Fri, Apr 16th 2010 12:11pm
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Apr 8th 2010 12:15pm
from the warning-letters dept
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.Looks like this new form of "monetizing" content is spreading. And not in a good way.
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.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Feb 1st 2010 8:17am
from the hammer-coming-down dept
Meanwhile perhaps the most surprising of all is that BPI, the UK's version of the RIAA has also come out against the practice, saying that they don't feel it is appropriate. Perhaps it's not a huge surprise -- given that the clients of ACS:Law/DigiProtect have tended to be video game and porn producers rather than the recording industry. However, when even the recording industry finds your actions against file sharing too draconian, it suggests you've really stepped over the line. At some point, you get the feeling that ACS:Law is going to get slapped down legally.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Jan 12th 2010 3:01am
from the this-won't-last dept
A new report in Germany is suggesting that DigiProtect and a few similar firms in Europe may have sent out 450,000 such letters last year. Unfortunately, NewTeeVee, in reporting on this, claims that each of these are "P2P lawsuits," but that's not true (and a large part of the problem). Nearly every one of these letters are sent without any corresponding lawsuit. The whole idea is to shake people down by threatening a lawsuit, but never having to go through the expense of filing one (or the trouble of actually proving the infringement -- which is a big deal since many, many, many bogus letters have been generated, snaring many innocent users). But, with little in the way of penalties for such bogus pre-settlement letters, there's simply no reason not to keep sending them. Apparently, enough people just pay up to make this an incredibly profitable business.
However, with the massive increase in such letters, and increasing scrutiny about the whole practice, you have to wonder when European governments will start to crack down on this behavior. It's difficult to see anyone defending these actions with a straight face. They clearly have nothing to do with preventing file sharing or unauthorized use of content, but are very much about just getting people to pay up under the threat of a lawsuit.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Dec 8th 2009 6:02am
from the that's-not-good dept
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Dec 1st 2009 5:22am
from the one-would-hope dept
Of course, one of the big problems with such a system is that those sending such letters have very little incentive (if any) to actually verify that unauthorized file sharing has happened. They want to cast as wide a net as possible and send out as many letters as possible to as many people as possible. It's a pure numbers game. And, for that reason, plenty of false positives are identified. Now, plenty of people reasonably point out that IP addresses are not indicative of individuals, and there are problems with relying solely on IP addresses -- but those problems become even bigger when you're dealing with folks who don't understand how BitTorrent actually works. That activity leads to claims of copyright infringement by networked laser printers.
Over at Freedom to Tinker, computer science professor Mike Freedman discusses how the popular CoralCDN has been getting hundreds of pre-settlement letters because one of these companies doesn't seem to do even the slightest verification of whether or not an IP address is actually involved in sharing content, and misinterprets the data it has received (despite the self-supported claim that "The information in this notification is accurate"). Of course, since the "punishment" for such things is slight to non-existent, the company in question (in this case, "Video Protection Alliance") has no incentive to improve its process. But it presents a real cost to Freedman, who helps run CoralCDN:
Our personal experience with DMCA takedown notices is that network operators are suitably afraid of litigation. Many will pull network access from machines as soon as a complaint is received, without any further verification or demonstrative network logs. In fact, many operators also sought "proof" that we weren't running BitTorrent or engaging in file sharing before they were willing to restore access. We'll leave the discussion about how we might prove such a negative to another day, but one can point to the chilling effect that such notices have had, when users are immediately considered guilty and must prove their innocence.At some point, shouldn't we start to consider serious sanctions against those issuing not just bogus DMCA takedown notices, but then also using such notices to demand "pre-settlement" payments from individuals who may not realize their legal rights and may just pay up?
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Dec 11th 2008 8:35am
from the the-developing-story dept
Davenport Lyons' letters to alleged file sharers: make incorrect assertions about the nature of copyright infringement; ignore the evidence presented in defense; and increase the level of compensation claimed over the period of correspondence. In addition, the letters threaten, incorrectly, that failing to properly secure an internet connection is grounds for legal action.Meanwhile, last month we talked about a clause in DigiProtect's contract that appeared to say that the firm promised to upload the content to various file sharing networks, which certainly looked like they were going to spread the content more widely in order to be able to send out more of these "pre-settlement" letters. Considering DigiProtect promotes its service as helping companies profit from piracy, it wouldn't be surprising to find out that in order to increase profit, it has every incentive to first increase the "piracy." However, the company (who has been rather quiet during all of this) has granted an interview to xbiz where it refutes the arguments that it's uploading content, saying that the terms of the contract were simply necessary to transfer the legal rights to DigiProtect. Of course, if that were true, why not say they transferred the actual copyrights, rather than say they had obtained the rights to make content available, along with listing out the specific file sharing networks. Oddly, DigiProtect then goes on to claim that any online distribution of porn is illegal online due to laws against distributing porn to minors. That seems like a total nonsequitor.
The company doesn't explain the claims from its only named client, Evil Angel, about the fact they were told the pre-settlement letters would be for more like $50. It also refuses to name any other customers, though points out that it works with companies besides porn movie makers, specifically noting that it works with software companies too, but it refused to name any. Perhaps that's because software firms like Atari have backed away from these tactics after all of the negative publicity.
In the end, the whole thing seems pretty questionable. Trying to force people to pay up with threatening, misleading letters with extremely flimsy evidence (which has been barred in some countries) is hardly a reasonable business model. Hopefully, companies think twice before signing up for such a program -- and perhaps the SRA will sanction Davenport Lyons for its participation in this scheme.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Dec 5th 2008 12:33pm
from the well,-look-at-that... dept
But the really interesting claim comes buried at the end of the article. The BBC contacted the porn company, Evil Angel, which hired DigiProtect, to get their thoughts on the negative reaction to the whole campaign, and the guy in charge claims that DigiProtect misrepresented the details to him, and he believed the pre-settlement demands were much lower than the £500 that is in the pre-settlement letter:
"It's not my understanding that they ask for anything near that. I think the amount was $50 or €50. I would be very surprised and I wouldn't be happy because it would mean it was completely misrepresented to me."Of course, this probably means that Evil Angel is only getting $50 (or maybe even less) per "settlement" leaving somewhere in the range of $700 (depends on the exchange rate) for Davenport Lyons and DigiProtect to split. For doing what? Getting some IP addresses and sending out auto-generated form letters. Nice margins, but sort of proves that these settlements have nothing to do with compensating the content creator.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Nov 19th 2008 12:12pm
from the that's-what-we-call-extortion dept
However, the situation may be even worse than originally suspected. In an article about Davenport Lyons' latest client, TorrentFreak notes that the copyright holder may be contracting with a company to purposely spreading the content on file sharing networks for the purpose of making it easier to find people to threaten with pre-settlement letters. There are a number of different players involved here, but basically, copyright holders are licensing the copyright on various movies to a firm called DigiProtect. DigiProtect, in turn, hires Davenport Lyons to send out the pre-settlement letters. But in a leaked contract between DigiProtect and one copyright holder, it's made quite clear in the contractual language, that DigiProtect is expected to upload the movies as widely as possible prior to having a law firm send out the pre-settlement letters:
To achieve the purpose outlined in clause 1, LICENSOR grants DIGIPROTECT the exclusive right to make the movies listed in Appendix 1 worldwide available to the public via remote computer networks, so-called peer-2-peer and internet file sharing networks such as e-Donkey, Kazaa, Bitorrent, etc. for the duration of this agreementIn other words, it's quite clear that this has nothing to do with preventing content from getting on file sharing networks. Instead, they're specifically putting it there themselves, apparently hoping to get it as widespread as possible, in order to send out the threat letters more widely, so they can collect on the "settlements" from people scared that they're about to get sued. It's hard to see how that's not a massive abuse of copyright law.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Sep 17th 2008 9:09am
from the by-a-cigarette-company? dept
There are plenty of questions raised by this. First, if it's actually put into use as described, it would be the first time we see the industry attempting to target downloaders as opposed to uploaders. All of the various lawsuits and pre-settlement letters have always targeted those who share the unauthorized content. But the article claims this will go after downloaders (though, it's not entirely clear how they'll know who actually downloads the file). Then, of course, there's the whole extortion question of demanding payment to avoid a lawsuit -- especially when the actual evidence may be rather flimsy.
As for the patent application (which a casual search did not turn up), it's hard to see how copying the same strategy that's been used for years by the recording industry, merged with the already-questionably-patented Amazon 1-click method is somehow patentable.
Oh yeah, there are also some questions about Nexicon itself. Just last week the company announced a deal with YouTube to provide some audio fingerprinting technology -- at which point Wired pointed out the rather bizarre history of Nexicon. It started out as an online cigarette seller, that got sued for taking orders from kids, falsely advertising cigarettes as being tax-free and then (not surprisingly) failing to report taxes. Then there were the problems with the SEC over not filing its tax returns on time as well as questionable activities in some sort of reverse stock swap merger. Oh, and did we mention at one point the company was going to be a portal? These are the folks who are going to be popping up automated messages demanding you pay up for downloading a Frank Zappa tune?