Rightscorp and the Bastard Ethics of Copyright Infringement

Michael From our Perspective

Being able to take advantage of the market by utilizing fresh ideas is one of the perks of the free market that we live in. Breaking into a new industry is often times made easier when you are able to take an angle that no one has thought of- or been able to implement correctly- before. This is what Digital Rights Corps was able to do in the copyright infringement market four years ago.

The Alternative to DMCA Notices

However, breaking into an industry with a fresh idea is only the first step. You must able, willing, and successful in continually innovating whatever it is that you do. This is where Digital Rights Corp, now known as Rightscorp, has had a hard time.

It is true that business for them has not slowed, they have been able to continually gain new copyrights clients. But their effectiveness has also continually sagged. When they first entered the game they offered an easy way out for prolific file sharers who were caught red handed. By sending a notice through the internet service provider (ISP) they offered to let the infringement slide for a solid ten bucks. This would delight just about anyone who had received notices from other companies which could be thousands- or tens of thousands- of dollars.

Amazingly, they were successful in this gambit. Rightscorp was able to collect $10 from plenty of people regardless of the fact that the notice held no real legal footing. The letter was sent anonymously- they suspect that your computer used the IP at the time of the copyright infringement. But they didn’t know who or where you were; they simply notified the ISP. The user remains anonymous- until they reply to the letter. By using typical scary anti-piracy lingo the company was able to verbally subdue the masses into paying $10. Later raising the price to $20 and finally $30.

Oh, It’s All Perfectly Somewhat Legal

rightscorp lawyers basically

Regardless of the legality of their system they have been consistent in being able to gain new clientele. In 2014 they were responsible for managing over 1.5 million copyrights, including several films that grossed over $3.5 billion. Which is nothing to scoff at. Although, since their start, Rightscorp has continually toed the line of being an outright scam. At every level of communication the company either disseminates half truths or outright lies in order to extort unknowing netizens.

Misdirection is the name of the game with Rightscorp. Both their email and their telemarketers use the line, “The user who receives the notice, is liable for $150000 in damages.” Which is a half truth. yes the maximum penalty is $150,000 but only rarely for willful infringement and never for an arbitrary downloader who got a few songs.

Denying that you had any knowledge of infringed content being illegally accessed is likely to garner this response from the script given to Rightscorp employees: “In order to cancel this matter without payment, you will need to go and get a police report and fax or email it to us. The police may take your devices and hold it for ~5 days to investigate the matter. You must be sure that it was not you, anyone in your household, including friends and neighbors or you will be breaking a different law with the police department.” The BS is strong with this one. It is just an outright lie used to scare people into paying. Not only will the police not take your computer and investigate but you won’t be held responsible for breaking a ‘different law.’

Rightscorp Playing Both Sides of the Fence

Righstcorp is doubling tripling down on their misinformation campaign. They recently retained the same lawyer who represents the Dallas Buyers Club; the film with perhaps the most copyright lawsuits to date. Carl Crowell has been trolling on the film’s behalf almost since the movie was released. Going after individual downloaders with a vengeance- usually settling out of court. However, trolling copyrights isn’t his only claim to fame. In early September he also claimed that there is no way for bittorrent users to remain anonymous. Which given the fact you are reading this on LiquidVPN you know this is an erroneous claim. The TorrentFreak article linked above also cites an academic study that says 70% of Pirate Bay users utilize a VPN or proxy- or are interested in doing so in the future.

Rightscorp and Carl Cowell plan to not only pursue infringers more aggressively but also to “educate people” about piracy and put forth “efforts to see an increase in public awareness and recognition of the problems with online piracy.”

Which is ironic coming from the company who makes blatantly erroneous claims as mentioned above. Their extortion tactics along with their disregard to even ensuring that the people they are contacting are indeed involved in such activities will surely lead to their downfall.

Rightscorp has recently gotten into a dispute with Cox Communications. Rightscorp accused the internet service provider of losing their Safe Harbor status because they refuse to terminate the service of copyright violators. Cox Communications responded strongly by calling Rightscorp out on several of their missteps in a legal smackdown. The filed court documents read; “Plaintiffs [Rightscorp] made no effort to determine whether Cox account holders personally committed any infringements, and they cannot tie IP addresses to specific infringers. Plaintiffs tellingly but wrongly argue it is ‘not required for [them] to prove direct infringement’… whose business rests on extortion and falsehoods… In its work for Plaintiffs, Rightscorp downloaded files of thousands of sound recordings over the BitTorrent protocol, evidently to create evidence of infringements over Cox’s network. But copyrights in sound recordings are separate from copyrights in musical compositions.” The last bit is referring to the fact that often times Rightscorp’s clients own the rights to the composer but not the full rights of the song. Meaning that Rightscorp themselves are actually now on the wrong side of the copyright law as well.

Cox goes on to point out that instead of attacking the basis of the problem- the torrent and torrent sites- instead, “Rightscorp uses these .torrent files, tolerates them, and relies on their availability on the Internet in order to set up its enforcement and shakedown scheme.”

Like I said before, sometimes a fresh idea is all you need to break into the industry. But it’s getting old and people are catching on to Rightscorps. I suggest that its time they change their tactics, and preferably to something a little more moral and legal. The way they conduct their business now, they aren’t ethically above the people they are extorting.

 

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