Cyberbullying for Dollars: Copyright Holders vs ISPs

July 1, 2015

RightscorpRightscorp is in the business of threatening alleged copyright infringers.

The company counts among its clients Warner Brothers, BMG Rights Management and others. It monitors torrent swarms, recording IPs and sending notices to ISPs, which are intended to be forwarded to end users.

Rightscorp makes a simple demand: face a potential $150,000 in penalties for alleged copyright infringement or send them $20.

The company then splits that fee with the client whose rights it alleges were violated.

The most notable recent action involving Rightscorp has been a lawsuit against ISP Cox, brought by BMG Music and Round Hill, over alleged piracy on the part of Cox’s clients.

The copyright holders filed the claim because Cox wasn’t forwarding Rightscorp notices to its subscribers, according to Ars Technica.

BMG’s lawyers are arguing that, by failing to forward the notices, Cox was basically protecting pirates.

What the Plaintiffs Want

The plaintiffs want a list of who they consider to be the 500 “top infringers,” according to the Ars Technica article. The judge allowed BMG to get those names and Cox turned them over.

Some of those people, however, claim that they are innocent of the charges and asked not to have their information turned over, a request that Cox has honored.

According to Cox, BMG is essentially trying to do an end-run around the Cable Privacy Act. That Act would require that the plaintiffs sue the subscribers and then subpoena their user details from Cox.

In the Ars Technica article, Cox lawyers describe the plaintiffs as using a “shakedown business model.”

What Is Rightscorp?

Rightscorp (RIHT) became a public company in October of 2013. They trade on the NASDAQ.

The company is planning on expanding, butcurrently operates at a loss. The company’s filings showed a $2.2 million loss for Q 1-3 of 2014 and a total loss of $6.5 million, according to TorrentFreak.

The company uses a system that it claims can determine which user was assigned a given IP, even though the IPs assigned to users by their ISPs are not permanent.

The technical acumen of the company was called into question when they failed to protect the names and personal information of alleged copyright infringers that had settled through the Rightscorp online system.

Rightscorp’s security errors led to their secure pages being indexed, which exposed the personal information of individuals that had been accused of infringing on copyrights.

Flaws in their Claims

Rightscorp’s business model relies on sending out DMCA subpoenas that demand the personal information of accused copyright infringers. Those subpoenas, however, do not require that the ISPs provide identifying information to the agency serving them.

In fact, the ISPs that hand over information on their users could get in trouble for doing so. The legal loophole that Rightscorp claims allows it to demand information has not been recognized as being valid for nearly a decade.

The lawsuit grinds on, with Cox now demanding more information from Rightscorp, including parts of its source code.

Protecting Your Data

Some of the people that were named by Rightscorp claim that their IP addresses showed up because of simple mistakes; ones you can avoid.

First and foremost, make certain your wireless router has a secure password. More than one of the people that objected to having their details sent to the court claimed that their routers were inadequately protected, allowing people to use their connection to download copyrighted content.

If you’re using USENET, be sure you’re going over a secure port with SSL encryption. For other Internet connections, utilize a VPN service to provide encryption.

Judging by some of the letters sent by the accused to the court, anyone and everyone, whether or not they actually infringe on someone’s copyright, could be subjected to a shakedown from Rightscorp.

Given that the company has already been sloppy with security and released personal information from those it’s accused onto the Internet, being cautious and secure is highly advisable.

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