New Copyright Trolling Operation Lowers The Settlement Demands And Calls Them Fines To Improve Conversion Rate
from the devious-trolls dept
As much more attention has been brought to copyright trolls and the unethical manner in which they operate, it was inevitable that the tactics of the trolls would begin to shift. For some of us, it was immediately obvious what a PR problem these trolling operations faced. It all comes down to the “settlements” offered in a copyright troll’s letters. The amounts, while designed to look small compared with the threat of a lawsuit, still tend to be quite high. Certainly the amounts make no sense when compared with the costs of simply viewing a movie or television show, which is the natural standard that lay person is likely to set. For that reason, some trolls, such as RightsCorp, have already started down the path of lowering settlement offers to levels that are more likely to cause the accused to simply pay up. Also, the fact that these letters, with all of their threatening language, even refer to the offers as “settlements” rings much closer to extra-judicial extortion than anything resembling justice.
Well, it seems that one copyright troll is attempting to correct against both of these concerns. Rights Enforcement, contracted by the studio behind the movie The Hitman’s Bodyguard, is sending out letters to those it claims pirated the film with a much-reduced amount of money requested. And these requests are being called “fines” as opposed to “settlements.”
Rights Enforcement sends automated ‘fines’ via DMCA notices, which is cheaper than expensive lawsuits. At the same time, this also makes the settlement process easier to scale, as they can send out tens of thousands of ‘fines’ at once with limited resources, without any oversight from a court.
TorrentFreak has seen several notices targeted at The Hitman’s Bodyguard pirates. While the notices themselves don’t list the settlement fee, recipients are referred to a page that does. Those who admit guilt are asked to pay a $300 settlement fee.
Beyond those changes, the letters are classic copyright trolling dreck. The letters are sent out on the basis of an IP address being associated with the torrenting of the film, with threats of a lawsuit still in the text. It then sends the recipient to a site where the accused offender can pay the fine — although on that site, it refers to the “fine” as a “settlement” — and also includes a link to where the accused can find legal representation. Legal representation that will, of course, easily cost more than the $300 fine.
The notice also kindly mentions that the recipients can contact an attorney for legal advice. However, after an hour or two a legal bill will have exceeded the proposed settlement amount, so for many this isn’t really an option.
It’s quite a clever scheme. Although most people probably won’t be sued for ignoring a notice, there’s always the possibility that they will. Especially since Rights Enforcement is linked to some of the most prolific copyright trolls.
It’s not so much a reworking of the copyright troll’s business model as much as it is one troll attempting to refine its process and fee structure to maximize its conversion rate. While that sounds like any business, it’s worth noting that these letters are ostensibly about a harmed party looking for justice. The threats of lawsuits are, if not entirely empty, certainly not the desired outcome for the trolling operation. Any such lawsuit would cost the rights holder far more than it wants to spend.
It’s still extra-judicial extortion of a kind, in other words. It’s just a cheaper form of it, with a little clever wording thrown in to boot.