Google Fiber Says It's Passing On Rightscorp Settlement-O-Matic Demands For 'Transparency'

from the transparent-bullying dept

As Rightscorp continues to explore its legally-dubious efforts to shake down broadband users for cash, the company is finding itself with its hands full across multiple, costly legal fronts. Earlier this month, the company was beaten back in court by a tiny ISP by the name of Birch Communications, after the courts rejected the use of DMCA subpoenas for ISP subscriber data. Rightscorp's also doing battle with Cox Communications, trying to drum up user identities while claiming the DMCA gives it the authority to threaten users with account termination.

Despite all the noise Rightscorp makes in the media and in the courts, it's not very good at being a copyright troll. The company's latest earnings report suggested the company is losing more money than ever, spending $1.24 million on legal fees and other costs last quarter to collect just $308,000.

ISPs are under no obligation under the DMCA to forward copyright infringement notices, though most ISPs do so anyway. However, on principle many ISPs (like Comcast) refuse to pass on Rightscorp's early settlement notices, which demand users pay an upfront payment of $20 to avoid legal escalation (which usually never comes). On behalf of its client Rotten Records, Rightscorp is now suing two Comcast users for sharing an album each and ignoring hundreds of settlement notices:
"Distancing themselves from any accusations of wrongdoing, the lawsuits state that neither Rotten Records nor Rightscorp were the original ‘seeders’ of the album and at no point did Rightscorp upload the albums to any other BitTorrent users. However, the company did send warnings to the Comcast users with demands for them to stop sharing the album.

"Rightscorp sent Defendant 288 notices via their ISP Comcast Cable Communications, Inc. from December 14, 2014 to May 12, 2015 demanding that Defendant stop illegally distributing Plaintiff’s work. Defendant ignored each and every notice and continued to illegally distribute Plaintiff’s work," the complaint reads."
Rightscorp is seeking an injunction forbidding further online infringement in both cases, deletion of both works, statutory damages of up to $150,000 for each album, and attorneys' fees. It's a one-two punch; trying to reveal the names of the offenders while attempting to punish Comcast for refusing to pass on settlement demands. If it wins, Rightscorp hopes the ample press will scare other settlement notice recipients to pay up.

Oddly, while the cable company everybody loves to hate is standing up for users, an ISP that's been a bit of a hero for bringing some much needed competition to the broadband market has been playing along with Rightscorp. Google Fiber has been taking some heat the last few weeks for the news that it's passing on Rightscorps' full settlement demands to users. When pressed for comment as to why companies like Comcast strip out the demands to protect its customers and Google doesn't, the company claimed it was just trying to be as transparent as possible:
"When Google Fiber receives a copyright complaint about an account, we pass along all of the information we receive to the account holder so that they’re aware of it and can determine the response that’s best for their situation," a Google spokesperson tells TF...."Although we think there are better solutions to fighting piracy than targeting individual downloaders, we want to be transparent with our customers,” Google’s spokesperson adds."
Of course, if Google truly wants to be "transparent" with users, it might consider adequately informing them they're being shaken down by a particularly hairy copyright troll.

Filed Under: copyright trolling, google fiber, notices, shakedown, transparency
Companies: comcast, google, righscorp, rotten records


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2015 @ 11:55am

    You Google Fiber FIBBER! "bit of a hero" even while "playing along with Rightscorp", eh?

    Google Fiber is TINY and this bad news was first offset with positive slant.

    Here's some numbers. Wikipedia doesn't have easy to find total TV subscriber numbers, but the "cable tv" item does say 58.4% of US households. Let's just round way down to 100 million total households. Google Fiber figure is from Wikipedia.
    Then 27,000 / 58,400,000 = 0.0004623. Round up now and call it one in every 2000 US households is on Google Fiber.

    Every mention of 4th-decimal place "limited deployment" (this minion's euphemism) only highlights how unlikely it just springs to mind. Takes conscious effort to weave it into text. We all know why Google Fiber is positioned positively in nearly every item on ISPs.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mason Wheeler (profile), 28 May 2015 @ 12:30pm

      Re: You Google Fiber FIBBER! "bit of a hero" even while "playing along with Rightscorp", eh?

      Round up now and call it one in every 2000 US households is on Google Fiber.

      ...right now.

      One of those lucky few is my brother, who lives in Provo, Utah, and to hear him talk about his service, it's the best thing that ever happened to the Internet. The people who have it are talking, and what they're saying is generating lots of demand among the people who don't have it yet.

      Google built their Web business on word-of-mouth reputation, and in a few short years they exploded from a tiny search engine to one of the dominant players. You really want to bet against them doing the same here, go right ahead.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Karl Bode (profile), 28 May 2015 @ 1:17pm

      Re: You Google Fiber FIBBER! "bit of a hero" even while "playing along with Rightscorp", eh?

      So one, I'm entertained that in a post that largely criticizes Google I'm still being portrayed as some kind of Google apologist.

      Two, yes, Google Fiber's real footprint is relatively tiny. I point that out constantly. They offer actual service in small parts of two markets (Provo and KC) and none of the other announcements have seen a single transferred bit.

      That said, the deployments have still had a massive impact on the broadband market, by creating what's been a massive conversation about the lack of competition in most markets.

      "We all know why Google Fiber is positioned positively in nearly every item on ISPs."
      Cheap symmetrical gigabit service with no hidden fees and no obnoxious caveats. Gosh, I wonder why they get so much praise in a market ruled by overpriced duopoly service?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PrattleOnBoyo (profile), 28 May 2015 @ 2:55pm

      Re: You Google Fiber FIBBER! "bit of a hero" even while "playing along with Rightscorp", eh?

      Excerpt || where does "informing customers" end and "legal advice" begin?

      Easy. It's called a disclaimer and typically begins with the words, "This is not legal advice."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2015 @ 8:10pm

      Re:

      out_of_the_blue just hates it when due process is enforced.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      techflaws (profile), 28 May 2015 @ 10:24pm

      Re: You Google Fiber FIBBER! "bit of a hero" even while "playing along with Rightscorp", eh?

      (this minion's euphemism)

      pot, meet kettle.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 28 May 2015 @ 12:04pm

    Of course, if Google truly wants to be "transparent" with users, it might consider adequately informing them they're being shaken down by a particularly hairy copyright troll.

    In principle, that's a great idea. In practice... where does "informing customers" end and "legal advice" begin? If something bad happens to the customer because Google essentially tells them it's OK to ignore this, does this present liability to Google? I can see why they might not want to go down that road.

    This really is a problem without any good solutions, at least not at the victims' level or the ISPs'. Comcast has picked one bad solution and Google has picked a different one, but the only real solutions involve fixing copyright trolling itself.

    It seems to me that the biggest problem here is the cost of a court case. The First Amendment is best known for guaranteeing freedom of religion, speech and the press, but it also guarantees the right of the people to have their day in court, and the current legal system violates that particular clause seven ways from Sunday. Simply put, if I know I'm in the right, but it would simply be too expensive to defend myself in court anyway, my First Amendment rights are being violated. Fix that and copyright trolling, patent trolling, and any number of undesirable legal extortion practices fall too.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2015 @ 12:51pm

      Re:

      I sort of agree here...

      My provider (sonic.net) basically forwards the entire "takedown" request as well (as far as I know), but they preface it with some info about how the email was received, that my personal information will not be released unless ordered by a court, and I think there's some blurb about notifying me before that occurs as well. (it's been years since I last got one, so i don't remember all the details)

      I think this is the responsible approach for an "unbiased 3rd party" - it's really up to the consumer to know their rights and seek legal advice from an attorney if they feel they must. If worded properly, it becomes clear that the ISP values their customer's rights and privacy while passing along legal notices verbatim. Can it be that difficult?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Karl Bode (profile), 28 May 2015 @ 1:20pm

      Re:

      "In principle, that's a great idea. In practice... where does "informing customers" end and "legal advice" begin? If something bad happens to the customer because Google essentially tells them it's OK to ignore this, does this present liability to Google?"
      Again though, Comcast (and IIRC) AT&T cut the threat part of the notice out completely without problems so far. Surely then it's possible for Google to either do that, or at least link to a non-objectionable source describing what Rightscorp is up to. Or, perhaps, include a highly clinical explanation of precisely what Rightscorp is up to?

      I mean we are talking about a legal battle between an absolute giant in the world tech scene and a tiny outfit that's spending more than it makes.

      "This really is a problem without any good solutions, at least not at the victims' level or the ISPs'. Comcast has picked one bad solution and Google has picked a different one, but the only real solutions involve fixing copyright trolling itself."
      Certainly agree with that!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2015 @ 2:08pm

        Re: Re:

        "Surely then it's possible for Google to either do that, or at least link to a non-objectionable source describing what Rightscorp is up to. Or, perhaps, include a highly clinical explanation of precisely what Rightscorp is up to?"

        This is what I was thinking when I first read it. Why doesn't everyone simply include a blanket letter that just explains what a request like that is (aka not a court order, from a "(potential) copyright troll", etc). If you want to be transparent, passing along a slanted document isn't the way to do it. It's not that hard to find some unbiased non-legal explanation that prevents customers from getting completely scared and paying up.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Karl Bode (profile), 28 May 2015 @ 2:18pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Precisely.

          True transparency isn't just passing on a con-man's letter to his mark. It's passing it on with at least some kind of explanation that it's from a damn con man. Surely there's a way to do this on safe legal footing.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Mason Wheeler (profile), 28 May 2015 @ 5:47pm

        Re: Re:

        Again though, Comcast (and IIRC) AT&T cut the threat part of the notice out completely without problems so far.

        Am I misreading the article? Because it looks like it says that a couple Comcast users are being sued for non-compliance with demands that they never received and were never informed about, because Comcast never forwarded the on. I'd call that a problem, particularly if I was the one being sued, even if the lawsuit and the demands were entirely bogus.

        This is why I said that Comcast has picked one bad solution and Google has picked a different one.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PrattleOnBoyo (profile), 28 May 2015 @ 2:52pm

      Re: legal advice

      >>where does "informing customers" end and "legal advice" begin?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      jim, 29 May 2015 @ 6:01am

      Re: they did and are

      One of the trolls out of colorado has tried me, and I'm on google. They suggested rechecking my security on a particular setup, you see, I was looking for a popular TV, on cable show, the walking dead, would you know there is a troll out of Colorado, that threatens to take you to court, for downloading their porno, you know, a page 10 of google, preloads, on the tightest definition that's a copy.
      But then, you check the same results for bing, and safari, and umbuntu. Or risk a letter from those idiots, who, like archive.org, push clips to you.that way, you could watch the feed clip, and decide if that was the one you were thinking of, good idea. Love archive.org for all the saving of the classics, and the silent films. Wow. The Colorado group wants to change the you for downloading a search term. So I contacted google support, they suggested the last item, and I responded with my bill to them for document storage. After all, if they want to store a film on my device, which may prevent me from updating a copy of baad piggies, then they owe me and my business, for storage...I've sent them a bill, now? Been over 30 days, should I carry them another two weeks, or send them a dun letter?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2015 @ 12:22pm

    [quote]"Rightscorp sent Defendant 288 notices via their ISP Comcast Cable Communications, Inc. from December 14, 2014 to May 12, 2015"[/quote]

    They sent more than one a day for 6 months? Obviously this was done purely to be a nussiance and as a stunt

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DocGerbil100 (profile), 28 May 2015 @ 12:48pm

    "Rightscorp sent Defendant 288 notices via their ISP Comcast Cable Communications, Inc. from December 14, 2014 to May 12, 2015 [...]"

    My maths is rubbish, so maybe someone will correct me if I'm wrong:
    That's - what? - 288 notices over about 150 days?
    Or one notice every twelve hours or so?
    Or one notice every three office hours?

    That's not a notification system carefully designed to get people to stop infringing, it really isn't.
    That's a notification system carefully designed to get blocked by every spam filter in the western hemisphere.

    Regardless of one's feelings towards copyright, I'm pretty sure deliberately manufacturing unresponsive plaintiffs isn't the way things are supposed to be done, even in a US copyright case.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      DocGerbil100 (profile), 28 May 2015 @ 12:50pm

      Re:

      Guh. Should read "unresponsive defendants" near the end there. Damn you, Techdirt! Damn you and your total lack of an edit button! Raaah!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2015 @ 1:52pm

        Re: Re:

        Before you submit hit preview, read it as if you just came upon it, fix it, then hit submit. Just edited your post.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2015 @ 2:45pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          I do that and stuff still gets missed. I tried to fire my editor, but every morning when I look in the mirror, he's still there.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    PRMan, 28 May 2015 @ 1:21pm

    "piracy...downloaders"

    You'd think somebody as technical as Google would know that there is no such thing in the US. It should read, "uploaders".

    Notice that the Rightscorp document keeps referencing "making available", which is the action that's actually a violation of copyright.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Rekrul, 29 May 2015 @ 2:18am

    This is because there aren't actually any humans left at Google in a position to make decisions. It's now on autopilot, run by an AI.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 May 2015 @ 5:02am

    Google and transparency is kind of an oxymoron. Sure, they have *some* (read: very little), but they only talk about what they want us to know or what makes them look good, and they often mislead users (*cough* youtube interruption report *cough*) into thinking they're not the problem when they clearly are.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 May 2015 @ 8:44am

    absolute bollocks, again, from Google. it must be one of the richest, most powerful self-interested and gutless fucking companies ever! all it's doing is trying to stop the entertainment industries from outright suing Google for any and all charges it can trump up, mainly so as to be able to keep forcing the changes it wants implemented, a bit at a time. sooner or later, this battle is gonna happen and the longer Google keeps putting it off, the harder it will find it to defeat the industries and more importantly, the harder it will be to get public sympathy!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Jun 2015 @ 5:14am

      Re:

      ...And? Google passes on the letters just as "the industries" wanted. Just like you wanted. And that's "gutless"?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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