When Even Comcast Is Refusing To Identify Those Accused Of Infringement…

from the copyright-trolls-gone-too-far dept

We’ve seen various ISPs push back (mostly successfully) on attempts by copyright trolls to lump together hundreds, or even thousands, of separate IP addresses into a single lawsuit for the sake of being able to subpoena identities (and then send threatening “settlement” demand letters). But, still, it’s a bit of a surprise to see Comcast get into the game as well, filing a motion with a district court arguing that it shouldn’t have to provide such info in response to subpoenas from various copyright trolls. Yes, Comcast has the same basic argument as other ISPs… but Comcast is also the owner of NBC Universal, who is very much on the other side of this issue, and has been one of the strongest copyright maximalists out there. So it’s a bit surprising to see them using an argument that, in theory, could come back to make NBC Universal’s life more difficult whenever it goes after people for allegedly infringing on its works online. In fact, Comcast argues pretty strongly against copyright trolling in the filing:

Plaintiffs should not be allowed to profit from unfair litigation tactics whereby they use the offices of the Court as an inexpensive means to gain Doe defendants’ personal information and coerce “settlements” from them. It is evident in these cases – and the multitude of cases filed by plaintiffs and other pornographers represented by their counsel – that plaintiffs have no interest in actually litigating their claims against the Doe defendants, but simply seek to use the Court and its subpoena powers to obtain sufficient information to shake down the Doe defendants. The Federal Rules require the Court to deny discovery “to protect a party or person from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(c)(1). This case requires such relief.

Now, of course, NBC Universal hasn’t gone all the way to the level of pure trolling and forcing settlements out of people, but I’ve yet to see a single situation where the lawyers at NBC Universal were willing to support anything that might make it more difficult for them to go after people for infringement. Perhaps now that they’re under the Comcast umbrella NBC Universal will have to tone down its aggressiveness on these issues?

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Companies: comcast, nbc universal

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Comments on “When Even Comcast Is Refusing To Identify Those Accused Of Infringement…”

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That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

The sheer number of these lookups is getting to them, costing them time and money.

They also are sick of having customers, who are uninformed about the law, blaming them for the information being sought.

And this copyright trolling gig uses the same fancy tech they are rolling out for 6 strikes, so they can’t raise questions about an IP address not actually leading to the “real” infringer so… attack the cash grab for what it is.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I agree with you completely.

On one hand they have annoyed and angry customers for their real money maker, the ISP part of the business and the other has NBC Universal who aren’t as profitable.

The balance with copyright trolls, even owning a content company just doesn’t work out.

That and, I suspect, their own legal department telling them it’s time to draw a bright red line on the lawn due to cost and the fact that it’s all more trouble than it’s worth as they could lay themselves open to more trouble down the line from subscribers.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Well they are getting into the copyright cop business themselves, so to generate good press they are taking on one of the larger copyright trolls.
This troll has a new name, but same tactics.
Prenda is the new version of John Steele’s operation transplanted to Florida, they went there to use the ‘Writ of Pure Discovery’ state law to get the names without the limitations Federal Courts have placed on their filings.

Another problem in these cases is the names are given, then the cases is suddenly withdrawn. The trolls then work down the entire list making threats about suing people for $150,000.

Oh and lets not forget most of the internet hookups are setup by people working for Comcast and if they haven’t secured them there is that whole wacky idea that $10k is owed for negligence. They might end up being sued.

Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile) says:

Lawyer on lawyer

and the multitude of cases filed by plaintiffs and other pornographers represented by their counsel

Seems like they are singling out pornography producers shakedowns in their statement. Albeit, the standard should cover all companies trolling for quick shakedown settlements, since NBC-U isn’t a ‘porn producer’ Comcast doesn’t want to do the dirty work for somebody else but would gladly give it up if it was their own content being infringed.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

There's a more serious problem...

…on the other end of it: They also refuse to identify those doing the accusing.

One of my coworkers had his connection threatened because Comcast received a DMCA notice that he was pirating a TV show. The reason? He was seeding a torrent of a Linux distribution with a name similar to the show. (I forget what it was, this was more than a year ago and he’s not around right now to ask him.)

He asked Comcast where the notice had come from, and they refused to tell him. This further underscores the problems the DMCA causes for our most sacred legal traditions. We are supposed to have the right to face our accusers when charged with a crime. But by allowing rightsholders to deal with copyright infringement extralegally, that protection, like all the rest of Due Process, is stripped from the accused.

We will never get our rights back until we push back get the DMCA repealed or struck down by a court.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: There's a more serious problem...

But hey with 6 strikes, the notice will be forwarded on to you.
You will get a black mark next to your name, unless you pay them $35 to challenge the notice. (They need to charge to make sure your notice isn’t frivolous, like many of their notices.) Oh and you can only pick from a hand selected list of challenge reasons, and nothing has entered the public domain since 1923 on their list and free software is just software someone stole.
You get enough black marks your ISP has a list of things they can do, although disconnection is supposed to be off the table. Because having your bandwidth slowed to the speed of dial up because a group known for sending bogus “notices” is totally okay.

You think the DMCA is bad, you should look at 6 strikes. Media companies injecting themselves into contracts consumers have with ISPs, encouraging them to make the product worse based on a media companies spy group (who uses hugely flawed tech). Oh and just because they are the monopoly in many areas we should not be concerned that this is antitrust worthy.

Gunntherd (profile) says:

It all comes down to hard cold cash. Number one they “FINALLY” realize that they don’t want to be the police of all they’re customers, number 2 if they slam innocent customers with a notice, customer goes somewhere else for service, lost revenue and bad press. I am totally shocked that they took a stand and totally surprised as I thought they would embrace this kind of crap!!

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re:

except where customers can’t get any other provider because the Government granted monopolies. (Local, State, etc.)

And they get paid for the lookups, the problem is they are piling 3K people into each filing. 250,000+ does have had their information sought. Trolls have tried to sue them in court to make them spend more money and give them names faster.

The ISPs are answering a legal document issued by a court, the problem is getting the court to understand that their powers are being used to run extortion not legal cases.

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