Unfortunately, Prenda are not on their own and, to my mind, are a good example when it comes to abusing the legal, copyright and patent system in America and its inherent brokenness and using it to pick on others mostly incapable of defending themselves. Some more fuel for those interested: MPHJ Technology
sues (or threatens to) small business for $1000s for using scan to email functionality of network printer-copiers. The scanner manufacturers are not liable because you have to connect it to a network to infringe (if this does not fail at obviousness I don't know what would )Jammie Thomas
was convicted of willful copyright infringement for $1.92million for sharing 24 songs via bit-torrent (it was reduced to $600k on appeal, and yes she was guilty and foolish, but how can that be even remotely reasonable?). This is just the highlight of the RIAA's multi year campaign against its customers.New Egg
the online electronics retailer was ordered to pay $2.3million to a patent troll for infringing on an encryption patent for use on the internet. Not unreasonable you might think, but New Egg had the inventor of public key cryptography (the central part of the patent) testify in court that the details of how to use it was published years before the patent was filed and a former CTO of Microsoft demonstrated prior art in a published software package. Unfortunately, juries in Marshall, Texas generally find in favour of patent holders regardless of the facts. (Yes New Egg are quite big, but many other smaller (and larger) companies settled in advance)
Widespread abuse of the DMCA (it's a link to a pdf hosted by the EFF)
for more that a decade, suppressing scientific research, disclosure of root kit vulnerabilities (Sony), preventing modification of video game consoles (Microsoft, Sony) and the arrest, jailing (several weeks) and detention (for 5 months) of a programmer for writing a piece of software that might
be used (among a range of other uses) to circumvent Adobe's book encryption (there was no evidence he did this himself or even helped anyone else do it). He was eventually cleared of all charges.... 18months later.
Widespread abuse of the legal system by FISA
with no option for those affected to fight back because it is all secret.
I could go on....
While some of these are slowly starting to be addressed it is all to easy to use the law to oppress and obstruct making it hardly seem like the land of the free... Forcing those with frivolous cases to pick up the defendants costs would help, but only a a couple of areas. I do agree that the War on Drugs is also a travesty.