Verizon Handing Over Names For US Copyright Group's Mass Automated Lawsuits

from the shame-on-verizon dept

We've already discussed how the so-called US Copyright Group (which seems like a bit of a front for DC-based law firm Dunlap Grubb Weaver -- tag line: "Lawyers with a Higher Standard" -- since the first named partner in the operation, Thomas Dunlap, also happens to appear to run US Copyright Group) has been filing tens of thousands of questionable lawsuits for certain movie producers, including, most recently 5,000 lawsuits for those accused of file sharing Hurt Locker. Of course, it looks like this particular operation is nothing more than a copy of European operations like ACS:Law, whose main goal is not to take anyone to court, but to get people to pay up to not get sued. In this case, US Copyright Group's starting offer is $1,500 to not get sued. How generous.

When the news of this operation first came to light, it was noted that one major ISP had already agreed to hand over names of folks based on IP addresses. At the time, we wondered who that was. Later on, we found out, Dunlap claimed that 75% of ISPs were cooperating. Again, we wondered who was actually doing this. The only major ISP we know who is fighting handing over the names is Time Warner Cable. In response, Dunlap is trying to advance the novel legal theory (i.e., one that would get laughed out of court) that by not handing over the names TWC is guilty of inducing infringement itself.

Well, now we know at least one ISP that is handing over the names In a rather annoying "photo gallery" put together by News.com that only shows one photo per page so you need to click through a bunch of pages to get the actual story (nice to see News.com stooping to cheap page view boosting tricks), we find out that Verizon is handing over names to US Copyright Group. The photo gallery shows images from one guy who received one of these pre-settlement letters. Verizon apparently gave him less than a week to retain a lawyer to fight the subpoena or it would hand over his info.

This is unfortunate. Verizon was the one big ISP that stood up to the RIAA back in the early days, when it pulled a similar trick, going to court to protect its customers' identities. It's too bad that it no longer thinks so highly of protecting its customers.

Some other tidbits from the letter in the News.com story: US Copyright Group demands $1,500 not to sue, but only if you pay up within a month. After that the price goes up to $2,500. The letter, not surprisingly warns that the producers of the film will seek at least $30,000 per infringement in any lawsuit, with the possibility of asking for $150,000, if it believes it can prove the infringement was "intentional."

The letter cites the ruling against Joel Tenenbaum to support why it's cheaper to pay up. Amusingly, but not surprisingly, it doesn't cite the ruling against Jammie Thomas, who also was ordered to pay huge amounts... until the judge greatly reduced the award. Funny that the lawyers would omit that little fact...

Also, the letter (which is not about Hurt Locker, but about Uwe Boll's Far Cry) points people to www.farcry-settlement.com, which you can check out for yourself.

Oh, as for the guy who showed the letter to News.com. He has an open WiFi setup, says he doesn't know who downloaded the film and appears pretty annoyed by the whole thing:
"For me, the issue here isn't whether or not peer-to-peer is evil," said Harrison, a photographer. "It is whether or not our federal courts and Verizon should cooperate with such an obvious intimidation scam."


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), Jun 1st, 2010 @ 9:16am

    The best part...

    ...of that Far Cry settlement page is at the bottom:

    "Please note: You should seek the advice of an attorney before entering into any settlement agreement. All settlement agreements are strictly confidential."

    Yes, that's right. Your settlement with Hollywood is confidential, but your identity as an ISP customer is not.

    ...Awesome.

     

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  2.  
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    Jay (profile), Jun 1st, 2010 @ 9:21am

    Intriguing

    Here's what I believe happened...

    Dunlap says that all of the ISPs are cooperating with him. Then, behind closed doors, he talks to them individually. He tells them that the others are doing it, so they might as well do it themselves. He even sweetens the deal by telling them they're liable for infringement themselves. Then, when one fall, all the others fall save the most resilient.

    You can't blame a guy for having a plan that works. But I do know we're going to hear about this privacy invasion fairly shortly. There's no reason in the world that their information should be given for being sued. Not without an attorney or someone to fight for you.

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 1st, 2010 @ 9:40am

    I don't live in the US, but if I discovered my ISP was handing out client information like this I would definitely drop them ASAP and be very vocal about why I dropped them. As a customer, I'm going to vote with my dollar for an ISP that will respect and protect my privacy.

     

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  4.  
    icon
    Bob Bunderfeld (profile), Jun 1st, 2010 @ 9:44am

    The time is NOW

    Ray, if you are still reading, will you take my case if I get one of these. I promise to FIGHT along side you, all the way to the Supreme Court, no matter what!



    Bob

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    NAMELESS.ONE, Jun 1st, 2010 @ 9:46am

    @4 and you let us know

    if you need some donations , i r has feeling i could be a good help there

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Yasha Heidari, Jun 1st, 2010 @ 9:57am

    Amazing

    I wonder if Verizon is exposing itself to liability by simply handing out its subscribers' information without a court order. It seems like it may constitute a breach of contract or a tort for common law invasion of privacy. I doubt their boilerplate contract would be sufficient to simply circumvent the issue, either.

    I would definitely love to represent someone to fight this type of battle. Copyright was enacted "[t]o promote the progress of science and useful arts." I fail to see how shooting 5000 demand letters in the mail, without sufficient process, helps promote the sciences and the arts.

    Yasha Heidari
    Attorney-at-Law
    www.heidariplank.com

     

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  7.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Jun 1st, 2010 @ 9:57am

    To funny I wonder .....

    I wonder if they are still collecting IP addresses.

    I bet there are going to be cases in the future where some no name movie does the drive by infringement thing. Put the movie up as a torrent, then go to random peoples open wifi and download, monitor their own download, then sue the person they have set up.

    Or a random person not liking someone, hacking a router and downloading just to cause problems.

    This will lead to a whole host of abuses and problems when ISPs are forced to monitor as a result of ACTA.

     

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  8.  
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    ChronoFish (profile), Jun 1st, 2010 @ 9:59am

    Isn't blackmail illegal?

    How is this not blackmail, and there-fore not illegal?

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    funny, Jun 1st, 2010 @ 10:01am

    Re: To funny I wonder .....

    "I wonder if they are still collecting IP addresses. "

    I'm no expert but I stayed at a HIE. I would say, "yes".

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 1st, 2010 @ 10:02am

    Re:

    That's difficult to do in the U.S. because our governments (ie: local) ensure an artificial lack of competition. They prevent newcomers from building new infrastructure or from competing on the existing infrastructure. Our whole system is rigged against the citizens and in favor of the top one percent.

     

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  11.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Jun 1st, 2010 @ 10:04am

    Re: Amazing

    I wonder if Verizon is exposing itself to liability by simply handing out its subscribers' information without a court order.

    That's not quite accurate. There is a subpoena filed due to the initial lawsuit filing. So, there is a "court order," though, as Time Warner Cable has shown, you can fight it. These kinds of subpoenas are issued with little scrutiny.

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    interval, Jun 1st, 2010 @ 10:11am

    Re: Re:

    Difficult, but depends on where you live, and the "out of luck" range is shrinking little by little. If I found Verizon to be in my loop it wouldn't be impossible for me to drop my isp like a lump of molten lead and move on. And I can't think of any of my friends who absolutely do not have a choice either.

     

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  13.  
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    Steve R. (profile), Jun 1st, 2010 @ 10:11am

    Re: The best part...

    Verizon Website Verizon's worry free guarantee."Why Buy Online: Your information is kept private and secure."

    Verizon Privacy Policy "Protecting our customers' privacy is an important priority at Verizon. We are committed to maintaining strong and meaningful privacy protections for customers." I can't resist this one jab which makes their privacy policy a joke. "Verizon shares customer information across our family of companies for marketing purposes unless you advise us not to." So you actually have to advise Verizon that you want your information protected!!!!!!!!

    "Outside the Verizon Family of Companies: Except in certain circumstances explained in our privacy policy, Verizon does not sell, license or share information that individually identifies our customers with others outside of Verizon for non-Verizon purposes without your consent."

    Once again supposed guarantees made by the corporate world are nothing more than hot air.

     

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  14.  
    icon
    paperbag (profile), Jun 1st, 2010 @ 10:11am

    they promote Infringement

    Saw this over at the Ars Technica comments. Apparently these guys run a website http://savecinema.org which has all its tired old babble about losing money and other false information.

    One commenter found this tidbit, however.

    "* PROBLEM: ILLEGAL DOWNLOADS COSTS THE MOVIE INDUSTRY $20.5 BILLION EACH YEAR*. IN THE FIRST WEEK OF A DVD RELEASE THERE ARE MORE THAN 30,000 UNLAWFUL DOWNLOADS^.
    * SOLUTION: THE US COPYRIGHT GROUP WILL ASSIST WITH COPYRIGHT INFRINGMENT"

    I like the 2nd bullet point really. Direct link to page with above text: http://www.copyrightsettlement.info/index-3.html

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 1st, 2010 @ 10:17am

    Re: Re: Re:

    It's shrinking very slowly, sure, which is good, but it's still huge. Usually there is DSL and Cable/fiber optics, but DSL can only offer so much bandwidth and Cable/fiber optics is usually monopolized and I don't see competition on that. Oh sure, there is that 3G but that's slow and limited as well. As far as having a decent Internet connection, which is pretty much what many other countries have, there is very little competition here in the U.S. and so we've pretty much fallen behind. Yes, I hope that changes and it will only change if citizens stand up to our corrupt legislators and let them know who's boss and disallowing them to grant monopoly power or else face being voted out of office.

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 1st, 2010 @ 10:23am

    Re: Re: Amazing

    So at least there is some due process, which is good. Now if someone wants to argue that the due process is not sufficient, that's a different story. Should ISP's be required to fight a subpoena? I would say not necessarily. However, I would say that you can come up with a pretty decent argument that the subpoenas are granted too easily and that those granting the subpoenas should grant them only after applying more scrutiny. and if that's the case then it's the subpoena granting process that we should focus our attention on and scrutinize and seek to correct, not necessarily the ISP's unwillingness to challenge the subpoena.

    Kinda like with the warrants that courts grant, they never reject a warrant. Should warrants be required? Yes. Should they be easily granted upon request? No. In this case it's good that there is process but one can make the argument that the process itself needs to scrutinize these requests more thoroughly.

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    John, Jun 1st, 2010 @ 10:32am

    Google's role...

    What about the free WiFi that Google is providing in Mountain View, CA? It would seem to me that there are a few people there using Google's open connection to down load movies...doesn't that make Google "responsible"? Aren't those pockets just a we-bit more deep than your average consumer? Oh yeah...there's also a rather impressive battery of lawyers working for Google...they probably wouldn't put up with this garbage from the "US Copyright Group". That makes them a much more difficult target. Too bad for the common man.

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 1st, 2010 @ 10:34am

    Re: Re: Re: Amazing

    Another relevant question is, does the ISP get the opportunity to see the requested IP addresses and respond before the subpoena is granted? I think there should be at least an opportunity for discussion between the ISP, those granting the subpoena, and those requesting the subpoena before a subpoena is actually granted. That way the ISP has the opportunity to defend against the granting of the subpoena in case of a request the ISP can show to be bogus.

     

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  19.  
    icon
    hometoast (profile), Jun 1st, 2010 @ 11:09am

    Re: Isn't blackmail illegal?

    That's exactly what I was thinking.

    Isn't "pay us, or we'll sue you" the definition of extortion?

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Tom, Jun 1st, 2010 @ 11:25am

    Re:

    The problem in the US is that there are only a few, if not a single, ISP per area. This is to cleverly get the ISP's more money without them having to increase their product.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Hurtin, Jun 1st, 2010 @ 12:07pm

    Funny, www.hurtlocker-settlement.com isn't yet taken...

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    KD, Jun 1st, 2010 @ 12:18pm

    Could we bankrupt them?

    The plan for US Copyright Group and their movie producer clients seems to be to extort payments with minimal actual court work. It would be sweet revenge if we could find a way to turn that on its head and force US Copyright Group into prosecuting tens of thousands of court cases, hopefully bleeding them dry.

    I don't immediately see a way to get that to happen. It would require nearly everyone who was outed by their ISP to refuse to pay up, basically daring US Copyright Group to proceed with all the court/trial work. Unfortunately, it would cost the defendents a lot more than the settlement demand to drag things out enough to financially hurt US Copyright Group, so most will pay off the extortion demand.

    Can any of you suggest a way to turn that around? A way to incent the defendents not to cave in and, collectively, stick it to US Copyright Group?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 1st, 2010 @ 12:27pm

    Re: Re:

    That's difficult to do in the U.S. because our governments (ie: local) ensure an artificial lack of competition. They prevent newcomers from building new infrastructure or from competing on the existing infrastructure. Our whole system is rigged against the citizens and in favor of the top one percent.

    So? If you don't like it then move to another country or quit whining.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    TPBer, Jun 1st, 2010 @ 12:46pm

    Overload their email...

    With a bunch of nonsense, like they are spewing.



    info@savecinema.org

     

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  25.  
    icon
    Richard (profile), Jun 1st, 2010 @ 3:25pm

    Re: Could we bankrupt them?

    The correct tactics to deal with this scam have already been worked out in the UK. Hopefully the law is sufficiently similar in the US. Remember, in the UK ACS law have not taken a single person to court (they obtained one default judgement against someone who made no response.)

    The correct tactic is to make a nominal reply to each letter, rejecting the allegation without giving them any more information. No one who has used this tactic has been taken to court, and in many cases ACS law seem to have given up.

    See http://beingthreatened.yolasite.com/

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    icon
    SailingCyclops (profile), Jun 1st, 2010 @ 7:06pm

    Re: Could we bankrupt them?

    A class-action law suit filed on behalf of the extorted may work. Suing US Copyright Group for both abuse of process, and extortion? If US Copyright Group fails to sue those who refuse to pay, their intention to extort may be provable, and the entire class should be able to return the favor.

    Any lawyers out there have an idea about this?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 2nd, 2010 @ 4:27am

    Re: Could we bankrupt them?

    Organize! If 20 people chip in $1000 each (less than US Copyright Group's settlement demand), the group could afford a good lawyer to fight the case, which would likely result in a complete dismissal. Someone should start a Facebook page dedicated to this purpose!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Mr. .Anon, Jun 2nd, 2010 @ 6:04am

    This is illegal

    What they are doing falls under the RICO act.

    They are nothing more than extortionists. Extortion is against the law. You give us money, or we force you to hire a lawyer to represent you when we try to seize your assets.

    The fact that they are planning this, and there are more than one person planning this falls under Federal laws against "Conspiracy".

    They could also be prosecuted for operating a Continuing Criminal Enterprise.

    Michigan Phil, and Joey (Two Fingers) Rosetti better look out....they got competition from Thomas (Shoot First, Ask Questions Later) Dunlap.

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    Dave Gordon, Jun 15th, 2010 @ 2:14pm

    Help needed

    The USCG, US Copyright Group has stormed into the limelight with their massive campaign against piracy on the internet. But who are the USCG? Within this article we shall do some behind the scenes digging to find out who the USCG really are. A normal investigation of an online entity starts with some basics, which are not so easy with the USCG's confused IT administration; hopefully not a reflection of their copyright management administration. The USCG are know by at least three different names, the USCG, SaveCinema.org and CopyrightSettlement.info. Both domain names CopyrightSettlement.info and SaveCinema.org, point to identical sites hosted on different servers. CopyrightSettlement is hosted on an Apache server at IP address 97.74.144.166, while SaveCinema.org is hosted on a Microsoft Windows IIS 6 server on IP address 64.202.189.170 both domain names are registered using an intermediatry privacy company called DomainsByProxy.com. In our experience such privacy is only used by organisations and people ho have something to hide, nevertheless, they are entitled to hide their true identity if they wish and nothing too sinister should be read into this. Although, it does make it far more difficult to discover any identity behind the USCG.

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    carmella hohner, Feb 2nd, 2011 @ 2:31pm

    Re: Amazing

    I need a Lawyer or someone to help me through this i received one of these letters today and i do not know what to do i never experienced a letter like this is it a scam

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 25th, 2011 @ 2:16am

    Help yourself

    ^ Write letters to every state general attorney, elected official asking they put a monetary cap and take this out of the hands of mafia scheme treatening settlement lawyers like US Copywrite group. Ask how can college students on frist offense get a 25 dollar fine and USCG ask for 1,500 to 5,000 plus with dragnet threatening letters. Also the State Bar Assoc Members in both Virgina and Washington need to be asked how they can produce lawyers as US Copyright Group. send articles. send blogs.
    ^ Not settle and if you get a court notice (how can 50,000 and what judge would put up with this circus) remember this is not criminal this is civil.. get a court dismissal form from Syfert or write judge and ask for a dismissal due to out of jurisdiction. I know for a fact I was not in Washington or Virginia downloading a movie.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 25th, 2011 @ 2:28am

    Re: Help yourself

    yes I know words misspelled.. rush late for work

     

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  33.  
    identicon
    Help yourself, Mar 21st, 2011 @ 12:28pm

    HurtLocker cases dropped as over the search engines new waves in past few day. I am thankful that I will not need to right letters now to the above representatives etc, members etc, It was gonna be a pain in the butt to do anyway. I dont have time. And for Syfert not sure about all that. Seems like a nice guy but I dont know all that legal stuff.We do need to encourage legislaton to step in and help with this rigmarole of copyright infrigment and get the 1st offense and ability to prove innocent before being proved guilty for innocent. This digital age is all new to people and people dont fully understand all the conserquences of so many things. for instance. be sure to always read the terms and conditions. Always. And next time any lawyers from any firm with any sort of cases. please be nicer and not be so threatening with a horrible mafia feel like.. pay or it will be harder for you sort of thing. I feel sorry for those who had to feel the intimidation. Things can be alot nicer ya know.

     

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  34.  
    icon
    car21221 (profile), Mar 30th, 2011 @ 4:45pm

    Re: The time is NOW

    i need your help i saw u got a letter also about getting a letter from a company threatening to sue over illegal downloading a movie i got a letter and i am tring to find out what i should do they said my ip address was linked to illegal movie download if u have any suggestions contact me please i think its a scam
    my email car21221@yahoo.com
    hoping to hear from u

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    identicon
    Source, Mar 6th, 2013 @ 8:54am

    my take

    Its always about the money they can make that corporations care about, never the customer. Get yourself a good lawyer and write to your state rep

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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