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Rightscorp's New PR Plan: The More Ridiculous It Gets (Such As By Claiming To Hijack Browsers), The More Press It Will Get

from the good-luck-with-that dept

Over the last few months, there's been tremendous press attention paid to a little nothing of a company called Rightscorp, which has basically tried to become the friendlier face of copyright trolling: signing up copyright holders, sending threat letters to ISPs, hoping those ISPs forward the threats to subscribers, and demanding much smaller fees than traditional copyright trolls (usually around $20). The idea is by being (just slightly) friendlier, and keeping the fees much lower, they might be able to "make it up in volume." The company has been subject to big profiles in Ars Technica, which calls it "RIAA-lite," and Daily Dot, which referred to it as a "boutique anti-piracy firm." Frankly, the only thing that Rightscorp has shown itself to be good at is getting press coverage -- often through outrageous claims, such as saying it found a loophole in the DMCA that lets it send subpoenas to identify ISP subscribers without filing a lawsuit. Lots of copyright trolls think they've found that loophole, only to discover a court already rejected it.

Rightscorp's real strategy seems to be to just keep bombarding ISPs with notices until they wear down and agree to pass them along, and then collecting bits and pieces from folks who agree to pay up. But to do that, it needs to get more copyright holders to sign agreements with the company (and the company sends out tons of press releases when they do), and so it keeps making crazy claims -- like its latest plans to supposedly hijack the browsers of people who don't pay up. TorrentFreak got the transcript of a recent investor conference call by the company, showing that it's still barely taking in any revenue ($440,414 in the first six months of the year, against expenses of $1.8 million), and still wants to get big ISPs to be "compliant" (with Rightscorp's own twisted interpretation of the law), but that, eventually, the plan is to get ISPs to hijack browsers:
“So we start in the beginning of the ISP relationship by demanding the forwarding of notices and the terminations,” Steele told investors.

“But where we want to end up with our scalable copyright system is where it’s not about termination, it’s about compelling the user to make the payment so that they can get back to browsing the web.”

Steele says the trick lies in the ability of ISPs to bring a complete halt to their subscribers’ Internet browsing activities.

“So every ISP has this ability to put up a redirect page. So that’s the goal,” he explained.

“[What] we really want to do is move away from termination and move to what’s called a hard redirect, like, when you go into a hotel and you have to put your room number in order to get past the browser and get on to browsing the web.”
Furthermore, the report claims that people are paying a lot more than just $20, because the company is lumping together lots of claims, and asking for $20 for each of them. Of course, being an investor conference call, the company's COO/CTO Robert Steele tries to spin all of this positively, but it's basically all marketing. The company has no real legal basis for what it's doing, and the program will only work if it tricks basically everyone into believing that it has the right to do what it does. So that's why it's constantly pushing out press releases and making claims to drum up press. If it gets big enough, it seems to be hoping to wish the world to act the way it wants it to (the way in which it gets lots of money instead of a tiny pittance).

But, as the TorrentFreak report notes, when an investor asks what percentage of people are actually paying when they get a notice... well, that's "a trade secret." In this context, that means almost no one is paying.

As for the plans to put in this "hard redirect" and hijack your browsing, good luck with that insane idea. The ISPs fought pretty damn hard when the RIAA and MPAA (two much more powerful organizations) demanded such powers with the six strikes "voluntary" agreement. And that happened pre-SOPA. After SOPA, we heard rumblings that the big ISPs were considering "renegotiating" that agreement, though they eventually went ahead with it. The likelihood that any ISP is going to agree to hijack their subscribers' browsing experience because some piddly company wants to start cashing more checks is... pretty low. But keep on talking big, Rightscorp.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 21st, 2014 @ 12:03pm

    Robert Steele, is that a pseudonym for John Steele, or one of his relatives, because this is looking like Prenda mark 2.

     

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  2.  
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    Avantare, Aug 21st, 2014 @ 12:08pm

    Hijack my browser...

     

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  3.  
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    Mason Wheeler (profile), Aug 21st, 2014 @ 12:09pm

    An investor conference? Hmm... are these idiots public? Sounds like there's some good money to be made in shorting them. :P

     

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  4.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Aug 21st, 2014 @ 12:16pm

    Re: Hijack my browser...

    Except what he's talking about isn't actually hijacking your browser or performing any intrusion whatsoever. It's just the isp rerouting your browser requests to a different page. Nothing in the action is prohibited by even the most liberal reading on the CFAA.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 21st, 2014 @ 12:23pm

    This is a real thing?
    Where the company's COO/CFO has a name containing the sound of both Rob and Steal?

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Edward Teach, Aug 21st, 2014 @ 12:23pm

    Jacking browsers, By God!

    Arr, mates! Tis a grand plan to hijack anything of value, eh?

    God's Blood, I love a good boarding party, but I can't fathom how these Rightscorp heathens think they're going to pull off such magic. First, a large percentage of people install non-standard browsers: Chrome and Firefox have a huge market share. So, they can't hope to do such hijacking without a government mandated standard browser. That may come to pass, but not within 5-10 years, I wager. A scurvy dog of an ISP might try to "hijack" a browser with special DNS replies to people tarred with the brush of "infringement". How many people use their ISP's default DNS server? It's pretty well known how to use Google's public DNS servers and so forth, and any "hijacking" regime will only cause that knowlege to spread around.

    That leaves something like "deep packet inspection" of all UDP packets from an IP address marked for hijacking in order to find DNS requests, and fake up a DNS reply. Frankly, I'm skeptical, not that this could be done, but that it can be done with any speed and any accuracy. Seems error prone to an old salt like myself. Arrr.

     

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  7.  
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    Spaceman Spiff (profile), Aug 21st, 2014 @ 12:30pm

    Steele & Prenda

    Are we certain these knuckleheads aren't really owned by Steele, Prenda, and associates? They definitely seem to be cut from the same cloth.

     

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  8.  
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    DannyB (profile), Aug 21st, 2014 @ 12:36pm

    Re: Re: Hijack my browser...

    If I merely 'redirected' your browser requests to a different page, I would end up in jail.

    If your ISP does this, then they are not delivering the service they promised. If they did this without any kind of due process, then there would seem to be some kind of liability they have opened themselves up to.

    Try Mega ISP where you get fast* internet connections! **



    * faster than our sister company Snail ISP and almost as fast as ComCrapst

    ** unless some third party accuses you of something and demands we stop your service with no due process

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 21st, 2014 @ 12:45pm

    Is Robert Steele, John Steele's twin brother?

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 21st, 2014 @ 12:46pm

    Re: Steele & Prenda

    There's plenty more where Steele and company come from. Just look up Malibu Media and Keith Lipscomb for an example.

    The only thing that makes the Prenda crowd stand out is when they got big, and how ridiculously careless and blatant they are.

     

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  11.  
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    Zos (profile), Aug 21st, 2014 @ 12:55pm

    When i was a time warner subscriber 5 years ago, this was already their policy, i got two nastygrams before proxying up, and both times i found out when they hijacked my browser to the "you've been a bad boy" page. Then you call in, express you lack of understanding and tell them about your open wifi.

    I know for a fact Cox did it as well, i was working tier 1 internet tech support for them around then and often had to direct customers over to security.

    no idea what the escalations would have been, btguard is a great service.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 21st, 2014 @ 2:16pm

    Heading in the right direction

    In amongst the insanity, they are moving in the right direction. Low cost - high volume? Maybe they could try that with content itself rather than alleged infringement?

     

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  13.  
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    Gracey (profile), Aug 21st, 2014 @ 2:58pm

    [quote]The likelihood that any ISP is going to agree to hijack their subscribers' browsing experience because some piddly company wants to start cashing more checks is... pretty low.[/quote]

    Particularly since ISP subscribers are likely to not pay their ISP fees because the ISP isn't providing the service they paid for. Subscribers aren't paying to have their browsers hijacked by some troll.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 21st, 2014 @ 6:11pm

    It's fairly common advice given people on the internet when they ask about receiving one of these notices not to respond to them unless they are official court documents. None of the trolls have your real name and address. All they have is an IP.

    The whole purpose of these notices through the ISP has been to avoid court costs associated with discovery and escalating should it go further.

    So from what I hear, no one is contacting the provided addresses. To admit that would kill their hopes of continuing this.

    But say they were effective. How long do you think it would take the ISPs to realize when they do the redirect that they are likely to also lose payment for services not provided? Of course let us not forget to mention open dns. Instead of contacting your ISP the outgoing link through them, what if you just use open dns? There goes the browser hijack.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 21st, 2014 @ 8:39pm

    Is Rightscorp a Nigerian company?

     

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  16.  
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    Sunhawk (profile), Aug 21st, 2014 @ 9:02pm

    Re: Re: Steele & Prenda

    If I recognize Malibu right (it's that porn company in Florida or somewhere like that?), they at least actually *produce* something...

     

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  17.  
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    techflaws (profile), Aug 21st, 2014 @ 10:04pm

    Rightscorp's real strategy seems to be to just keep bombarding ISPs with notices until they wear down and agree to pass them along

    Worked for Scientology against the IRS.

     

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  18.  
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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 12:23am

    I'm still betting on them putting lipstick on the pig to get a better sale price to cash out.

    If they can get a couple ISPs to do this, they will be a hot property for acquisition, which is what they want. Get paid and get out, let the new company settle the issue.

     

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  19.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 8:00am

    Re: Re: Re: Hijack my browser...

    "If I merely 'redirected' your browser requests to a different page, I would end up in jail."

    Not if you owned the router. My point is that your browser isn't getting touched. No intrusion is taking place. It's the ISP configuring equipment they own and control.

    "If your ISP does this, then they are not delivering the service they promised."

    True, but that's not a CFAA violation, it's a contract issue.

     

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  20.  
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    Raging Alcoholic, Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 10:32am

    Without proof

    here is a question?
    If I have a contract with an ISP for them to provide services wouldn't they be in breach of the contract if they did not. I wouldn't think any ISP would be willing to do that without proof. An accusation is not proof.

     

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  21.  
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    Bergman (profile), Aug 26th, 2014 @ 11:37pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Hijack my browser...

    Depends on how the courts go on the recent trend of prosecutors bringing CFAA charges for ToS violations.

    If a contract term violation that results in a computer trespass, even such a minor one as a ToS violation is a felony then the hard redirect would be as well.

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Bjake, Sep 29th, 2014 @ 9:46am

    RightsCorp

    These guys really rattled me and I did not respond to her last intimidating warning. Cecilee is from RIGHTSCORP this was her last response to me. I have since put her in my SPAM folder and blocked her phone. Yes, she has been calling me on my cell phone. Not sure how she got that number. :/



    Bambi,

    I never said in our conversation that I would be sending you a subpoena. I said I would send you the emails we sent to the ISP that you asked to see. I did just that. I am giving you a warning. If we do not hear from you we will contact your ISP and demand that they implement their terms of service regarding copyright infringement. The torrent does something called “seeding” which means it will share the file illegally over the internet and that is in violation of United States Federal Law. You will be contacted by telephone, mail, and email until we have received payment or our client withdraws the offer of settlement. Once that occurs you will be at risk of litigation. You need to settle these infringements immediately before we are escalating this case. You have my contact information. This case needs to be settled right away. Give me a call to settl the matter.



    Cecilee



    From: jbambi
    Sent: Friday, September 26, 2014 1:44 PM
    To: Cecilee Agent #333
    Subject: Re: Unpaid Copyright Infringement Violations



    Per our phone conversation today, September 26, 2014.

    I received a letter from RIGHTSCORP dated September 18, 2014. I found it odd that there was no return address on the letterhead. In addition, the list of alleged downloads are the same 8 downloads repeated 3 times in the same order over three separate months, which in itself is extremely odd. I do not download music illegal. I contacted my Internet Service Provider, Greenfield Communication, on September 20th. I spoke with a Anthony, he said Greenfield had not received any notification or subpoena concerning the alleged copyright infringement and that I was not in danger of losing my Internet service.

    In our phone conversation today, I requested a copy of the subpoena that was sent to Greenfield. After checking with your supervisor you said that you would send a copy of the subpoena as well as the the notifications to Greenfield. I received an email trail of notifications, the subpoena was not attached.

    I have contacted Greenfield Communications again to verify if they have received any notifications or a subpoena from RIGHTSCORP. I have also sent a copy of the letter and attachment from RIGHTSCORP to my legal representation to seek advice in this matter.

    I will await contact from my Internet provider and my legal representation before contacting you again.

    Respectfully,

     

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