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How do companies penalize those who download protected content?

On Behalf of | Mar 6, 2020 | Intellectual Property

The creation of art, media and consumable content requires effort and financial investment. With the rise of social media and modern mobile phones has come a bottomless demand for ever more new and fresh content. People want something to enjoy and something to share. They’re only a click away from something really exciting and new.

The people watching movies and listening to music don’t always think about what goes into creating something new, and a sense of entitlement to popular culture has certainly contributed to the thriving world of digital piracy.

Companies or creators depend on earning income from their efforts to continue producing. When people illegally download music, movies or other protected content, they effectively avoid paying the creator for their work. Someone who discovers a violation of their intellectual property rights such as the illegal downloading or ownership of their work can potentially take legal action against the person who violated their rights.

What does the enforcement of intellectual property rights look like?

If you’ve ever watched a film on VHS, DVD or Blu-ray disc, you have probably at least glanced over the language of the FBI warning about illegal copying and pirating. The FBI and Interpol can and do investigate and prosecute copyright infringement.

However, their enforcement efforts are typically on commercial or profit-generating ventures that violate intellectual property rights, not individuals who download content for personal use. Instead, enforcement by the creator or a company that purchases creative content is more likely. Those downloading for their own benefit may find themselves facing a civil lawsuit, potentially brought by so-called IP trolls.

What is IP trolling?

It has become easier than ever for companies to track the digital dissemination of their protected works. Once they know that an individual using a certain IP address uploaded a protected work to a file-sharing network or downloaded a protected work, it is possible for the company to file a lawsuit against a John Doe associated with that IP address.

This practice gets called IP trolling, and although it frustrates individuals and judges alike, it is one of the most commonly used practices for businesses wanting to hold individuals accountable for an illegal download. It is possible to defend yourself against allegations of digital piracy, particularly in questionable IP trolling lawsuits, but you need to be proactive in your response if you get served notice related to a download-related lawsuit.