Are There More Copyright 'Pre-Settlement' Groups Setting Up Shop In The US?

from the warning-letters dept

We recently covered how a recently created outfit going by the name US Copyright Group, had launched tens of thousands of lawsuits (some of which appear to be quite questionable from a legal standpoint), as part of what appeared to be an attempt at copying the efforts of companies like DigiProtect and ACS:Law in Europe (where such practices have been widely condemned). The lawsuits appear to be a smokescreen to get contact information for people to whom this "company" can send "pre-settlement" letters, in which they're told to pay up to avoid the lawsuit.

Considering that this pseudo-shakedown is apparently lucrative in Europe, perhaps others are preparing to do the same in the US as well. A reader who prefers to remain anonymous, but who works for a small ISP, passed along an email he recently received from what appears to be a newish operation called the Copyright Enforcement Group, whose website has a mock law enforcement shield on it. Like US Copyright Group, it doesn't hide behind any claims of stopping infringing content. It focuses solely on how this is a way to "monetize" infringements. The email also points to a separate site called CopyrightSettlements.com, which makes some interesting claims. This is the website where folks can "pay up," and it promises "you will receive a full release of liability" but also that "Your personal information and settlement terms will be kept confidential." Makes you wonder how the two can go together. If your info is kept secret, what's to keep copyright holders from suing again? And does the company make sure it covers all copyright holders for a piece of content? Will it indemnify users if they're threatened or sued again?

As for the letter to the ISP, it was an "introduction," in an attempt to ask for the ISP's cooperation in identifying its users. As we've seen with US Copyright Group, many ISPs refuse to just hand over names, though some will. Hopefully, most ISPs receiving the following letter know better than to just hand over info without a court order. Here's the relevant part of the email:
CEG provides intellectual property management services to a consortium of studios in the entertainment industry. Our clients have entrusted us with their valuable property and authorized us to bring legal action against those individuals who illegally download and/or distribute their copyrighted materials over the Internet.

CEG's proprietary technology detects infringements which occur over the Internet and gathers sufficient evidence to support a claim of copyright infringement against the infringing party. Once infringement is detected, we follow strict multi-step validation procedures to ensure that all information is accurate before we forward the DMCA notice to you. The infringing party is then afforded with an opportunity to settle the matter for substantially less than what will be offered if a lawsuit is filed or compared to the judgment amount a court may enter against the infringer.

We understand and respect the important role that you play in securing the privacy of your subscriber base. However, we, too, are deeply committed to our clients and will vigorously enforce their intellectual property rights against infringement. We sincerely hope that you will join us in our effort to fight Internet piracy.
Looks like this new form of "monetizing" content is spreading. And not in a good way.

Filed Under: copyright, pre-settlement
Companies: digiprotect, us copyright group


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  1. identicon
    anonymous man, 30 Dec 2010 @ 7:12pm

    Crazy

    I'm here to warn others who got the notice. I thought I'd feel relieved after I paid CEG via website. Not true. I'm still under stress and still losing sleep. I have a loss of apetite that will last for days. I don't want to use my computer anymore. They played on my emotion with their loose accusation. I never watched the films they claim. I felt I had to protect my identity whether or not I was in the wrong. Thats why it is immoral and underhanded to threaten legal action to anonymous. The Copyright Enforcement Group only want automated money, not justice. Its very possible to feel shamed even when your in the right: They are counting on it. Thats what makes it a scheme. These porn lawyers are acting immoral and causing damage to normal people and normal families who don't know any better about computers.

    This is my opinion: I don't recommend visiting their settlement website at all. I think you should call your ISP and complain about the notice, as they blindly forwards these things. I think you should call the lawyers offices via phone and talk to them until they think and stop. Contact the EFF.org. Use twitter. Lastly, mount a boycott against the porn companies in league with these lawyers, like Diabolic etc. They don't need you as a fan. The last resort should be paying up. Never offer your identity. You won't be any better off submitting to their will.

    Overall I don't feel its moral to pay them. They are running a destructive scheme, based on social shaming. This has nothing to do with justice. The porn these companies create is not artistic, it is profanity. Complain to all parties involved when you get a notice. Don't give your identity.

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