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RightsCorp Threatens More Bullying Piracy Letters for UK Internet Users

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014 (11:10 am) - Score 1,540

The shadow of “speculative invoicing” could soon return to our shores after the US-based copyright enforcement agency RightsCorp, which monitors public P2P File Sharing traffic for “illegal” activity before pursuing related broadband ISP customers with financial settlement demands, confirmed that that they are “investigating a launch in Europe” and had received a “great reception” from interested groups in the United Kingdom.

Over the years a variety of such organisations, including notorious law firms like ACS:Law and Davenport Lyons, have attempted to bully broadband customers into coughing up cash for allegedly sharing copyright content online. Related firms usually track IP addresses back to an ISP and then submit a Norwich Pharmacal Order (NPO) that forces the broadband provider to release details about their associated subscribers.

But equally many of the related firms have also faced heavy criticism or disciplinary action, often from the courts themselves or the Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA), for adopting underhand or bullying tactics. In addition, the courts have often questioned the reliability of IP address based “evidence” which, assuming the data is even reliable (IP addresses on P2P networks can be spoofed and the logs could be wrong), ultimately only identifies the bill payer and not necessarily the guilty party (e.g. most networks are shared, such as in big homes, businesses or on public wifi).

The last company to attempt something similar in the UK was Golden Eye International (GEIL), which during 2012-13 ended up sending several hundred settlement letters to customers of O2’s now defunct fixed line Home Broadband service. However GEIL’s letters and the policy that surrounds ended up being watered down thanks to a legal challenge by the Open Rights Group (ORG),

The ORG’s action meant that GEIL could not, among other things, wrongly assert in their letters that the bill payer may be liable for any copyright infringement that occurs on their connection (here). All of this has made it much more difficult for related firms to bully consumers and thus we’ve not seen many similar situations since early last year. But now RightsCorp appears to have designs on the UK.

Robert Steele, RightsCorp co-founder and CEO, said:

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].

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.”

According to TechWeekEurope, RightsCorp asks those suspected of involvement with Internet piracy to pay around £12 ($20) for each pirated song or movie they may have downloaded / shared. Obviously if you’ve only been accused of sharing a single movie or music track then this may end up seeming more attractive than the risk of court action, often irrespective of whether or not you’re innocent (note: agreeing to settle is an admission of guilt). In the USA RightsCorp has already achieved 60,000court settlements” via this approach.

The approach will no doubt draw some interest from Rights Holders in the UK, especially since the Digital Economy Act hasn’t yet managed to implement its own letter warning (“notification“) system and plans for a voluntary solution have yet to materialise but could potentially still surface by the end of 2014 (here). In the meantime the on-going ISP-level blocking of piracy websites has forced a lot of pirates to adopt VPN and Proxy Servers, which makes it incredibly difficult to correctly trace and identify the offender and also helps them to circumvent blocking.

By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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