Tag Archives: Copyright Enforcement Group

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.

What is the REAL RELATIONSHIP between your ISP and CEG-TEK?

The Three Relationship Types Between a Copyright Troll and an ISP.

Obviously I am not privy to the contracts signed between CEG-TEK and the internet service providers (“ISPs”).

There are three possible relationships between a copyright enforcement company and the ISP through which they send DMCA letters informing subscribers that unless they settle the claims against them for downloads that allegedly occurred, they might be implicated in a copyright infringement lawsuit.

1) A RELATIONSHIP OF FORCE AND THREATS AGAINST THE ISP (where CEG-TEK threatens, and the ISP complies),

2) A RELATIONSHIP OF PROFIT FOR BOTH SIDES (where CEG-TEK pays, and the ISP cooperates), and

3) A RELATIONSHIP OF PURE MOTIVE (both CEG-TEK and the ISP hold hands and cooperate, to “fight piracy”).

SCENARIO 1) “A RELATIONSHIP OF FORCE AND THREATS AGAINST THE ISP” (where CEG-TEK threatens, and the ISP complies)

In the first scenario, a company or set of attorneys representing the copyright holders contacts the ISP and informs them that they might be in violation and subject to various lawsuits, fines, and penalties for not complying with the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”), and other statutes (in Canada, the ISPs are literally required to pass on claims to their customers, and this is referred to as “notice and notice”). If the ISPs do not comply, they could be sued for millions of dollars for encouraging piracy on their networks (I am speaking loosely in the vernacular).

ISPs across the US would be included in this first scenario, which explains how many of the bigger ones such as Comcast [who I understood were originally NOT working with CEG-TEK, because doing so would violate how they are supposed to act by being part of the “Six Strikes” system] started sending out abridged CEG-TEK infringement notices a few months ago, even to first time offenders.  Another such example of ISPs who “take steps” to stop infringement is Charter, which has been known to temporarily suspend their users who are accused of copyright infringement, but only with a pop-up notice that they need to click on to acknowledge the claim of copyright infringement against them before their internet service is resumed, unhindered.

NOTE: Comcast also has a strong profit motive as demonstrated in Scenario 2 (below), as does Charter, who has been known to be working with CEG-TEK since the beginning of their operation.  We believe the relationship between Charter and CEG-TEK is one of “for mutual profit” (Scenario 2) because CEG-TEK has obtained information about accused downloaders that they could only obtain with the help of the ISP.  Also, I understand that over the years, there have been periods of “tension,” (as I called them) where Charter has held back the sending of the CEG-TEK DMCA infringement notices for sometimes weeks at a time, only to send them all at once (my joke at the time was, “I guess they were waiting for their payment.”)  All jokes aside, the point here is to note both the Comcast example and the Charter example to show the actions an ISP will take to make it look as if they are “taking steps” to fight piracy.

In each of these scenarios, the ISP does the absolute minimum to comply with the claims against their customers, but what you don’t see is the “wink and a nod” from the ISP that they are likely not going to shut your account down or lose you as a customer over this (in other words, your activity violates the ISP’s terms of service “TOS” or “PUA”, but I have not been hearing of anyone’s account being shut down).

UNRELATED, BUT STILL VERY IMPORTANT: I have even heard that ISP customer service representatives actively tell their subscribers [in ignorance of the law] to just delete the infringing content and to ignore the notices.

FYI, look up “spoliation” of evidence, where the victories of the copyright holders in the US against downloaders happen where the copyright holder can prove that the accused defendant wiped his hard drive or deleted the infringing content after being notified by the copyright holder that there was a claim of copyright infringement against the subscriber. Thus, take what the ISP customer service representative says with a grain of salt because even though they might not care that the download happened on their network, there is still the law and the claims against you, and your ISP’s customer service rep is in no position to be giving you legal advice. Better to deal with or resolve the CEG-TEK claim against you first (if you were going to settle) before wiping the hard drive in fear of having other claims of copyright infringement or lawsuits filed against you (e.g., by other copyright holders such as Malibu Media, LLC, etc.) in the near future.

NOTE: Your relationship with your ISP has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO with your relationship with the copyright holder (or CEG-TEK) or the claims against you, since the copyright holder(s) still have one or more claims of copyright infringement against you.

SCENARIO 2) “A RELATIONSHIP OF PROFIT FOR BOTH SIDES” (where CEG-TEK pays, and the ISP cooperates)

In this scenario, the understanding is that CEG-TEK is actively paying the ISP for providing their DMCA infringement notices to their subscribers. While I did not initially believe this was happening in Canada (although I did have my suspicions), as of this morning, I now believe that Shaw Communications Inc. (a.k.a. Shaw Cablesystems G.P., or “sjrb.ca”) is working with CEG-TEK in a “for profit” relationship. I obviously cannot prove this, but from what I understand is about to happen with their subscribers [who will shortly be receiving multiple letters of infringement sent to them at the same time], this type of “delay, then dump a bunch of infringement claims” experience usually happens in a “for profit” relationship when the ISP is being compensated for the time they spend complying with the copyright infringement requests, and the payment is not immediately made.

Two examples demonstrating the “for profit” motive of various ISPs in the U.S. with facts (in these two cases, the “for profit” motive was forced upon CEG-TEK to their frustration) can be seen in the past behaviors of both Comcast and AT&T. A few years back, to handle the increasing number of subpoena requests (at the time, as a result of John Steele / Prenda Law Inc. lawsuits and the increasing number of bittorrent lawsuits being filed across the U.S.), Comcast opened up a “subpoena compliance” department in Morristown, NJ and staffed [at the time] twelve new hires just to handle the new subpoena demands from the lawsuits. In the lawsuit filings, when the copyright holders and their attorneys learned that Comcast was trying to profit off of the bittorrent lawsuits, they complained to the judges that Comcast was stalling on the subpoenas (Comcast was, at the time, under a duty to comply with the many subpoenas that were being requested of them).  It came out that Comcast was asking for something like $25-$50 per IP address lookup, when they were supposed to be complying with the subpoena for free.  Comcast prevailed in getting their IP address lookup fees, which I understand they continue to charge, even though other ISPs still do this for free.

Similarly, for those who know anything about Ira Siegel — the name that shows up on the bottom of every single CEG-TEK DMCA notice — there was a point where Ira absolutely refused to work with AT&T because AT&T’s subpoena department would charge $200 per subpoena request or IP address lookup, something at the time I heard that he found infuriating. Thus, you’ll notice that even today, you’ll never find a recipient of a CEG-TEK violation notice being a subscriber to AT&T, but as you can see, there *is* a profit motive of the ISPs to benefit financially from the growing influx of copyright infringement claims against their subscribers.

NOTE: I understand that the relationship between Charter, Centurylink, Suddenlink, Cox, sometimes Comcast, [and now most recently in Canada, Shaw Communications] fall under this scenario. The reason I am of this understanding is because of the advanced information CEG-TEK is able to identify about that subscriber, sometimes including the subscriber’s name (I have my own understanding as to how they get this from the geolocation), the geolocation itself of where the downloads occurred, along with other “past downloads” that allegedly happened weeks or months in the past at that same location, or by that same subscriber (based on a list of old “IP addresses” provided to CEG-TEK so they they can correlate that list against their own bittorrent records).

SCENARIO 3) “A RELATIONSHIP OF PURE MOTIVE” (both CEG-TEK and the ISP hold hands and cooperate, to “fight piracy”)

This is the “kum baya” view of piracy, where CEG-TEK approaches the ISP and tells them that they want to fight piracy. They show statistics of how when other ISPs “joined forces” with them and started sending out the DMCA violation settlement letters, piracy dropped significantly on that ISP’s network.

The ISP then sees this information and also agrees to “sign on” with CEG-TEK to help them forward their settlement demand letters to their subscribers with the hopes of diminishing the amount of “piracy” of copyrighted content that occurs on their networks.

NOTE: In this last scenario, you won’t find a profit motive by the ISP, and this is where I believe they get colleges and universities to sign on with them to fight piracy on their networks.

MY PERSONAL OPINION AND BIAS: Whatever the relationship or the scenario between CEG-TEK and the ISP, in the end, the subscriber is the one who suffers because it is THEY who receive the “settle or else my client will sue you as a John Doe Defendant in a U.S. federal court lawsuit for copyright infringement” letter.  Call it “speculative invoicing,” call it “Intellectual Property Monetization,” call it “fighting piracy,” when it is the individual downloader the copyright holder goes after, it is still WRONG.

To CEG-TEK’s merit, I have personally been in conversations with CEG-TEK where they were excited that piracy was actually going down on a particular ISP’s network — so apparently they do believe in what they do — but then again, whatever I feel about piracy and how the copyright laws should be changed to match today’s internet generation, in the end, it is the college students, their parents and landlords, the young graduates who are trying to find jobs, and those who are lured in by the adult content which is so addicting, widely available, and prevalent on the internet who fall prey to the tactics of the copyright holders.  For this reason, I still believe that the copyright holders should focus their efforts on pursuing those SELLING FOR PROFIT, DISPLAYING PUBLICLY WITHOUT A LICENSE, POSTING OR INITIALLY SHARING copyrighted content, but leaving alone those internet users who have no profit motive, who click on a link to view the copyrighted content.  

Back to my policy letter, I believe that it is the job of the copyright holders to police their own copyrighted materials, and not to attack, sue, extort, threaten, or pressure those who view or download content already aired on TV or in a public forum and posted on the internet.  The internet today has become like the TV and the Betamax of yesteryear.  Media becomes available, and people watch that media, whether the source is legitimate or not (think, Youtube).  TV shows are recorded, and are posted on many websites, some of them are licensed to share that content (e.g., Netflix, Hulu, ABC.com, etc.), some unlawfully do so without a license.  However, it is not the job of the internet user to inquire as to whether a source for a video is legitimate, especially when watching a show that was publicly aired just a few days beforehand.

The last thing that I want to do is to think twice when clicking on a YouTube video.  Taken to extremes, this is where the copyright holder’s activities go.

[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).]]


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.

What is AGENCY? Can an entity enforce a copyright they do not own? (Think, CEG-TEK.)

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:

Reality Kings

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. (a known copyright troll which carries the following brands: Digital Sin Inc, Greedy, Hot Boxxx, Lesbian Provocateur, New Sensations Inc*, The Romance Series, Vengeance XXX, X-Play)
http://www.digitalsindvd.com/distro/agent-cert.php

MG Premium Ltd DBA Mofos (formerly, “Froytal Services Ltd.” which carries the following brands: Canshetakeit, Iknowthatgirl, Ingangwebang, Latinasextapes, Letstryanal, Milfslikeitblack, Mofos, Mofosnetwork, Mofosoldschool, Mofosworldwide, Pervsonpatrol, Publicpickups Realslutparty, Shesafreak, Teensatwork)
http://www.mofos.com/cegtek-cert/

Porn Pros [also seen as AMA Multimedia, LLC] (which carries the following brands: Drive Shaft, Gay Castings, Gay Room, Man Royale, Men POV, Porn Pros, Pure Passion, Thick and Big, Tiny4K)
http://pornpros.com/cegtek-cert

MG Premium Ltd DBA Brazzers (formerly, “Froytal Services Ltd.” which carries the following brands: Asses In Public, Baby Got Boobs, Big Butts Like It Big, Big Tits At School, Big Tits At Work, Big Tits In Sports, Big Tits In Uniform, Big Wet Butts, Brazzers, Brazzers Vault, Brazzers Network, Busty And Real, Bustyz, Butts And Black, Day With A Pornstar, Dirty Masseur, Doctor Adventures, Hot And Mean, Hot Chicks Big Asses, HQ Honeys, Jizz On My Juggs, Jugfuckers, Milfs Like It Big, Mommy Got Boobs, Pornstars Like It Big, Racks And Blacks, Real Wife Stories, Sex Pro Adventures, Shes Gonna Squirt, Teens Li)
http://www.brazzers.com/cegtek-cert/

MG Content RK Limited DBA Reality Kings (formerly, “Manwin Content RK Ltd.” which carries the following brands: 40inchplus, 8thStreetLatinas, Bignaturals, BigTitsBoss, Bikini Crashers, CaptainStabbin, CFNM Secret, Cum Girls, CumFiesta, Cumfu, Dangerous Dongs, EuroSexParties, Extreme Asses, Extreme Naturals, FirstTimeAuditions, FlowerTucci, Footville, Girls of Naked, Happy Tugs, Hot Bush, InTheVip, Itsreal, Kingdong, Kristinslife, Manueluncut, MegaCockCravers, MikeInBrazil, MikesApartment, MilfHunter, MilfNextDoor, Mollyslife, Moms Bang Teens, MoneyTalks, MonsterCurves, Muffia, Mysexylife, Nakedmovie, etc.)
http://www.realitykings.com/cegtek-cert.htm

MG Content DP Limited DBA Digital Playground (formerly, “Manwin DP Corp.”)
http://www.digitalplayground.com/cegtek.html

E.A. Productions / Evil Angel
http://www.evilangelvideo.com/copyright/

Addicted 2 Girls
http://www.addicted2girls.com/cegtek.php

New Sensations Inc. (a known copyright troll which carries the following brands: Digital Sin Inc*, Greedy, Hot Boxxx, Lesbian Provocateur, New Sensations Inc, The Romance Series, Vengeance XXX, X-Play)
http://www.newsensations.com/tour_ns/cert.html

MG Cyprus Ltd DBA Men
http://www.men.com/cegtek-cert/

*[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.]


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 is now your friendly “photo” copyright troll.

I try my hardest to separate out the “photo” copyright trolls from the “bittorrent” copyright trolls when writing articles on this blog, as they are a separate category of trolls with their own rules.

In sum, “photo” copyright trolls search the web for images that are used on websites, often by bloggers, without permission or license from the owner of that photograph. Essentially, a blogger writes (for example) about the topic of “red pepper” vegetables. To make their blog entry more visually appealing, they search Google Images for “red pepper,” copy the first image they see, and they paste it on the top of their blog.

Most bloggers stay away from pictures that have a watermark on it, or from images which have a copyright logo marked on it. The problem is that 99% of the pictures out there have no copyright marking, and are not sold anywhere. Unsuspecting bloggers use these photos or random pictures on their blogs, and unbeknownst to them, the owner (or a third party who purchases the rights to the photo with the intention of suing bloggers) begins asserting their copyright interests in the photo. Many accused bloggers who I have spoken to have expressed that they didn’t think they needed a license for a photo for non-commercial activities, and now they are facing threats of a lawsuit for using an image on their website.

Where the waters get muddied is that now Copyright Enforcement Group (a.k.a., “CEG-TEK”, “CEG TEK”, and more recently, “CEG”) is sending out the same DMCA letters that they ordinarily send to my bittorrent clients, but now they are in the “photo trolling” business. Their letters assert that a particular website used a copyrighted photo without a license, and the copyright holder is now asserting his rights for the “theft” that happened to his intellectual property rights. Thus, they are asking for $500 per photo, which in my opinion is obscene considering all their other letters ask for $200 per video shared via bittorrent.

On a personal note, hitting website users with a threat of a lawsuit over an image pulled from a Google image search is simply obscene. I would certainly understand such a letter if the image had a watermark pointing the user to a website where they can purchase rights to the photo without the watermark, or if there was a copyright mark on the image. Yet these photos have none of these, and they are literally trolling old websites and blogs looking for photos which were copied from other websites.

What makes this so obscene is that the photo copyright owners are asserting the same copyright infringement claims as do the copyright holders for the bittorrent cases we deal with daily. Along with the same copyright claims come the same shock of having the law provide statutory damages of $150,000 to the copyright holder who can prove the infringement. $150,000 for a movie download in my mind is an obscene and disproportionate punishment for the “crime” of downloading a copyrighted title. Even moreso for a photo. AND, even moreso for an unmarked and unwatermarked photo freely available on a Google image search.

Now here are the details as they are unfolding. So far, it appears as if the “photo” copyright troll entity asserting the copyrights is a company called “AKM Images / GSI Media.” The letter CEG-TEK is sending out provides a screenshot image of the blog containing the photo (and in a number of cases, the blog is no longer in existence and is only shown in the internet archives on the “Way Back Machine” on http://archive.org). It appears as if even CEG-TEK was unsure if they wanted to go into this area, because many of the screenshots are said to be from last year (2012). And, the so-called DMCA letters are not sent by ISPs, but appear to be forwarded by the website admins who host the various blogs.

6/13 UPDATE: There is some talk about the copyrighted images being posted on the website owner’s website or blog by a third party RSS aggregator. In sum, the accused blogger or website owner in many cases didn’t even post the images themselves, yet they are still asked by CEG to pay $500 to avoid 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, I assume RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT will also pursue this avenue of contacting alleged infringers over ‘photo’ copyrights.


UPDATED COPYRIGHT ENFORCEMENT GROUP (CEG-TEK) ARTICLES:
Canada begins receiving CEG-TEK DMCA settlement letters. (3/12/2015)
How time limits / purged records stop a copyright holder from learning a downloader’s identity. (12/18/2014)
CEG-TEK’s growing list of participating ISPs, and their NEW alliance with COX Communications. (11/12/2014)
The Giganews VPN Problem (11/12/2014)
CEG-TEK is now your friendly “photo” copyright troll. (6/13/2013)
CEG-TEK’s new “you didn’t settle” letters sent from Marvin Cable. (3/22/2013)
CEG-TEK’s DMCA Settlement Letters – What are my chances of being sued if I ignore? (2/22/2013)
Why CEG-TEK’s DMCA settlement system will FAIL. (2/22/2013)


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