Rightscorp's Copyright Trolling Phone Script Tells Innocent People They Need To Give Their Computers To Police

from the uh,-that's-not-how-this-works dept

We already wrote about the various filings in the Rightscorp-by-proxy lawsuit against Cox Communications. However, mixed in with all the filings are some interesting tidbits and exhibits. One that caught my eye was an exhibit revealing the "script" that Rightscorp gives its agents to use when people call in after receiving a notice. Cox Communications filed this in showing that the actual plaintiffs (BMG and Round Hill Music) "turned a blind eye" to Rightscorp's misconduct. The script is quite something, with a few ridiculous statements. The most ridiculous, however, is the following. If the caller says that they're innocent, here's how Rightscorp has its agents respond:
In order to cancel this matter without payment, you will need to go and get a police report and fax or email it to us. The police may take your devices and hold it for ~5 days to investigate the matter. You must be sure that it was not you, anyone in your household, including friends and neighbors or you will be breaking a different law with the police department.
Every part of that statement is bullshit -- and it's clearly designed to do one thing only: to frighten the caller into just paying up. To tell totally innocent people that they need to hand over their computers to the police for five days and that if anyone else used their computer to infringe that they'll be violating some sort of criminal law is downright disgusting. It just highlights that Rightscorp is in the extortion/shakedown business, rather than actually trying to stop copyright infringement.

There is plenty of evidence that Rightscorp's targeting efforts were not that accurate, and plenty of innocent people were swept up by its systems. And to then target these -- often unsophisticated -- users and tell them they have to go to the police and could be breaking the law if someone else happened to use their computer is both sleazy and dishonest.

There's a similar script for users who claim they were "hacked" which still involves having to go to the police:
Our clients appreciate that you believe you were hacked but the fact remains that we have evidence that a computer at IP address ____ has been distributing our client's product on the BitTorrent network from __ date to as recently as ___. Your ISP confirmed that this is your account. There have been __ infringements over a period of time..... In order to cancel this matter without payment you will need to go and get a police report and fax or email it to us. The police may take your devices and hold them for 3-5 days to investigate the matter. You must be sure that it was not you, anyone in your household, friends or neighbors, as you may be breaking another law with the police department. With this many infringements, the only way we can cancel the matter without payment is if you get a police report and fax it to us. If you fax us a police report, we will close the matter.
The script also includes the "usual" misleading claims, such as saying that people downloading songs have received penalties as high as $150,000. Yes, that's the maximum for statutory damages, but only for willful infringement, and such numbers have never been awarded for some random person just downloading some songs. To suggest otherwise is clearly misleading. Similarly, the script has the agents implying that Rightscorp's technology is never wrong in identifying users, and furthermore, falsely claiming that even if someone else used your WiFi network, that you are still responsible. This is in direct contrast to the actual law on the matter.
Distributing these composition on the BitTorrent network violates US Federal law 17 USC 106 which states that the copyright owner has the sole right to determine who may distribute their copyrights to the public. More than 200,000 people have been sued for doing exactly this since 2010 with penalties as high as $150,000 per infringement. We send mails to ISPs like yours (state their ISP if available) each time we see a computer illegally distributing our client's copyrighted works. The ISP looks up which subscriber was using the IP address at the time the infringement occurred and sends our notice to that subscriber. If you are receiving our notices, it is because your ISP has identified you as the network that was used to illegally distribute our client's copyrighted material. According the the Acceptable Use Policy that most ISP's have, the account holder is solely responsible for what occurs on their network regardless of who actually committed the infringement. We are authorized by the copyright holders to extend offers of settlement in exchange for a release of liability from the infringement. We are only contacting you while the settlement offer is still available. At S20 per infringement, we believe this is a much more financial friendly alternative. Would you like to settle these infringements now?
And, of course, there are all sorts of inaccuracies on little tidbits of copyright law. A copyright holder does not have the "sole right" because there are exceptions, and it's not about the distribution "of the copyrights" but rather the distribution of the work, which may be covered by copyright. Oh, and the actual statutory damages are $150,000 per work infringed rather than per infringement, which may sound like the same thing, but isn't. But those are just little inaccuracies compared to the bigger lies above.

The script also makes it clear that Rightscorp will hound you until you pay, and they threaten that your internet access may get cut off:
(Sir or Ma'am) I do need to let you know we will be continuing to contact you with all methods possible, which will include email, regular mail and phone calls until this is paid or our client decides to no longer offer the settlement. This is a pre-litigation communication. Once our client has removed the settlement, we can no longer aid you in obtaining the release of liability. This could potentially result in the suspension or termination of your internet, escalation up to and including litigation.
It's like the classic shakedown scheme, except made to look legal thanks to US copyright law.

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  • identicon
    Michael, 28 Sep 2015 @ 9:33am

    I know working for a call center is just a job, and I have worked for some sleazy companies, but what kind of person can read this script and not throw up a little in their mouth?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2015 @ 9:48am

      Re:

      Dear person, you have more hope for humanity than is reasonable.

      Just think about over time how many soldiers, doctors, scientists, thugs, & criminals have all had no problem conning, abusing, raping, pillaging, and stealing everything under the sun.

      Yea... the world is full of scum, all you need is someone to enable them and it shall be done!

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

    • identicon
      David, 28 Sep 2015 @ 10:10am

      Re:

      Uh, pretty much anybody employed by the Department of Justice? Except that they get a whole lot more to threaten people with. You do remember Aaron Swartz?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2015 @ 11:12am

      Re:

      Probably the same kind of people that kicked old people out of their home on federal land and shut down businesses on federal land when the government shut down last time. Obama had no problem finding thugs in uniform with guns to perform those tasks, I am pretty sure there are many people who would gladly do this task over the phone.

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

    • icon
      Brian (profile), 28 Sep 2015 @ 11:32am

      Re:

      Call center employees are not the brightest. My guess is they believe what they are reading.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2015 @ 2:05pm

        Re: Re:

        As a former call center employee, I'd strongly disagree. Some are just poor people trying to make a living. The wealthy employ the poor to oppress the poor.

        I also wouldn't be surprised if the call center reps were temps or worked for a generic call center that provides services to whomever pays them, so the call center reps may not have a choice week-to-week as to whom they're calling on behalf of.

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

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 29 Sep 2015 @ 12:34am

        Re: Re:

        Not necessarily. Most are just taking the job they can get, and in some areas it's retail, call centres or nothing. Call centres can pay slightly higher (especially if there's commission involved), so those who last longer than the typically short turnover rate of staff find a way to deal with those aspects.

        I'll bet every one of them knows they're talking crap to some degree, but either they're too sociopathic to care that they're lying (I've definitely known "good" salesmen like that) or their personal need for the cash overrides their moral quandaries about what they're doing.

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

    • icon
      Padpaw (profile), 28 Sep 2015 @ 10:25pm

      Re:

      I have seen people that would kill someone else's defenseless pet just because they can and know they can get away with it.

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

  • identicon
    Baron von Robber, 28 Sep 2015 @ 10:02am

    "In order to cancel this matter without payment, y-ou will need to go and get a police report and fax or email it to us. The police may take your devices and hold it for -5
    days to investigate the matter. You must be sure that it was not you, anyone in your household, including friends and neighbors or you will be breaking a different law
    with the police department. If you are willing to sign an affidavit that you and your household have no knowledge of these infringement we will cancel the notices.
    What email address can I send the affidavit'?"

    Then send the affidavit to BVR's RightsCorp Affidavit Signoff. I'll gladly screw with them.

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

  • identicon
    John Cressman, 28 Sep 2015 @ 10:18am

    One word...

    One word... RICO.

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

  • icon
    Bamboo Harvester (profile), 28 Sep 2015 @ 10:34am

    Still trying....

    ...to figure out how this isn't being charged criminally as Fraud or Extortion...

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2015 @ 10:51am

    Did you notice the (il)logical jumps being made in the settlement pitch?

    "The ISP looks up which subscriber was using the IP address at the time the infringement occurred and sends our notice to that subscriber. If you are receiving our notices, it is because your ISP has identified you as the network that was used to illegally distribute our client's copyrighted material."

    No, the ISP identifies the IP address used by your account. It doesn't identify "you as the network that was used to illegally distribute...copyrighted material." The ISP doesn't vouch for your possible infringement. It just matches the IP address with an account. It's Rightscorps(e) that (often falsely) identifies "you as the network that was used to illegally distribute...copyrighted material."

    And then there's this:

    "According the the Acceptable Use Policy that most ISP's have, the account holder is solely responsible for what occurs on their network regardless of who actually committed the infringement."

    This is a deceptive sidestep that has nothing to do with copyright law. Your ISP's acceptable use policy has nothing to do with the account holder being held legally responsible for copyright violations done with their internet connection. Your ISP doesn't make the law. In a pitch about legal liability, throwing in this bit about the ISP's policy is just an attempt to make the settlement offer sound more ominous. I'd love to hear the response of a lawyer who receives this contact about their own internet connection.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2015 @ 11:09am

    Dear Rightscorp...

    Dear Rightscorp,

    Thanks for your recent inquiry about my possibly illegal activity. Your concern for my actions have not gone unappreciated. I am leaving for the Police station from my home as soon as I hit enter on this email.

    Sincerely,

    No One Ever

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2015 @ 11:13am

    Thank you WrongsCrap, guilty until proven innocent.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2015 @ 11:24am

    Is there not a need for a responsive script?

    Something like, "thank you for this information about my legal rights. While I am not able to review it while we are on the phone, can you send a copy of this information to my lawyer's office? [insert lawyer's address here--note, this renders them liable to prosecution for mail fraud]."

    or, "i understand you are asking for money, or as an alternative to making information about my activities available to the police? Are you aware that constitutes a felony? and, since it is conducted over a telephone, is prosecuted by the federal government? And furthermore, that you can be prosecuted for conspiracy based on your complicit actions? If you are contacted by the FBI quickly enough, you may have a choice of offering testimony in exchange for a reduced sentence. May I have your contact information to report to the FBI?"

    or, "ist nicht sprachen das Englisch"

    or, "Add me to your do-not-call list. Any further contacts will result in a fine of $10,000 per violation."

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2015 @ 12:37pm

      Re:

      And you will get the same response as the telemarketing scammers: "tough shit".

      Which is why the US needs some prosecutions, asset seizures, and laws prohibiting caller ID spoofing.

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

  • icon
    Roger Strong (profile), 28 Sep 2015 @ 11:26am

    When Techdirt posted a story about "Tumblr Complies With DMCA Takedown Requests From A Self-Proclaimed Future-Alien From Another Planet", I responded with "Still more credible than Rightscorp."

    This was "deemed funny by the community", and made it into the Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week.

    I don't get it; that wasn't a joke.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2015 @ 11:51am

    Mike Masnick just hates it when copyright law is enforced.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2015 @ 12:30pm

      Re:

      How is lying to people over the phone a form of "copyright law enforcement"?

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

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 29 Sep 2015 @ 12:38am

      Re:

      "is enforced..."

      ...using shady, deceptive, possibly illegal extortion tactics against people who are often found to be innocent of the violations of which they are being accused.

      You know what, if you add some facts to the end of your usual lie, it seems to become accurate and actually relevant to the article. Fascinating.

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

  • icon
    jlaprise (profile), 28 Sep 2015 @ 12:47pm

    "I have EFF on speed dial."

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2015 @ 1:00pm

    everyone, in particular the studios, music and movie, know the only way to stop copyright infringement is to compete with the services that are doing the infringement. the 'problem' though is that the studios DONT WANT TO COMPETE AND ONLY WANT TO SUE, BREAK UP FAMILIES, CAUSE INDIVIDUAL BANKRUPTCY AND GET PEOPLE JAILED! if they were interested in doing anything else, they would have done it by now! on top of that, there isn't a single other instance where the issue of something untoward being done to an entity, where that entity hasn't had to do something itself first, before getting any sort of assistance from the law or from governments. as that is the exact opposite of what happens in the case of the entertainment industries, what is being done/promised to the law makers and governments by the entertainment industries to get such specialised treatment FOR FREE?? sooner or later the truth will come out and shit will hit the fan! then we may see some powerful names being dragged through the crap, just as they have done to other and in some cases, innocent parties!!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2015 @ 1:42pm

    Does Rightscorp think it is the NSA?

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

  • identicon
    Mark Wing, 28 Sep 2015 @ 2:18pm

    I would love to put one of those calls on Youtube.

    Years ago, my lawyer told me to record every call where someone is threatening me with something. I still have that special microphone he told me to buy--the one that goes in your ear and lets you talk normally. Anyway, there was much hilarity, as most of the calls went like this:

    "Hi, you're being recorded."
    "You don't have my permission to record me."
    "Awesome, because I didn't ask for your permission."
    "You have to stop recording me, right now."
    "No, I don't. Feel free to stop talking at any time."

    Some of these people are obviously coached on how to handle it, but some get really freaked out. Either way, it really puts them off their game for whatever they called to give you ridiculous threats about. If they weren't ridiculous, you normally get a summons, not a phone call. And if they are really the good guys calling some asshole lowlife like you for money, then they shouldn't have a problem telling you what they want "on the record."

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

  • identicon
    Joe, 28 Sep 2015 @ 2:27pm

    Lol, please call me, please please please

    Oh my, how I wish one of these scumbags would call me. I'd run them 'round the tree until they lost their mind.

    I routinely ruin telemarketer's days and they *always* finish the call by hanging up on me in frustration...in fact, I don't count it as a "win" unless they hang up first. :)

    I've got all day to mess with them, so having one of these pukebags call me would be a godsend.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2015 @ 2:58pm

      Re: Lol, please call me, please please please

      I find answering with "Hello, IT Security" results in instant hang-up 50% of the time. The other 50% is robocalls, where I have to dial 0 before stating "Hello, you've reached IT security". Then they hang up.

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

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 29 Sep 2015 @ 1:41am

    If only there was some sort of system to deal with fraud being perpetrated on people on a massive scale. Like a group that was charged with investigating and prosecuting those who misuse the legal system for profit.

    The wheels of justice are slow, and to date have done fuckall to curtail these abuses of citizens. Even when the curtain was pulled back to show that the old man was naked and lying, not a fucking thing has happened. Those old men are now working a newer version of a scam using a different set of laws, meant to protect citizens, to extract money for their own benefit.

    The cogs of the system are working the system hard to line their own pockets and when they get caught the 'penalties' are nothing compared to the harm they have caused.

    We have laws that protect 'property' more than actual people. We spend more money on making sure corporations are protected, while turning a blind eye to the outright abuse of those same laws by them. Deference is always given to corporations & their agents even when the abuse is plainly visible, yet the law jumps first on accused citizens when the evidence is smoke, mirrors, and technobabble.

    RightsCorp is a scam. It is same same scam the priciples have run before, with new window dressing. Until the law decided to actually defend citizens against this willful abuse for profit, it is going to continue. Those who employ these scum need to be held accountable as well, perhaps a corporation having to pay up for the things they allowed without question might suddenly convince them that an imaginary wrong does not mean they are allowed violate the rights of others.

    Copyright needs to stop being this magical part of the law that means you can ignore the parts you don't think apply to you, while lining your pockets from misery, threats, & intimidation. It is time they start punishing these scams, and put the fear of the law back into the otherside. These snakeoil solutions do not work, will not work, and merely make them waste resources instead of admitting they are ill, and that their own bad choices made them sick.

    While the law should do something to RightsCorp, its principles and their clients... the "punishments" handed out in similar cases when the actions of the bad actors have made the law finally take action do not leave much hope that anyone gives a shit about citizens. Oh you told everyone who would listen that your target enjoyed beastiality, CP, and other bad things... give me $200 and you stop that. Because that TOTALLY made the target whole, and they still did that same thing for months after that so they were completely shown the downside to using underhanded tactics while a court sat and whistled dixie.

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

  • identicon
    Me, 29 Sep 2015 @ 9:49am

    Dear Rightscorp,
    Hahahahahahaha
    Sincerely
    Me
    ps hahahahahaha
    pps. wait..you were serious
    ppps hahahahahahahaha

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Sep 2015 @ 10:13am

    Yes, that's the maximum for statutory damages, but only for willful infringement, and such numbers have never been awarded for some random person just downloading some songs.
    How much has anyone that never uploaded the material had to pay? I thought most cases so far were about uploading, technically.

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

  • identicon
    Kronomex, 29 Sep 2015 @ 2:46pm

    Wow, they are becoming more and more desperate for money to prop up their rapidly dwindling income stream. Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of scumbags.

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

  • icon
    Trey Blume (profile), 20 Oct 2015 @ 10:31am

    Robert Steele-Get off the Adderall Already!

    I hope Robert Steele gets off his adderrall for just a few moments to realize how far in the wrong he truly is.
    This weird guy is a super retard and bad guy.

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


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