Posts Tagged ‘Rightscorp’

Copyright Enforcement Group (a.k.a. CEG-TEK) and RightsCorp at first glance look alike, but they are different animals. While they both use the DMCA laws (or with CEG-TEK, their foreign-country’s equivalent) to send letters to internet users accusing them of copyright infringement, and while they both attempt to force account holders to pay a “settlement fee” to settle all claims claimed against them, the mechanisms of how they operate are quite different.

True, both CEG-TEK and RightsCorp send DMCA notices to ISP subscribers (internet users). CEG-TEK (currently) asks for a settlement of $300 per title (C$225 for account holders in Canada), and RightsCorp asks for $20 per title.

The big difference between CEG-TEK and RightsCorp is that CEG-TEK releases the accused downloader from liability when the settlement is paid; in CEG-TEK’s contract, there is NO ADMISSION OF GUILT (UPDATE: CEG-TEK recently updated their settlement agreements and now they have an inflammatory “admission of guilt” provision, speak to your attorney about this), whereas RightsCorp contracts explicitly have the settling party admit guilt in an “I did it, I’m sorry, I’ll never do it again” fashion. This ‘admission of guilt’ issue was the initial reason I wouldn’t work with RightsCorp.

There are obviously other issues with CEG-TEK settlements that we’ve discussed before, just as there are obvious issues with RightsCorp settlements (namely, with RightsCorp, many have reported that after paying one $20 settlement, they received 10-40 additional infringement notices, whether or not the downloads actually happened).

Lastly, there are customer service differences between CEG-TEK and RightsCorp. CEG-TEK retains multiple individuals who respond to inquiries and convince those who call in [with inquiries, objections, and website troubles in processing payment] to pay the requested settlement amount or face a lawsuit. They have been known to claim that they record the conversations (watch out for this, as an admission of guilt here can be used against you, as can a lie later be used against you later in a perjury claim).

The important thing to note about CEG-TEK is that CEG-TEK DOES NOT SUE PEOPLE. Rather, they are a SERVICE PROVIDER providing COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT SERVICES TO THEIR CLIENTS (namely, the copyright holders). CEG-TEK has also been known to scrape the list of callers to ascertain their identities (although this used to happen before we learned that they are now able to obtain [from select ISPs] the geolocation data identifying where the download took place). Thus, if a settlement is not reached, they forward the file over to the copyright holders to allow them to follow-up with the accused downloader using their own attorneys.  At this point, CEG-TEK is out of the picture.

Well, to be accurate, first CEG-TEK has their own attorney Marvin Cable send out settlement demand letters asking for $1,750 per title, and only after he is unable to obtain a settlement from the accused downloader, only then do they forward the file over to the copyright holder(s) for their own attorneys to do what they will with it. This is where in my opinion the “ignore” route can result in an accused downloader being contacted by an attorney requesting a settlement, this time asking for a significantly higher amount. Again, depending on the COPYRIGHT HOLDER [namely, whether they have sued in the past (you can look this up on http://www.rfcexpress.com), and whether they intend to sue again in the future], this is how to best determine whether to ignore or settle the claims listed on the CEG-TEK website.

In my opinion, this CEG-TEK policy of “we forward your file over to the copyright holders” is where the misuse of that information *can* originate. Not all copyright holders are upstanding citizens (note to self to write about how a particular action might be illegal or unethical, but we see lawyers doing it anyway, unpunished — “LEGAL, BUT NOT LAWFUL”), especially considering that most of Ira Siegel’s clients are adult entertainment companies (pornography), and their lawyers do not think twice before reminding the accused downloaders that they could be involved in a lawsuit for the download of pornography.

RightsCorp has its own set of problems. First of all, aside from the settlements having accused downloaders admit guilt to one or more downloads, there is a difference in the validity of the claims between RightsCorp and CEG-TEK.  RightsCorp’s initial claim may be valid, but the many follow-up claims have been said to be fabricated.  Contrast this to CEG-TEK — CEG-TEK sends an infringement notice within days of a download taking place, but when the internet user logs in to CEG-TEK’s site, CEG-TEK’s computers have already searched and found any older downloads somehow linked to that internet user (based on the geolocation provided to CEG-TEK, presumably by the ISPs themselves, and also based on the list of IP addresses leased to the subscriber over how long the ISP keeps these lists of past IP addresses based on their “IP retention policy”).

NOTE: There is more to say here, but the jist is that CEG-TEK uses fuzzy science (same geolocation, same bittorrent software, same port number) to link cases together.  This causes problems when CEG-TEK’s system links together multiple tenants’ downloads in an apartment complex or dorm, or when an unlucky VPN subscriber receives an infringement notice containing all of the downloads from the hundreds of other users connecting through that same VPN IP address.

And, while CEG-TEK provides what they call “Customer Service” (a.k.a., “tell me about what a bad boy you were so that I can thank you for admitting guilt and force you to settle or face a lawsuit”), last I checked (and admittedly, it has been some time) there is ABSOLUTELY NO CUSTOMER SERVICE from RightsCorp. Yet, RightsCorp won’t hesitate calling you with their Robocalls all day and night.

Lastly, the biggest difference between CEG-TEK and RightsCorp is that whereas RightsCorp is financially a “sinking ship,” and last I checked, their stock price dropped to $0.06 per share on the stock exchanges, CEG-TEK has only been *expanding* their operations, growing in size, expanding into other counties (most recently, sending copyright infringement notices in Canada), openly speaking about hiring foreign attorneys to enforce their clients copyrights, and they even have been going into other areas of intellectual property (e.g., going after those who sell counterfeited goods over the internet).

In sum, Copyright Enforcement Group in my opinion is the “big bad wolf” of copyright infringement, yet they do everything they can to keep their “paws” clean. What has always bothered me about them (other than that former plaintiff attorney Ira Siegel‘s name appears on each of their settlement demand letters), is that with their growth comes the ability to push around attorneys and internet users with boilerplate settlement agreements, (recently) new terms on their settlement agreements which are less friendly than the former friendly terms, and the ability to continually raise the settlement amount (which was initially $200, then $250, then $300), and nobody can do anything about it.

“Settle or ignore,” it does not matter to CEG-TEK.

As for RightsCorp, I still hold by what I said almost 24 months ago. I see no reason to get involved with them, as they have always been a sinking ship. It is only a matter of time before they are bought out by someone else.

Rightscorp’s Red Bottom Line Gets Larger and so Does its List of Copyrights to Protect (8/19/2014)
Rightscorp Scores More Copyrights to Protect from The Royalty Network (7/11/2014)
Rightscorp, ‘We Aim to Protect Millions of Copyrights as we Continue to Lose Money’ (5/14/2014)
Rightscorp Sets its Sights on the Pay-Up or Else Program for UK Pirates (5/7/2014)
Rightscorp Scores Again, Gets 600 Copyrights from Rotten Records to Protect (4/16/2014)
Rightscorp Adds 13,000 More Copyrights From Blue Pie Records to Protect (3/31/2014)
Rightscorp Publishes its Full-Year & Fourth-Quarter 2013 Financial Report (3/26/2014)
Downloaders Beware; Rightscorp Now Monitoring Billboard Hot 100 Songs (2/28/2014)

Canada begins receiving CEG-TEK DMCA settlement letters. (3/12/2015)
How time limits / purged records stop a copyright holder from learning a downloader’s identity. (12/18/2014)
CEG-TEK’s growing list of participating ISPs, and their NEW alliance with COX Communications. (11/12/2014)
The Giganews VPN Problem (11/12/2014)
CEG-TEK is now your friendly “photo” copyright troll. (6/13/2013)
CEG-TEK’s new “you didn’t settle” letters sent from Marvin Cable. (3/22/2013)
CEG-TEK’s DMCA Settlement Letters – What are my chances of being sued if I ignore? (2/22/2013)
Why CEG-TEK’s DMCA settlement system will FAIL. (2/22/2013)

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I have been fighting with myself trying to determine whether to write this article for a problem with Warner Brothers’ $20 settlement demand letters that they are sending out to accused downloaders of their content. Yet I suspect that this is just the beginning of something larger — I fear that the MPAA might be jumping on board the “DMCA settlement letter” scheme or even worse, starting to sue defendants again en masse for copyright infringement.

Under a company named “Rightscorp, Inc.,” (Website: http://www.DigitalRightsCorp.com) Christopher Sabec is sending out “DMCA Letters” almost copying CEG-TEK’s letters accusing the internet user of copyright infringement and offering to settle the claims for a mere $20.

RightsCorp is representing, however, mega corporations such as Warner Brothers Entertainment Inc. (“Warner Bros.”) on their ABC Family teen shows such as “Pretty Little Liars” (file: “Pretty.Little.Liars.S03E05.HDTV.x264-LOL.mp4”) among other TV shows geared at teenagers who are quite savvy on the internet. The expectation is that not all of the episodes are available on their http://abcfamily.go.com website, and so naturally kids will migrate to the internet and Bittorrent to download the earlier episodes taken down from their websites.

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.  Yet the flip side is that Warner Bros. is a MPAA member, and they have unlimited pockets to sue a defendant (they have in the past, and they could again in the future), and that not settling could later result in a second claim against you for a lot more money (it is not unlike them to ask for $20,000 as a settlement for one title).

My ThoughtsI am not sure I would want the MPAA (or any of its members) to have my client’s contact information with what is essentially an “I did it, I’m sorry, I won’t do it again, here’s $20” settlement agreement.  And, if I settled a claim, I would probably do so anonymously and respectfully.  

I would not want to instigate a “David vs. Goliath” fight with Warner Brothers or the MPAA on behalf of my client (who would likely end up being the HARD-WORKING PARENTS of the kid who did the download).  In a court battle, we would have the uneven legal situation [yet again] where the plaintiff copyright troll has unlimited financial and legal resources and the defendant has limited means to even hire an attorney to represent them.

The MPAA has been lying dormant these past three years while the porn companies and their copyright trolls fight out the issues in the various federal courts across the U.S. My suspicion is that they are getting ready to dip their toes back into the water and start suing internet users again. I am suspicious that perhaps this $20 scheme is just their way to start getting names and contact information to gear up to sue “repeat offenders” who have already settled one of their claims. And for $20, it appears to me that this will be an easy way to lure defendants into giving over their contact information to be solicited later for something else.

Here is a sample copy of their release (noting that the “no admission of guilt” language is missing):

WB Sample Settlement Agreement
Liability Release & Settlement Receipt

IMPORTANT: Please retain this document for your records. It releases you from liability for the below mentioned infringement and serves as official notice of settlement.

Reference # TC-4ab****************************

Title Pr*******************

Filename Pr********************

Timestamp 2013-06***********

Infringement Source Torrent

Infringers IP Address 61*************

Infringers Port 4****

In consideration of the settlement payment made and the representations and agreements made in this Release & Settlement, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. (“WB”) for itself, for its past, present and future directors, shareholders, members, managers, officers, employees, agents, attorneys, representatives, partners, trustees, beneficiaries, family members, heirs, subsidiaries and affiliates, and for its and their predecessors, successors and assigns (collectively the “Releasor”);

Hereby finally, unconditionally, irrevocably and absolutely releases, acquits, remises and forever discharges robert steele, 3100 donald douglas loop n santa monica CA, 90405 and such person’s family members and heirs (collectively the “Releasee”);

From any and all manner of actions, suits, debts, sums of money, interest owed, charges, damages, judgments, executions, obligations, costs, expenses, fees (including attorneys’ fees and court costs), claims, demands, causes of action and liabilities, that arise under the United States Copyright Act, in each case whether known or unknown, absolute or contingent, matured or unmatured, presently existing or hereafter discovered, at law, in equity or otherwise, that the Releasor may now have or that might subsequently accrue against the Releasee arising out of or connected with the specific Infringement of copyrighted material(s) referenced above;

Provided however, that this release shall not, and shall not be deemed to, constitute a release with respect to any other past, present or future infringements by Releasee other than the specific Infringement of copyrighted material(s) referenced above.

Robert Steele agrees not to infringe any of WB’s filmed entertainment (including but not limited to films, videos, video games, animation and television programs), whether now in existence or later created, that is owned or controlled by WB. In furtherance of this agreement, Robert Steele agrees to immediately and permanently cease the unauthorized copying and/or distribution (including, but not limited to, downloading, uploading, filesharing, file “swapping,” or other similar activities) of WB filmed entertainment, including, but not limited to, those items listed in this correspondence.

Settlement Date 2013-06**********

Transaction Id 102**************

Settlement Amount ***

If you have any questions about this release, please contact rsteele@digitalrightscorp.com

6/21 UPDATE: I have been seeing lawsuits filed by Warner Bros Home Entertainment Inc. v. “named defendant” et al. I have provided a screenshot below from the http://www.rfcexpress.com website. After a quick investigation, these lawsuits are NOT RELATED to what I am referring to in this article.  Yet, it is still concerning that Warner Bros. is taking such an enthusiastic interest in the federal court system for copyright infringement lawsuits.
062113 Warner Bros Lawsuits

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