How Metabrainz stood up to a predatory copyright lawsuit and won

I'm a volunteer on the board of The Metabrainz Foundation, the nonprofit that maintains the Metabrainz service that produces accurate metadata on music that helps listeners locate the music they love and musicians and services accurately allocate revenues from online services. Metabrainz's material is strictly Creative Commons, including the art its users include in their updates to the database.

Last summer, Metabrainz was served with a lawsuit by Larry Philpot, a "photographer" (as one court put it, "a professional photographer, in his view") who has a history of making his photos available under Creative Commons licenses, then suing Creative Commons users who reproduce them, arguing that they violated the license terms, based on extremely idiosyncratic interpretations of those terms.

Metabrainz knew that it was in the right, but a copyright fight could be very expensive. Luckily, Ed Cavazos of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP took our case pro bono and won the day!

Metabrainz has engaged with both Wikimedia Commons and Creative Commons about the problem of legal predators using their services to bait their prey, and we're hoping they take action to reduce this threat to the projects' integrity. We're also suspending the use of Wikimedia Commons images in the project until we're sure that this risk has been addressed.

In the meantime, we're delighted by the victory and we hope that this will inspire others to stand up to copyright trolling — and that it will serve as a warning to future predators thinking of targeting us. We won't be pushed around: "Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute."

Our legal team operated on the basis that "the best defense is a good offense". The team's filing showed that the accusations were unfounded and went on to question the motives and methods of the plaintiff, who has a history of taking legal action against Creative Commons users. In these legal actions he claims that the users have violated Creative Commons licenses, according to narrow, non-customary interpretations of the obligations and limitations set out in CC licenses. It didn't take long for the plaintiff to feel our pressure and decide to cut their losses. On February 28, 2019 the lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice!

We were sued by a copyright troll and we prevailed!