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.

Filed Under: anti piracy, browsers, copyright trolling, pr, takedowns
Companies: rightscorp

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Aug 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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