Action Items

  • Review our 7 Steps to Avoid Being Trolled. Any business with a website or social media presence is vulnerable to copyright trolling.
  • Proactively address the proper use of copyrighted materials to avoid liability.
  • Draft policies to educate employees on social media best practices.

Anyone who displays or distributes an unauthorized copy of a copyrighted work may be liable for copyright infringement, even if they had no reason to know the image was copyrighted. Online, this means companies are at risk of infringement claims over content posted on their websites or in their social media feeds. Given how easy it is to copy or repost things, and how increasingly easy it is to locate such copies or postings, it was perhaps inevitable that “copyright trolling” would gain significant traction.

What is “Trolling?"

The term “copyright troll” was originally coined to describe copyright owners who aggressively threatened litigation over online use of their copyrighted materials in the hopes of extracting exorbitant licensing fees. This tactic became popular because of statutory damages and attorneys’ fees provisions in copyright law, which can increase a defendant’s monetary exposure many times higher than the typical copyright license fees. For example, under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976 (the “Act”), statutory damages can go as high as $150,000 for willful infringement.

This tactic has been used most commonly with photographs but also applies to other forms of creative works such as: illustrations, animations, videos, news articles, and texts.

Take Steps to Avoid Being Trolled

Here is an overview of our "7 Steps to Avoid Being Trolled." Click here to review each step in more detail: 7-steps-to-avoid-being-trolled

  • Do not assume any content you find online is free to use.
  • Do not assume unauthorized use will qualify as “fair use.”
  • Get permission first.
  • If you let others post content on your site, establish DMCA protection.
  • Obtain appropriate contracts and indemnification from your web designer and social media content providers.
  • Consider advertising injury insurance.
  • Do not ignore a copyright troll demand.

We Can Help

Copyright trolls may have a cute name, but they no longer hide under bridges. They live out in the open and pose a major threat to your legal budget. If you have any questions or would like to discuss this email in more detail, please do not hesitate to contact one of our team members. We will be happy to audit your website and social media feeds for any problems as well as draft social media policies to help educate your employees as to the best practices for avoiding liability. Proactively addressing the proper use of copyrighted materials is the best way to avoid liability and the dreaded troll attack.

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