We have previously written about strategies to defend against claims by copyright trolls, Copyright Case Teaches How to Deal with Trolls. A recent decision by a federal court in New York, Minden Pictures, Inc. v. Buzzfeed, Inc. (S.D.N.Y. 2019), teaches some further valuable strategies to deal with such claims.
Minden Pictures is a wildlife and nature photo licensing agency that has filed 36 copyright infringement lawsuits since 2010. In this case, Minden alleged that the copyrighted photographs were displayed on Buzzfeed’s website at various times since 2011. Buzzfeed moved to dismiss, and the district court granted much of Buzzfeed’s various dismissal motions.
One key ruling was that the three-year statute of limitations applied to any pictures posted more than three-years prior to suit. Minden tried to avoid the statute of limitations by invoking the Second Circuit’s “discovery rule.” But the court ruled that as a sophisticated party that had brought numerous copyright suits, Minden was expected to exercise considerable diligence to protect its rights. It could have discovered the infringements had it reviewed Buzzfeed’s site.
Other rulings include dismissal of conclusory allegations of willful infringement, barring of statutory damages (and attorney’s fees) for pictures that had not been registered before infringement, and limiting statutory damages to one award for an entire “collection” of works registered as such.
The overall strategy highlighted by the Minden decision is that, even if one cannot achieve full dismissal of a troll’s case, paring down the claims as much and as early as possible can be an effective and useful strategy.