Sunday, March 23, 2014

on Rightscorp, the internet's privateer, and what to do if they say you've been busted for piracy

If you've been accused of pirating or think you might be, you should learn a little about Rightscorp before you do anything. As I understand the situation—and I am not a lawyer, so don't bother suing me if I'm wrong—companies like Rightscorp cannot legally get the names of suspected pirates from the ISPs directly, so they play a little trick. They send DMCA takedown notices with a request that the ISP send their full notices to the suspected pirates. Most ISPs agree. The full notices include details of what's suspected and a demand for payment. If the ISP's customer clicks on the notice links and pays, the accusing company gets (1) the person's identity, (2) the person's confession, and (3) profit.

Remember that wireless networks get used in many ways by many people. ISPs can know where piracy happened, but they can't know who pirated without a confession. So if you get charged through your ISP, your concern is with them, not with Rightscorp. The ISP will almost certainly be content to give a warning the first time they get a DMCA notice about you.

Here are most pertinent bits from  a few short articles that I recommend you read in their entirety:

From Comcast Kills Business Model of Piracy Monitoring and Settlement Firm | TorrentFreak:
Rightscorp usually asks for $10 or $20 per infringed title, demands that are concealed in DMCA notices so they can bypass the courts.
Under the DMCA Internet providers are obliged to forward copyright infringement notices to their customers, so with this strategy the company can contact the alleged pirates without knowing who they are.
At least, that’s the theory.
The problem is that Rightscorp’s entire business model relies on the willingness of the Internet providers to forward their full settlement requests. To make sure this happens the company specifically adds the following line on top of each DMCA notice.
**NOTE TO ISP: PLEASE FORWARD THE ENTIRE NOTICE**
Unfortunately for the anti-piracy outfit, not all ISPs are doing that.
TorrentFreak looked into the matter and we found that Comcast, the largest ISP in the United States, strips out all the threatening language and references to the proposed settlement. Instead, it only lists the infringement details including the source, file-name and a timestamp.
From Is the MPAA giant waking up and luring defendants through their $20 DMCA settlement letters? | TorrentLawyer™ - Exposing Copyright Trolls and Their Lawsuits:
What is bothering me, however, is that the release on their https://secure.digitalrightscorp.com/settle website (pasted below) releases the accused defendant from their claim of copyright infringement for a mere $20, but it has the defendant ADMITTING GUILT to the infringement. Thus, in legal terms, an accused internet user who pays the $20 may be released from liability for THAT instance of infringement, but the next time they catch that user downloading, they can not only sue for the full $150,000 (or ask for TENS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS as a settlement), but in court, they would use the prior settlement as EVIDENCE OF GUILT that the accused defendant habitually downloads copyrighted videos and TV shows.
To be clear: EVERY settlement agreement for copyright infringement should have language stating that the accused defendant is not admitting guilt, or else the act of settling a copyright infringement claim can be construed as an “admission” of guilt in a court. Specifically, the language (e.g., taken from CEG-TEK’s settlements) would say something like “this Liability Release represents a compromise and that nothing herein is to be construed as an admission of liability on the part of RELEASEE.” This language appears to be purposefully ABSENT from the RightsCorp Settlement Agreements.
For this reason, it is difficult for me to suggest hiring a third party / attorney and paying one of us to anonymously settle a $20 matter, BUT it is my opinion that the RightsCorp settlements are simply dangerous to your legal rights.
There're more interesting articles about Rightscorp at TorrentFreak.

And a reddit discussion: Recently received infringement notices from ISP linking me to Digital Rights Corp. -- Faced with 12 infringement notices each for $20. Paid two of them before learning the facts. Next steps?

For Canadians: Canadian Movie & Music Pirates to Be 'Fined' Without Court Orders | TorrentFreak

ETA: Judge: IP-Address Is Not a Person and Can't Identify a BitTorrent Pirate | TorrentFreak