House Committee Examines Growing Problem of ‘Copyright Trolls’

BY Heather Greenfield
July 24, 2014

Washington – Lawmakers heard how the misuse of copyright laws is putting a damper on innovation at a hearing Thursday afternoon.  The House Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet asked experts including Matt Schruers, Vice President of Law and Policy at the Computer & Communications Industry Association, to recommend remedies.

In his testimony, Schruers warned that while having the government authorize exclusive rights for copyrighted material can be important for innovation, statutory damage awards, which can range up to $150,000 per work infringed, are now often exploited as a tool for abuse and deter technology investment.

Schruers noted that because copyright plaintiffs can win lawsuits without having to provide any evidence of injury or harm, there has been an increase in so-called copyright trolls that use the threat of expensive damages to extract quick settlement fees from alleged infringers. He warned this climate of out of sync fees and attorneys working on the edge of the law using the threat of high penalties are undermining the credibility of our intellectual property system.

Schruers’ testimony suggests that Congress consider recalibrating statutory damages to discourage misuse while encouraging innovation. Schruers said the current system unfortunately empowers copyright trolls and creates “extraordinary liability risks that discourage tech innovation, particularly by start ups.”

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