False Accusation of Infringement Results in Hefty Payment of Legal Fees, Damages
California - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) capped its historic victory in a copyright abuse case against electronic voting machine manufacturer Diebold today. The corporation agreed to pay $125,000 in damages and fees. The settlement, a win for free speech advocates, comes after a California district court found that Diebold had knowingly misrepresented that online commentators, including Indymedia and two Swarthmore college students, had infringed the company's copyrights.
"It makes me happy that students in this situation in the future won't have to worry about big corporations breathing down their necks," said Nelson Pavlosky, one of the students.
Diebold is the first company to be held liable for violating section 512(f) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which makes it unlawful to use DMCA takedown threats when the copyright holder knows that infringement has not actually occurred. The section also stipulates that anyone who issues such frivolous threats must pay damages, including costs and attorneys' fees, to those harmed by the misrepresentations.
EFF and the Center for Internet and Society Cyberlaw Clinic at Stanford Law School sued on behalf of nonprofit Internet Service Provider (ISP) Online Policy Group (OPG) and the two students to prevent Diebold's abusive copyright claims from silencing public debate about voting. Diebold sent dozens of cease-and-desist letters to ISPs hosting leaked internal documents revealing flaws in Diebold's e-voting machines. The company claimed copyright violations and used the DMCA to demand that the documents be taken down. OPG refused to remove them in the name of free speech.
"The risk of substantial damages and fees should make companies pause before sending unfounded copyright threats," said EFF Staff Attorney Wendy Seltzer. "Plus ISPs can fight back against these false claims without taking a financial hit." "As a nonprofit ISP it's great to have legal recourse when a company threatens us or our clients with frivolous lawsuits," added OPG Executive Director Will Doherty.
EFF is a member-supported nonprofit which represented OPG and the Swarthmore students pro bono. Thanks to the settlement, Diebold will pay the costs of the case.
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Stanford Law School Center for Internet and Society