Company That Sends Out Almost-Extortion-Like 'Pre-Settlement Letters' Sees No Problem With Almost-Extortion-Like 'Pre-Settlement Letters'

from the business-as-usual dept

Germany-based DigiProtect has a long history of using a machine-gun approach to "fight piracy", in which it sends out tens of thousands of letters to people it says have illegally downloaded its clients' content, and demanding a "pre-settlement" payment to stop them from being sued. The big problem is that the company's net catches lots of innocent people, and it's been condemned by all sorts of people, even including the British equivalent of the RIAA. The BBC has been asking some questions of DigiProtect, and as you might expect, the firm sees absolutely nothing wrong with what it's doing, calling its method "the only proven effective proceeding" for dealing with piracy. How, exactly, is the method effective? Because as far as we can tell -- and as far as the recording industry is concerned -- the amount of illegal downloading going on really isn't slowing down much. What it's effective at is generating revenues for DigiProtect, which tells the BBC that after deducting costs, it pays rightsholders at least 50% of the remainder of the "pre-settlements", leaving it a nice commission. These answers from Digiprotect are completely unsurprising, and it's not clear if the BBC expected the company to have some sort of epiphany and shut down or what. After all, another company using a similar model in the UK called it quits last week, saying it was "surprised and disappointed by the amount of adverse publicity that our firm has attracted in relation to this work." I mean, who in their right mind would think that sending out these bully-like letters, particularly to lots of innocent people, would upset anybody?


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    Hephaestus (profile), Apr 16th, 2010 @ 12:34pm

    This is interesting ....

    "The big problem is that the company's net catches lots of innocent people, and it's been condemned by all sorts of people, even including the British equivalent of the RIAA."

    They had a public relations nightmare when they sued 30,000 people in the united states. They learned from this mistake and now are coming down on companies using the same tactics as they did in the past. They are now pushing for 3 strikes, disconnections, and possible jail time. I wonder how they dont see that ACTA is just a different version of the law suits. It is going to be worse than the lawsuits public relations wise.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 16th, 2010 @ 12:37pm

    this looks like a job for captain obvious!

     

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    Perry K (profile), Apr 16th, 2010 @ 12:46pm

    not machine gun approach

    This is better referred to as a carpet bombing approach. And given that they're pocketing 50% of the fines, why would they stop? So who authorized these clowns to to extort in the first place? Or can anyone start a business like this?

     

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      Atkray (profile), Apr 16th, 2010 @ 1:48pm

      Re: not machine gun approach

      "after deducting costs, it pays rightsholders at least 50% of the remainder of the pre-settlements"

      So they deduct their costs first then 50%. I'm guessing they pay out very little.

       

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    Hulser (profile), Apr 16th, 2010 @ 12:58pm

    Non-sequiter much?

    the firm sees absolutely nothing wrong with what it's doing, calling its method "the only proven effective proceeding" for dealing with piracy.

    You don't even have to get to the issue of whether pre-settlement letters are effective to see that this statement is ridiculous.

    Q: What does the effectiviness of a method have to do with whether it's right or wrong?

    A: Absolutely nothing.


    The statement is a non-sequiter designed to obfuscate their motives.

     

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      Dark Helmet (profile), Apr 16th, 2010 @ 1:58pm

      Re: Non-sequiter much?

      I heard Ben Rothelisberger is exceptionally effective at being a complete deutschebag....doesn't mean its right for him to go around waving his little steeler at women....

       

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    MAC, Apr 16th, 2010 @ 1:51pm

    Machine gun approach

    Nazis!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 16th, 2010 @ 1:58pm

    This summary asserts that "the big problem is that the company's net catches lots of innocent people." What evidence, besides the claims of people who have received the letters, is there to make the affirmative claim that they are innocent?

    Furthermore, has anyone seen one of these particular letters? The firm sending them out claims that the recipient is the original point of contact since they own the Internet account in question, but is not directly accused.

     

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      btrussell (profile), Apr 16th, 2010 @ 2:39pm

      Re:

      "What evidence, besides the claims of people who have received the letters, is there to make the affirmative claim that they are innocent?"

      Umm... The Law!
      Innocent until proven guilty!

       

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      Nastybutler77 (profile), Apr 16th, 2010 @ 2:39pm

      Re:

      So I see it didn't take a representative from DigiProtect very long to troll here.

       

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      Any Mouse, Apr 16th, 2010 @ 2:57pm

      Re:

      I think you're in the wrong country to be asking that. You see, in America you are presumed innocent until PROVEN guilty. So the proper question would be 'what evidence, besides the flimsy recording of an IP address, is there to make the claim that they are NOT innocent?'

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Apr 16th, 2010 @ 3:29pm

        Re: Re:

        So you recognize no distinction between actual innocence and the legal presumption of innocence?

        By your reasoning, every accusation or investigation is then against an "innocent" person until there has been an adjudicated court case. Every person pulled over by a police officer is thus innocent of speeding. Every person arrested for anything is an innocent person being held against their will! And, of course, OJ is innocent of killing his wife. What a travesty!

        The sense in which it's used in the Techdirt article, of course, is one of actual (not presumed) innocence.

        So the proper question would be 'what evidence, besides the flimsy recording of an IP address, is there to make the claim that they are NOT innocent?

        Yes, that is a proper question and we should make sure that is answered. But you would only ask that if someone is making an affirmative claim of guilt, and of course nobody seems to want to demonstrate that either. As I asked, has anyone demonstrated that the letter recipients have been formally accused of anything? The linked articles do not show the source documents (the letters sent out that might contain an actual accusation), and the narrative in the articles contains statements from the firm sending them out that the recipients are not, in fact, themselves accused.

         

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          btrussell (profile), Apr 16th, 2010 @ 4:44pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          "As I asked, has anyone demonstrated that the letter recipients have been formally accused of anything? The linked articles do not show the source documents (the letters sent out that might contain an actual accusation), and the narrative in the articles contains statements from the firm sending them out that the recipients are not, in fact, themselves accused."


          Sued for what if there is no accusation?

           

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        RD, Apr 16th, 2010 @ 5:04pm

        Re: Re:

        "I think you're in the wrong country to be asking that. You see, in America you are presumed innocent until PROVEN guilty. So the proper question would be 'what evidence, besides the flimsy recording of an IP address, is there to make the claim that they are NOT innocent?'"

        This used to be true, should be true, and still exists somewhere in the midst of a constitution that is more and more being ignored, but sadly, there is no more "innocent unless (and its UNLESS not UNTIL. UNTIL implies inevitability) proven guilty."

         

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      Richard (profile), Apr 18th, 2010 @ 12:52pm

      Re:

      has anyone seen one of these particular letters?

      Have a look at the responses to the digital economy bill - there are plenty there from genuinely innocent people who have been accused.

      Digiprotect uses an automated software process to detect infringers. The chances of that software being error free (as with ANY software) are pretty much zero.

      Alternatively look at

      http://beingthreatened.yolasite.com/press-index.php

      For the full rundown.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 16th, 2010 @ 3:48pm

    IP amounts to nothing more than a bunch of little kids bickering over, "STop COpying me, Stop copying me, Stop Copying me. You Stole my idea. No You stole MY idea. I'm telling (suing), you're copying me." Seriously, we're adults now, can't we get passed all this bickering nonsense.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Apr 18th, 2010 @ 10:19am

      Re:

      It's been over a decade since Napster showed up. So no. This is what happens when you make laws for children, and their high-priced lawyers.

       

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    OMG!, Apr 16th, 2010 @ 6:25pm

    Simple Question

    Am I exempt from accusation, if I do not have an internet connection?

    On the surface, this may seem like a stupid question ... but think about it.

    There are those out there that do not have internet connection. Some of them will receive one of those letters. So ... then what? They are guilty until they prove they do not have an internet connection ???

     

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      FrogMan, Apr 17th, 2010 @ 5:22pm

      Re: Simple Question

      You are correct.
      And this will become a problem.
      I suspect that some DB will offer an insurance plan to cover you when you are falsely accused.

       

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    essequemodeia, Apr 18th, 2010 @ 9:33am

    well then

    Dear DigiProtect,

    I received your letter detailing my exploits as a media pirate. Of course I am totally innocent of said practices, and I would like to proffer an alternate view. I understand that your business practices include extorting money from innocent people by threatening them with a lawsuit. In contrast, I would like to bring up the concept of a class-action lawsuit, against you, initiated by all of the innocent people you have robbed money from. Of course, it doesn't have to progress to that point. If you would, oh I dunno, send me $500 USD I think we can avoid such a potentially harmful outcome.

    Here's to hoping you can do the reasonable thing.

    Esse

     

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