Rightscorp's Copyright Trolling Phone Script Tells Innocent People They Need To Give Their Computers To Police
from the uh,-that's-not-how-this-works dept
We already wrote about the various filings in the Rightscorp-by-proxy lawsuit against Cox Communications. However, mixed in with all the filings are some interesting tidbits and exhibits. One that caught my eye was an exhibit revealing the “script” that Rightscorp gives its agents to use when people call in after receiving a notice. Cox Communications filed this in showing that the actual plaintiffs (BMG and Round Hill Music) “turned a blind eye” to Rightscorp’s misconduct. The script is quite something, with a few ridiculous statements. The most ridiculous, however, is the following. If the caller says that they’re innocent, here’s how Rightscorp has its agents respond:
In order to cancel this matter without payment, you will need to go and get a police report and fax or email it to us. The police may take your devices and hold it for ~5 days to investigate the matter. You must be sure that it was not you, anyone in your household, including friends and neighbors or you will be breaking a different law with the police department.
Every part of that statement is bullshit — and it’s clearly designed to do one thing only: to frighten the caller into just paying up. To tell totally innocent people that they need to hand over their computers to the police for five days and that if anyone else used their computer to infringe that they’ll be violating some sort of criminal law is downright disgusting. It just highlights that Rightscorp is in the extortion/shakedown business, rather than actually trying to stop copyright infringement.
There is plenty of evidence that Rightscorp’s targeting efforts were not that accurate, and plenty of innocent people were swept up by its systems. And to then target these — often unsophisticated — users and tell them they have to go to the police and could be breaking the law if someone else happened to use their computer is both sleazy and dishonest.
There’s a similar script for users who claim they were “hacked” which still involves having to go to the police:
Our clients appreciate that you believe you were hacked but the fact remains that we have evidence that a computer at IP address ____ has been distributing our client’s product on the BitTorrent network from __ date to as recently as ___. Your ISP confirmed that this is your account. There have been __ infringements over a period of time….. In order to cancel this matter without payment you will need to go and get a police report and fax or email it to us. The police may take your devices and hold them for 3-5 days to investigate the matter. You must be sure that it was not you, anyone in your household, friends or neighbors, as you may be breaking another law with the police department. With this many infringements, the only way we can cancel the matter without payment is if you get a police report and fax it to us. If you fax us a police report, we will close the matter.
The script also includes the “usual” misleading claims, such as saying that people downloading songs have received penalties as high as $150,000. Yes, that’s the maximum for statutory damages, but only for willful infringement, and such numbers have never been awarded for some random person just downloading some songs. To suggest otherwise is clearly misleading. Similarly, the script has the agents implying that Rightscorp’s technology is never wrong in identifying users, and furthermore, falsely claiming that even if someone else used your WiFi network, that you are still responsible. This is in direct contrast to the actual law on the matter.
Distributing these composition on the BitTorrent network violates US Federal law 17 USC 106 which states that the copyright owner has the sole right to determine who may distribute their copyrights to the public. More than 200,000 people have been sued for doing exactly this since 2010 with penalties as high as $150,000 per infringement. We send mails to ISPs like yours (state their ISP if available) each time we see a computer illegally distributing our client’s copyrighted works. The ISP looks up which subscriber was using the IP address at the time the infringement occurred and sends our notice to that subscriber. If you are receiving our notices, it is because your ISP has identified you as the network that was used to illegally distribute our client’s copyrighted material. According the the Acceptable Use Policy that most ISP’s have, the account holder is solely responsible for what occurs on their network regardless of who actually committed the infringement. We are authorized by the copyright holders to extend offers of settlement in exchange for a release of liability from the infringement. We are only contacting you while the settlement offer is still available. At S20 per infringement, we believe this is a much more financial friendly alternative. Would you like to settle these infringements now?
And, of course, there are all sorts of inaccuracies on little tidbits of copyright law. A copyright holder does not have the “sole right” because there are exceptions, and it’s not about the distribution “of the copyrights” but rather the distribution of the work, which may be covered by copyright. Oh, and the actual statutory damages are $150,000 per work infringed rather than per infringement, which may sound like the same thing, but isn’t. But those are just little inaccuracies compared to the bigger lies above.
The script also makes it clear that Rightscorp will hound you until you pay, and they threaten that your internet access may get cut off:
(Sir or Ma’am) I do need to let you know we will be continuing to contact you with all methods possible, which will include email, regular mail and phone calls until this is paid or our client decides to no longer offer the settlement. This is a pre-litigation communication. Once our client has removed the settlement, we can no longer aid you in obtaining the release of liability. This could potentially result in the suspension or termination of your internet, escalation up to and including litigation.
It’s like the classic shakedown scheme, except made to look legal thanks to US copyright law.