Can an agency copyright entity enforce a copyright that they do not own? There was a point where someone raised the question, “should I be afraid that a copyright troll might try to sue or collect money for copyrights they don’t own?”
That is an interesting question and certainly this could happen, but apparently CEG-TEK took it seriously since they represent so many copyright holders, and they have altered some of the DMCA letters that they send to accused internet users through their ISPs.
As a response to this question (which I suppose was asked enough times to inspire them to take action upon it), in the most recent versions of the CEG-TEK DMCA letters, there is now often a link to a “certification page” which affirms that CEG-TEK is authorized to collect settlements on behalf of a particular copyright holder.
I clicked on a few of the links, and while a few of them were innocuous (containing only the certification from the copyright holder’s website), some of them were pretty explicit as far as the graphics they show on their websites.
I thought it would be a good idea to take a few screenshots and post them here, but after seeing a few of the sites, posting the screenshots here would put our website into the “Not Safe For Work (‘NSFW’)” category (as if it is not already in that category from its content). I have pasted one below just to show an example of what they look like:
For some of their other clients, below are some of the links I have collected over the past few weeks (and by NO MEANS is this a complete list of CEG-TEK’s client list.
I tried to create such a “List of CEG-TEK clients” in June, 2014, and it backfired because immediately afterwards, so many of the copyright holders scattered and changed their name completely confusing the issue of who is a copyright troll and who is not a copyright troll.) I am merely providing this list as a quick sample to prove the existence of an AGENCY AGREEMENT between CEG-TEK and various copyright holders:
Digital Sin Inc.
P*rn Pros [also seen as AMA Multimedia, LLC]
MG Premium Ltd DBA Brazzers (formerly, “Froytal Services Ltd.”)
MG Content RK Limited DBA Reality Kings (formerly, “Manwin Content RK Ltd.”)
MG Content DP Limited DBA Digital Playground (formerly, “Manwin DP Corp.”)
E.A. Productions / Evil Angel
Addicted 2 Girls
New Sensations Inc.
MG Cyprus Ltd DBA Men
*[UNRELATED, BUT FUN TO NOTICE: Note the overlap between these companies as far as which brands are owned by which companies. Many of the popular names have the same parent company, e.g., MG Content, MG Premium, or more plainly, Manwin.
Also notice that some “brands” which market themselves to be separate and apart from one another are actually owned by the same entity, e.g., New Sensations, Inc. and Digital Sin, Inc.; as much as they tried to pretend that they were different entities when suing in the federal courts, we now know that they are the same entity.
It is also interesting to see what a “small world” the adult industry is, and who the power players are behind the scenes of the “large” brand names. Unrelated to this article, when defending clients in federal court and in settlement negotiations, I have often found it funny to find that “old man grandpa” or “innocuous family woman grandma” is the CEO or power behind a large multi-million dollar adult company.]
What to take away from this article is simply that CEG-TEK’s role is as an “Intellectual Property Monetization” company, where the copyright holders hire them to track instances of copyright infringement using the bittorrent networks (hence the “CEG” portion of their name stands for “Copyright Enforcement Group,”), to collect and record the IP addresses of the accused infringers, identify the internet service providers (ISPs) associated with those IP addresses (and yes, they now contact ISPs not only in the U.S., but also in Canada and Australia), and request, pay, pressure, or threaten the ISPs to forward their copyright infringement notices to the subscribers which invites the accused internet user to visit their CopyrightSettlements.com website in order to view the claims against them and to pay a settlement fee to avoid potential legal action that may be taken against the internet users.
What is also important to note is that the legal role CEG-TEK plays is the authorized AGENT of the copyright holder. This means that whatever CEG-TEK agrees to (e.g., when an attorney negotiates a settlement on behalf of a client, or when CEG-TEK agrees to make one or more cases “go away” as part of a settlement negotiation), all of their activities are binding on their client, the copyright holder. Thus, if you pay CEG-TEK*, it is as if you paid the copyright holder. I am obviously simplifying the law of Agency here (where there are nuances), but what to take away is that anything CEG-TEK does, they do on behalf of their client and with the implicit [and in many cases, explicit] authorization of their client. That means that no, a copyright holder cannot turn around and sue you if you paid CEG-TEK to satisfy that copyright holder’s claim of copyright infringement against you where that client has hired CEG-TEK to enforce the copyright holder’s copyrights on their behalf (now you know the term, as their “agent.”).
*NOTE: I don’t need to toot my own horn and solicit my own services, but before you decide to pay CEG-TEK or visit their website, please do your research and contact an attorney who is familiar with their operation.
There are things to be aware of specifically with regard to capabilities CEG-TEK and ISPs have as far as geolocation technologies to identify the location where a download is claimed to have taken place, and how a company can dig into your past browsing history (with the help of an ISP providing your past IP addresses) in order to discover past acts you may or may not have taken part in. Each of these impact your anonymity when settling a claim against you, and ultimately what a copyright holder can or can not later claim against you.
Your lawyer should understand this to help you understand the limits of CEG-TEK’s knowledge so that whether you choose to ignore or settle a claim, you will be aware of who is allowed to do what before, during, and after a settlement, and what are the time limits they face before information they may have on you is purged from your ISP’s records, sometimes making it unnecessary to worry about a settlement or a lawsuit.[2017 UPDATE: Carl Crowell has created a new entity called RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT which has reverse-engineered CEG-TEK’s proprietary DMCA copyright infringement notice system. Many of you have visited CEG-TEK links thinking that RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT was CEG-TEK, but really they are an ‘evil twin’ competitor. Since the two entities operate almost the same way, and since Crowell has effectively taken CEG-TEK’s clients, this article about sending demand letters and suing for copyrights one does not own becomes very relevant.]
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