Copyright trolls are the copyright equivalent of patent trolls, but not as common. However, they operate on the same principal: they buy “intellectual property” and use it to legally extort money from the naïve. The Verbal Jam blog reports (Dutch) about a Dutch company called Cozzmoss that has recently managed to extract hundreds of euros from non-commercial bloggers. Their website (Dutch) might look clunky, but their approach is anything but. First, they let authors sign over their copyrights to them, which makes legal action that much easier (no squabbling over who you represent). Then, they only appear to attack people with limited knowledge of the law, and third, they seem to limit their claims for damages to relatively small amounts, amounts that do not exceed the money you would lose if you would let it come to a lawsuit.
Dutch copyright law does not allow the infringed upon party to recoup insanely high statutory damages, but the cost of going to court is still substantial, whether you win or lose, which is why parties usually settle out of court, and this is the sort of reaction that Cozzmoss seems to hope for. People with shallow pockets who won’t contest your claims will settle relatively meekly.
Except of course that bloggers blog: Jolie.nl has a long list of bloggers that have written about Cozzmoss during the past fortnight, and only few of them show any understanding for what the others call “vultures” and “bounty hunters,” both perfect analogies if you ask me.
One of the bloggers that got caught in the trap is Cinner (nomen est omen?), who republished an interview with professor Bram Buunk on her website. In the interview, the social-psychology professor belittles people like her who have chronic fatigue syndrome as not really being ill. Another blog called Ango copies newspaper articles with permission from the local paper, but they found out the hard way that the paper doesn’t own all the articles it publishes. Strictly speaking, Ango is in the clear because it was acting in good faith – they too chose to take the 500 euro hit from Cozzmoss instead of risking a court case that might have cost thousands.