Spamigation is mass litigation conducted to intimidate large numbers of people. The term was coined by Brad Templeton of the Electronic Frontier Foundation to explain the tactics of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which files large numbers of lawsuits against individuals for file sharing, and DirecTV, which once filed large numbers of lawsuits against users of smart cards.
Spamigation lawsuits are evidently rather inexpensive to conduct, which results in one source claiming that the RIAA actually makes more money from settlements in these cases than it costs to file the lawsuits. Because of the costs of mounting a legal defense, almost all defendants in these cases tend to settle. The RIAA then uses the money from these settlements to "file more suits."
In Brad Templeton's original message post about spamigation, he said:
The RIAA strategy is an example of a new legal phenomenon that I have dubbed "spamigation" – bulk litigation that's only become practical due to the economies of scale of the computer era. We see spamigation when a firm uses automation to send out thousands of cease and desist letters threatening legal action. We saw it when DirecTV took the customer database for a vendor of smartcard programmers and bulk-litigated almost everybody in it... The RIAA uses systems to gather lists of alleged infringers, and bulk-sues them. It has set a price that seems to be profitable for it, while being low enough that it is not profitable for the accused to mount a defence, as they do not get the economies of scale involved.
Spamigation is similar to a strategic lawsuit against public participation ("SLAPP"), which is filed by a large organization, or in some cases an individual plaintiff, to intimidate and silence a less powerful critic by so severely burdening them with the cost of a legal defense that they abandon their criticism. Spamigation differs in that it aims at stopping an economic activity, in the case of the RIAA's lawsuits the copying of copyrighted material.
- In the case of DirectTV's lawsuits, they were "sued for racketeering and the courts forced them to stop the spamigation campaign."
- Viacom's recent lawsuits against YouTube and Google, in which over 100,000 DMCA takedown notices were sent, used a system of spamigation that sent notices to videos if they contained selected phrases of material under Viacom copyright. As a result of this technique, many non-infringing videos were removed.
- Scientology has often been accused by critics of using spamigation under their Fair Game policy. L Ron Hubbard said that enemies of Scientology "May be deprived of property or injured by any means... May be tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed." (taken from HCOPL Oct. 18, 1967 Issue IV, Penalties for Lower Conditions ). Hubbard is also quoted as saying "The purpose of the suit is to harass and discourage rather than to win. The law can be used very easily to harass, and enough harassment on somebody who is simply on the thin edge anyway, well knowing that he is not authorized, will generally be sufficient to cause his professional decease. If possible, of course, ruin him utterly. —L. Ron Hubbard, A Manual on the Dissemination of Material, 1955. See also Scientology controversies
- Spamigation and How to Fight It by Dana Blankenhorn, accessed 8-25-06.
- Will DirecTV Sue You Next? CBS News, Oct. 10, 2003, accessed Aug. 25, 2006.
- Spamigation: automated litigation, Boing Boing, Aug. 22, 2006, accessed Aug 25, 2006.
- The RIAA's Last Profitable Business Model: Automated Extortion? Techdirt, Aug. 22, 2006, accessed Aug. 25, 2006.
- Illegal downloads create unlikely defendants: Music industry seeks to protect copyrights by Amy H. Trang, The Courier-Journal, July 31, 2006, accessed Aug. 25, 2006.
- interesting-people message board, post by Brad Templeton, Aug. 19, 2006, accessed Aug. 25, 2006.