Settlement Reached In Class Action Lawsuit Against Rightscorp For Robocalls
from the well,-it's-something dept
In late 2014, we wrote about a class action lawsuit filed against copyright trolling operation Rightscorp, which argued two things: (1) that the company’s robocalling people’s mobile phones accusing them of copyright infringement violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), because you’re not allowed to robocall mobile numbers, and that (2) the use of questionable DMCA 512(h) subpoenas to discover accounts associated with IP addresses was “abuse of process.” Rightscorp and co-defendant Warner Bros. got that second claim tossed for violating California’s anti-SLAPP law.
However, the robocalling/TCPA claim remained, and after bringing in a third party to help the two sides negotiate, it appears that they’ve reached a settlement agreement that has been presented to the judge for approval. According to the proposed settlement, the defendants will have to cough up $450,000, and members of the class (i.e., those who received Rightscorp robocalls to their mobile phones) can claim up to $100 each from the pool of money. Perhaps more interesting is that, so long as those class members sign an “Affidavit of Non-Infringement,” then Righscorp promises not to pursue them for any copyright infringement claims. Apparently, this actually applies to members of the class who don’t even make a claim for any money.
Defendants will contribute $450,000 to the Settlement Fund. Each Qualified Class member who timely submits a claim may receive a payment of up to $100.00 subject to the following condition. The Settlement Agreement provides that Defendants will release any and all alleged claims or counterclaims for copyright infringement against Settlement Class Members who timely execute an Affidavit of Non-Infringement. The value of the total infringement releases is estimated to fall between $94.8 million and $19 billion in total statutory damages.
That last number is a bunch of hogwash. It’s just using the ridiculous statutory damages numbers to put a value on the promises to drop any copyright claims, but since Rightscorp never actually sues anyone, the statutory damages are meaningless. The idea behind it, though, is to show why the amount is lower than what the TCPA prescribes for violations of robocalling rules. Either way, this at least gets a bunch of folks out of Rightscorp’s crosshairs. Rightscorp also promises to prevent future such robocalling, which may somewhat limit its ability to keep up its trolling operation.
It’s not clear who exactly is paying the $450,000. Even though Righscorp is the real culprit, the much bigger pocketed Warner Bros. Entertainment and BMG are both defendants as well, so it wouldn’t surprise me to discover that the actual money comes from them. However, maybe it will make them think twice about associating with trolling lowlifes like Rightscorp. This isn’t final yet, as the court still needs to approve it — but courts generally approve these kinds of settlements just to get the cases off the docket. So unless someone raises serious issues with it, it’s likely to come to pass.