Category Archives: Copyright Enforcement Group (CEG-TEK)

REVISITED: Beware of the defense attorney “copyright trolls” too.

This post was originally written as a “rant” against volume-based “settlement factory” attorneys.  At the time, the kind of damage they caused to accused defendants in bittorrent cases was unknown, as was their existence.  Even today, settlement factory defense attorneys continue to feed inquiring ‘John Doe’ subpoena recipients false information.  And as a result, settlement prices paid to copyright trolls often end up being artificially inflated.  As of 4/17/2017, I have revisited the topic, and it is still as valid today as it was one year ago.

After writing this article, Ernesto from Torrentfreak wrote an article entitled, “BEWARE: PIRACY DEFENSE LAWYERS CAN BE “TROLLS” TOO.“.  -Rob Cashman

Beware of Attorney Settlement Factories

I started writing this article because there is too much conflicting information floating around the web about whether to settle a bittorrent-based copyright infringement lawsuit.  The attorneys who are causing this confusion are trying to profit from the current broken state of the copyright laws.  These attorneys use fear tactics and manipulation to scare a John Doe Defendant into settling with their law firm.  

Credible Websites Teach That Settlement is NOT a Requirement

There are credible websites that blog almost daily on copyright troll issues.  

see “Fight Copyright Trolls,”

see “Die Troll Die.”

Copyright Trolls Do Not Take Cases To Trial

Because copyright infringement lawsuits are often based on scare tactics, and because copyright troll attorneys name only a small sliver of defendants sued, ignoring a copyright troll and his threats can be a good strategy.

IGNORING A COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT CLAIM AGAINST YOU CAN OFTEN BE A VIABLE OPTION TO RESOLVE THE PROBLEM (WITHOUT SPENDING $$$$ ON A LAWYER). 

Thus, beware of the so-called “defense” attorneys who tell you that you will lose your home and your life savings if you do not settle.

What are “SETTLEMENT FACTORY” defense attorneys?

NOTE: In this section, I give you the red flags to look for to spot these attorneys, and I hope this helps clarify some of the conflicting information you get from speaking to different attorneys.

“SETTLEMENT FACTORIES” are what I call law firms who focus on providing apparent “low cost settlements” to clients (as you will see, the settlements end up not being low cost).

These settlement factory law firms hire multiple attorneys to solicit and lure accused ‘John Doe’ defendants into hiring them “for a cheap and anonymous settlement.”

From a business perspective, more attorneys for the business owner means the ability to make more phone calls to solicit more accused defendants [to process more settlements], and the ability to “capture” more clients for their law firm means more profits.

SETTLEMENT FACTORY law firms PRE-ARRANGE settlement amounts.

Rather than actually negotiate a good settlement for their client, settlement factories run what I refer to as a “volume business.” They PRE-ARRANGE an often inflated settlement price with the copyright holder, so the copyright troll will agree to the arrangement.

In return, the copyright troll allows that so-called attorney to not have to negotiate the settlement for each client, since they have a prearranged agreed-upon “settlement amount.”

Why settlement factory attorneys are PART OF THE PROBLEM of copyright trolling.

This arrangement creates a “cottage industry,” where the defense attorney and the plaintiff attorney (who are supposed to be opponents) are allies for profit.  Settlement factory attorneys are part of the problem of copyright trolling; they are not part of the solution, and the only one that gets hurt is the accused defendant.  Why?  Because with settlement factories, the accused defendant almost NEVER gets the lowest possible settlement amount.

SETTLEMENT FACTORY law firms DO NOT NEGOTIATE SETTLEMENT AGREEMENTS either.

What compounds the problem is that negotiating the settlement is only HALF of the solution. The SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT itself must also be negotiated.  However, settlement factory attorneys do not negotiate settlements either (even though they tell you they do).

Why settlement agreements need to be negotiated.

Settlement agreements need to be negotiated because “boilerplate” settlement agreements contain ADMISSIONS OF GUILT and UNFRIENDLY LANGUAGE.

These boilerplate settlement agreements do not protect the client because they often:

  1. do not properly identify the accused defendant by name,
  2. they do not contain proper confidentiality clauses (to stop the plaintiff attorney from suing again or asking for more money later on), and
  3. they do not release the accused defendant from liability.

Settlement factory defense attorneys.

As a result of this article, settlement factory attorneys will take steps to hide their scheme.

For me, where writing this article will become infuriating is that suddenly these attorneys and their “beefed up” staff of hired attorneys will now start advertising 1) that they spend the time to actively negotiate the best settlement for their client, and 2) that they take the careful time to negotiate the terms of the settlement agreement so that the accused John Doe Defendant will be released from liability and the negotiated terms will properly protect the client’s rights.  Sure they will.

‘RED FLAGS’ TO SPOT A SETTLEMENT FACTORY

I know settlement factory attorneys follow this blog, and thus all I could say is “caveat emptor.”

At the time of writing this blog, here are the items to look for:

1) How long that attorney has been in practice [REMEMBER: “Copyright Troll” mass bittorrent lawsuits targeting multiple “John Doe” defendants have only been in existence only since 2010, so any attorney who claims he has been fighting copyright trolls for 20 years is obviously lying.],

2) Check the attorney’s blog to see the HISTORY of his articles — was he one of the first attorneys who fought these cases, or is he a new “me too” copycat attorney who is standing on the shoulders of giants? (after reading this, no doubt these attorney will now add “older” articles to make their website look older),

3) Check the blog article itself for “SEO OPTIMIZED” content, or “KEYWORDS” placed into the article.  Ask yourself, “was the purpose of this article to provide me valuable information? or was the purpose of the article to bulk it up with keywords so that search engine spiders will reward the author with first page rankings on the search engines?

2017 UPDATE: When I mentioned SEO OPTIMIZED content, I am referring to the fact that settlement factory blog articles lack content.  In our blog, we have over 200+ information-packed articles that we wrote TO EDUCATE.  Obviously many clients came to our firm as a result of our articles, and this is fine.  However, settlement factories have ONE MOTIVE ONLY: TO PROFIT.  Look for sites that advertise to you rather than inform you and educate you.

4) Last, but not least, check the EARLY ARTICLES of the blog to see whether the attorney actually tried to fight these cases and hash out the legal arguments, or whether they were merely reporting on the lawsuits already in existence to attract new business.  I call these attorneys “me too” attorneys, and you can usually spot them because all they do is report the cases.

AUTHENTICITY AND ORIGINALITY

In 2010, I and a small handful of attorneys were contacted by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (better known as EFF) to help understand and resolve the developing copyright troll problem.  This was back when ISPs began sending letters out to their subscribers informing them that their ISP would be handing out their contact information and their identity to the plaintiff attorney / copyright holders unless they filed objections (or, “motions to quash”) with the courts. Thus, I credit the EFF for even noticing the copyright troll problem and contacting us to figure out what to do about it.

COPYCATS / FOR PROFIT ATTORNEYS

Unfortunately (or, fortunately, however you see it), that initial list of 20 attorneys has grown to over 100+ names, and some attorneys have negotiated with EFF to list them as representing clients in multiple states, hence increasing their visibility in an ever-growing list of lawyers. Watch for these attorneys — they are usually the “settlement factories” I referenced above, and again, caveat emptor.

REPUTABLE ATTORNEYS DO EXIST

Let’s pretend, for a moment, that you did not like me or my use of pretrial strategies (often making use of federal procedure) to defend a client. Or, let’s pretend for a moment that I could not take you as a client (e.g., because my case load was full, or because I did not have time to speak to you about your matter).

Because there were only a handful of us attorneys on the original EFF list who knew anything about these copyright infringement lawsuits, over the years, we have become friends and have helped each other out on many of the lawsuits in which we represented both John Doe Defendants and “named and served” defendants. Some of these attorneys are still around today, and some have moved on to other areas of law.  Some of them have stopped taking clients because fighting mass bittorrent cases has become more burdensome than the effort was worth (especially when some copyright holders do not play fairly in discovery [think, Malibu Media, LLC]).

PIPEDREAMS AND REFERRALS

Finding “that special client who will pay my fees to fight this case to trial” for many attorneys has become an unrealized pipe dream, and is something us attorneys often discuss.  If you truly want to fight your case, I have nothing wrong with either me, or anyone else I trust representing you in your lawsuit (I will happily tout another attorney’s merits and advanced skillsets when speaking to clients). AND, I will happily refer you to someone if I find that one of my peers would better assist you.

NO REFERRAL FEES

I *DO NOT* believe in referral fees, nor do I “share the workload” with other attorneys (this is code word for “I referred you this client, so pay me a piece of the legal fees you receive and call it paying me for my “proportional efforts.”).  This is something that is often done in my field which, in my opinion, needs to stop.

Over the years, I have upset many non-copyright attorneys who know nothing about these cases.  In the typical fashion, they call me with a client they would like to refer to me (coincidentally, asking to share in the fees, but not in the work).  I have rejected each request.

So in hindsight, while I thought I’d be reintroducing “copyright troll” subpoenas and basic copyright infringement concepts to clear up some conflicting information found on the web, instead I am providing a clear warning to those who are being actively solicited by law firms. A law firm simply should not be calling you or contacting you to solicit your business.

BACK TO IGNORING A CLAIM OF COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT

Copyright trolls sue many John Doe Defendants in one case, but only a small number of them are named and served.  When you are evaluating your options, STOP AND CONSIDER THE OPTION OF *NOT SETTLING*, BECAUSE *NOT SETTLING* A CLAIM OF COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT CAN OFTEN BE A GOOD IDEA.

Similarly, in a lawsuit, DOING NOTHING MAY OFTEN BE YOUR BEST STRATEGIC MOVE, as counterintuitive as that might sound.  Again, this is because much of the ‘copyright trolling’ problem is based on a bluff — namely, that the copyright holders have evidence against you, and they will take you to trial if you do not pay them money to settle.

A Settlement Factory attorney makes NO MONEY if you ignore.

When you are bombarded with attorneys and law firms who actively market their fear-based services by using “Google AdWords” (ethically or unethically “buying” more well known attorney’s names as keywords so that THEY show up at the top of a search).  Then, those attorneys have their “assistant” attorneys calling you and pushing you to anonymously settle the claims against you, think twice. Is this person trying to get you to be yet one more client in their “volume” business??

WHY WE DISCUSS THE “IGNORE” OPTION WITH EVERY POTENTIAL CLIENT

In every one of my calls, I discuss what I call the “ignore” option which in many people’s scenario is a viable option. In many cases, I even push a client towards the “ignore” side of things.

[NOTE: There are many political reasons I have for this, such as “not feeding the troll,” or “not funding their extortion-based scheme,” or simply because I have been trying to change the copyright laws to limit or hinder a copyright holder’s ability to accuse or sue an internet user for the violation of that copyright holder’s copyrights, but NONE OF THOSE REASONS ARE REASON WHY I SUGGEST SOMEONE I SPEAK TO IGNORES THE CLAIMS AGAINST THEM.]

WHEN TO CONSIDER THE “IGNORE” OPTION.

Sometimes an individual’s circumstances allow them to ignore the lawsuit filed against them (or the copyright violation claimed against them in the DMCA notice).  Such factors include:

1) the individual’s financial situation,

2) whether they live in an apartment or a home,

3) the location of that apartment or home,

3) the state in which the plaintiff attorney has his law firm,

4) whether that copyright holder authorizes his attorneys [and pays their fee] to “name and serve” defendants and move forward with trial,

5) for strategy purposes, e.g., the psychological impact of having one or more John Doe Defendants ignore the claims against them (while other defendants rush to settle in fear of being named and served), or

6) simply because ignoring is the only option in that person’s situation.

IN SUMMARY

In summary, this has been a stream of thought article, but if you have made it to this point, you now understand the difference between a defense attorney who does settlements (among other forms of representation), and the settlement factory.

If the attorney you are speaking to is running your case as a volume business, or he is pushing you towards a “quick anonymous settlement” without showing you the merits of either 1) IGNORING, or 2) DEFENDING the claims against you, beware.

And if you need help and want my honest opinion about your case, or whether a particular attorney is engaging in a certain practice, just ask me.  I do not need to have all of you as clients, and I will answer you honestly.  And if you need, I will provide you a referral.


CONTACT FORM: If you have a question or comment about what I have written, and you want to keep it *for my eyes only*, please feel free to use the form below. The information you post will be e-mailed to me, and I will be happy to respond.

NOTE: No attorney client relationship is established by sending this form, and while the attorney-client privilege (which keeps everything that you share confidential and private) attaches immediately when you contact me, I do not become your attorney until we sign a contract together.  That being said, please do not state anything “incriminating” about your case when using this form, or more practically, in any e-mail.


Genbook Reviews | Cashman Law Firm, PLLC

RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT is a Reverse-Engineered CEG-TEK Evil Twin

I have been watching the analytics of this website, and as you know, I noticed a spike in individuals looking for help with the DMCA notices they received from an entity called RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT (a.k.a. “RIGHTSENFORCEMENT”).

Until now, because the only copyright enforcement company using DMCA settlement notices has been CEG-TEK (RightsCorp too, but they are a different animal), mistakenly, those who have come to this site have viewed the CEG-TEK articles.  I have done some extensive research to figure out exactly who RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT is, how they got a hold of CEG-TEK’s proprietary software, and what to expect from them.

RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT IS A REVERSE-ENGINEERED CLONE OF CEG-TEK

RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT is a reverse-engineered clone of CEG-TEK. They have taken and have copied all of the methodologies of CEG-TEK, and they have created a mirror entity which does exactly what CEG-TEK did. They have (I understand by brute force) convinced the ISPs to forward their DMCA settlement demand letters to subscribers, and when a subscriber receives a DMCA notice, they are directed to pay a settlement or be sued.

ISPs FORWARDING DMCA COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT NOTICES

ISPs forwarding the copyright infringement notices for this scheme fall into three categories.

  1. Those ISPs that I believe are being forced or bullied by Carl Crowell to participate in the scheme who were formerly hostile to this method of copyright enforcement;
  2. Those ISPs that were part of the Six Strikes System, but willingly participated in the bittorrent-based lawsuits; and
  3. Those ISPs who willingly worked with CEG-TEK to forward the DMCA copyright infringement notices for them, and now are forwarding the notices for Crowell.

CATEGORY 1) AT&T, COX, Frontier, Hawaiian Telecom, Windstream,

CATEGORY 2) Optimum Online, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon, and

CATEGORY 3) CenturyLink, Charter, and sometimes Comcast (at times) and COX (yes, I listed them twice on purpose).

CARL CROWELL IS THE NEW “KEITH LIPSCOMB” MASTERMIND BEHIND ALL GUARDALEY-BASED LAWSUITS.

Carl Crowell is the mastermind behind RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT, just as he is the mastermind behind all of the Guardaley lawsuits (pornography based AND movie-based). To understand who he is, he is equivalent to the ‘kingpin’ role that Keith Lipscomb had in directing all of the Malibu Media, LLC lawsuits (and formerly all of their other pornography-based lawsuits, e.g., Patrick Collins, K-Beech, NuCorp, etc.).

The interesting piece of information that people likely haven’t pieced together yet is when the relationship between Lipscomb and Malibu Media broke apart, so did the relationship with Lipscomb and Guardaley. If you time this, you’ll probably find that around the same time the relationship between Lipscomb and Malibu soured is the same time Carl Crowell ‘came to power’, so to speak and started filing all of the bittorrent-based lawsuits [backed by Guardaley].

***KEEP READING*** (SCROLL DOWN UNDER THE CONTACT FORM TO CONTINUE READING).

CONTACT FORM: If you have a question or comment about what I have written, and you want to keep it *for my eyes only*, please feel free to use the form below. The information you post will be e-mailed to me, and I will be happy to respond.

RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT IS CEG-TEK’S ‘EVIL TWIN.’

So CEG-TEK (which at this moment is in a dormant state, but is still watching what is going on) is not RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT. RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT is an ‘evil twin’, so to speak of what CEG-TEK tried to be.

RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT USES FAR MORE AGGRESSIVE TRACKING METHODOLOGIES (WITH FAR MORE FALSE-POSITIVES).

The big difference between CEG-TEK’s bittorrent tracking methodologies and RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT‘s tracking methodologies will be the way someone is caught (and I am basing this on what I know about CEG-TEK’s vs. Guardaley’s tracking methods, because they were always competitors for the same copyright holder ‘copyright troll’ production companies).

CEG-TEK always waited until they could prove that the download actually happened.

Guardaley (and thus, RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT) ‘catches’ a downloader as soon as he clicks on a bittorrent file and joins a bittorrent swarm (before even a byte of data is transferred).

Thus, someone could technically get sued or accused of copyright infringement with Guardaley for a download they did not commit. They may have visited the bittorrent website. They may have clicked on the file, but that file never needed to download in order for Guardaley to sue that individual for copyright infringement.

WHY RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT WILL BE A MONSTER.

So in essence, RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT will be a monster. It’ll be an evil version of what CEG-TEK strove to become (CEG-TEK’s goal was always to discourage piracy, and they succeeded in their goal which is what made it not profitable for them).

RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT will likely accuse ISP subscribers of downloading multiple copyrighted files (asking for $300 per title), when the accused downloader merely clicked on a bittorrent file. This will be true even if he later changed his mind and decided not to download the file, whether he waited in the queue and never got the opportunity to download the bittorent file, or whether he clicked on a bittorrent file, but only decided to download one or more files in a bittorrent file that contained many files for download. Worse, if he clicks on a siterip (something Malibu Media, LLC / Guardaley) almost always ‘dings’ a defendant for, no doubt RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT will ask for settlements for each and every file in that siterip.

WHY CARL CROWELL WILL TURN RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT ‘EVIL’.

To make matters worse, Carl Crowell has a reputation that precedes him. Where CEG-TEK would give deference to an individual who made a mistake, or who didn’t realize the gravity of what he/she did, or if that individual was a war veteran or an elderly lady or gentleman, these considerations reportedly mean ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to Carl Crowell. Rather, people have referred to him as a bully, and in order to deal with a bully, you need to stand up and fight if needed.

In sum, this is why I am predicting that RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT will be a monster.

HOW WE WILL HELP TAKE DOWN ‘RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT’

As I mentioned before, expect Carl Crowell (and anyone working under him) to be a bully.  As such, the only way to fight a bully is to punch him in the face.  Now since it does a client of our firm no good if I ‘punch him,’ so to speak, the only way to handle a bully entity (as I am sure RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT will become) is to be willing to step away from a negotiation, file a lawsuit, and perhaps even proactively file a declaratory judgement action for non-infringement.  For copyright matters, this can be done in any federal court in any state (although Crowell has already had some issues with judges in his own state, so perhaps that is a good place to start).

I will take clients for both settlements (these will be anonymous just as a CEG-TEK matter would be since Crowell will not know who you are when he sends the DMCA copyright infringement notice to you), and for the explicit purpose of filing lawsuits (and defending lawsuits filed) by him and his local attorneys in the various states’ federal courts.

There will essentially be three kinds of clients:

GROUP 1) Clients with matters small enough that we can resolve them anonymously with no, some, or aggressive negotiation.

GROUP 2) Clients with matters to large to settle (e.g., they are faced with an unreasonable settlement demand, or RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT is unwilling to negotiate a matter).  For these clients we will defend the lawsuit when the client is sued (again, it does not matter in which court this happens), or we will proactively file a declaratory judgement action to obtain a ruling that these clients were not guilty of copyright infringement.

GROUP 3) Clients who want to skip all settlement negotiations and fight this matter in court.  As I mentioned, many individuals will get accused of downloading titles they simply did not download (or, that perhaps they clicked on, but did not download).  For these people who are willing to fight, we’ll skip settlement negotiations and go straight to the lawsuit.

In sum, I am willing to dedicate a significant amount of our firm’s resources to shutting this guy down. From what I understand, this Carl Crowell guy is another John Steele bully, and if he runs his RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT the way he’s been handling his lawsuits, I will be sure to help clients either proactively attack the claims against them, or in the alternative, I will help them get out of his way with an anonymous settlement.

Blog Articles:

Anti-Piracy Management Company (APMC) Still Running Strong – “Pay No Attention To That Man Behind the Curtain!,” written by DieTrollDie on 4/13/2017.

New Automated DMCA Notices Hit Movie Pirates With $300 Fines,” TorrenFreak, written on 3/11/2017.


CONTACT FORM: If you have a question or comment about what I have written, and you want to keep it *for my eyes only*, please feel free to use the form below. The information you post will be e-mailed to me, and I will be happy to respond.

NOTE: No attorney client relationship is established by sending this form, and while the attorney-client privilege (which keeps everything that you share confidential and private) attaches immediately when you contact me, I do not become your attorney until we sign a contract together.  That being said, please do not state anything “incriminating” about your case when using this form, or more practically, in any e-mail.

999,000 views. Thank you!

I suppose it is more appropriate to celebrate when a blog surpasses 1 million views — probably because the website owner doesn’t see the 999,000 mark because he’s not paying attention.

But with the recent fiasco of learning that CEG-TEK possibly has become RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT (#RightsEnforcement), or at the very least, their entire business infrastructure and proprietary BitTorrent tracking technology, along with their client list has been possibly sold or licensed to Carl Crowell, I’m paying attention to the analytics because the analytics are helping me to piece together the story.

999,000 page hits results in roughly 345,000 unique visitors since we started the blog in mid-2010. Subtract the regular visitors (including myself and my staff) and compare that number with the number of BitTorrent-based copyright infringement lawsuits that have been filed.

Considering that I have always been careful to make our blog a contribution to the fight against ‘copyright trolls’, seeing this number gives me satisfaction that at least our message is being heard.

I remain a loyal advocate for each of you, and it continues to be a daily adventure to fight the misapplication and misuse of copyright law against BitTorrent users.

-Rob (@6:10am, from my cell phone)

P.S. – Coincidentally, as I posted this message, WordPress informed me that this was my 200th post. How exciting!


CONTACT FORM: If you have a question or comment about what I have written, and you want to keep it *for my eyes only*, please feel free to use the form below. The information you post will be e-mailed to me, and I will be happy to respond.

NOTE: No attorney client relationship is established by sending this form, and while the attorney-client privilege (which keeps everything that you share confidential and private) attaches immediately when you contact me, I do not become your attorney until we sign a contract together.  That being said, please do not state anything “incriminating” about your case when using this form, or more practically, in any e-mail.

RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT DMCA letters like CEG-TEK but with teeth.

If CEG-TEK were a stone, I deeply analyzed every facet of it.  I knew every client of theirs. I knew what business connections they had, how they acquired them, and which ISPs they were working with.  I knew which of their principles answered the phones, and at what times.  I knew what problems they were working on internally, and what business ventures they were working on externally. But then in August of 2016, they took a step back and stopped sending DMCA letters to ISP subscribers accusing them of copyright infringement.

I thought this was a win, namely, that there was one fewer copyright enforcement agency out there actively sending settlement demand letters and threats to sue for copyright infringement in federal court.

Before CEG-TEK stopped going after downloaders, there were rumblings of what was to come.  …What they would and would not do, and as far as I understood, their success was causing their business model to fail.  Around the same time, there was a huge opportunity missed for Keith Lipscomb to partner with CEG-TEK (consider this lucky timing based on him getting sued by his Malibu Media, LLC client), because if the relationship between Lipscomb and Malibu Media, LLC had not soured around the same time as CEG-TEK began to shift their client base and restructure the operations of the company, Lipscomb might have proposed a partnership and CEG-TEK might have agreed to it.

For those of you are newcomers because you received a notice or a letter forwarded to you from your ISP based on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) statutes, Lipscomb used to be the mastermind behind each and every Malibu Media, LLC (adult film-based pornography lawsuit) and through his local attorneys across the US, he filed thousands of copyright infringement lawsuits against John Doe Defendants, initially asking for $20,000+ in settlement amounts from each defendant.  Do the math.

If Lipscomb corrupted CEG-TEK’s Copyright Enforcement system, instead of asking for a mere $300 per title for the bittorrent download of one copyrighted title, Lipscomb would have employed Malibu Media, LLC’s strategy of “catch one torrent click, sue for 60+ titles which were all downloadable by clicking that one bittorrent file.”  In other words, we would have seen settlement amounts of $18,000 ($300/title x 60 titles) per accused downloader.

But that didn’t happen, or so I thought…

HAS “RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT” BECOME THE NEW CEG-TEK?

Come now, a new entity dressed in new clothes, but one that still ‘walks and quacks’ like CEG-TEK did.  This new entity named “RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT” (or, “RIGHTSENFORCEMENT”) appears to have gotten access (legally, illegally) to CEG-TEK’s proprietary systems and mechanisms and they started sending DMCA settlement demand letters directly to ISP subscribers, just as CEG-TEK did.  They appear to be tracking and sending these notices the same way CEG-TEK did.  They are asking for $300 per title as a settlement, just as CEG-TEK did.  But the RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT name doesn’t carry the same history as does the CEG-TEK name, which caused me to write almost FIVE YEARS of blog entries on them.

A few weeks ago, I started to notice that people were finding my older website articles using the names of CEG-TEK’s old clients, as I outlined in CEG-TEK’s Client List (posted in 2014).  I saw Google Searches such as looking for DMCA notices surrounding adult film companies such as Brazzers, Girlfriends Films, Reality Kings, Wicked Pictures (all CEG-TEK clients), just to name a few.  I did not think anything about this until in the past few days, people started visiting my CEG-TEK articles.  Again, I didn’t think much about it until the visits to the CEG-TEK articles started to spike in the last day or so, and this morning, I wrote a blog entry in alarm, asking why everyone was suddenly visiting articles on CEG-TEK, a sleeping entity?

I have to thank Sophisticated Jane Doe (“SJD”) of FightCopyrightTrolls.com for the tip-off.  I am posting her comment in its entirety, and I do encourage her to write more about it.  While I could answer a number of her questions about the mechanisms of how CEG-TEK did their tracking, and how their systems worked, SJD has pieced together who the entities are behind the scenes.

Crowell was cozying with Siegel since last summer. “London Has Fallen,” used for shakedown by both the Guardaley network and Siegel, was a test drive for something new IMO. This “new” is a new CEG-TEK-like outfit created and run by Crowell in December. Check it out. The letters are already being sent out. I wanted to write a post (and maybe I will) about these developments, but has been busy recently.

I don’t know who harvests IP addresses and have no idea to what extent Siegel and Crowell work together, if at all, but my gut feeling: they do.

The gravity of this news is that Crowell & Co have something that neither Rightscorp nor CEG-TEK had: credibility of threats to sue. As a result of non-paying to this new shakedown factory, at least one lawsuit was already filed (can’t locate it for the moment, but the complaint explicitly mentioned that the defendant was given opportunity to pay small ransom, but skipped).

Funnily, Crowell wrote about it anonymously yesterday, as if he didn’t know.

“RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT” IS NOT CEG-TEK

So what do we have now?  We appear to have a new copyright enforcement entity called “Rights Enforcement” which acts as if it is CEG-TEK, just in new clothes.  Aside from the fact that this name (RIGHTSENFORCEMENT) is impossible to search for in a Google Search (ingenious).  Aside from the fact that it is next to impossible to bring scrutiny to Rights Enforcement’s practices because the name is so generic.  And, aside from the fact that “rightsenforcement.com” is just as confusing to look at as “iwenttothestoreyesterdaytobuysomedaisies.com”… I believe what is going on.

CEG-TEK WOULDN’T SUE. RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT UNDER OWNERSHIP / MANAGEMENT OF ATTORNEY CARL CROWELL WILL SUE.

A big complaint the principles at CEG-TEK used to have is that they would ask for $300/title and threaten to sue if this amount was not paid, but when that notice was ignored, nobody at CEG-TEK filed any lawsuits.  I would even say that Ira Siegel was averse to filing lawsuits, as we know that he used to file copyright infringement lawsuits, and then after having Siegel had a number of bad experiences with the California federal courts inquiring about his settlement rates, he dropped all of his lawsuits and went on to help form Copyright Enforcement Group (CEG-TEK).

However, RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT is run not by Ira Siegel, but by Carl Crowell.  Putting aside everything that has been written about him on the other bittorrent-based blogs, one thing that you as a recipient of the DMCA letter must know is that Carl Crowell files lawsuits in federal courts, justified or not.  This means that if a settlement is not reached, he will file copyright infringement lawsuits against individual John Doe Defendants, and instead of asking for $300 for one title (or whatever he is asking for in the DMCA notices), he will file a copyright infringement lawsuit for $150,000 for the infringement (unlawful download, upload, etc) for ONE copyrighted movie.

So in sum, as far as I understand it, RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT is a reverse-engineered copy of CEG-TEK, but with teeth and a salivating desire to sue accused downloaders who do not settle.

FOLLOW-UP NOTE (FOR ACCURACY PURPOSES): RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT, especially with litigious attorney Carl Crowell is certainly a threat to anyone who received a DMCA  letter from their ISP.  Why?  Because whoever represents a client in a settlement MUST be prepared to also be able to fight Carl Crowell in the federal courts.  It appears as if they have somehow acquired, or even reverse engineered CEG-TEK’s DMCA copyright infringement notice system (I have already contacted a number of individuals at CEG-TEK trying to ascertain who RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT is).

Either way, based on the way they appear to be structured, I believe that we’ll be able to settle these cases using the same methodologies as we did the CEG-TEK cases (keeping the accused downloader ANONYMOUS), but with a caveat that we did not need to give our CEG-TEK clients — these guys are a different breed of attorneys than CEG-TEK, and they come to the negotiations with a “we’ll take your house” mentality, so aggressive negotiations backed by a willingness to fight or be bullied is the strategy that will need to be used with this new RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT / CEG-TEK clone entity.


CONTACT FORM: If you have a question or comment about what I have written, and you want to keep it *for my eyes only*, please feel free to use the form below. The information you post will be e-mailed to me, and I will be happy to respond.

NOTE: No attorney client relationship is established by sending this form, and while the attorney-client privilege (which keeps everything that you share confidential and private) attaches immediately when you contact me, I do not become your attorney until we sign a contract together.  That being said, please do not state anything “incriminating” about your case when using this form, or more practically, in any e-mail.

CEG-TEK asleep. Why new hits?

[UPDATE: This mystery has been solved.  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.]

This is confusing me.  CEG-TEK has not been active since last summer.

As I wrote in December, CEG-TEK started to change the internal makeup of their company, and they changed the clients they were taking to more ‘mainstream’ movie clients.  …But then they went *SILENT*.

[In passing, I want to note that CEG-TEK had a shake-up as well over the summer. They were changing their business model from sending DMCA notices and soliciting small $300 settlements for copyright infringement claims for just a few titles to sending notices only to “more egregious downloaders” which in turn would increase the per-person settlement amount paid to CEG-TEK on behalf of their clients. They also appear to have been changing their client base by transitioning away from little porn companies to more well-known copyright trolls (e.g., Millennium Films, LHF Productions, etc.) — copyright holders who threatened to sue downloaders (and in at least one circumstance did sue at least one client of mine in federal court.) The point is that they were changing their image from being a company who’s clients didn’t sue to a company who’s clients do sue…]
– Excerpt from the “CEG-TEK and Lipscomb – Star Crossed Lovers” article, 12/21/16.

CEG-TEK has been silent since the Girls Gone Wild fiasco in July, 2016, where their once-flawless DMCA machine started sending hundreds of duplicate notices to the same internet users.  At the time, I joked that ‘perhaps they were being so effective at stopping piracy that they were probably putting themselves out of business’.

Then the following month, I noticed an across-the-board drop in activity from CEG-TEK.  As far as I knew, they even stopped sending DMCA letters to accused internet users through their ISPs.  I noted the defeat of a once-great foe, and even wrote a cautionary article revealing my observed changes in the “Unintended Consequences of Winning the Bittorrent Piracy War” article.

Since August, 2016… silence.  September… silence.  October… silence.  November… silence.  December… silence.  January… silence.  February… silence.  March… some activity.

In the past few days, I’ve noticed a significant ‘uptick’ in visits to the CEG-TEK articles.  I don’t even watch the keywords enough to notice the little changes, but this one looked significant.  That’s enough to pique my interest and ask you, the reader, whether CEG-TEK has risen from the dead.

Please do share if you have received a DMCA notice of copyright infringement from Ira Siegel, from CEG-TEK (a.k.a. “Copyright Enforcement Group”), or some new attorney affiliated with their cause.

What could CEG-TEK be up to?

To me, this uptick means one of two things: 1) They started sending DMCA settlement demand notices out again, or 2) CEG-TEK is considering taking on a new partner (something I was gravely concerned about early last year).  When the opportunity passed and I learned from CEG-TEK shared that they would not pursue this option, I wrote the “CEG-TEK and Lipscomb – Star Crossed Lovers” article to share the disaster that could have happened if someone like Lipscomb took over CEG-TEK’s DMCA notification system and “copyrightsettlements.com” website.

The confusing part is that their “copyrightsettlements.com” website forwards back to http://www.cegtek.com, which for the moment has been taken down and only shows the following notice:

Settlement opportunity services are currently not provided through CEG TEK.

So, what is going on with CEG-TEK?

-Rob


CONTACT FORM: If you have a question or comment about what I have written, and you want to keep it *for my eyes only*, please feel free to use the form below. The information you post will be e-mailed to me, and I will be happy to respond.

NOTE: No attorney client relationship is established by sending this form, and while the attorney-client privilege (which keeps everything that you share confidential and private) attaches immediately when you contact me, I do not become your attorney until we sign a contract together.  That being said, please do not state anything “incriminating” about your case when using this form, or more practically, in any e-mail.

CEG-TEK and Lipscomb – Star Crossed Lovers

As an attorney, unfortunately there is often information that I need to be tight-lipped about when discussing a case or a particular copyright holder. Malibu Media, LLC and their implosion with Keith Lipscomb (who ran each of their thousands of lawsuits filed across the US) was one such example, but not for the reasons you might consider.

This summer, I sat back and watched what was once one of the biggest copyright trolls and their scheme implode as the relationship between the attorney hired to represent their cases across the US (Keith Lipscomb) and Malibu Media, LLC crumbled. Regardless of the screams of autonomy each local counsel hired by Lipscomb claimed in the courts, it was still plain and obvious to me that Lipscomb was running each of the thousands of lawsuits filed against single “John Doe” defendants (not only because the filings were identical, and the court documents allegedly filed by different attorneys had the same spelling errors in each filing, but because every settlement payment — regardless of which local counsel was allegedly in charge of the lawsuit — went to Lipscomb’s Florida office).

Recognizing that there is ‘no honor among thieves‘, I laughed when I learned that Malibu Media sued Lipscomb for not paying them the settlement monies him and his attorneys extorted from hundreds if not thousands of John Doe Defendants across the US, and… he appears to have kept the settlement monies for himself.

However, the reason I stayed quiet was because I knew of something going on internally at Copyright Enforcement Group (CEG-TEK), and I saw a possible reality where Keith Lipscomb got into negotiations with CEG-TEK, and he got them to agree to send DMCA letters to thousands of accused downloaders through their ISPs, but instead of asking for a $300 settlement for one copyrighted title allegedly downloaded, he would list each-and-every title from his X-Art.com siterips.

Instead of CEG-TEK sending a notice for each title allegedly downloaded, Keith would have them send one notice for the siterip [when accessed by clicking a link on a bittorrent website, and that bittorrent file wold contain possibly 100+ titles to be downloaded]. However, when that unsuspecting user logged into CEG-TEK’s copyrightsettlements.com website using the username and password provided in the DMCA notice, each-and-every title in the X-Art Malibu Media siterip would have appeared. Thus, a $300 per accused downloader settlement could have easily turned into a $30,000+ per accused downloader settlement ($300/title x 100+ titles in the siterip). This could have even been exacerbated if Lipscomb asked for higher per-title settlement amounts, as his attorneys are accustomed to negotiate with other attorneys in the $750-$500/title range.

In my opinion, a Lipscomb-Siegel/CEG-TEK marriage would have been a nightmare, and because at the time CEG-TEK was changing their business model and shifting how they send out letters and to whom (remember the Girls Gone Wild fiasco?), the timing was right for Lipscomb to reach out to them, and I was concerned that they would have accepted his plan.

[In passing, I want to note that CEG-TEK had a shake-up as well over the summer. They were changing their business model from sending DMCA notices and soliciting small $300 settlements for copyright infringement claims for just a few titles to sending notices only to “more egregious downloaders” which in turn would increase the per-person settlement amount paid to CEG-TEK on behalf of their clients. They also appear to have been changing their client base by transitioning away from little porn companies to more well-known copyright trolls (e.g., Millennium Films, LHF Productions, etc.) — copyright holders who threatened to sue downloaders (and in at least one circumstance did sue at least one client of mine in federal court.) The point is that they were changing their image from being a company who’s clients didn’t sue to a company who’s clients do sue. Lipscomb fit their former profile of bringing pornography copyright holders to the table, and he matched their new profile because he brings a strong proclivity to sue defendants who ignored the notices. Thus in a possible reality, I saw Lipscomb meeting with CEG-TEK, and I did everything I could behind the scenes to avert this reality.]

Now we are roughly six-months later, and I am happy to share that the marriage between Lipscomb and CEG-TEK never took place, and CEG-TEK is no longer in a place where they would accept Keith Lipscomb or the $10K/client+ settlement amounts he would have brought to the table.

For this reason, I am sharing the story of this nightmare which — even though the ‘stars aligned’ — never happened (and thankfully, will never happen).

…there is new news for Lipscomb’s former Malibu Media, LLC client. I will post about that next.

[2017 UPDATE: This is bad news.  In my article, I wrote about how former Guardaley kingpin Lipscomb might have corrupted CEG-TEK.  Since the April 2016 breakup of the Lipscomb/Guardaley relationship, new Guardaley kingpin 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 this link thinking that RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT was somehow related to CEG-TEK (at first, I thought so too), but really it is an ‘evil twin’ competitor.  In sum, apparently my concerns about CEG-TEK’s DMCA notice system getting corrupted may actually have happened, but I got the entity wrong.  It wasn’t CEG-TEK’s system that was corrupted, it was Crowell’s reverse-engineered ‘evil twin’ copy of CEG-TEK which we now see in RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT.]


CONTACT FORM: If you have a question or comment about what I have written, and you want to keep it *for my eyes only*, please feel free to use the form below. The information you post will be e-mailed to me, and I will be happy to respond.

NOTE: No attorney client relationship is established by sending this form, and while the attorney-client privilege (which keeps everything that you share confidential and private) attaches immediately when you contact me, I do not become your attorney until we sign a contract together.  That being said, please do not state anything “incriminating” about your case when using this form, or more practically, in any e-mail.

Software Developers now tracking the USE of pirated software

There is a new problem that I am encountering where software developers are writing code in order to catch downloaders – not in the download of the software, but in the illegal USE of that software.  These software developers – with knowledge of the accused IP address of the so-called “pirates” are hiring attorneys to send out DMCA settlement demand letters, often requesting a hefty settlement for the piracy or use of that software without authorization.

Unlike the bittorrent cases that we have seen over the past six years — where an internet user would be caught downloading movies, music, or “scenes” using bittorrent or Popcorntime software (where the connection to other bittorrent users in a “bittorrent swarm” would reveal the IP address of the downloaders) — software developers are increasingly building in to their new software the capability to “phone home” to the developer. When the software “phones home,” it reports certain information to the software developer, including the IP address of users who are actively using the pirated software at that moment.

et

When a downloader accesses a “pirate” site (e.g., The Pirate Bay), and downloads a piece of software with a “crack,” that crack alters the software code, to allow it to be used in a “registered state” (e.g., cracked software will allow a user to enter a serial code to register the software whereas in an “uncracked” state, that serial code would be rejected.  Thus, the user sees a message such as “your serial code has been accepted.  Thank you for registering your software.) This “registered” state allows the downloader to actively use the software; however, it does not stop the software from phoning home.

Very often included in the cracked software package will be what is known as “a .NFO file,” (which is a text file, and “NFO” sounds like “info”) where the hacker, a.k.a. the “cracker,” will instruct the user to block the software from connecting to outside networks (often advising that the downloader use a software firewall, such as Comodo Firewall). Conventionally, the purpose of this instruction to the downloader is to avoid the common scenario where the software developer automatically updates the software to work around and invalidate any cracks which it discovers in the wild. As a result, the downloader would find that his once-registered software is no longer registered.

Some software developers who have become savvy to this trend will create a pop-up screen which alerts the downloader that his IP address has been flagged and gives him an opportunity to purchase the software at a discounted rate.  By using this method, the software developer attempts to turn a pirate into a paying customer in a manner that is both ethically and morally sound.  However, and pardon my jaded view of the matter, but people get greedy, and software developers get frustrated with the piracy of their software, and thus they often turn from good business judgment to using the law as a prickly weapon to sting those caught downloading their software.

And with this greed, here is the trend for which I wrote this article.  I am now seeing a trend that the software developers are contacting attorneys and asking those attorneys to use the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) rules to force the ISPs to send settlement demand letters to the internet users who are suspected of illegally using that software without a license.  However, instead of trying to turn that downloader into a paying customer, the software developer decides instead to gouge the internet downloaders into paying a bloated fee for a software license. In this scenario, this internet user receives a letter demanding that the user purchase the pirated software for an amazingly high amount of money, for example, $5,000-$20,000. If that internet user does not purchase the software as the letter demands, the threat of a copyright infringement lawsuit looms.

Now the first company you might think of when reading this article is the Siemens Product Lifecycle Management Software Inc. company, who is currently suing John Doe Defendants for the download and unlicensed use of the Siemens NX software.  However, in defense of their lawyers, the Siemens attorneys are simply trying to stop engineers and companies who are using their software in a commercial manner from profiting from the use of their software without a license.  They are not gouging (so far as I know), and my personal experience with their attorneys have been (so far) positive.

Thus, the focus of this article is on other software developers and copyright holders who have begun to mimic the Siemens model of suing (or here, sending DMCA settlement letters through the ISPs and threatening to sue) users, and attempting to force them to purchase an enterprise-level, multi-thousand-dollar software license or face a copyright infringement lawsuit in a Federal court, even if they have absolutely no legitimate use or benefit from “owning” that software.

To the internet user who receives such a letter requesting a settlement:  It is important to know that following the instructions of the software developer and purchasing a license (even an expensive one (e.g., a $5,000 license where the software itself costs only $150) does not protect you from being sued. Rather, your compliance may simply operate as an admission of guilt. Instead of simply following the instructions of the settlement demand letter, here is why it is advisable to STOP, THINK, RESEARCH THE TOPIC, and hire an attorney (me, or any other attorney competent in both copyright litigation and software licensing) to resolve the claim or claims against you.

First, the attorney that you hire will provide a legal “buffer” between you and the copyright holder’s attorney. Your attorney will be able to speak on your behalf without admitting guilt, whereas an accused defendant speaking alone to the copyright holder’s attorney might accidentally claim that they were only using the software to test the software (an act which according to the law would be copyright infringement, and would subject the internet user to statutory damages of $150,000 or more if there are multiple instances of infringement). Thus, an attorney can stop the copyright holder’s attorney from contacting you directly by putting them “on notice” (a legal term) that the attorney is representing you and, thus, all communications must go through the attorney.

Additionally, the attorney that you hire (knowledgeable in both copyright law and in software licensing) would be able to negotiate a settlement to allow you to purchase a license at a steep discount from the “gouging” amount that the copyright holder’s attorney was initially asking for in the settlement demand letter. Moreover, your attorney could obtain a release of liability, releasing you from all liability surrounding the unlicensed use and the unlicensed copying of the pirated software – something you would not be in a position to negotiate if you were handling the matter.

Similarly, [or in the alternative,] your attorney might negotiate a software license to allow you to pay for your “experimental” use of their software.

If you are a student, then it may be a good strategy to have your attorney negotiate in the settlement agreement to allow you to purchase that product at a student discount at your local college as your “settlement payment.”

 The above are all options that an experienced copyright/software development attorney (me, or anyone else) would be able and knowledgeable to negotiate on your behalf.  Your attorney would be able to oversee the payment of the licensing fee or the purchase of the actual software [for your own future legitimate use] and to obtain for you a written release of liability from the software copyright holder’s attorney, which means that following the conclusion of the settlement or the signing of the software license, you would never be sued for copyright infringement or any sort of piracy in a Federal court.

These are the benefits of hiring an attorney for your settlement demand letter issue rather than simply going out and paying whatever fine is requested of you.  Remember: Following the copyright holders instructions to pay them a fee or to purchase a piece of software after-the-fact (after the unlicensed activity or infringement occurred) will not provide you any protection.  Paying a settlement fee alone will not provide you with a settlement agreement or a release of liability.  Without a release of liability, you could still be sued in a federal court for copyright infringement, piracy, or any other relevant law relating to the unlicensed use, piracy, and possibly the cracking of software.

OTHER ARTICLES ON THE SIEMENS PLM SOFTWARE CASES:

How an attorney should handle a Siemens PLM Software, Inc. lawsuit, on 1/11/2017.

Siemens PLM NX-based lawsuits – converting accused engineers into loyal customers, on 1/9/2017.

Software Developers are now tracking piracy through the USE of downloaded software, on 9/9/2016.

Siemens Software Case IS a Bittorrent Case, on 6/20/2016.

What to do about the Siemens Product Lifecycle Management Software Inc. v. Does case (TX), on 1/16/2016.


CONTACT FORM: If you have a question or comment about what I have written, and you want to keep it *for my eyes only*, please feel free to use the form below. The information you post will be e-mailed to me, and I will be happy to respond.

NOTE: No attorney client relationship is established by sending this form, and while the attorney-client privilege (which keeps everything that you share confidential and private) attaches immediately when you contact me, I do not become your attorney until we sign a contract together.  That being said, please do not state anything “incriminating” about your case when using this form, or more practically, in any e-mail.

Unintended consequences of winning the war against trolls.

[2017 UPDATE: Little did I know that I accurately predicted what would happen, but I got the entities wrong.  Since the April 2016 breakup of the Lipscomb/Guardaley relationship, new Guardaley kingpin 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 this link thinking that RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT was somehow related to CEG-TEK (at first, I thought so too), but really it is an ‘evil twin’ competitor.  In sum, apparently my concerns about CEG-TEK becoming corrupted where one bittorrent click would result in tens/hundreds of infringement notices may have actually have happened, but I got the entity wrong.  It wasn’t CEG-TEK, it was Crowell’s reverse-engineered ‘evil twin’ copy of CEG-TEK which we now see in RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT. Still, read on so that you’ll understand the issues.]

Every pirate knows that the only way to block the copyright trolls from identifying their true IP addresses (and thus sending out DMCA copyright infringement notices, as outfits such as CEG-TEK have been known to do) is through the use of a Virtual Private Network (VPN) [, and not just any VPN, but a paid VPN provider which does not track their subscribers’ activities*].

In recent weeks, I have heard from various copyright trolls that bittorrent users are “winning the piracy war,” in that their activities have thwarted the copyright holders from learning who they are. Armed with what is becoming common knowledge of free software which can be configured to stream pirated content (e.g., Kodi, formerly XBMC), internet users who wish to “unplug” from the cable companies are able to do so in a way in which it becomes difficult if not next to impossible to be caught viewing streamed content**. Not only this, but many have even purchased Amazon Fire sticks which can be jailbroken to allow the Kodi software to be installed on it, and they are watching pirated videos from their HDTV without even needing a computer.***

But what is the effect of “winning the war” on those who are left behind and don’t realize that they need to use a VPN if they are going to bittorrent their favorite movie, software, or video game? This is the point of the article.

The unintended consequence of bittorrent users learning to use a VPN, or migrating away from bittorrent and towards free streaming services is that copyright holders [who for three years now have enjoyed easy settlement money] are realizing that there simply are not enough people to send DMCA / copyright infringement notices to in order to line their pockets with gold and dirty cash. As a result, it is my experience that they are becoming “less nice” and they are trying to make more money from fewer downloaders. Case-in-point: Girls Gone Wild DMCA notices used to ask for one $300 settlement for a whole page of 60+ videos, but now they are asking for tens of thousands of dollars for that same “click” of a bittorrent file.

I am also noticing that CEG-TEK is acting differently, perhaps in response to what has been described to me as a steep decline in numbers of “pirates” to whom they can send DMCA notices. In the past few weeks, it has been my experience that Copyright Enforcement Group (CEG-TEK) is now sending multiple notices out to the ISPs for the same download. In one case regarding their Girls Gone Wild client that I mentioned above, CEG-TEK sent literally over 1,000 notices to one ISP for the alleged download of one bittorrent file.

At first I thought this was a glitch in their computer system, but then it occurred to me that maybe CEG-TEK somehow benefits from keeping the numbers of DMCA notices sent to the ISPs artificially high. Is there any benefit to them to be doing this? I have been racking my brain on this topic and I still cannot come up with a reason.

Honestly, here is my concern. When an animal is backed against the wall, what does it do? It attacks. If indeed we are winning the bittorrent piracy war, I am concerned that CEG-TEK will begin taking on new clients who thrive on stacking their bittorrent files with hundreds of adult films. Those who are sophisticated will understand exactly who I am speaking about.  

They will then trap the unsuspecting bittorrent user who “clicks on a bittorrent file” in their spider web, and that user will receive hundreds of DMCA notices which will scare the b’jeebies out of him.  Then they will give in to the urging of their less-than-ethical client, and they will agree to start charging more than the $300 per title that they currently do (remember, at one point, CEG-TEK used to charge $200 per title, and then at what I understood to be the urging of their client, they raised the settlement amount to $300 per title).  So they are pliable, as we have seen in the past.

In the end, just as we saw hints of this with the recent Girls Gone Wild debacle, CEG-TEK will morph from a $300 per title copyright enforcement outfit (lamb) into a $3,500 per title shakedown outfit (wolf) where they base their settlement amounts on the client’s ability to pay rather than what they believe is a “fair” amount to compensate the copyright holders.

Last, but not least, I learned that CEG-TEK threatened an accused downloader with criminal prosecution this week. For those of you who know me, I have spent almost every day since 2010 working on copyright infringement cases. NEVER until last week have I seen a copyright holder threaten an accused internet user with criminal charges for a copyright infringement matter.

In sum, the times they are a changin’. If we are indeed winning the war, what will CEG-TEK turn into in order to survive?  And, what will their copyright holders (who for the most part have been docile and lazy these past few years) do when their easy income stream dries up?


CONTENT CUT FROM THE ARTICLE:

*[UNRELATED PERSONAL NOTE: I am a fan of such VPN providers not because they make piracy more difficult to detect, but because I believe strongly in a person’s right to be anonymous. The amount of snooping that happens with internet trackers, cookies, and newer methods literally sickens me, and I do not believe that advertising companies and ISPs should have so much knowledge about their customers. For this reason, I have nothing wrong with sharing for privacy purposes that examples of VPNs that you can rely on can be easily found by searching “torrentfreak secure vpn” on Google, or just by going to TorrentFreak’s website where they review VPN providers which take your anonymity seriously. Just be sure to have some mechanism in place that if the VPN connection goes down, even for a second, that your real IP isn’t exposed to whatever site you happen to be visiting, or to whatever server you happen to be connected to. This is called a “DNS leak,” and there are easy ways to configure your system to lock down the connection if or when the VPN goes down, even for a second.]

** NOTE: There is a popular software called PopcornTime which I am sad to share has given our firm many clients who have been caught downloading mainstream movies (e.g., The Dallas Buyers Club cases, Voltage Pictures’ Fathers & Daughters Nevada, LLC cases, and most recently, Millennium Film’s London Has Fallen (“LHF”) movie cases, etc.). Most recently, I have been seeing new CEG-TEK notices for Millennium Film’s “Criminal” movie which the copyright holders have already started suing in “Criminal Productions, Inc. v. John Doe” copyright infringement lawsuits . The reason for so many getting caught is that PopcornTime appears to be a software which allows you to stream video content, but it uses bittorrent as its back-end to download the movies.

*** NOTE: The Amazon Fire sticks which have Kodi installed in my opinion can still get you caught for copyright infringement. The reason for this is that they connect directly to the internet exposing your real IP address. Most people don’t realize that they need to also configure their ROUTER to connect to the internet through their paid VPN provider.


CONTACT FORM: If you have a question or comment about what I have written, and you want to keep it *for my eyes only*, please feel free to use the form below. The information you post will be e-mailed to me, and I will be happy to respond.

NOTE: No attorney client relationship is established by sending this form, and while the attorney-client privilege (which keeps everything that you share confidential and private) attaches immediately when you contact me, I do not become your attorney until we sign a contract together.  That being said, please do not state anything “incriminating” about your case when using this form, or more practically, in any e-mail.

The strange case of the Girls Gone Wild DMCA notifications (CEG-TEK)

dmca gone wild

[3/2017 UPDATE: Little did I know that I accurately predicted what would happen, but I got the entities wrong.  Since the April 2016 breakup of the Lipscomb/Guardaley relationship, new Guardaley kingpin 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 this link thinking that RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT was somehow related to CEG-TEK (at first, I thought so too), but really it is an ‘evil twin’ competitor.  In sum, apparently my concerns about CEG-TEK becoming corrupted where one bittorrent click would result in tens/hundreds of infringement notices may have actually have happened, but I got the entity wrong.  It wasn’t CEG-TEK, it was Crowell’s reverse-engineered ‘evil twin’ copy of CEG-TEK which we now see in RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT.  Still, feel free to read on to understand the idea.]

I have been sitting on this article for a few days because I was not sure what to make of it.

I don’t know if what I am noticing is based on greed on behalf of the “Girls Gone Wild” copyright holder (a.k.a., GGW Brands LLC) based on their corporate shakeup and recent bankruptcy, or whether CEG-TEK’s computer system has been going haywire sending sometimes hundreds of DMCA copyright infringement notifications for one “click” of a bittorrent file, or if there is a shift coming where CEG-TEK will be using the DMCA notices in a new way to extort larger and larger settlements from accused downloaders.

BACKGROUND [SKIP IF YOU KNOW HOW BITTORRENT WORKS]:
CEG-TEK has always tried to be a modestly clean organization.  While an internet user downloads a video using bittorrent software, CEG-TEK’s servers are “dipping in and out” of the various bittorrent swarms which share their 100+ clients’ [usually adult] videos, and while CEG-TEK is “in the room” (so to speak, meaning, while CEG-TEK’s servers are connected to the bittorrent swarm [in which the internet users’ bittorrent software downloads file fragments from multiple individuals also in that same bittorrent swarm, and in which the bittorrent software shares (“seeds”) file fragments it has acquired to other bittorrent users in the swarm who are lacking that particular file fragment in order to obtain the entire shared file(s)), CEG-TEK writes down the IP addresses of each of the file sharers, they identify which ISP that IP address belongs to, and their computer sends a DMCA notice to that ISP.  That DMCA “scare letter” notice is then forwarded to the account holder who was assigned that IP address at that particular date and time.

So with the Girls Gone Wild copyright holder, in the olden days (meaning up until two weeks ago), an internet user would click on a bittorrent file which contained something like 20-30 GGW videos, but when we logged into the CopyrightSettlements.com website to view the claims against my client, there would only be a few claims of copyright infringement.  Why?  Because GGW was having CEG-TEK ask for $300 per copyrighted DVD (which it itself contained many “files” or “scenes”).  Point being, one click, one copyrighted DVD pirated, one $300 settlement.

This is no longer the case.  Now when an internet user clicks a download link on a bittorrent website (sample screenshot of a GGW bittorrent link below — this one containing 95 video files), the same 20-30 video files are downloaded, but instead of ONE (1) DMCA notice being sent to the internet subscriber’s ISP, these past few weeks, 20-30 DMCA notices are being sent.

TPB_GGW

To make the effect of downloading Girls Gone Wild videos more egregious, instead of asking for $300 for each GGW DVD pirated, the copyrightsettlements.com website now lists 20-30 “cases,” asking for $300 for each file downloaded, rather than $300 for each DVD.  Thus, in the 20-30 file example, now an accused internet user will see a settlement request of $6,000-$9,000 for one click of a bittorrent website (or in the example shown above with 95 video files, CEG-TEK would now be asking for a $28,500 settlement, when before it would have been just a few hundred dollars).

Now, let’s take the scenario further, because I’ve seen settlement amounts as high as $78,000 in the past few days.  How?

That same internet user who clicked on this link above containing 95 titles leaves his bittorrent software running in the background.  He does not realize that after the downloads are complete, his software is set to “seed” (upload) the files to other bittorrent users who have not yet acquired all 64.02 Gigabytes of data (as if someone actually has that amount of free space on their hard drive to download all of those videos, and as if each and every video was actually downloaded — both topics outside the scope of this article).

It takes roughly 4-5 days for a Charter or a CenturyLink subscriber to receive his DMCA notice, so by the time he learns that he has done something wrong by that “one click,” his ISP has changed his IP address 5 times (IP addresses are leased to subscribers for 24 hours, although this differs from ISP to ISP), that means that CEG-TEK “thinks” he has 475 instances of infringement (MATH: 95 videos * 5 days seeded = 475 instances of infringement).  Thus, when those 29 downloaders and 5 uploaders shown in the image above (listed as “29 leechers” and “5 seeders”) get their DMCA copyright infringement notice for this particular torrent five (5) days later, each one of them will see a settlement amount of $142,500.  Obscene.

Now obviously a lawyer (myself or anyone else) can negotiate the amount of the settlement, or, based on the copyright holder’s tendency to sue or knowing the limitations of CEG-TEK’s abilities to know who you are [taking into consideration the ISP and the known information such as geolocation data as to where you live, etc.], I may just as easily suggest that you ignore the claims against you, but quite frankly, if CEG-TEK is really expecting to get a $142K settlement (or even a $10K settlement), well, this suggests to me that maybe they are getting a bit greedy.

In sum, here is what I know:

1) Girls Gone Wild and CEG-TEK (as their agents) are now asking for $300 settlements for each and every video file downloaded.

2) CEG-TEK’s computer systems are going haywire, and ISPs are receiving HUNDREDS of DMCA violation notifications for files contained within one bittorrent file.

3) CEG-TEK’s computer systems lock out users who have more than ten (10) claims against them with a note to call their 800 number to discuss the claims with them.  This means that your claims WILL LIKELY BE LOCKED when you try to log in and you will get their “Please contact Ira Siegel” notice.

4) If you made the mistake and called them, you would be faced with an obscenely high settlement amount to negotiate down from.

My interpretation:

Here is my interpretation of what is going on.  I see two possible causes for what we are seeing.

The founder of Girls Gone Wild appears not to be an upright citizen.  He has been reportedly convicted of tax evasion, bribery, false imprisonment, assault causing great bodily injury, dissuading a witness, record-keeping violations, and he has even reportedly pleaded no contest to child abuse and prostitution.  It does not jolt me to add copyright trolling to his list of indiscretions, and thus if this new development is coming from CEG-TEK’s “Girls Gone Wild” client rather than from CEG-TEK itself (management), I am not surprised by what I am seeing.

From 2007 – 2013, GGW advertised up the wazoo on late night infomercials, and they used to sell their DVDs, but there was a point where something happened to their business — the internet happened, and people stopped purchasing their videos.

In 2013, I remember hearing about a lot of drama and “shake-ups” on the corporate level, where Girls Gone Wild was talking about filing for bankruptcy, and where they were no longer putting their focus on the sale of DVDs.  Rather, moving forward, they would be focusing on “intellectual property monetization,” which is another way of saying that they hired a number of lawyers and copyright enforcement entities (e.g., CEG-TEK, or Copyright Enforcement Group) to elicit settlements from those internet users who they blame for the collapse of their company.

In sum, either Girls Gone Wild is tired of collecting a few bucks here and there, or CEG-TEK is no longer happy with the $300 settlement and they are trying to increase the settlement amounts to lawsuit levels without having to file a lawsuit.  Either way, be aware that things are changing, and I will let you know as I see the shift reveal itself in a more pronounced way.


CONTACT FORM: If you have a question or comment about what I have written, and you want to keep it *for my eyes only*, please feel free to use the form below. The information you post will be e-mailed to me, and I will be happy to respond.

NOTE: No attorney client relationship is established by sending this form, and while the attorney-client privilege (which keeps everything that you share confidential and private) attaches immediately when you contact me, I do not become your attorney until we sign a contract together.  That being said, please do not state anything “incriminating” about your case when using this form, or more practically, in any e-mail.

How CEG-TEK is growing their copyright enforcement business by growing their ISP relationships.

[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, it is good to understand the relationship between a copyright enforcement entity (here, RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT and below, CEG-TEK).]

We already know that it is the business model of CEG-TEK and other copyright monetization companies is to develop relationships with the internet service providers (“ISPs”), and to have them forward copyright infringement / DMCA notices to their subscribers.

I have mentioned this already with regard to the relationships CEG-TEK has with Charter, CenturyLink, and Suddenlink, and as we know, COX Communications, Inc. signed on with CEG-TEK in December of 2015, and has been sending CEG-TEK’s DMCA violation notices to their users.  What we did not notice until now is that Cox Communications has become CEG-TEK’s “golden goose.”

WHY COX IS CEG-TEK’s “GOLDEN GOOSE”:

Why Cox? Because Cox provides its users the same IP address each day. This “one subscriber, one static IP address” trend provides copyright holders and government officials an “ID” of sorts which allows them to identify a particular IP address, watch the activities of that IP address over time as it interacts with different websites (e.g., to see what links that internet user clicks on, to learn where they shop online, what accounts they use, what items they purchase, and what bittorrent downloads they participate in).  Then, when they have developed enough of a profile on that user to convict, they then trace that IP address back to a certain Cox Communications account for prosecution, or in our case, extortion.

For CEG-TEK, they are focusing their efforts on Cox because by doing so, they do not need to obtain from the ISP a past list of IP addresses assigned to that user, and it is very easy for CEG-TEK to go back in time and check their own logs of the past bittorrent swarms to see whether that particular subscriber / IP address participated in any other downloads of their other clients. Some have suggested to me that CEG-TEK can do a search to see what other bittorrent downloads the accused Cox subscriber has participated in. In short, Cox’s “one subscriber, one static IP address” is nothing short of a violation of their subscriber’s privacy, and it is only a matter of time before someone’s IP address gets “followed” and someone gets hurt because Cox is not obscuring the identity of their subscribers.

BRIGHT HOUSE NETWORK IS NOW WORKING WITH CEG-TEK:

Other than Cox, I have recently learned that Bright House Networks (brighthouse.com) is now working with CEG-TEK. I do not yet know in what capacity they are working with CEG-TEK, or in what kind of relationship, but it appears as if they are a new ISP “recruit” in CEG-TEK’s “war” against piracy.

NEW CHARTER COMMUNICATIONS POLICIES AS TO HOW THEY FORWARD DMCA NOTIFICATIONS (THE GOOD AND THE BAD):

For the thousands of you who are Charter subscribers, Charter has recently changed the way they forward the DMCA notices, and this can only be good for subscribers. Instead of forwarding the notices in an e-mail, they are now asking subscribers to “log in” to their website, where only then can then view and copy for themselves a copy of CEG-TEK’s letters.

This is both very good, and bad. On the good side, any “hoops” an ISP makes a subscriber jump through to see the claim(s) against him might annoy the subscriber, but it no doubt infuriates the copyright holders and “monetization” companies (like CEG-TEK) that rely on them seeing their DMCA notices to provide their copyright holder clients their dirty money (I could have said “ill-gotten gains,” but emotionally, calling it “dirty money” seemed to fit better).

THE PROBLEM OF “LOST” DMCA NOTICES:

However, BUYER BEWARE! I have received many calls about people who have physically LOST their DMCA notice because they did not copy it down when they viewed it. And when they called me about it panicked, because I couldn’t see the claims because they did not know who was claiming copyright infringement against them, I couldn’t tell them whether the copyright holder was a “copyright troll” or not, or whether they are suing downloaders in the federal courts. So please, as soon as you access the DMCA violation notices sent to you, either download a copy of it for yourself, or copy-and-paste it into a text file.

GOOGLE FIBER IS A DISORGANIZED ISP WHICH HAS ALSO LOST DMCA NOTICES:

Google Fiber subscribers also — Google Fiber seems to not be organized as to keeping track of the DMCA notices that they are forwarding to their subscribers. So when an internet user inadvertently deletes that notice, it is gone forever. Neither I, nor anyone else can help you fight or settle (or even advise you as to your options) if you accidentally deleted the notice. I suspect that if you are reading this article, it may already be too late.

CANADA — NEW CANADIAN ISP RECRUITS:

Okay, last piece of news and then I need to get back to work. As we know, CEG-TEK has been sending letters for months to Canadians and forcing the ISPs to send these letters to their subscribers under what is known as “notice and notice.” I have written about the problem and the solutions here in my “CEG-TEK: What are your financial risks and considerations of ignoring, settling, or being sued for copyright infringement if you live in Canada or Australia?” article. The news is that just as CEG-TEK is growing their business by signing on new ISPs in the US, this is also true in Canada.

The new Canadian ISPs now working with CEG-TEK appear to be Videotron (a.k.a., Vidéotron), Bell Aliant (www.bellaliant.ca), and Eastlink (www.eastlink.ca) — this will also affect their FibreOP users under the ISP names NorthernTel, DMTS, Telebec (Télébec), and Cablevision. If anyone receives notices from these internet providers, I would like to see them, as I hear that CEG-TEK is not following the notice rules.

As for the older ISP names — Bell Canada, Rogers Cable, Shaw Communications (sjrb.ca), ACN Canada, Electronic Box Inc., TELUS Communications, Start Communications, and TekSavvy, yes, these are still in play. The only one of these that has my respect thus far is TekSavvy which has tried to protect their users by fighting back, but even so, they are still sending CEG-TEK’s DMCA violation / copyright infringement letters, so my respect is limited.


CONTACT FORM: If you have a question or comment about what I have written, and you want to keep it *for my eyes only*, please feel free to use the form below. The information you post will be e-mailed to me, and I will be happy to respond.

NOTE: No attorney client relationship is established by sending this form, and while the attorney-client privilege (which keeps everything that you share confidential and private) attaches immediately when you contact me, I do not become your attorney until we sign a contract together.  That being said, please do not state anything “incriminating” about your case when using this form, or more practically, in any e-mail.