Shedding Light on Copyright Trolls: An Analysis of Mass Copyright Litigation in the Age of Statutory Damages
34 Pages Posted: 10 May 2011 Last revised: 25 May 2014
Date Written: March 15, 2012
Copyright law and the Internet are at an impasse. The looming question is how to approach unlicensed distribution of copyrighted works in the age of peer-to-peer networks. To supplement profits from copyrighted works, copyright holders have devised a mass-litigation model to monetize, rather than deter, infringement. Because of the existence of statutory damages, plaintiffs utilize the threat of outlandish damage awards to force alleged infringers into quick settlements.
Statutory damages incentivize litigation-based businesses and encourage copyright holders to waste judicial resources by litigating even when actual damages are nominal. This Article presents an analysis of the legal and policy issues that arise in a mass-litigation model primarily through filings in federal district courts. After a discussion of the original purposes of U.S. copyright law, this Article concludes that statutory damages should be removed from the 1976 Copyright Act.
Keywords: copyright troll, bit torrent, file sharing
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