Tag Archives: ISP

WHAT IS THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT AND YOUR ISP?

As I described last year, there are THREE POSSIBLE RELATIONSHIPS between a copyright enforcement company (Carl Crowell’s RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT entity is one such company) and your Internet Provider (“ISP”).

[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.]

WHY IS THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN YOUR ISP AND RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT RELEVANT TO YOU?

RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT uses the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) to send DMCA abuse / copyright infringement violation letters directly to subscribers.  This method of contacting a subscriber accused of ‘piracy’ directly avoids the need to file a lawsuit and pay a $400 filing fee to uncover the identity of the accused downloader.  Instead, the copyright holder can simply send a notice saying “you were downloading our movie, cut it out or we can sue you” as a mechanism to stop the alleged piracy with minimal fees charged to both the copyright holder policing his copyright, and to the ISP (who gets to avoid complying with costly subpoenas forced upon them by judges in federal copyright infringement lawsuits).

The DMCA is supposed to be the best solution, but copyright enforcement companies have found ways to misuse these DMCA notices.  Instead of telling the user to “cut it out,” they claim that unless they settle the claims against them and pay the copyright holder money via their website, the copyright holder will file a lawsuit against them for $150,000 under the copyright infringement statutes.

If you received a DMCA notice from RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT, chances are they are asking you for multiple thousands of dollars for infringement of their titles, priced at $300 per instance of infringement.

WHAT ARE THE THREE RELATIONSHIP TYPES BETWEEN A COPYRIGHT ENFORCEMENT COMPANY AND THE ISP?

There are three types of relationships between a company such as RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT and your ISP.  I am only listing them in summary form because I have already written about this topic in depth here.  The reason I am rehashing this topic is because RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT is an “evil twin” of what CEG-TEK is, and thus knowing the character of the attorneys involved, I come to different conclusions here than I did last year when reviewing this same topic when it came to CEG-TEK.

Here are the three types of relationships:

1) A RELATIONSHIP OF FORCE AND THREATS AGAINST THE ISP (where RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT threatens, and the ISP complies),

2) A RELATIONSHIP OF PROFIT FOR BOTH SIDES (where RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT pays, and the ISP cooperates), and

3) A RELATIONSHIP OF PURE MOTIVE (both RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT and the ISP hold hands and cooperate, to “fight piracy”) — UNLIKELY.

Most likely, the relationship between Carl Crowell and the ISPs are 1) a relationship of force, threats, and control.

WHY DO I BELIEVE THE RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT AND THE ISPs ARE BASED ON FORCE AND THREATS?

There are a number of ISPs on Crowell’s list of ISPs who are explicitly NOT FRIENDLY to companies such as RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT (e.g., COX, Frontier, Hawaiian Telecom, and Windstream).

These ISPs are known for protecting the privacy of their subscribers, and I understand that they were staunchly against CEG-TEK’s attempts to get them ‘on board’ with the 3) RELATIONSHIP OF MOTIVE (“holding hands and cooperating to fight piracy”), and I understand that they were likely not willing to even join them in a 2) RELATIONSHIP OF PROFIT FOR BOTH SITES.  They were simply against any participation in the DMCA settlement notice scheme.

However, seeing that these ISPs are working with RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT, I must assume that they have apparently caved in to what I believe are threats of lawsuits by Carl Crowell that if they do not comply and forward the DMCA settlement demand letters to their subscribers accused of downloading Crowell’s titles via bittorrent, he will sue these ISPs and claim they are in violation of the DMCA Safe Harbor rules.  COX is already in a similar lawsuit, and it is possible that they may lose based on the current state of the DMCA statues.

SHOULD I CANCEL MY ISP ACCOUNT AFTER RECEIVING A NOTICE FROM RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT?

NO.  In the RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT case, it appears to me as if your ISP is being forced to comply with Crowell’s demands.  They are possibly just as angry about these DMCA notices as you are.

Many of you will be shocked and upset when you learn that your ISP forwarded the DMCA settlement notice to you, and you will likely call me asking whether you should cancel your ISP.

As a general rule, no, there is no benefit to cancelling your ISP. Emotionally, even if they were not forced to send the DMCA settlement notices to you, they do believe that piracy is bad, and even if they do not believe this, piracy does put a terrible strain on their servers.  So they have a financial benefit to cooperating with the copyright holders to stop piracy.

For more details, I invite you to read the article I wrote last year when it was CEG-TEK sending the DMCA notices, not RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT.  There, I hashed out the various relationships in a way that you could understand that the ISPs are almost never a partner encouraging this sort of copyright enforcement.

For that reason, it is almost never needed to cancel your ISP because you learned that they forwarded a DMCA notice from a copyright holder.


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 time limits and purged records stop a copyright holder from learning the identity of an accused downloader.

It occurred to me that there is some confusion as to the effect the amount of time ISPs keep IP address logs (linking a particular IP address to a particular subscriber) have on whether those records will be available to the copyright holder if a lawsuit is filed after that time period has elapsed.

The question that sparked this post is as follows:

If CEG-TEK hasn’t subpoenaed someones identity, but the ISP only retains IP information for one year, then after a year it would essentially be impossible for CEG-TEK to obtain the identity correct?

My answer:

In order to understand what is going on, it is important to know who-is-who, and who does what.

I: CEG-TEK (a.k.a. Copyright Enforcement Group):  CEG-TEK hasn’t sued anyone in two years, and thus there are never subpoenas sent to the ISPs.  CEG-TEK is hired by the copyright holders 1) to track the IP addresses of accused downloaders, 2) to maximize the settlement payment by establishing connections between current accused downloads and other “older” downloads that happened at that same location (using IP address geolocation data), 3) to elicit payment in the form of “settlements” from the accused users via their settlement website, and 4) to provide attorney enforcement for those who choose not to settle via the website.

How they do this: CEG-TEK establishes relationships with the ISPs (internet service providers, e.g., Charter, CenturyLink, Giganews, etc.) and they arrange for the ISPs to forward the DMCA settlement demand letters to their subscribers.  CEG-TEK has a website they use to elicit payments from accused downloaders.  Lastly, they have attorneys (e.g., Marvin Cable) who follow-up with accused downloaders (sometimes asking for increasingly larger amounts of money).  Contrary to what is said by the attorneys, neither CEG-TEK nor their lawyers [at the moment] sue people.

II: COPYRIGHT HOLDERS (generally, the production companies): After failing to receive a settlement via the CEG-TEK settlement process, the copyright holders themselves hire out attorneys who enforce their copyrights against those subscribers who “ignored” CEG-TEK’s offers to settle.  Sometimes the attorneys are no-name attorneys, and other times, they are prolific copyright trolls such as from the law firm of Lipscomb and Eisenberg (best known as the attorneys for the Malibu Media lawsuits).

III: ISPs (internet service providers, including Universities and select VPN service providers): ISPs generally hold IP address data (and to which subscriber it was assigned to, and on what date) for one year — check your ISP’s “IP retention policy.” Congress and the RIAA/MPAA are pushing to increase this amount of time to 18 months.  For comparison purposes, in 2010, IP address data was kept for only 6 months. 

NOTE: After the ISP’s “IP retention policy” time limit elapses, if there are no copyright infringement claims, legal claims or requests on a particular IP address assignment record, they will purge that record from their database, meaning that lawsuits, subpoenas, or requests filed AFTER DESTRUCTION will not reveal the subscriber’s identity because that data is no longer available.

HOWEVER, most ISPs have a SECOND DATABASE — this second database holds IP address assignment records which have had claims of copyright infringement asserted against the subscriber, and these records are often kept indefinitely. Thus, if a lawsuit happens YEARS later (even after the IP retention policy date has expired), the data indicating which subscriber was assigned what IP address on what date and time IS RETAINED and will be available to the copyright holders and their attorneys when suing subscribers.

Lastly, (and I did not include this in my initial response,) it is my experience that ISPs generally forward DMCA settlement demand requests LITERALLY WITHIN DAYS of the accused download actually happening.  For example, Charter literally pumps out letters to their subscribers FOUR DAYS after the downloads happen.  Now obviously there are hiccups where a subscriber will receive a pile of infringements at one time, or an infringement notice is withheld until after the CEG-TEK due date has passed, but in my understanding, when this happens, it is either a business-related issue between CEG-TEK and the ISP, or a staffing issue in the subpoena / abuse department at the ISP.

Thus, where CEG-TEK is concerned, I have never heard of a situation where CEG-TEK demands that the ISP forward a letter to a subscriber and the ISP denies that request based on the ISP’s IP retention policy making the subscriber’s information unavailable.

As far as copyright lawsuits in general, yes, the IP retention policy does factor in to when a lawsuit is filed.  I have personally seen a handful of copyright infringement lawsuits filed against John Doe Defendants fail because the ISPs were unable to identify the identities of the accused subscribers because the plaintiff took too long to file the lawsuit (or a judge took too long to approve the subpoena to the ISP demanding the identities of the accused subscribers), and by the time the request or subpoena was received by the ISP, the IP address assignment records were already purged.

Thus, even though a plaintiff copyright holder does have three years from the alleged date of infringement to file a lawsuit against an accused subscriber, they are still bound by the ISP’s IP retention policy if they wish to ever identify the accused subscriber.  That being said, it is the “SECOND DATABASE” which trips up most individuals, as many individuals accused of copyright infringement are not aware that ISPs keep certain IP address assignment records indefinitely (or for a prolonged period of time), and these IP address assignment records are those which have been flagged by a copyright holder, attorney, or other law enforcement agency prior to the expiration of the ISP’s IP retention policy.


UPDATED COPYRIGHT ENFORCEMENT GROUP (CEG-TEK) ARTICLES (from this blog):
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)

[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 appears to have taken most of CEG-TEK’s client list, this article is 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.