SACRAMENTO - A phenomenon called “copyright troll,” a person who misleads customers into using copyrighted photos, films or other media saying that their use is free, only to demand settlement money and threaten a lawsuit is becoming more common in California, said an attorney who specializes in such cases.
Antonelli Law of Chicago describes itself as the country’s most experienced copyright (lawsuit) defense firm, and its owner said is increasingly taking on such cases in California.
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“I think the risk of being sued is increasing due to the popularized use of streaming apps,” Jeffrey Antonelli, owner of Antonelli Law, told the Northern California Record in a statement.
A “streaming app” is on- demand computer software distribution.
The rise of the internet has fueled an increase in copyright litigation with a 10 percent increase in filings of such cases just during one year from 2013 to 2014, according to an investopia.com report.
A typical case is the recent allegation made against a photographer Nicholas Youngson and the Santa Ana law firm representing him, Higbee & Associates, contending Youngson engaged in copyright abuse. The allegations said the photographer mislead customers through a website he owns that promised free usage of photos, while selling the photographic images from another website.
The complaint from a customer said when he used photos from a website in which wording on the site said were available for free, he allegedly received a letter from Youngson demanding a monetary settlement for copyright infringement or face a lawsuit.
Antonelli said in addition to photographic retailers, such cases also affect the computerized uploading of music, movies and films.
“The use of streaming apps [applications] give the lay person the appearance of legitimacy, but have resulted in people being sued,” he said.
Popcorn Time and Showbox are two computer (streaming) entertainment apps used by customers to download movies and TV shows and are accessible on Android devices, including mobile hand-held smartphones and tablets, personal computers or e-book readers.
Antonelli said two of the most active filers of lawsuits over copyright infringement include Malibu Media LLC, a producer of pornographic movies, and Strike Three Holdings LLC, another adult film producer. The companies have been suing Internet users in California, New York, Connecticut, Maine and Michigan for using computer-file software to download movies for free.
According to a newyorker.com report Malibu Media, in the beach community of Malibu, California, has been the biggest filer of copyright infringement lawsuits in the country and accounted for one-third of such cases nationwide in 2014.
“Strike Three has begun filing in California and other states,” Antonelli said. “It appears to be following the path of Malibu.”
Antonelli said his firm will be taking on more of these copyright cases.
“We represented many people in California who were sued by Malibu Media, and I believe we will be helping people with Strike Three Holdings in the state and elsewhere as well,” he said.