of Chicago with representatives throughout the nation specialized in porno trolling internet service providers (ISPs) with "John Doe" subpoenas to obtain actual identities via IP addresses and locate internet porn users that downloaded photos or videos to send them threatening letters.
The quandary of social stigma among family, friends, and fellow workers made it easy for that firm to collect just under $15 million from 20,000 accused with 350 lawsuits. (1)
This extortion racket isn't confined to porno users. A photo copyright attorney recently sent a letter threatening court action with the consequence of a $150,000 fine for each infringement to a small time blogger promoting the Lincoln Nebraska marathon. The infringement was for using a copyrighted nighttime skyline photo of Lincoln, NE.
So that blogger had to decide whether to hire a costly attorney, pay an upfront settlement fee to the attorney's office of $9,000, or ignore the letter and be trapped into paying a court enforced default penalty, which is then subject to collection harassment.
So what can a victim of imagery, text, audio, or video copyright trolling harassment do? Call ELI.
ELI is ExtortionLetterInfo.comELI was started up by independent publisher Matthew Chan after he received threatening extortion letters from Getty Images. Chan decided this must be happening to others, and being an entrepreneurial type he enlisted Oscar Michelan, an NYC litigation lawyer, and put up the ELI website.
Soon there were several inquires seeking legal help. Attorney Michelan and Chan both respect the spirit of copyright laws to protect the originator's income.
But the normal approach for an apparent or suspected copyright infringement is to send the alleged violator a cease and desist letter.
If the accused ceases use with a satisfactory explanation the legal activity may stop there. If not, then the infringement suit can be pursued in court. But unlike Monsanto's "legal" reign of terror, the plaintiff must be able to prove the copyright theft was intentional.
According to Chan's site, Getty Images and others have been on a heavy handed rampage that appears more as copyright trolling than copyright protection. They usually demand a $1,000 per image settlement fee.
Intimidating those who are ignorant of copyright law and not financially able handle litigation is a large part of this activity that gladly settles for several thousand dollars from the hundreds who are snagged in this operation.
Attorney Michelan thinks that Getty Images is hurting its own image with its activity. But ELI handles other stock photo, imagery, and text copyright harassment issues as well.
Michelan offers a letter of his to be sent to the plaintiff insisting that the accused not be contacted and that all communication go through him as legal counsel. The charge is $195 with no charge for a second letter if there's no response to the first.
His letter contains stock language with details about the particular individual case. If the photo or image stock company's lawyers persist, Michelan offers his litigation services at $195 per hour. Normally he charges $450/hr.
Of course, the defense letters are designed to avoid litigation and/or settlement fee demands. Michelan has issued a great deal of legal letters to copyright plaintiff attorneys through ELI.
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