Tag Archives: DMCA letter

SHOULD I IGNORE A “RIGHTSENFORCEMENT.COM” DMCA NOTICE?

In short, the answer is clearly NO (and I have a good reason for this answer which is not meant to scare you).

[This article is a continuation of the “WHAT DO I KNOW ABOUT RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT” article.  It made sense to separate out the topics and keep them short and to the point.]

With CEG-TEK, when someone asked “what are my chances of being sued if I ignore,” I would have told you “LOW,” because CEG-TEK typically did not file lawsuits if a recipient of one of their “DMCA scare letters” was ignored.  RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT IS DIFFERENT.

Because Carl Crowell (the puppet master behind the RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT site) is an active ‘copyright troll’ himself, AND BECAUSE HE HAS A TEAM OF ‘COPYRIGHT TROLLS’ ACROSS THE U.S. WHO ARE ACTIVELY SUING DEFENDANTS, I would likely suggest that the chances of being sued are “VERY HIGH.”  Again, this is not to scare you, but it is based on simple logic.


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 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.

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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.