A porn copyright troll Ryan Stevens of Arizona filed the case 11-cv-01604-NVW against 54 John Does¹ in August 2011. Later the complaint was amended to name five individuals, and the court issued summons on December 12. Three of the named defendants replied to accusations (one of them even went on offensive and filed a request for production of multiple documents by plaintiff²), but the other two did not bother to reply. Not surprisingly, defaults were entered for those two, and on Thursday February 9, Judge Neil V. Wake ordered each of two defendants to pay plaintiff $750, the lowest allowed award.
Although the copyright law’s maximum statutory awards are unconstitutionally high when considered against individuals — $30,000 or even $150,000 (if infringement is willful) — judges have the power to lower the amount to $750 (or even to $200 for innocent infringement).
Using this power, judges can easily damage trolls’ “business” by simply awarding the minimum $750 in each case that manages to make it all the way to a judgment (and the only such cases are those in which defendants ignored court summons). If other judges adopt this practice, suddenly it will be obvious to anyone how hollow trolls’ threats are. It’s a no brainer that if the worst-case scenario is parting with $750 (and the probability of such an event is extremely low), settling is outright stupid.
Trolls claim that their cases are as strong as brick houses, but a reasonably curious person discovers in an hour of research that instead of mortar, those seemingly solid buildings use fear. Once no one is scared anymore, a spectacular collapse of trolls’ creations is inevitable.
It is fair to note that other judges across the country ruled differently in similar cases, thus there is no established case law, so maybe my optimistic speculations look like wishful thinking. Well… I call it “hope”.
¹K-Beech, a porn company run by a convicted criminal’s goon Kevin Beechum, who organized vandalizing of adult bookstores in the past.