Trolling and Phishing in Your Waters

Much has been said lately about a new scourge called “trolling.” For those not familiar the basic premise is someone spends their resources finding legal challenges to anyone’s work where they may or may not have legitimate claims of infringement. Many bring suit in hopes of settlements rather than going to court. For the trolls it’s the equivalent of a lottery ticket. Just how high the jackpot can be is all they care about. And it’s getting worse.

As you create work or art the first thing most will do is immediately get it on the web. You might use a blog, YouTube™, FaceBook®, or the myriad of others. However just as you want to express to the world what you’ve created, there are more than a few just waiting to see if you might be their lottery ticket. And you had better be ready when they come knocking because just like you with your new tools, they now possess better tools in which to find you. And they are always looking.

If you’re creating as to be an entrepreneur you need to have an understanding or working knowledge of copyright, trademark, or patent laws. I’m not saying you need to become a lawyer, but you do need to have a fundamental understanding.

I’ll use an example that happened with myself recently:

In experimenting with different formats. I had put a few videos on YouTube™ so others could view and comment. Out of the blue months later I received a notice that one of my videos was accused of copyright infringement.(Even though there were 4 near identical) I was notified that although they didn’t take down the video, the accuser was now able to place ads on my work, and I had lost the ability to add any new content to the site. But in an effort to make me feel better (it did not) they stated my video was being allowed to stay on with their ads. In other words, I lost all control of my content.

With a shoot first ask questions later policy the accuser had control of my work before I was able to respond. It seems there are algorithms trolling the site looking for similarities. Although I understand this is an attempt in good faith as to protect copyright owners (and for the site itself because of suits they can face) the machines are sensitive resulting in mistakes. But shoot first is the policy.

After viewing the accusation I immediately responded with my statements of why they were wrong and frivolous. Reply came back the accuser didn’t agree therefore the status remained the same. I immediately went through their legal process and petitioned that the accuser relinquish their claim on my material because what they were sighting as infringement was not my words, music, or anything else protected under copyright. They were arguing because I used a background, and transition effects similar to theirs and that was infringement. It’s not.

Theirs was a dance video, mine was a spoken word styled video. However because they both had music, text, and were similar in length, the algorithms tagged it. Think of it as making a home movie using a program you purchased and someone made a monster truck video using the same program. If you titled yours “Baby’s First Moments” using a graphic and background supplied in the program would the monster truck video be able to claim protection if their video started out with “Baby’s First Moments” because they used the same program, graphics, and was similar in length? Of course not, however that doesn’t mean they can’t use a policy to their advantage to put ads on your video while you lose control of your material in the process. For them it’s a lottery ticket. For you it can mean your livelihood. How you respond, and understanding what you’re responding to is imperative today. Also would you have the nerve to respond when what you’re doing has possible significant legal ramifications? You need to know. Ignorance will not be a defense.

A fundamental understanding in this area is a crucial responsibility of anyone who takes entrepreneurship seriously because the trolls are very serious.

© 2012 Mark St.Cyr