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 Coward, 9 Jun 2011 @ 6:38am

    New update

    Law Offices of Ira M. Siegel

    By Certified Mail & Email
    June 07, 2011

    Re:
    Case Name: Media Products, Inc. DBA Devil's Film v. DOES 1-1257
    Case No.: CV-10-04471-MEJ
    United States District Court for the Northern District of California

    Title of Infringed Motion Picture: DON'T TELL MY WIFE I ASSFUCKED THE BABYSITTER

    File Name: Dont.Tell.My.Wife.I.Assfucked.The.Babysitter.XXX.DVDRip.XviD-NYMPHO
    File Size: 1,461,071,728 bytes
    ISP: Verizon Internet Services
    Protocol: BitTorrent

    We represent the Plaintiff in the above-identified case.

    Pursuant to a Court-approved subpoena, the Internet Service Provider ("ISP") named above and other ISPs have disclosed subscribers whose Internet accounts have been identified as having been used to download from and/or make available on the Internet unauthorized copies of the above-named motion picture in violation of the U.S. Copyright Act (17 U.S.C. 101 et cetera).

    You have been identified as one of those subscribers, in particular as Doe XXXX in Case No. CV-10-04471-MEJ, who has infringed Plaintiff's copyright in the above-named motion picture. The complaint in this case can be viewed online at http://cv-10-04471-mej.irasiegellaw.com/. We will formally name you as a defendant in that case if you do not reach a settlement with us by the close of business on Monday, June 27, 2011.

    YOU SHOULD CONSIDER CONSULTING WITH YOUR OWN ATTORNEY IN CONNECTION WITH THIS CASE.

    In connection with this case, we will seek, among other things, an award against you for damages of up to $150,000 for willful infringement, and up to $30,000 for non-willful infringement, under the statutory damages provisions of the Copyright Act (17 U.S.C. 504(c)), costs and attorney fees, and a permanent injunction.

    Do NOT delete any files relating to the above-identified motion picture from any of your computers unless and until Plaintiff's claim against you is resolved by settlement or otherwise. If you do, in addition to damages, we will seek sanctions against you for spoliation (i.e., destruction or alteration) of evidence.

    To settle your infringement now, the settlement fee is $1,500.00. Also, as indicated above, the settlement fee must be received by us, on behalf of Plaintiff, by the close of business on Monday, June 27, 2011.

    Settlement payment in the form of a check or money order should be made payable to "Law Offices of Ira M. Siegel," with Case Management ID: 3548 written on the remittance/advice line of the check or money order.

    The payment, along with your signature on the Liability Release Agreement (see attached document) should be sent to this address:

    Law Offices of Ira M. Siegel
    P.O. Box 16952
    Encino, CA 91416

    With respect to the Liability Release Agreement, read it carefully. You will see that we have accommodated the reasonable interests of a defendant such as yourself. Once the money represented by your check or money order has actually been received in my attorney-client trust account, I will return to you the attached Liability Release Agreement signed by me on behalf of Plaintiff, along with a Settlement Date and Release Security Code. Shortly thereafter, a dismissal of you, identified by your Doe number, IP address and timestamp, from the case will be filed with the Court and sent to you as well.

    Juries and courts do take copyright infringement very seriously. As noted above, you should consider consulting with your own attorney in connection with this case. You and/or your attorney may research similar cases relating to unauthorized downloading of media, such as in the music industry.

    We look forward to resolving this case with you according to the terms set forth in the Liability Release Agreement. If we do not, then you may formally be brought into the case without further notice.

    Sincerely,

    Ira M. Siegel

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