RightsCorp Wants To Bring Its Copyright Protection Methods To The UK

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The US company is forcing ISPs to participate in the copyright crusade, but will this approach work in Europe?

Notorious US copyright enforcement agency RightsCorp is set on bringing its services – and controversial methods – to Europe and the UK.

The company, which works on behalf of copyright holders, specialises in monitoring popular torrent trackers and identifying the IP addresses of online pirates. It then forces the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to send letters to the owners of those addresses, demanding $20 (£12) for each illegally downloaded song or movie, threatening legal action as the alternative.

“We are expanding in Canada first, but we are investigating a launch in Europe. I can’t give any specific dates, but we are getting a great reception from everyone we have spoken to [in the UK],” RightsCorp co-founder and CEO Robert Steele told TechWeekEurope.

“In Germany and the UK some copyright holders engage law firms and run large-scale campaigns to bring court orders and file lawsuits against file-sharers. We are sending a much simpler, less expensive communication that resolves the matter before it goes to court. That’s why we are optimistic that there will be a way to do this in Europe.”

Who doesn’t like money?

Since 2011, RightsCorp has achieved more than 60,000 court settlements in the US. To find its victims, the company directly monitors BitTorrent resources like IsoHunt or The Pirate Bay. The monitoring software simply connects to the peers as another file-sharer – once the connection has been established, it can see what files are being downloaded.

According to research from University of Birmingham published in 2012, it takes just three hours from the start of a download for an average BitTorrent user to be monitored by a copyright enforcement agency.

Pirate flag closeupCopyright holders are perfectly aware they are losing money due to online piracy, but they have no tools to fight this cultural phenomenon. And then RightsCorp comes along, offering to claw some of those losses back for free, since any expenses would be taken from the copyright infringers themselves.

Steele says that the US legislation places the responsibility for any file-sharing activity on the user and not the ISP, as long as the ISP had no knowledge that said file-sharing activity took place. And this is where it gets interesting – RightsCorp makes detailed reports and sends them to service providers, so they can no longer claim ignorance.

Under US law, they are then forced to take action, and thereby arguably betray their customers’ trust. As a result, the ISP is likely to lose some of its business. Meanwhile, RightsCorp takes half of the settlement money in fees – as much as the artists it claims to represent.

“We have sent FedEx packages to nearly every ISP in the United States with the login credentials for their RightsCorp dashboard, we send them weekly emails with the list of all their subscribers suspected of infringement,” told us Steele. “We are compelling them with the evidence that they have to do something to maintain their ‘shield’, or our clients can sue them.”

A similar approach to copyright enforcement is already practiced in the UK by companies like Golden Eye, which legally challenged O2 broadband to disclose information on more than 900 of its customers in 2012.

It is important to note that the IP addresses and peer-to-peer sharing information provided by RightsCorp may not in fact make solid court evidence. The experts suggest that recipients of such copyright infringement letters keep calm, do not admit their guilt and under no circumstances agree to settle. Agreeing to settle is an admission of guilt in this instance, and may prejudice future accusations.

Last month, Minister for Intellectual Property Lord Younger warned that the enforcement of intellectual property in the UK is going to get tougher. At the same time, by June the government is planning to introduce exceptions to copyright law which will allow consumers to make copies of legitimately acquired CDs, DVDs and e-books for personal use.

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  1. Because I am a victim of illegal offers and illegal download on/from websites, I welcome this American company. Hopefully they will also sue Google’s YOUTUBE, who offer multiple (if not all) the music (with or without films) that is published by us, by me, by my company. Without ever asking and without payment.
    But I (and the musicians) have to live from our doings: for over 40 years we produce music and we try to sell it to those who want it. But if there’s suddenly a middleman who takes our music (again: without asking or paying us) and sells it to the public, this I call: a crime.
    But I fear that “RightsCorps” will not touch a huge multi as “Google”, but only the small fans who do it not because of money but because they don’t (want to) know a thing about copyright.

    1. Dear Klaus,
      As someone who is both a amateur music maker (I sing in two choirs) and a music ‘consumer’, it seems to me that some of the heat would be taken out of this debate if we looked on music more as an artistic activity to be enjoyed and shared and less as a way to make money. It seems to me that more of the money is made by the record producing business than the artists, anyway, and it is these companies that are so keen on promoting their ‘rights’. How would it be for you to just keep your playing ‘live’?
      Best wishes, Luke Wiseman

  2. (2) Of course Google’s YOUTUBE does not “sell” our music (in the same way as Amazon or any other dealer sells), but they OFFER it for free. Which is also not allowed (without asking the owner). AND: they make money with it. A lotta money. Otherwise they wouldn’t do it, or would care much better about the owner’s copyright. But then, this business idea would not be as it is now: a gold mine. Just for them. On the back of composers, musicians, producers, labels, film makers…

  3. in a perfect world, those a-holes would go to jail for blackmailing – they are intimitating users into paying their “small” fee to be protected from much higher legal costs. even if they don’t have any proof that would hold up in court.

    (ip-adresses are no proof, and even if one single ip could without any doubt be connected to a user – they still would have to prove how much of an infringement the user in question really committed – sharing what parts of a file with whom, in which countries, did the receiving end ever construct a whole file, or was it just data-garbage…. – which is more or less an impossible thing to prove).

    it’s more or less a huge “protection money” – scheme – probably bigger than anything the mob ever came up with.

  4. Having been accused of infringing copyright on Handel’s Messiah, I hope that automated enforcement improves or the final matter is dealt with by humans. I was just pleasantly surprised that our choir sounded sufficiently like a professional recording to trigger it. Handel’s been dead for so long he no longer holds copyright on the work, so it was a professional recording we were accused of infringing. It was annoying that I had to go through the process of challenging the accusation.

    It does worry me as my children grow older if they will trigger this. Piracy was common when I was a child. People shared mix tapes. It was accepted social norm. While we need to balance all needs, this kind of thing changes the norm, and the damages demanded are ludicrous.

    The best solution of course – provide a compelling alternative. I have Google Music which works reasonably well, though lacks some bands’ music.

  5. The problem with germany is that they refuse to get their heads out of their asses and have subtitles for english movies. we have to go to netherlands to watch a movie. FFS thats insane. I don’t speak German, I’m not going to be here long enough to speak german and i don’t care about ich and bitte and wunderschoen. if they don’t want these movies being downloaded they should put them in english as intended. thats just a start. the other thing is to stop charging so much that soon we will need a mortgage to go to the movies!