Time Warner Cable Stands Up To Automated Copyright Infringement Filing Factory

from the well,-there's-one... dept

We’ve been covering the new US operation, US Copyright Group. You may recall, it burst on the scene in late March with a claim of having filed 20,000 infringement lawsuits — many of which were over a Uwe Boll movie, Far Cry, despite much of the infringement allegedly occurring before the film was registered at the US copyright office (a no-no for filing a lawsuit). More recently, the company was apparently gearing up to do the same thing over the Oscar-winning movie Hurt Locker.

During that time, we noted that US Copyright Group claimed that it had gone from having one ISP cooperating to “75%” of ISPs cooperating. This was a surprise, because years back, ISPs had been reluctant to cooperate with similar efforts. So the numbers seemed questionable. Either way, apparently Time Warner Cable is not at all interested in working with US Copyright Group. Instead, TWC went to the court to protest US Copyright Group’s efforts:

“Copyright cases involving third-party discovery of Internet service providers have typically related to a plaintiff’s efforts to identify anonymous defendants whose numbers rank in the single or low double digits,” wrote the cable company. “By contrast, plaintiff in this case alone seeks identifying information about 2,049 anonymous defendants, and seeks identifying information about 809 Internet Protocol addresses from TWC….”

“If the Court compels TWC to answer all of these lookup requests given its current staffing, it would take TWC nearly three months of full-time work by TWC’s Subpoena Compliance group, and TWC would not be able to respond to any other request, emergency or otherwise, from law enforcement during this period,” said the filing. “TWC has a six-month retention period for its IP lookup logs, and by the time TWC could turn to law enforcement requests, many of these requests could not be answered.”

Pretty interesting, given Time Warner Cable’s connection to Time Warner, which you would think would make it a bit more open to working with US Copyright Group. The article at Ars Technica also notes that Comcast and Cablevision also aren’t thrilled about US Copyright Group’s subpoenas. That’s three of the largest ISPs out there, so I’m curious about the 75% of ISPs who are supposedly “fully cooperating.” It sounds like that claim is about as legitimate as many of the original filings over infringement on a work who was not registered at the time of infringement.

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Companies: time warner cable, us copyright group

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Comments on “Time Warner Cable Stands Up To Automated Copyright Infringement Filing Factory”

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Anonymous Coward says:

i think it is very unlikely that the courts will allow time warning to arbitrarily set a limit to the number of lookups requested. it is clear that widespread infringement is happening on their system, and they need to staff up to meet their legal obligations. any other choice puts an undue burder on the rights holders to tolerate widespread piracy.

Adam Wasserman (profile) says:

Re: Legal Obligations?

An anonymous coward writes:

>it is clear that widespread infringement is happening on
>their system, and they need to staff up to meet their legal

I was wondering if, by the same logic, gun manufacturers had a legal obligation to “staff up” and somehow prevent the widespread (and very well documented) illegal uses their customers put the firearms to.

JL says:

Re: Re:

That’s hilarious. Undue Burden on the rights holders?

How about making the rights holder PROVE that freakin’ IP ADDRESS ACTUALLY IDENTIFIES A SPECIFIC PERSON?

If you want to get into the nuts and bolts of process and it’s components foundations in reality, you should start with that assumption of guilt based on an unverifiable piece of “evidence.”

Thanks for playing.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

hi mike. you realize that these people are in fact following due process, right? they need the information on the users so that they can have their day in court and move forward. it is all about due process. it doesnt give tw the right to deny that information for purely financial reasons.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“i think it is very unlikely that the courts will allow time warning to arbitrarily set a limit to the number of lookups requested. it is clear that widespread infringement is happening on their system, and they need to staff up to meet their legal obligations. any other choice puts an undue burder on the rights holders to tolerate widespread piracy.”

Didn’t read all the comments so I’ll say again for this assbag.

IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY. ALONE. Police your own shit. Also if I were TW i’d send the bill to USCG

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

what is funny is that none of you are reading the story. the rights holder has contacted TW to identify users and has documented times and ip addresses on their system, and filed accordingly. they are doing what they need to do. they cannot identify users from ip addresses without the information. why are they suppose to ask for this information. they are ‘policing their own shit’, and they could do more if tw wasn’t so intent on getting in the way and denying them what they have a legal right to obtain in a reasonable delay.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

cuz IPs are useless in determining users.

They aren’t useless. They are one piece of circumstantial evidence. A case that goes fully to trial will use that, plus others in an attempt to build a convincing argument in the absence of eyewitness evidence or an admission.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

They aren’t useless. They are one piece of circumstantial evidence. A case that goes fully to trial will use that, plus others in an attempt to build a convincing argument in the absence of eyewitness evidence or an admission.

BUT these cases will never go to trial. If it is a significant burden on Time Warner to simply identify the user accounts from the IP addresses then actually taking each case to trial would clog up the entire court system until the copyrights have all expired. (i.e. forever minus 1 day).

This is not about due process, this is a scam to extract money by threats.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

you are falling for the crap that mike spoon feeds you. it isnt about money, it is about changing what people think about illegal file trading. if they keep getting their fingers burned, they will stop playing with fire. widespread piracy works because people feel no risk. this is the risk that they didnt face before. even paying a “token amount” of a few thousand dollars more than offsets what most people have taken, and makes being an honest citizen rather than a pirate the more desirable option. thinking that it is only about money is very, very shallow and misleading, and mike knows it.

AJ says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

” if they keep getting their fingers burned, they will stop playing with fire.”

We have been saying the same thing about Big Media for years….

The cat is out of the bag, it’s not going back in no matter what you do. You want to piss off your customers by locking down the ps3’s, blocking their tivo’s, infecting their computers with root kits, shutting down DRM servers,.. etc.. etc…? You (big media) have made an enemy out of your customer, you get what you deserve.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

it isnt about money,

If you read the information provided by groups like US copyright Group and ACS Law in the UK you will find that they admit quite blatantly that this particular scheme IS all about money.

As for changing people’s opinions about filesharing, the net effect of these tactics seems to be to drive opinion in the opposite direction.

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“they are ‘policing their own shit’, and they could do more if tw wasn’t so intent on getting in the way and denying them what they have a legal right to obtain in a reasonable delay.”

Think of it from time warners perspective …

We do this we are opening a can of worms. This month we need to quadruple our staff. Next month when someone comes along with 200,000 requests because they built a better infringment tracker we will need to have 400 full time staffers and pay for healthcare and office space. At $45 USD per request it is not cost effective and eats into our profits.

Then you also have …

the liability issue.
the enevitable lawsuits.
the inevitable class action lawsuit.
the public opinion issue.
the fact that the FCC is going for net neutrality.
the fact that >40% of the US population has infringed in the past year. (ie the loss of customers)
the 10-15% failure rate for the correct IP address. (its actually listed as 4-7%, but with the high rate of infringement you luck out quite often)
the ever expanding google broadband issue. (communities wanting to follow googles lead, and the best practices and network designs being released during the build)

All in all its a non starter.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

>they cannot identify users from ip addresses without the information.

They can’t? Wasn’t the bulk of their litigation industry based on the premise that IP addresses are godly when it comes to identifying people? Or have they come to realise that companies such as BayTSP have been pulling fast ones?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

umm, no, you miss my point. they cannot sue an ip address, they have to know which user account was on that ip address at a given time. the only ones who can provide that information are tw. tw is playing games, trying to shirk their liability in the issue. the plaintiff has presented a very precise list of dates, times, and ip addresses. if tw cant do simple work for $45 a crack (with minimum wag at

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Wasn’t the bulk of their litigation industry based on the premise that IP addresses are godly when it comes to identifying people?


IP addresses are one primary piece of evidence they used to start to locate an individual person, but they also used hard disk forensics, sworn testimony, etc. That was the whole issue in, e.g., UMG v. Lindor. In that case, they most certainly had an IP address, a username (jrlindor), some protocol details that indicated that the computer in use was not behind a broadband router, and so on. Depositions went poorly (IMHO because of both sides) and it was never firmly established whose computer was used or who was using that computer and the case was dropped.

A similar issue came up in Capitol v. Thomas, where Thomas (later Thomas-Rasset) denied she was the individual sharing music, but the jury did not believe her. (Yes, the evidence was circumstantial, but the jury found it convincing). A second jury came to the same conclusion.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

What I’m curious about is this. They have a time and an IP address. Which TW is supposed to translate into a customer. What if that customer has a NAT router in place…then that device essentially serves the same role as Time Warner. So do these folks have to then put in a information request to the home owner to produce records of who was sharing files at that time?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

The way it worked in the RIAA/record company suits was this.

The accuser offers to settle.

If the accused accepts the offer, then the matter is settled and that’s the end of it.

If not, then the accuser can press forward with a lawsuit. At this point, there are depositions taken and they will ask about NAT routers and such under oath.

They will also see if there is any evidence from the Internet traces as to whether there is a NAT router in place (in the cases involving Kazaa, there was an assertion that the Kazaa protocol had a particular quirk that reported both the endpoint address as well as the local IP address of the computer running Kazaa. If these were identical, then that was evidence that no NAT box was in place. If the computer had an internal IP address (e.g., 192.168.x.x or something) and the endpoint had an address registered to the ISP, that was evidence that there was some kind of intermediate router/NAT box in place.

They will also subpoena forensically examine the hard drive for corroborating evidence.

A very small number of cases ever got to this stage that I know of.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

no, they are being presumed nothing, one way or another. that will be decided in a court of law when the right person is in the court of law. this process is only to ascertain who the responsible person is for the connection, and allow the have their due process. your answer is the typical sh-t spewed here some children who have never seen a real court in action and have no clue what is going on.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Care to give an account of your seeing of a real court in action?

I don’t know about that guy, but I have seen (and been intimately involved in) a real court in action in the U.S. I can tell you that, when both sides are doing their job, there is an immense amount of work, rigor, and preparation involved, far beyond what I see as most people’s ordinary experience. The intensity and pressure is unlike anything I have ever experienced, and I think I’ll avoid jumping back into the fray for the time being.

There is plenty of criticism to lob at the process, but almost assuredly the most emotional arguments you would make would impugn the adversarial system as a whole, and not just cases involving illicit file sharing.

In my experience, the key to fighting a legal battle is extensive preparation. That means intense investigation, summarization and presentation of arguments, considering every possible contingency and every contingency for a contingency.

When the hearing or the deposition or the trial comes, you must be ready right then and there. Do-overs, if they are even available to you in the form of appeals of various sorts, are extraordinarily expensive. I have seen good attorneys prepare 100 contingencies such that they may use one or two of them. It’s very much like playing chess, looking multiple moves ahead, except considering each move doesn’t take moments – it takes hours or days.

The better-prepared side of the case is going to be more able to deal with those contingencies when they arise. And preparation takes resources. The worst outcomes occur when one side is under-prepared, or (perhaps worse) when both sides are under-prepared. Inequity of preparation is something that is inherent in adversarial systems, and there are legal scholars and a body of research that you can debate about that issue all day long.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

So…I, a 3rd party, can demand an ISP, another 3rd party, reveal the personal information of any number of their customers because I have a suspicion they may be infringing my copyright?

Sounds fun.

Disclaimer: IANAL.

No, not really. As I understand it, you, as a third party, can file a lawsuit against a number of John Does, who you need additional discovery to identify specifically. Then, you can ask a judge to issue the ISP a subpoena. If the judge finds your arguments sufficiently compelling, he or she can issue that subpoena. The subpoena is a demand from the government to the ISP. So no, you as a third party cannot make a direct demand to an ISP (well, you can, but then compliance would be purely voluntary on the ISP’s part).

As for “revealing personal information:” Although I am not sure how it works in these cases, I suppose that protecting the personal information through a protective order or seal of some sort would be the responsibility of the judge as part of managing the discovery process. Judges can get awfully touchy if you do anything with privileged or protected information that you’re not supposed to do. If the judge says that you can only use certain personal information for certain purposes in the lawsuit, and the judge finds out you used it for something else or disclosed it improperly, very, very bad things can happen to you.

Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:


I think it is important to note that TWC is not standing up to the subpeona for reasons of principle, common sense, or because the US Copyright Group has solid evidence. TWC is only fighting because its just way too much work for the 4 full time and 1 temp workers they have budgetted to deal with this stuff on a regular basis.

TWC is happy to use the right language in the court documents, but they don’t come out and say that the whole infringment lawsuit is nonsense.

iamtheky (profile) says:

What craptastic database takes “months” to perform 2000 queries? And even if it took months to search, you only need the personnel for as long as it takes to write the query.

I really hope I get a letter because I still dont see how some dude sets up a website and thinks that magically gives him the right to extortion.

I saw you fill your water cup with soda, send me a dollar.

Gatewood Green (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Most databases (Oracle, MSSQL, Sybase, MySQL, PostgreSQL, etc…) are crap-tastic in this manner *given the data set*. Imagine if you will the amount of data being gathered that reflects who signed in, when, when they signed out and what IP(s) they had at the time across hundreds of thousands of customers.

Database indexing algorithms quite frankly suck for massive amounts of somewhat random data coming in at a high volume, the DB servers probably scream under the I/O load doing full table scans on the queries. I would not be amazed if a single query took eight hours. Staffing up doesn’t help since the bottleneck is likely the DB queries themselves.

Not only is the data set not given to compact indexing, but likely the tables and indexes were poorly thought out at the time the DB was throw together. The creator of the DB probably did not take into account the shear volume of the copyright requests that are currently coming in for what was originally design for a handful of law enforcement requests.

Anonymous Coward says:

TWC actually offers us decent bandwidth. It’s quite expensive ($100 / month) but it comes with cable and a DVR (which Hollywood plans to break), decent phone services with all the bells and whistles and a decent long distance plan, and (officially) 8 Mb/sec bandwidth (though in actuality I’ve tested very close to 30 Mb/sec during optimal hours, but most of the time tests show like 15 – 20 and the least I’ve ever gotten was about 10. But the thing is that most webservers don’t utilize most of the bandwidth regardless, so it’s only really helpful if multiple computers are browsing multiple sites at once, and no one hardly ever uses all that bandwidth. For the most part I’m satisfied with the downstream. Upstream could use some work though for those who upload their home videos to facebook and whatnot, upstream is 1 Mb/sec).

stan says:

how does a ip address lead to guilt? So the isp pulls up their records, and says “ok, our records show that at that time, it was absolutely positively customer x in west LA. Customer x is a member of the beta frat house of UCLA, where 30 people live and share the ip with wi fi, and 100 people could have access to that ip. That is only a %1 chance that customer x was the one who downloaded it.

Kathy (profile) says:

The US Copyright Group mass filings create an undue burden for the companies targeted. In truth – imagine the number of staff working continuously to respond to such a huge request – it would be overwhelming even for a huge company. Subpeona compliance is a legal process and TWC could not “automate” the process. Staff would need to receive and respond to each legal request.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

they are only generating the requests at a similar speed to the violations. it is what people here seem to miss, they are still hitting with probably only a small percentage of the violations. if all rights holders did the same thing at the same time, tw would be looking at potentially millions of requests. at some point, they would have to do something to mitigate the problem, and that isnt by asking the court to let them ignore the issue.

Anonymous Coward says:

I recently got a notice that I was guilty of copyright infringement with my ISP address, name, address, all the details. However, we recently got service and hadn’t protected the wireless. SO…needless to say, someone used the wireless to download. SO…pulling an ISP to find the guilty…not necessarily an accurate way to do it.

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