Thanks to the development of advanced file-sharing systems and fast Internet connections, lawsuits aimed at alleged Internet pirates have become commonplace over the past decade and are showing no signs of disappearing anytime soon.
The statistics behind the threats have been documented periodically but now a detailed study of IP litigation as a whole has painted a clearer picture of trends during the past 10 years.
Published by Matthew Sag, Professor of Law at Loyola University Chicago School of Law, IP Litigation in United States District Courts: 1994 to 2014 provides a review of all IP litigation in U.S. district courts over the past two decades to include copyright, patent and trademark lawsuits over 190,000 case filings.
Perhaps unsurprisingly one of the paper’s key findings is that Internet file-sharing has transformed copyright litigation in the United States, in one area in particular.
“To the extent that the rate of copyright litigation has increased over the last two decades, that increase appears to be entirely attributable to lawsuits against anonymous Internet file sharers,” the paper reads.
In broad terms the paper places lawsuits against alleged pirates into two categories – those with an aim of discouraging illegal file-sharing and those that exist to monetize online infringement.
Category one is dominated by lawsuits filed by the RIAA against users of software such as Kazaa and LimeWire who downloaded and shared tracks without permission. Announced in 2003, the wave seriously got underway during 2004 and persisted until 2008, straggling cases aside.
Category two is dominated by the so-called copyright trolls that have plagued file-sharing networks since 2010. These companies, largely from the adult movie sector, track down alleged file-sharers with the aim of extracting cash settlements.