Tag Archives: Rightscorp

Rightscorp settlement attorney considerations for a set of DMCA notices.

I was editing the “All I Know About Rightscorp in One Page” master article, and I got into a discussion about the awkwardness of hiring a Rightscorp settlement attorney because of the disproportionate fees paid to our Cashman Law Firm, PLLC to facilitate and handle the settlement versus the sometime miniscule actual settlement payment that ends up being paid to Rightscorp at $20-30/song downloaded.  Because that discussion took too much space on that article, I cut it and pasted it here.

Rightscorp vs. CEG-TEK Settlement Amounts

When representing a client in a CEG-TEK DMCA settlement demand notice, clients would come with 3-20 notices (and at $300/claim, the settlement asking price was $900-$6,000 before settlement negotiations).  Thus, representing a client and having the client pay our fees made sense.

Not necessarily so with a Rightscorp client who received those same 3-20 notices.  At $30/claim, the settlement asking price would be $90-$600 (before settlement negotiations).  Thus, depending on the number of notices, there could be a disproportionate payment to our law firm to handle what could be a mere $30 settlement payment. 

Why to hire a Rightscorp settlement attorney for even ONE (1) Rightscorp DMCA notice.

As a quick caveat, even for a Rightscorp client who received only one DMCA settlement demand letter (where there is no negotiation), the cost of representing a client is less than it would be for a CEG-TEK case because there is less time spent on the representation.  However, the potential client for this one (1) DMCA notice should be aware of the reasons why they are hiring our firm.

[DISCLAIMER: ***Just To Be Clear*** When I use the phrase “Rightscorp settlement attorney,” in no way do I imply that our law firm has any affiliation with Rightscorp, nor do we represent their interests in any capacity.  The term “Rightscorp settlement attorney” was simply a convenient way to put this article in front of someone who receives a Rightscorp DMCA settlement notice for songs downloaded via bittorrent, and they are trying various search engine keywords to learn which attorney can facilitate an anonymous settlement.  “Rightscorp settlement attorney” seemed to capture the essence of the audience we intended to write for, namely, internet users who want to settle claims of copyright infringement from the Rightscorp DMCA notices they received.]

Why you are not hiring an attorney:

First, benefits a client receives… but these are NOT why they are hiring our firm.  For a Rightscorp matter (e.g., one (1) DMCA notice), you are NOT hiring a Rightscorp settlement attorney to:

1) negotiate the settlement amount (paying an attorney sometimes to negotiate a $30 settlement to possibly $28 or $25 is silly);

2) to settle anonymously (technically, you do not need an attorney to accomplish this goal, as you can purchase a VPN subscription and pay your settlement using a credit card obtained without your name on it).

Have you read enough? Book Now to get help. > > >

Why you ARE hiring an attorney (even for one (1) DMCA Notice):

Obviously when we can negotiate the settlement price, we do.  And, the settlement negotiations are negotiated anonymously, and are paid anonymously, meaning that Rightscorp will never learn your identity or that you settled the claims against you.  That way, they will never be able to contact your ISP to shut down your account claiming you are an infringer, and they will never be able to vindictively harm you after a settlement.  However, these are not the reasons you hired our law firm to handle the DMCA notice(s) you received from Rightscorp.

You ARE hiring a Rightscorp settlement attorney to facilitate and handle the settlement in a way that does not admit guilt on your behalf (when needed, we will negotiate the terms of the agreement to suit your circumstances). More importantly, we settle the claims against you in a way that puts Rightscorp, and their BMG Music, Sony Records, and the other music copyright holder clients ON NOTICE that the settlement we processed on your behalf was done by our Cashman Law Firm.

What is the benefit of putting everyone ON NOTICE that you are represented by an attorney?

Putting everyone ON NOTICE means that all future communications will need to come directly through our firm, and not to you.  Should these companies’ lawyers contact the you directly, this would be a breach of the ethics rules which could cost them their law licenses.

Preventing other “games” played against those who settle.

Most importantly, by having a Rightscorp settlement attorney such as myself to settle the Rightscorp claims on your behalf, this prevents any further “games” or activities that may occur (e.g., with asking for additional settlement money for other titles allegedly downloaded, robocalling, or contacting the ISPs to shut down the internet accounts of those who paid a settlement to Rightscorp).

Have you read enough? Book Now to get help. > > >

Why $30/song is comparatively better than the alternatives.

In sum, representing a Rightscorp client still takes time, but the fact that the accused downloader is only paying a $30 settlement amount (or some miniscule dollar amount compared to the thousands of dollars which are paid in the movie lawsuits and DMCA settlement demand notices), this should be a happy fact.  Why happy?  Be happy that you were not sued, that you are not dealing with a CEG-TEK or RIGHTSENFORCEMENT ($300/movie title) scenario, and that you were merely caught downloading just a few songs, where the settlement amount will be $30/song.

The Great MPAA/RIAA Scheme to Defraud Copyright Law.

Is it possible that the MPAA & RIAA created a scheme with the porn-based companies to break copyright law?

On 3/3, I wrote the article entitled, “THE EVOLUTION OF PIRACY AND THE ‘COINCIDENCE’ THAT EARLY COPYRIGHT CASES WERE ROOTED IN PORNOGRAPHY-BASED CONTENT.

In that article, I suggested in a joking, conspiratorial way that “it was probably the plan of the MPAA / RIAA movie industry to sit back and let the porn industry file lawsuits across the US.”

Why? Because what individual “John Doe” defendant accused of downloading pornography would destroy their reputation by fighting back against those lawsuits?  What individual would allow his reputation to be destroyed where by doing so, he would allow the porn companies to expose that not only did he downloaded porn, but they would expose his personal sexual addictions and sexual preferences (and sometimes based on the title of the infringed video, his secret fetishes) to the public record for all to see?? Thus, the porn cases were a perfect test subject to blaze the courts to create new case law on copyright infringement cases using bittorrent, because accused defendants as a general rule would not fight back.

At first, I gave the movie industry the benefit of the doubt that they were separate and apart from the porn lawsuits, namely, that they were merely sitting back and watching the lawsuits while the porn companies made case law for them. I even referred to them as “the Sleeping Dog.”  When there was a good ruling, they would say nothing, and when there was a bad ruling, they would write articles and scream, “the evil porn companies are ruining the copyright laws for all of us!”

MPAA/RIAA “HYPOCRITES”

A while ago, I started noticing that the same Guardaley entity that was filing the porn lawsuits were also filing the movie lawsuits. Specifically, I heard about this when representing clients accused of downloading the Dallas Buyers Club movie, but I could not believe that legitimate movie companies were the same corporate entities behind the scenes as those who were filing porn lawsuits — it just didn’t make sense to me.

But now I’m learning that the same Guardaley / IPP / Anti-Piracy Management Company (APMC) entity that is behind the Malibu Media, LLC lawsuits across the US appears to be the same entity who is also filing lawsuits for legitimate movies. For example, I am told that Paul Nicoletti filed cases for both Voltage Pictures, Inc. and for Malibu Media, LLC.  Same attorney, same clients… but this is not my evidence.

(NOTE: In a previous version of this article in the above paragraph, I used the example of Keith Vogt filing for both Dallas Buyers Club and Malibu Media, LLC.  This was in error.  However, I used his lawsuits to show how the same attorney was filing for both movie companies who have been known to license the rights to enforce copyrights and for the adult-film Malibu Media, LLC client, both Guardaley-linked.  Remember, there was a point that I believed that Voltage Pictures was that Guardaley-linked movie company, however, I’m told they were sold so they are not likely the ones behind the movie lawsuits.)  

We also recently learned that Carl Crowell is now having ISPs send out DMCA notices demanding $300 settlements for each instance of infringement; he is sending the accused subscribers to his RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT website (RIGHTSENFORCEMENT.com) in order to facilitate the payment of these settlement demands under a threat that if they do not pay him, he will file a lawsuit to uncover their real identity so that he can sue them for copyright infringement (statutory damages of $150,000) under the copyright laws.

I can now confirm based on the search engine searches that are coming to my website that the nature of the DMCA notices are for pornographic films allegedly downloaded by bittorrent. Further, I compared some of those names of the porn companies, and it not only seems as if RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT is a knock-off of CEG-TEK’s DMCA notice system, but that Crowell has also ‘stolen’ the clients of CEG-TEK. I know this because the titles of the alleged infringing adult films correlate almost exactly to CEG-TEK’s client list, as I exposed them in 2014.

But if you dig further into the RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT website, you’ll find that their client list includes MAINSTREAM MOVIES. Thus, the connection between the movie industry and the adult film industry is strengthened.

Then, to make the connection even stronger, I recently learned that Carl Crowell (the apparent puppet master behind all of the Guardaley-based ‘John Doe’ movie lawsuits across the US) is also in contract with RightsCorp, who has been sending notices to Internet Subscribers the same was CEG-TEK used to, but their methods of tracking and harassing defendants is different from CEG-TEK’s. At one time, I was even so certain of the differences between them [based on how they operated and knowing the fight that CEG-TEK used to have with the Guardaley entity in their bittorrent tracking methods] that I wrote an article claiming that “CEG-TEK and RightsCorp are different animals.”  Point being, at the time, I did not understand the nature of RightsCorp (they were always the bastard child of the copyright infringement issues), but all I knew at the time were that those at Rightscorp were spending millions of dollars on a failing business model, and because they were so loudly representing the MPAA/RIAA in this failing venture, I never thought to look whether the porn industry lawsuits and the traditional movie lawsuits were somehow related.

Well, zoom to 2017, and now we learn that the entity behind RightsCorp is also working with Carl Crowell to enforce their copyrights claiming infringement for the download of network TV shows, and most frequently, music downloaded via bittorrent.

In my “Evolution of Piracy” article, I wrote:

“It would be a huge scandal if one set of masters [MPAA/RIAA] planned the pornography-based bittorrent ‘copyright troll’ lawsuits for the purpose of later giving credibility to real-movie lawsuits when they stepped in place of the porn lawsuits and made the same filings… I don’t want to connect the dots because I do not want to notice that perhaps the same entities behind the Dallas Buyers Club, LLC movies were the same entities behind the Patrick Collins… Malibu Media, LLC cases. THAT WOULD BE JUST TOO HORRIBLE.” (emphasis added)

Well, as the veil of secrecy is unraveling between the porn industry and the movie / radio industry, we are seeing that these apparently separate entities are not only in cahoots with one another, but that they are all using ONE AND THE SAME ENTITY (Guardaley) to commit fraud upon the US copyright law system.

“NO, HE DID NOT JUST SCREAM FRAUD.” Yes, I did.  Here is why.

In my understanding, having the movie industry (MPAA/RIAA) collude with the porn industry and PLAN to have the porn cases blaze through the courts (where those defendants as a general rule do not fight back) and create what we now call “bittorrent law,” only to NOW have the mainstream media step back in and file those same lawsuits using the porn cases as “case law” to legally support their movie-based bittorrent lawsuits, well, that’s a scam. Why? BECAUSE THE MPAA/RIAA BROKE COPYRIGHT LAW BY USING PORNOGRAPHY CASES TO CREATE THE LAW TO SUPPORT THE CASES THEY ARE NOW FILING.

“But haven’t the porn cases also created ‘bad law’ for the movie companies?” You might think so, and in some courts, the answer is absolutely, yes.  But let’s look at the developments of what is now considered “normal” in a bittorrent-based copyright infringement lawsuit BECAUSE OF the porn-based copyright infringement lawsuits.

WHAT IS NOW CONSIDERED ‘NORMAL’ IN A COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT LAWSUIT

1) Judges now regularly rubber-stamp “expedited discovery” requests allowing copyright holders to send subpoenas to internet providers, forcing the ISPs to unclothe the identities of the account holders who are accused of copyright infringement.  These identities are provided directly to the plaintiffs (not to the court) to allow the plaintiff attorney to use and misuse that sensitive and private information.

2) Judges allow the copyright holders to solicit settlements, sometimes in the amounts of thousands or tens of thousands of dollars, with ABSOLUTELY NO OVERSIGHT of the plaintiff attorney’s activities, or how many settlements that attorney has brought in for his client.

3) Judges regularly pretend that bittorrent-based cases are ‘regular’ copyright infringement lawsuits, but they ignore the fact that bittorrent-based copyright holders have CONSISTENTLY FAILED TO STATE A CLAIM with any certainty that the account holder is the accused “John Doe” Defendant, when at best, this is at most a circumstantial connection which is not researched by the judge or the plaintiff attorney before the judge allows the lawsuit to proceed.  According to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, “failure to state a claim” SHOULD prevent the case from proceeding.  The plaintiff copyright holders do not have the evidence to proceed with a lawsuit, yet judges close their eyes to this fact and allow them to proceed anyway.

In sum, the pornography cases have caused judges to fudge (think, “run their finger through melted chocolate”) what used to be firm principles of copyright infringement law, and because of the porn cases, the result is that judges now regularly allow copyright holders to get away with things that in the past, would have barred them from filing the lawsuit or getting access to the identities of John Doe Defendants in the first place.

And if this was their plan all along, well, that’s just too horrible…

Honestly, judges should reverse and overrule practices and case law established by the porn-based lawsuits, and they should revert to holding movie companies (AND porn companies) to the standard of law they used to adhere to before the mass onslaught of cases began to burden the courts from 2010 and on. In my opinion, bittorrent cases are nothing but sloppy copyright cases, and judges use sloppy law to allow copyright holders to abuse the copyright system and extort millions of hard-earned dollars from the public.  Years from now, people will look back and wonder how judges allowed these lawsuits to proceed.

MY FINAL POINT

I started the Cashman Law Firm, PLLC in 2010, just as the MPAA/RIAA lawsuits became quiet. I always wondered where they went, and why they stopped suing defendants. Now I am starting to understand that they never did stop their activities; rather, they just devised a clever scheme to get the porn industry to file lawsuits and blaze the trail to create case law across the US (because most pornography-based defendants do not fight back, and judges laugh when they see the titles sued upon, they undermine their legal sense and allow the ‘repressed, stigma-based industry to proceed with protecting their rights to sue “just like everyone else.”).  As a result of having the porn companies file the lawsuits across the US, what is unfolding to be the MPAA/RIAA plan broke copyright infringement law so that they can come back seven years later and start filing lawsuits, but now, with a “lower bar” and relaxed legal standards.


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 vs RightsCorp. Same genus, different species.

Are Rightscorp and CEG-TEK Comparable?

Rightscorp (a.k.a. Digital Rights Corp.) has been compared to CEG-TEK in many ways, but they remain a separate ‘kind’ of entity and thus they have their own rules.

Similarities Between Rightscorp & CEG-TEK

Copyright Enforcement Group (a.k.a. CEG-TEK) and RightsCorp at first glance look alike, but they are different animals. While they both use the DMCA laws (or with CEG-TEK, their foreign-country’s equivalent) to send letters to internet users accusing them of copyright infringement, and while they both attempt to force account holders to pay a “settlement fee” to settle all claims claimed against them, the mechanisms of how they operate are quite different.

Rightscorp asks for $20/title, CEG-TEK $300/title

True, both CEG-TEK and RightsCorp send DMCA notices to ISP subscribers (internet users). CEG-TEK (currently) asks for a settlement of $300 per title (C$225 for account holders in Canada), and RightsCorp asks for $20 per title.

Rightscorp does not release the settling party from liability.

The big difference between CEG-TEK and RightsCorp is that CEG-TEK releases the accused downloader from liability when the settlement is paid; in CEG-TEK’s contract, there is NO ADMISSION OF GUILT (UPDATE: CEG-TEK recently updated their settlement agreements and now they have an inflammatory “admission of guilt” provision, speak to your attorney about this), whereas RightsCorp contracts explicitly have the settling party admit guilt in an “I did it, I’m sorry, I’ll never do it again” fashion. This ‘admission of guilt’ issue was the initial reason I wouldn’t work with RightsCorp.

Rightscorp sends additional infringement notices for other titles after one settles.

There are obviously other issues with CEG-TEK settlements that we’ve discussed before, just as there are obvious issues with RightsCorp settlements (namely, with RightsCorp, many have reported that after paying one $20 settlement, they received 10-40 additional infringement notices, whether or not the downloads actually happened).

CEG-TEK does not sue people (although their clients might).

Lastly, there are customer service differences between CEG-TEK and RightsCorp. CEG-TEK retains multiple individuals who respond to inquiries and convince those who call in [with inquiries, objections, and website troubles in processing payment] to pay the requested settlement amount or face a lawsuit. They have been known to claim that they record the conversations (watch out for this, as an admission of guilt here can be used against you, as can a lie later be used against you later in a perjury claim).

The important thing to note about CEG-TEK is that CEG-TEK DOES NOT SUE PEOPLE. Rather, they are a SERVICE PROVIDER providing COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT SERVICES TO THEIR CLIENTS (namely, the copyright holders). CEG-TEK has also been known to scrape the list of callers to ascertain their identities (although this used to happen before we learned that they are now able to obtain [from select ISPs] the geolocation data identifying where the download took place). Thus, if a settlement is not reached, they forward the file over to the copyright holders to allow them to follow-up with the accused downloader using their own attorneys.  At this point, CEG-TEK is out of the picture.

Well, to be accurate, first CEG-TEK has their own attorney Marvin Cable send out settlement demand letters asking for $1,750 per title, and only after he is unable to obtain a settlement from the accused downloader, only then do they forward the file over to the copyright holder(s) for their own attorneys to do what they will with it. This is where in my opinion the “ignore” route can result in an accused downloader being contacted by an attorney requesting a settlement, this time asking for a significantly higher amount. Again, depending on the COPYRIGHT HOLDER [namely, whether they have sued in the past (you can look this up on http://www.rfcexpress.com), and whether they intend to sue again in the future], this is how to best determine whether to ignore or settle the claims listed on the CEG-TEK website.

In my opinion, this CEG-TEK policy of “we forward your file over to the copyright holders” is where the misuse of that information *can* originate. Not all copyright holders are upstanding citizens (note to self to write about how a particular action might be illegal or unethical, but we see lawyers doing it anyway, unpunished — “LEGAL, BUT NOT LAWFUL”), especially considering that most of Ira Siegel’s clients are adult entertainment companies (pornography), and their lawyers do not think twice before reminding the accused downloaders that they could be involved in a lawsuit for the download of pornography.

Rightscorp has been accused of fabricating their infringement notices.

RightsCorp has its own set of problems. First of all, aside from the settlements having accused downloaders admit guilt to one or more downloads, there is a difference in the validity of the claims between RightsCorp and CEG-TEK.  RightsCorp’s initial claim may be valid, but the many follow-up claims have been said to be fabricated.  Contrast this to CEG-TEK — CEG-TEK sends an infringement notice within days of a download taking place, but when the internet user logs in to CEG-TEK’s site, CEG-TEK’s computers have already searched and found any older downloads somehow linked to that internet user (based on the geolocation provided to CEG-TEK, presumably by the ISPs themselves, and also based on the list of IP addresses leased to the subscriber over how long the ISP keeps these lists of past IP addresses based on their “IP retention policy”).

NOTE: There is more to say here, but the jist is that CEG-TEK uses fuzzy science (same geolocation, same bittorrent software, same port number) to link cases together.  This causes problems when CEG-TEK’s system links together multiple tenants’ downloads in an apartment complex or dorm, or when an unlucky VPN subscriber receives an infringement notice containing all of the downloads from the hundreds of other users connecting through that same VPN IP address.

Rightscorp operates with NOBODY answering the phones.

And, while CEG-TEK provides what they call “Customer Service” (a.k.a., “tell me about what a bad boy you were so that I can thank you for admitting guilt and force you to settle or face a lawsuit”), last I checked (and admittedly, it has been some time) there is ABSOLUTELY NO CUSTOMER SERVICE from RightsCorp. Yet, RightsCorp won’t hesitate calling you with their Robocalls all day and night.

Rightscorp’s stock is plummeting.

Lastly, the biggest difference between CEG-TEK and RightsCorp is that whereas RightsCorp is financially a “sinking ship,” and last I checked, their stock price dropped to $0.06 per share on the stock exchanges, CEG-TEK has only been *expanding* their operations, growing in size, expanding into other counties (most recently, sending copyright infringement notices in Canada), openly speaking about hiring foreign attorneys to enforce their clients copyrights, and they even have been going into other areas of intellectual property (e.g., going after those who sell counterfeited goods over the internet).

My thoughts about CEG-TEK versus Rightscorp (so far).

In sum, Copyright Enforcement Group in my opinion is the “big bad wolf” of copyright infringement, yet they do everything they can to keep their “paws” clean. What has always bothered me about them (other than that former plaintiff attorney Ira Siegel‘s name appears on each of their settlement demand letters), is that with their growth comes the ability to push around attorneys and internet users with boilerplate settlement agreements, (recently) new terms on their settlement agreements which are less friendly than the former friendly terms, and the ability to continually raise the settlement amount (which was initially $200, then $250, then $300), and nobody can do anything about it.

“Settle or ignore,” it does not matter to CEG-TEK.

As for RightsCorp, I still hold by what I said almost 24 months ago. I see no reason to get involved with them, as they have always been a sinking ship. It is only a matter of time before they are bought out by someone else.

NOTABLE RIGHTSCORP ARTICLES (from Slyck.com):
Rightscorp’s Red Bottom Line Gets Larger and so Does its List of Copyrights to Protect (8/19/2014)
Rightscorp Scores More Copyrights to Protect from The Royalty Network (7/11/2014)
Rightscorp, ‘We Aim to Protect Millions of Copyrights as we Continue to Lose Money’ (5/14/2014)
Rightscorp Sets its Sights on the Pay-Up or Else Program for UK Pirates (5/7/2014)
Rightscorp Scores Again, Gets 600 Copyrights from Rotten Records to Protect (4/16/2014)
Rightscorp Adds 13,000 More Copyrights From Blue Pie Records to Protect (3/31/2014)
Rightscorp Publishes its Full-Year & Fourth-Quarter 2013 Financial Report (3/26/2014)
Downloaders Beware; Rightscorp Now Monitoring Billboard Hot 100 Songs (2/28/2014)

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 their methodologies are nearly identical, this article is still very useful in order to understand how they operate.]


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.

RightsCorp – Plans of ISP Account Shutdowns & Subpoenas

This is probably one of the most important articles I’ve read in a while. Until now, I’ve been ignoring the RightsCorp problem because they were previously harmless (akin to a well-funded sinking ship). Their recent steps are concerning, and they signal a change that we’ll need to deal with, whether at the grassroots level (calling up ISPs, finding and fighting the subpoenas, speaking to judges and legislators) or simply confronting the power-hungry entities head-on.


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.

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 rsteele@digitalrightscorp.com

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


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