Commafuckers Versus The Commons

Copyleft Trolls Are the Serpents in Our Garden of Ethical Sharing.

Cory Doctorow
13 min readApr 2


William Blake — The Temptation and Fall of Eve (Illustration to Milton’s “Paradise Lost”) — the snake has been recolored a vivid green and limned in shadow; the fruit has been colored a vivid pink.

Have you ever wanted to say thank you for these column? Here’s how you can: I’m kickstarting the audiobook for my next novel, a post-cyberpunk anti-finance finance thriller about Silicon Valley scams called Red Team Blues. Amazon’s Audible refuses to carry my audiobooks because they’re DRM free, but crowdfunding makes them possible.

pilkunnussija (Finnish)

pilkun (“of a comma”) +‎ nussija (“fucker”) (

As I processed yesterday’s news about Flickr updating its policies to prevent “copyleft trolls” from using its service to snare unsuspecting internet users and hit them for hundreds or thousands of dollars in “copyright settlement” fees, I began reflecting on why this phenomenon makes me so furious.

I’ve been blogging for more than 20 years. I’ve been an activist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation for more than 20 years, too. I’ve also been a Creative Commons user for more than 20 years. And I’ve been a novelist for more than 20 years.

In that time, I’ve fought a lot of unscrupulous internet bullying and fraud, from ransomware to Remote Access Trojans.

I was there when the FBI hauled a computer programmer away in handcuffs for daring to point out that Adobe lied when it said its products would reduce copyright infringement. I was there when the RIAA threatened a team led by a Princeton computer scientist with criminal and civil sanctions for describing the mathematical defects in its plans to watermark music.

I was there for the debate about whether it was a crime to disclose that scribbling on a CD with a magic marker would disable technology designed to control you.

I was there when a giant voting machine vendor used copyright threats to suppress a whistleblower memo that disclosed the unreliability of its technology and its unsuitability for use in elections.

These examples may come from the distant past, but copyright continues to be abused by powerful, terrible people and their Renfield enablers to suppress speech — take the “reputation management” companies that publish back-dated versions of



Cory Doctorow

Writer, blogger, activist. Blog:; Mailing list:; Mastodon: