“Copyright trolls” Cozzmoss got their first victory in a court of law, where they successfully sued blogger Joffrey Vermeule for copyright infringement of a newspaper article. The court awarded 402 euro to Cozzmoss (decision, Dutch, PDF). Cozzmoss had claimed at one point well over 5000 euro in damages.
A copyright troll is a particularly heinous creature that feeds off accidental copyright infringement by those least likely to defend themselves. It seeks out such infringements and then sends bills claiming preposterous amounts of damages. In countries like the Netherlands, where courts typically claim that damages must actually be proven, the troll then offers the infringer a discount on their trumped up ‘fine’ in the hope it won’t come to a court case. Vermeule was the first Dutch blogger to pass up on that offer.
The rise of copyright trolls in the Netherlands has led to a foundation that helps bloggers with their defense against these creatures, the Stichting Copyright & Nieuwe Media. It’s not clear if the foundation played a part in Vermeule’s defense, nor what part they would have played.
Link: Marketing Facts (Dutch). Image: stolen off the internets, arrr! (Actually, it’s in the public domain.)
Tags: blogging, copyright, courts, damages, fines, trolls
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.
Tags: blogging, copyright, Dutch copyright law, infringers, steal, swindle, trolls
A new Dutch plug-in for the blog software WordPress fights trolls in a very Dutch way. This week, Henk Van Ess of Voelspriet.nl launched the Cave Your Trolls concept. The idea of Cave Your Trolls is to let “bullies” in forums and weblogs keep doing what they do, without anybody reading what they spew. Instead of moderators having to remove their nasty comments manullay, the trolls sit in their cave and keep talking to the walls. WordPress users can now download the beta version.
Tags: spam software, trolls