Tag Archives: digitalrightscorp.com

Rightscorp business model of sending DMCA settlement demand letters just succeeded.

Rightscorp‘s business model just took an unexpected positive turn, as the BMG v. Cox lawsuit just had a surprising outcome — Cox just settled with BMG, paving the way for the DMCA settlement demand notices to gain some teeth.

Years ago, I wrote articles about companies like Rightscorp (Digital Rights Corp), CEG-TEK, and Rights Enforcement who were changing the “playing field” (in a bad way) by allowing copyright owners to track and sue downloaders who downloaded their copyrighted videos, films, movies, adult films, or music using bittorrent.

The account holders (often the parents of the downloaders themselves) would receive a notice either in the mail or in their ISP’s e-mail inbox informing them:

  1. that they have been implicated as having downloaded one or more copyrighted materials,
  2. that using bittorrent to download copyrighted materials was a violation of that ISP’s terms of service, and
  3. that the account holder could forego a potential copyright infringement lawsuit in a federal court by vising the website of the Rightscorp (Digital Rights Corp) copyright enforcement entity, paying a small fee (from $20-$30/title [or with other copyright enforcement entities, from $300-$750/title]), thus settling the claims before a copyright infringement lawsuit was filed.

The obvious problem is that by the time the account subscriber received the settlement demand notice, the Rightscorp or CEG-TEK or Rights Enforcement entity racked up tens, or sometimes hundreds of violations. Then there were class action lawsuits against the copyright enforcement entities (e.g., for robocalling) and other “bad things” that these companies did to maximize their per-title settlement.

However, for years, these entities have been quiet, and I know why. BMG v. Cox Communications.

I was told years ago that the success of the “copyright trolling” settlement demand notice business model would be based on whether a copyright holder could force an ISP to 1) forward their DMCA copyright infringement notice (a.k.a. “settlement demand letter”) to their subscribers, and 2) whether a copyright holder could force an ISP to shut down a repeat infringer’s account (something Rightscorp was accused of doing in 2014). At the time, there was the “Six Strikes” system in place (now, I understand it to be defunct), and under it, Comcast stopped forwarding the “settlement demand letter” portion of the infringement notices; rather, they forwarded just a snippet of the infringement notice telling the account holder to stop downloading illegal content.

However, there were also ISPs who stopped forwarding the notices altogether. To the dismay of various copyright enforcement entities, I understand that Cox Communications was one such ISP, although the BMG lawsuit appeared to stem from Cox refusing to shut down the internet accounts of repeat infringers.

The funny thing about COX Communications was that Cox was supposed to be the “golden goose” to the copyright holders, simply because of the large subscriber base it could reach. “If only 1% of infringing users pay a settlement fee… imagine the money that could be made…”

Further, COX Communications provided their subscribers ONE STATIC IP ADDRESS, which meant that whatever the downloaded did in the past (whether the downloader was caught, tracked, or not), could be later attributed to the accused account holder to multiply the list of infringements. This love-hate relationship between the copyright holders, the ISP, and their customers was only temporary, and as a result, COX Communications found itself at the center of a lawsuit for protecting its customers against copyright enforcement entities such as the RIAA and Rightscorp.

Fast forward a few years to today. The “new” news is that the BMG v. Cox Communications lawsuit has been going on and on, but it appears that in the past few days, it has come to an end. Apparently Cox settled with BMG, awarding a “win” for the copyright holders.  The question is… was the settlement only a MONEY settlement?  Or did Cox agree to shut down the accounts of repeat infringers?

What this means moving forward (and I am still hashing this out with the limited time that I have to devote to this topic) is that copyright enforcement / copyright “monetization” copyright holders such as Rightscorp (and perhaps now CEG-TEK again, Rights Enforcement, the RIAA, and other new companies join the “copyright monetization” bandwagon) will now start sending DMCA notices once again to accused downloaders. The difference is that their requests to the ISPs to forward their settlement demand letters will now have some “teeth,” as I understand that ISPs might start shutting down internet accounts of those subscribers who are “repeat infringers.”

Obviously this topic is still evolving. However, whereas we at the Cashman Law Firm PLLC thought that the days of the “DMCA settlement demand letter” notices were numbered, I suspect what happened from 2010-2016 was just a first wave of what is to be an even larger wave of infringement notices to be sent to account holders for the unlawful downloading of copyrighted content.  Couple this with the resistance I have received in the past from companies such as Rightscorp, this is likely going to cause some trouble.


FOR IMMEDIATE CONTACT AN ATTORNEY: To set up a free consultation to speak to an attorney about Rightscorp DMCA letter or subpoena, click here.  Lastly, please feel free to e-mail me at [email protected], or call or SMS 713-364-3476 to speak to me now about your case (I do prefer you read the articles first), or to get your questions answered.

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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.

RIAA/MPAA giant waking up and luring defendants into settlements?

I have been fighting with myself trying to determine whether to write this article for a problem with Warner Brothers’ $20 settlement demand letters that they are sending out to accused downloaders of their content. Yet I suspect that this is just the beginning of something larger — I fear that the MPAA might be jumping on board the “DMCA settlement letter” scheme or even worse, starting to sue defendants again en masse for copyright infringement.

Under a company named “Rightscorp, Inc.,” (Website: http://www.DigitalRightsCorp.com) Christopher Sabec is sending out “DMCA Letters” almost copying CEG-TEK’s letters accusing the internet user of copyright infringement and offering to settle the claims for a mere $20.

[UPDATE: Updated information on Rightscorp, including my current opinions about their DMCA settlement demand letters can be found in the “All I Know About Rightscorp in One Page” article, which I will be keeping current.]

RightsCorp is representing, however, mega corporations such as Warner Brothers Entertainment Inc. (“Warner Bros.”) on their ABC Family teen shows such as “Pretty Little Liars” (file: “Pretty.Little.Liars.S03E05.HDTV.x264-LOL.mp4”) among other TV shows geared at teenagers who are quite savvy on the internet. The expectation is that not all of the episodes are available on their http://abcfamily.go.com website, and so naturally kids will migrate to the internet and Bittorrent to download the earlier episodes taken down from their websites.

What is bothering me, however, is that the release on their https://secure.digitalrightscorp.com/settle website (pasted below) releases the accused defendant from their claim of copyright infringement for a mere $20, but it has the defendant ADMITTING GUILT to the infringement. Thus, in legal terms, an accused internet user who pays the $20 may be released from liability for THAT instance of infringement, but the next time they catch that user downloading, they can not only sue for the full $150,000 (or ask for TENS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS as a settlement), but in court, they would use the prior settlement as EVIDENCE OF GUILT that the accused defendant habitually downloads copyrighted videos and TV shows.

To be clear: EVERY settlement agreement for copyright infringement should have language stating that the accused defendant is not admitting guilt, or else the act of settling a copyright infringement claim can be construed as an “admission” of guilt in a court. Specifically, the language (e.g., taken from CEG-TEK’s settlements) would say something like “this Liability Release represents a compromise and that nothing herein is to be construed as an admission of liability on the part of RELEASEE.” This language appears to be purposefully ABSENT from the RightsCorp Settlement Agreements.

For this reason, it is difficult for me to suggest hiring a third party / attorney and paying one of us to anonymously settle a $20 matter, BUT it is my opinion that the RightsCorp settlements are simply dangerous to your legal rights.  Yet the flip side is that Warner Bros. is a MPAA member, and they have unlimited pockets to sue a defendant (they have in the past, and they could again in the future), and that not settling could later result in a second claim against you for a lot more money (it is not unlike them to ask for $20,000 as a settlement for one title).

My ThoughtsI am not sure I would want the MPAA (or any of its members) to have my client’s contact information with what is essentially an “I did it, I’m sorry, I won’t do it again, here’s $20” settlement agreement.  And, if I settled a claim, I would probably do so anonymously and respectfully.  

I would not want to instigate a “David vs. Goliath” fight with Warner Brothers or the MPAA on behalf of my client (who would likely end up being the HARD-WORKING PARENTS of the kid who did the download).  In a court battle, we would have the uneven legal situation [yet again] where the plaintiff copyright troll has unlimited financial and legal resources and the defendant has limited means to even hire an attorney to represent them.

The MPAA has been lying dormant these past three years while the porn companies and their copyright trolls fight out the issues in the various federal courts across the U.S. My suspicion is that they are getting ready to dip their toes back into the water and start suing internet users again. I am suspicious that perhaps this $20 scheme is just their way to start getting names and contact information to gear up to sue “repeat offenders” who have already settled one of their claims. And for $20, it appears to me that this will be an easy way to lure defendants into giving over their contact information to be solicited later for something else.

Here is a sample copy of their release (noting that the “no admission of guilt” language is missing):

WB Sample Settlement Agreement
Liability Release & Settlement Receipt

IMPORTANT: Please retain this document for your records. It releases you from liability for the below mentioned infringement and serves as official notice of settlement.

Reference # TC-4ab****************************

Title Pr*******************

Filename Pr********************

Timestamp 2013-06***********

Infringement Source Torrent

Infringers IP Address 61*************

Infringers Port 4****

In consideration of the settlement payment made and the representations and agreements made in this Release & Settlement, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. (“WB”) for itself, for its past, present and future directors, shareholders, members, managers, officers, employees, agents, attorneys, representatives, partners, trustees, beneficiaries, family members, heirs, subsidiaries and affiliates, and for its and their predecessors, successors and assigns (collectively the “Releasor”);

Hereby finally, unconditionally, irrevocably and absolutely releases, acquits, remises and forever discharges robert steele, 3100 donald douglas loop n santa monica CA, 90405 and such person’s family members and heirs (collectively the “Releasee”);

From any and all manner of actions, suits, debts, sums of money, interest owed, charges, damages, judgments, executions, obligations, costs, expenses, fees (including attorneys’ fees and court costs), claims, demands, causes of action and liabilities, that arise under the United States Copyright Act, in each case whether known or unknown, absolute or contingent, matured or unmatured, presently existing or hereafter discovered, at law, in equity or otherwise, that the Releasor may now have or that might subsequently accrue against the Releasee arising out of or connected with the specific Infringement of copyrighted material(s) referenced above;

Provided however, that this release shall not, and shall not be deemed to, constitute a release with respect to any other past, present or future infringements by Releasee other than the specific Infringement of copyrighted material(s) referenced above.

Robert Steele agrees not to infringe any of WB’s filmed entertainment (including but not limited to films, videos, video games, animation and television programs), whether now in existence or later created, that is owned or controlled by WB. In furtherance of this agreement, Robert Steele agrees to immediately and permanently cease the unauthorized copying and/or distribution (including, but not limited to, downloading, uploading, filesharing, file “swapping,” or other similar activities) of WB filmed entertainment, including, but not limited to, those items listed in this correspondence.

Settlement Date 2013-06**********

Transaction Id 102**************

Settlement Amount ***

If you have any questions about this release, please contact [email protected]

6/21 UPDATE: I have been seeing lawsuits filed by Warner Bros Home Entertainment Inc. v. “named defendant” et al. I have provided a screenshot below from the http://www.rfcexpress.com website. After a quick investigation, these lawsuits are NOT RELATED to what I am referring to in this article.  Yet, it is still concerning that Warner Bros. is taking such an enthusiastic interest in the federal court system for copyright infringement lawsuits.
062113 Warner Bros Lawsuits


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.