US Copyright Group Says ISPs Who Don't Cough Up User Names May Be Guilty Of Inducing Copyright Infringement

from the uh,-good-luck-with-that-one... dept

Thomas Dunlap, the lawyer who set up US Copyright Group, which mimics European operations like ACS:Law in threatening to sue tens of thousands of people on flimsy evidence in mass automated lawsuits for alleged copyright infringement if they don’t pay up, sure has some interesting legal theories. We had already noted that at least Time Warner Cable was fighting the subpoenas, and in Dunlap’s response, he’s claiming that ISPs that don’t just roll over and hand over the info open themselves up to charges of contributory copyright infringement under the Grokster standard put forth by the Supreme Court.

I can’t see how anyone could possibly find Time Warner guilty of inducement for not handing over subscriber info — especially not under the standards in the Grokster ruling. Those include that the company had to promote that its service could be used for infringement, that they failed to filter out those infringing uses when possible and that the business plan depended on a high volume of infringement. I don’t see any of those three things applying to Time Warner and not handing over customer info on subpoenas. This seems like more bluster from Dunlap to try to get Time Warner Cable to just given in and hand over the names, so he can send out letters demanding payment.

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Companies: time warner cable, us copyright group

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Comments on “US Copyright Group Says ISPs Who Don't Cough Up User Names May Be Guilty Of Inducing Copyright Infringement”

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53 Comments
ChurchHatesTucker (profile) says:

Saw this coming a while back

Once the ‘inducing infringement’ standard was enacted, it was pretty damn clear that any statement that *might possibly if seen in a certain light* induce infringement was fair game.

And that’s when the game is lost. Because then its a matter of court costs and lawyer fees. The average Joe is lost. Shit, GOOGLE folds when confronted by a bunch of Belgium newspapers. (Belgium. Newspapers.)

Obviously, if Time Warner objects to disclosing user names, it encourages terrorist pirate child pornographers to flock to their service, thus they are encouraging TPCP. QED.

Anonymous Coward says:

“I can’t see how anyone could possibly find Time Warner guilty of inducement for not handing over subscriber info — especially not under the standards in the Grokster ruling” – how about “go ahead and infringe, we will cover for you and never give your name up”. snitches get stitches, no?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“whatever the heck makes you think that anyone can call up and get any info just like that? strawman!”

and that’s the point, who should decide what info Mike is allowed to get if he just makes up the idea that you infringed on something? ISP’s shouldn’t just hand over info just because some lawyer asked for it, that’s an invasion of privacy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

the filing of a the lawsuit should be enough.

as an end user, i would be very disappointed in my isp if they didnt help me get contacted and avoid legal action. if the settlement letter was for a few hundred dollars, and the lawsuit might cost me tens of thousands to contest, dont you think i would want to know?

further, and just as important, would the isp become liable to their end user by failing to make them aware of legal action? can you imagine someone found guilty in a default judgement for millions, all because their isp wouldnt help to let the copyright issue be handled up front?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

“the filing of a the lawsuit should be enough.”

Anyone can simply file a lawsuit. So if Mike wanted to know info about you and filed a lawsuit the ISP should automatically hand over that info? Then, after getting the info, Mike can merely drop the lawsuit and threaten you with another lawsuit if you don’t give him money or come to your house and potentially vandalize it or something? No, the filing of a lawsuit isn’t enough just because you said so. You must actually substantiate your assertions to some degree and there is nothing substantive about filing a lawsuit.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

“can you imagine someone found guilty in a default judgement for millions, all because their isp wouldnt help to let the copyright issue be handled up front?’

You’re either being disingenuous or you have no idea how the legal system works. You can’t get a judgment held against you if you were never informed about a lawsuit. So the ISP has nothing to worry about there.

RD says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

“You’re either being disingenuous or you have no idea how the legal system works. You can’t get a judgment held against you if you were never informed about a lawsuit. So the ISP has nothing to worry about there.”

Sadly, not true. I wish it were otherwise, but you most certainly can get a default judgment against you without ever having been notified. Ditto with having the funds in your bank account seized. Have had this happen to several friends of mine in the last 10 years or so, mostly from collection agencies and a few scumbag lawyers. All they have to do for a lawsuit is claim they sent you the paperwork, at your last known (to them) address. They dont even need to verify it was YOU that got it, just that they made the ATTEMPT. The bank thing requires even less. All they do is go before a judge, with little to no proof of the validity of the debt in question, and the judge grants them the right to go into your bank (if they find out what bank you are at) and as long as they have your SSN, they take any money found in any accounts at that bank with that SSN. Not continually, they have to request this each time, a separate judgment each time, and they cant get what isnt there, but still, you dont even have to be notified of this. You will get a letter from your bank telling you about it AFTER they have taken whatever was in the accounts. It shouldnt be allowed, but the system is so corrupt that lawyers and big CC and banks are in such tight collusion that they care only about raping the consumer for as much as they can take them for.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

now take that one step further. a default judgement is rendered because the isp wouldnt give up the info to start with, and only gave up the information after the judgement was rendered, only to avoid making themselves liable to the copyright holder in some way. so now they have your information, and you have no chance for due process. whos fault is that?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

Besides, aside from the fact that you have a right to know your accuser and I’m not sure I necessarily buy the story your friend gives, I don’t think a judge can make a judgment against someone unless the judge first knew who that someone is. In other words, the judge would have to request the identity of that someone be revealed first and Time Warner shouldn’t give anyone’s identity at least until the judge requests it.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Legal

> how about “go ahead and infringe, we will cover for
> you and never give your name up

If they said any such thing you might actually have a point. As they haven’t, you don’t.

Not only that, if they *did* comply with the requests from this collection group without subpoena, they’d be in massive breach of contract, since every ISP user agreement I’ve ever seen binds them contractually to protect the customer’s privacy unless ordered to turn over the information by a court.

Trollbait says:

Re: Re:

Protecting the identities of your customers from lawyers, who are, in my opinion, legal terrorists, who haven’t shown you any proof that your customers have been doing anything out of the ordinary is “inducing infringement”.

Prove the infringement, and I suppose, Time Warner will then give up the names.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

you dont have to prove the infringement, that is key. you only should have to show that infringement occurs on a connection at a date and time, file in court, and the isp should be required either to provide customer information or stand trial for the customer. not much more to it.

you are suggesting that trials should happen without any defendant, which would mean default judgements. that would entirely kill off due process, right?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“you only should have to show that infringement occurs on a connection at a date and time”

But to who’s satisfaction must you show this? If Mike claims that you infringed on X at Y date and time to his own satisfaction, should your ISP just hand over info? No, there is due process to ensure that at least Mike has a reasonable basis for making his claim.

“you are suggesting that trials should happen without any defendant, which would mean default judgements.”

Where did anyone suggest this? You are making things up.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

“Where did anyone suggest this? You are making things up.” – no, i am following your logic to conclusion. the legal letter is undeliverable (because the isp doesnt cooperate). so a lawsuit is filed john doe. john doe does not present (because the isp doesnt cooperate and doesnt notify their end user) and the john doe is found guilty. with a judgement in hand, the copyright holder then compels the isp to provide the information, and ding, they should up at your door not with a lawsuit or a settlement letter, but a default judgement potentially for millions.

the standard should be pretty simple. if a lawsuit is files, the isp needs to comply or they risk creating liablity for themselves.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

I’m following your logic to conclusion = making things up.

Unless you demonstrate the intermediate steps, I’m afraid it’s the equivalent of declaring QED, “just because”.

But nice semantic trick. I have to give you some credit TAM, you really should be a press secretary–there is no end to the distractive illusions you can spin with your empty rhetoric.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

let me give you the chance to reverse it. copyright holder launches lawsuit, john doe / ip address / time / item. they send notice to the isp, and summon the user information. the isp declines. for whatever reason, the court decides not to force the issue, but rather issues a default judgement. no what?

Karl (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

Sorry, but I believe a default judgement cannot happen until the plaintiff has proven that a “service of process” has occurred. In other words, the defendant must have personally been given legal notice.

If the ISP doesn’t cooperate, the service of process would not be possible, and the lawsuit would not proceed. The judge could order a subpoena against the ISP, but until the ISP complies, no default judgement should be possible.

If, for some wild reason, a default judgement is served without a notice, the defendant can file to have the judgement vacated.

…That’s how I understand it, at least.

out_of_the_blue says:

But he's blustering for audience of attorneys,

not reasonable people, so I won’t be surprised if works. Time-Warner doesn’t have any particular interest in keeping the lid on those records, so it depends only on whether their costs rise to keep them. For all we know, Time-Warner is merely putting a public front of subscriber champion on when behind the scenes, they’re dickering for high fees to be paid them.

Where there’s money, there’s *NO* morality.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: But he's blustering for audience of attorneys,

“Where there’s money, there’s *NO* morality.”

I agree, IP maximists just want to make money and have no regard for morality. As far as Time Warner, the only morally responsible thing for them to do would be to protect the privacy of their users from random solicitors that randomly ask for random information based on baseless accusations. Otherwise, Mike can simply ask your ISP for your personal information under the pretext that you are infringing and using your logic your ISP would be immoral for not handing over your information even if Mike just made up the pretext.

Nick Dynice (profile) says:

The irony here is that US Copyright Group could represents Time Warner’s subsidiaries companies: Warner Bros. Music and Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc. (film), and Wanrner Television. I think Wanrner wants to pick the lesser of two evils and allow some “inducement” so it does not find itself in trouble with it’s own lawyers.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The problem is that too many Americans are intentionally kept ignorant of the issues. There aren’t nearly enough informed Americans to really have an impact on anything. The mainstream media in this country is completely rigged by laws that allow a few people to control and monopolize most media outlets outside the Internet. Not everyone has Internet access and not everyone who does have Internet access is aware of blogs like Techdirt.

Sweden did a nice job of advertising the pirate party, for example. They got fliers and took to the streets. Americans need to do the same I suppose, that way a larger audience can be exposed to these issues. Hold up signs that says, “Copyright shouldn’t last 95 years or the lifetime of an artist plus 70 years!!!” that will quickly get attention. From there on you can hand out brochures directing people to organized websites that document the harm that copyright and patents cause to society and that explains to people how damaged our legal system is from all sides. For those who don’t have the Internet but have computer access perhaps you can hand out mini CD’s (they’ll play on your regular CD player) or regular CD’s (whichever is cheaper) that has a bunch of information (ie: text or perhaps audio for a regular CD player for those that have no computer but have CD player access) explaining the harm that patents and copyrights cause. The website should also explain how our mainstream media is being controlled and coerced by laws intended to foster ignorance and what people can do to fix it and ensure wider Internet access. There are ways to reach those who either don’t have Internet access or who are unaware of blogs like Techdirt and only mostly watch mainstream media news or keep distant from the news.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I would say a lot of people don’t care simply because they don’t know. If you make it clear enough to enough people that the laws in place are not in the public interest, that is, they are not in the best interest of your audience, then that will increase the likelihood that they will care and take action.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

that will only happen when americans decide to stop consuming the products in question. as long as you keep stealing them (oh sorry, infringe rights of others to get them), there will be an issue.

i challenge all techdirt readers to go down the road. stop consuming hollywood movies, mpaa music, american tv shows, american tv in general, and so on. stop consuming. teach them a lesson. heck, i dare you to try, for a week.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Aside from how most people would not to be inclined to care about entertainment preferences, first we’d have to come to a consensus on consuming.

Last we checked, ASCAP considered ringtones public performances. If a ringtone of popular song is heard in public space and a techdirt reader hears it, is that consumption? Going by how you consistently support everything Mike doesn’t, you’ve effectively indicated how “going down the road” is an exercise in sheer impracticality.

Anonymous Coward says:

There are all sorts of security implications here as well as privacy. If I am maliciously attempting to get back at someone who did X on my site, all I have to do is claim that person X in my log stole my IP to get their full contact information? Can you imagine the types of crimes that could be committed with this type of information?

wallow-T says:

It seems to have gotten lost that Time Warner Cable is not taking a principled stand in defense of user anonymity. Time Warner Cable is making a capacity argument – they can only identify so many users of specific IP addresses per month, and most of that capacity is devoted to criminal law enforcement matters. Time Warner Cable has offered to identify users in this matter at the rate of 28 per month.

Time Warner is making a reasonable argument here. Matching IP addresses to user names requires a blend of technical knowledge of TWC’s logging databases, plus sufficient responsibility to avoid leaks and unauthorized disclosure — in effect, it’s a low ranking computer security job. TWC can’t just throw random employees at it.

NAMELESS ONE says:

car makers that dont prevent all drinking and driving might be guilty....

car makers that dont prevent all drinking and driving might be guilty of inducing to drink and drive and aiding and abeting the crime.

Hammer makers that do not prevent the ability of people or persons to smash people over the head with them can be guilty of aiding an assault or murder

baseball bat and hockey stick owners need to stop violence 100% or they too can be liable for the assaults and violence that occurs.

We also need to make sure that gun makers are held accountable for all the murders and assaults with guns too.
and why stop wiht this stuff
we can give lawyers plenty a work that we dont need too.

Anonymous Coward says:

No law suit with out identity

I dont understand how you people can say that you will get sued, and you wouldnt even know about it if TW doesnt comply with the information request???

First off;
1. The US copyright group DOES NOT KNOW WHO YOU ARE! all they have is an IP log, which they do a whois query on, to see which network the IP belongs to.

2. They see the IP is owned by Time Warner cable for instance. THEN they contact time warner saying that they logged this IP at this time downloading this copyright material, demanding them to reveal the identity of this person.

At this point one of two things can happen:

A: TWC Reveals your information like name, address etc… Then you get a ransom letter in the mail demanding payment or else lawsuit.
B: TWC refuses to give out personal info, US group doesnt know who you are, so no letter to you.

At this point they can only file a lawsuit in court and force the isp to give out your info after a judge rulling.

Fred Frith says:

Inducing actions.

So… If I see a really violent gun fight movie trail at the Time Warner web site that could induce me to become violent, purchase loads of firearms and go completely postal.

Or if I see pictures of people smoking and find explicit details on how to purchase and smoke tobacco is that inducing drug addiction?

chubbysumo says:

Just wait

well, this company will eventually come under fire from the US Attorney General for illegal or unwarrented court clogging. All it takes is one attorney to receive a case from a “Victim” of US Copyright Group and the whole company(US copyright group) goes away. This kind of mass subpoena that US copyright Group is doing needs at least semi-decent evidence, and who is the company collecting this “evidence” for a probable cause subpoena? anyone know what movies, or studios are signed up for this crock of a company?

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