Entertainment Industry Now Shaking Down People At $10 Per Infringement

from the price-is-dropping,-but-it's-automated dept

A few months back, I met with the CEO of a rather successful indie label, talking about business models and strategy. His label had already done a number of really creative and innovative things with its artists, and had found a fair bit of success that way. The label was trying out a number of cool technologies, and I was pretty impressed at the overall strategy. However, he was also debating if he wanted to sign up with a company called Digital Rights Corp, which he said had done a really compelling presentation to him recently, in which it claimed that it would hit up everyone filesharing unauthorized copies of his label’s music… and ask them to pay $10 per infringement. He claimed that the company was successful in getting most ISPs to pass on such a monetary request. At the time I hadn’t heard of the company, and in looking into it, many of the claims seemed pretty unbelievable.

However, now it appears the company is getting some press coverage, and indeed claims that lots of ISPs have been passing on its “pay up” letters. The company says it has no plans to sue at all. It’s sort of a new tactic in copyright trolling: just send a bill and get the ISP to pass it along. The $10 per infringement is certainly a hell of a lot cheaper than what copyright trolls have asked for in the past. And, of course, the reason this system works is it’s mostly automated. They put together a list of IP addresses that they assume are infringing, send it to the ISP, and get the ISP to pass along the demands for cash. Two ISPs who have refused have been taken to court (but no individuals have been taken to court).

I do wonder how many people actually pay up when receiving such a letter — probably a pretty good number, even if there’s no legal basis for them to do so. Either way, it seems like the latest evolution in copyright trolling. Don’t file lawsuits, but automate, and keep the amounts low to try to make it up in volume.

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Companies: digital rights corp

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Comments on “Entertainment Industry Now Shaking Down People At $10 Per Infringement”

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Irate Pirate says:

Re: Re: Silly Rabbit

$10 may be small, but paying this means they’ll learn who you are in many cases. Once they have a name to go with the IP address, they can then watch for other infringements, then send a much bigger bill to you directly, bypassing the ISP. That’s a pretty decent scam if you ask me. The only way I see around this is to pay them anonymously using cash provided that is allowed. How many of the accused are going to do that you think? Most people tend to write cheques or use a credit card.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: IP addresses change

In many cases, just rebooting your modem can change your IP address. Since someone from the outside cannot know whether this is the case, they always have to go through the ISP with an IP address and a timestamp.

(I wonder how reliable these timestamps are. Do they have a low-stratum synchronized clock, or do they set the server time once with a wristwatch and let it drift? And even if their timestamps are reliable, who says the ISP’s log timestamps are?)

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 IP addresses change

Having read way more of the mass lawsuits filings than is healthy for a human, the tracking firms are paying attention to your concerns.

They now use the atomic clock network to keep their capture servers running at the correct time.
This however does not take into account ISPs who might not be as vigilant at keeping their servers updated, and this could lead to false identifications.

They have moved the capture operations into the state where the lawfirm extorting the cash is based, to attempt to deal with issues of venue and jurisdiction.

Several of the tracking “firms” are merely limited spin off firms from a main firm. They are using the same technique in each, but using a different “provider” in each case. If one of these subfirms gets an expert review and discredited as not being completely accurate only those cases collapse not the entire firms business model of selling this information to various lawfirms.

MrWilson says:

Re: Re:

“those that feel guilty will pay”

Or those who fear being sued and who don’t know better will pay. You can’t assume everyone will know not to pay, regardless of whether or not they did this.

I say this method should carry the same burden of proof that a debt collector must have. Prove that the person to whom the IP address is connected is in fact the person who violated the copyright and that the use was not fair use or else it’s a fraudulent attempt to collect money and should be treated as such.

abc gum says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“It is illegal”

That depends ….

What method is used in the scrapping of IP Addrs?
I read that some methods used simply grab the IP Addrs of those connecting to the swarm and do not in any way verify actual infringement. As everyone is aware, and some ignore, there is content made available via P2P for which one does not need permission to copy.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“those that feel guilty will pay – thats the price of getting caught”

As ever, the major problem I have with these actions is that it’s almost trivially in many cases to fake the information being used to sue. If my next door neighbour gets sued/fined because the only had a WEP encryption set up and I fancied downloading something, that’s almost the exact opposite of justice being served. If the clampdown continues, you can bet that more people will work out how to spoof IP addresses and break encryption than actually stop infringing…

Anonymous Coward says:

It is actually a good business model if the letters are written properly. and the expenses and hands in the pie are kept to a minimum. If the letters make the recievers believe that this is “voluntary” and more of a moral obligation than a legal one, they may have something to it.

It is really no different than how tele- and mail- marketing work. Send out 10,000 letters each asking for a small “donation” or “purchase” etc. It is generally expected that a 1% response is a good average return.

By sending the letters in bulk to the ISP, the ISP’s now bare the cost of postage, saving the company a large expense.

However, without the promise of larger amounts, I don’t believe there will be enough profit to go around and actually be distributed to the artists. At each level of this, someone is going to take a piece.

Maybe “We lose a little on each person, but we make up for it in volume?”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I missed the “or get taken to court” bit. Did you just throw that in?

Also, I don’t see every request for payment one has a legal right to receive as a shake down. For example, I don’t think those signs in dressing rooms saying “we prosecute shoplifters to the fullest extent of the law” as a shake down.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

“It collects the IP addresses?which identify individual internet subscribers?of alleged copyright violators and then instructs Internet service providers (ISPs) to send settlement offers on to subscribers. Rightscorp then takes a cut from anyone who pays the settlement.”

I.P. addresses are not proof. They’re simply pulling a huge list of numbers, sending it to the ISP who in turn send it to the account subscribers. So yes, they are sending notices to a lot of people. The problem is that the I.P. addresses cannot be trusted. They can spoofed, networked routers can be hacked, the list itself can be poisoned by the torrent trackers…

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

These letters are ACCUSING you without any PROOF! That’s what has my blood at a boil. That, and they don’t actually intend to go to court (I hope Mike can get that as an exact quote, not as a second-hand “they said X”)
Your analogy doesn’t make sense. A shop that has signs up saying “We prosecute shoplifters” would probably have uniformed security and CCTV. And by prosecute, they mean, take you to court, where you have the legal right to defend yourself These are letters coming in the mail with no legal backing to them, accusing you of breaking the law, but with no actual proof that would stand up in a court of law.
And about “get taken to court”. If that’s not actually in the letter…then why pay at all?

Anonymous Coward says:

What I find it amusing is that copyright is this big deal in the US right now and in the rest of the world people just don’t care, heck studios and labels are putting out their content in Asia for free, people in China have more access to free content than their American counterparts, why?

Because the greedy bastards want a piece of the 1.2 or 1.7 billion people in China, but they are not making too much progress there since production of home grown entertainment that caters to their own culture is booming and so they don’t see the need to consume American entertainment and the locals don’t sue their customers, they don’t call them thieves, they don’t do any of that stuff that annoys consumers and still they see growth numbers that are just mind boggling.

c’est la vie I guess, maybe it is time to say goobye to American culture it has gone down the toilet, maybe it is time to create a new culture based on openness where people don’t get worried about what others are doing but instead can use what others did to enhance and make better things, where people don’t spend time trying to enforce ridiculous rights that seems more like the rights of self centered people who just can’t live with the thought that others may be using something he used not created and he feels some sort of ownership.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

c’est la vie I guess, maybe it is time to say goobye to American culture it has gone down the toilet

Dude, they made a Battleship movie. Hollywood spent $200 million making a movie about humanity fighting off alien ships that attack by firing pegs.
There’s no “maybe” about it.

ArkieGuy (profile) says:

Shakedown or Indemnification?

Assuming the letter came with an indemnification clause that states that the payment waives any further action by the copyright holder, this might be a good thing. I would consider sending $10 to avoid the possibility of receiving one of the $1500/$2500 letters (like the ones going to some people that downloaded the Hurt Locker).

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Shakedown or Indemnification?

The problem with this is that your clause would only waive action by the one copyright holder. What about the other 99,000 copyright holders who will jump in on this? Are you going to pay $10 to 99,000 different people?
Heh! Remember Project $10 that the video game industry has been trying over the past couple of years. THIS is the new Project $10!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Shakedown or Indemnification?

When you start sending threatening others without care if the evidence is good or not, people who did nothing wrong is what you going to get in that net you cast.

Nobody knows how the data is collected, nobody knows if the data is good except for the lawyers in Germany who sued one such collection agency and won their fraud case against that company that did not tell them the data was flawed and it is the same people who collects the data for most copyright trolls.

So how again is that not relevant.

It is ok now to extort money from innocent people?

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Shakedown or Indemnification?

These are letters you’re going to get in the mail accusing you of downloading an album and then demanding $10.
Tell me. Did you download the album? No? Do they have hard proof you did?
What we have here is literally a scam. They have no way of proving in court that you are guilty. Unless of course you’re spineless enough to confess.
Now, I get it, you see paying $10 as fair for an album. All right, but what if you did buy the discs, and then still get this letter? Are you now just going to fork over another $10? Are you actually saying that you are the kind of person who literally throws money away just because of a legal nastygram?
And I noticed you don’t have a response to “Are you going to pay $10 to 99,000 different people”. Because you can’t. If you do pay $10 in response to the first letter, then the next ten thousand letters, from ten thousand different people to jump in on this, will also demand a lowly $10. Come on, its a few bucks alright? Surely you can afford 10,000 x $10 = $100,000…

Anonymous Coward says:

The cynical side of me suspects that this reasonable fee (irrespective of what it may seem to be for) likely provides a name address and complete identity of someone to /suspect/ and more strongly investigate for such infringement.

In fact it may even be compelling evidence to obtain a warrant for such an investigation and go on a nice copyright infringement fishing trip through all of that subject’s accessible storage.

Why can’t they just wake up and make the easiest path a legal and value-priced one that I can use on my own platform(s) of choice? No DRM, no lock in stuff, just treat me with the same respect even fast food restaurants give their paying customers.

Not to even consider how integrating fan based foreign language subtitling efforts and connecting with the fans in a broader discussion on the series and back-stories involved could both be excellent advertising and a living release instead of death-snapshot sandwiched between poly-carbonate platters.

A. Coward says:


This has to be the cheapest way to identify infringers and build a database. Get the ISP to pass on the notice (correct person or not), any one who pays is now on a list with their names, addresses, and proof that they have infringed in the past. Eventually the big labels have a private list of all IP addresses and names, and then being able to simple bypass the ISPs all together and send the letters direct. All paid for by unsuspecting individuals who though $10 was a bargain. Everyone, please ignore these letters if you get them.

Rikuo (profile) says:

“he company says it has no plans to sue at all.”

Hey, Mike, do us a favor please? Can you get that as an exact quote from the company? All I can say is that from this article and from the one you linked to, its hear-say. Its not a direct quote.
The thing is, if that is true, then whoever receives letters from these guys can simply go up to a judge and literally show proof Rights Corp never wanted to go to court, that it is literally a shakedown scam.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

What blows my mind is that someone would be against due diligence in accusing others of any wrong doing and actually having some hard evidence instead of mere accusations.

Want to see what happens if everybody were allowed to just make others criminals by an accusation alone?

You are a pedophile and should go to jail.

I bet you will ask me to prove you are really a pedophile don’t you?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

You seem to be equating suspicion with guilt.
You seem to be equating poor evidence collecting practices based on IP and secret protocols to be evidence enough to call anyone a thief.

Hard evidence could be a photo of the guy sitting at the keyboard you know like the guys that get photos from the thieves that stole their laptops.

Rich Kulawiec (profile) says:

So...they're spamming.

1. They’re sending email. (They admit same.)
2. They’re sending bulk email. (They admit same.)
3. They’re sending unsolicited bulk email (There are no facts available which suggest that recipients have requested these messages.)

Unsolicited bulk email (UBE) is of course the canonical definion of spam (in the context of SMTP)…and this is exactly what they’re doing.

Time to start blacklisting their domain/network/sending servers, just like any other spammer.

Aleron (user link) says:

Seriously, Who would respond to such a letter? with all the phising crap around what part of you would say, ‘It must be true, I must be guilty, I will respond and pay and forever be branded as a copyright thief’. You would have to be a complete idiot to do anything but ignore it.

I think this basis for this story is a huge red herring, designed purely to test peoples reactions and see what proportion of you would be willing to pay an imaginary $10 copyright fine. Have fun with the results guys, market research comes in many forms.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

While they are telling potential clients they are only asking for $10, I’d like to see the actual letter they are sending out.

One of the porn mass lawsuit trolls told his client the demand was only going to be $50, the troll of course was asking for a couple thousand dollars. This gives the content producer a black eye as being a money grubbing troll demanding payments from 70 yr olds, and blind people. (true cases sadly) The lawyer collects thousands and sends the content owner a check for $50 for each person who paid up and pockets after costs the lions share.

I enjoy seeing all of the standard AC’s responding with conviction that anyone accused must be guilty, and anyone questioning this blatant cash grab has to be a pirate stealing trillions and feeding on the blood of newborn babies.
Some of the AC’s seem to have confused a business model for extorting music fans with a model to extort movie fans.
An AC saying how its better than the Thomas case, the first glaring difference being a court case and evidence.

There is a new wave of scammer out there, they are using Copyright Violation Notices as their preferred method to lure people into the scam. Boingboing had a thread about a bank being hit with these style of letter, asking people to goto a website to “review the evidence”. This installed malware and all sorts of things.
How long until the Nigerian Princes/Bankers are all ICE Agents demanding payments for alleged crimes?
We look at spam and laugh, but if it was not working on some people why would the keep trying?
There is a subset of people out there who will pay any demand made to them by email, they are sure it must be the truth.

Just because someone says they have a record of “your” IP address doing something, does not make it true. It does not tell you who was doing it, and this just adds to the perception that if you pay for the account you must be liable – a novel idea that has yet to ever be tested in court.

And something else to note… they want $10 for the infringement… they treat each track of the album as a new infringment… 19 tracks = $190 300 tracks = $3000

Is $10 still cheaper than the cost of a single music track?

hmm (profile) says:


Its normally quite expensive to get someones identity, as you have to file motions in court etc etc the ISP defends, back n forth, lawyers profit.

New model….We offer them “tiny” payments, don’t promise to not sue for this matter/something else…they pay…we have their name/address/admission of guilt ready for suing, and all without expensive discovery motions that the judge may just turn down.

Hell, they could even say “hey look…collective admissions of guilt! NOW the judge will let us lump them all together for mass infringement financial rape (of their wallets).”

Gravity Man (profile) says:

What if You Got a Bill from Walgreens for Stealing Antiperspirant?

So, if you (by the logic of this thread here and the “music is free” folks) now feel it’s totally ok to take home that can of antiperspirant from Walgreens, then a camera that watched you do it creates an incident that sends you the bill and you could just pay it instead of going to jail how would that play out for you?

Everyone seems to think that it’s totally okay to steal. Musicians, especially independent ones put their lives and tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars into producing/recording/mastering/distributing the music that folks seem to think should just be taken off that shelf, just like the antiperspirant. Hmmm… Some twisted values here. All paid for by google ads that don’t send a penny to the artists.

Merry Christmas

Me says:


I was emailed one of these claims. I was told that there was one single download from my IP address. I was told that I would have to pay $20 even though I had no clue as to how it happened. I don’t even recognize the song that was downloaded. The download was done at a time that we were changing over our service and at there was a small window that our wireless could have been open or hacked. I explained this to them…and that I didn’t feel that they had the grounds to sue. I let it go for several months but continued to be harassed through email and phone calls. I looked up rightscorp and found several people stating the same thing. There were many stating that by no means should anyone give out their debit card or bank info to pay the amount. Still I was having to deal with the harassment. Finally I went and bought one of those prepaid visa cards…loaded it with $20 and paid it. Honestly some say this would show I was admitting guilt…and that I shouldn’t have had to pay considering I didn’t download the file…To me it was worth $20 to not have the harassment. I have a letter absolving me from further judgment. I have also printed out every communication (email) to and from the corporation. I am keeping it in case in the future I will need to seek out a professional.

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