Are There More Copyright 'Pre-Settlement' Groups Setting Up Shop In The US?
from the warning-letters dept
We recently covered how a recently created outfit going by the name US Copyright Group, had launched tens of thousands of lawsuits (some of which appear to be quite questionable from a legal standpoint), as part of what appeared to be an attempt at copying the efforts of companies like DigiProtect and ACS:Law in Europe (where such practices have been widely condemned). The lawsuits appear to be a smokescreen to get contact information for people to whom this “company” can send “pre-settlement” letters, in which they’re told to pay up to avoid the lawsuit.
Considering that this pseudo-shakedown is apparently lucrative in Europe, perhaps others are preparing to do the same in the US as well. A reader who prefers to remain anonymous, but who works for a small ISP, passed along an email he recently received from what appears to be a newish operation called the Copyright Enforcement Group, whose website has a mock law enforcement shield on it. Like US Copyright Group, it doesn’t hide behind any claims of stopping infringing content. It focuses solely on how this is a way to “monetize” infringements. The email also points to a separate site called CopyrightSettlements.com, which makes some interesting claims. This is the website where folks can “pay up,” and it promises “you will receive a full release of liability” but also that “Your personal information and settlement terms will be kept confidential.” Makes you wonder how the two can go together. If your info is kept secret, what’s to keep copyright holders from suing again? And does the company make sure it covers all copyright holders for a piece of content? Will it indemnify users if they’re threatened or sued again?
As for the letter to the ISP, it was an “introduction,” in an attempt to ask for the ISP’s cooperation in identifying its users. As we’ve seen with US Copyright Group, many ISPs refuse to just hand over names, though some will. Hopefully, most ISPs receiving the following letter know better than to just hand over info without a court order. Here’s the relevant part of the email:
CEG provides intellectual property management services to a consortium of studios in the entertainment industry. Our clients have entrusted us with their valuable property and authorized us to bring legal action against those individuals who illegally download and/or distribute their copyrighted materials over the Internet.
CEG’s proprietary technology detects infringements which occur over the Internet and gathers sufficient evidence to support a claim of copyright infringement against the infringing party. Once infringement is detected, we follow strict multi-step validation procedures to ensure that all information is accurate before we forward the DMCA notice to you. The infringing party is then afforded with an opportunity to settle the matter for substantially less than what will be offered if a lawsuit is filed or compared to the judgment amount a court may enter against the infringer.
We understand and respect the important role that you play in securing the privacy of your subscriber base. However, we, too, are deeply committed to our clients and will vigorously enforce their intellectual property rights against infringement. We sincerely hope that you will join us in our effort to fight Internet piracy.
Looks like this new form of “monetizing” content is spreading. And not in a good way.