U.S. based Internet provider RCN is suing music rights group BMG. The Internet provider has asked the court to declare that it is not responsible for copyright infringements allegedly committed by its customers. Among other things, RCN argues that the notices sent by BMG’s anti-piracy partner Rightscorp are flawed.
Piracy monetization firm Rightscorp has made headlines over the past year, often because of its aggressive attempts to obtain settlements from allegedly pirating Internet users.
Working on behalf of various copyright owners including Warner Bros. and BMG the company sends copyright infringement notices to Internet providers in the U.S. and Canada. These notices include a settlement proposal, offering alleged downloaders an option to pay off their “debt.”
Rightscorp’s practices haven’t been without controversy. The company and its clients have been sued for abuse and harassment and various large ISPs refuse to forward the settlements to their subscribers.
Cox Communications, one of the larger Internet providers in the U.S. also chose not to work with Rightscorp. The ISP didn’t comment on this refusal initially, but now that Cox has been sued by several Rightscorp clients, it reveals why.
In a statement that leaves little to the imagination, Cox notes that Rightscorp is “threatening” subscribers with “extortionate” letters.
“Rightscorp is in the business of threatening Internet users on behalf of copyright owners. Rightscorp specifically threatens subscribers of ISPs with loss of their Internet service — a punishment that is not within Rightscorp’s control — unless the subscribers pay a settlement demand,” Cox writes.
As a result, the ISP decided not to participate in the controversial scheme unless Rightscorp revised the notifications and removed the extortion-like language.
“Because Rightscorp’s purported DMCA notices were, in fact, improper threats against consumers to scare them into paying settlements to Rightscorp, Cox refused to accept or forward those notices, or otherwise to participate in Rightscorp’s extortionate scheme.”
“Cox expressly and repeatedly informed Rightscorp that it would not accept Rightscorp’s improper extortion threat communications, unless and until Rightscorp revised them to be proper notices.”
The two parties went back and forth over the details and somewhere in this process Rightscorp came up with a controversial proposal. The company offered Cox a cut of the settlement money its subscribers would pay, so the ISP could also profit.
Every month Google receives dozens of millions of DMCA takedown requests from copyright holders, most of which are directed at its search engine.
However, with Google Fiber being rolled out in more cities, notices targeting allegedly pirating Internet subscribers are becoming more common as well.
These include regular takedown notices but also the more controversial settlement demands sent by companies such as Rightscorp and CEG TEK.
Instead of merely alerting subscribers that their connections have been used to share copyright infringing material, these notices serve as automated fines, offering subscribers settlements ranging from $20 to $300.
The scheme uses the standard DMCA takedown process which means that the copyright holder doesn’t have to go to court or even know who the recipient is. In fact, the affected subscriber is often not the person who shared the pirated file.
To protect customers against these practices many ISPs including Comcast, Verizon and AT&T have chosen not to forward settlement demands. However, information received by TF shows that Google does take part.
Over the past week we have seen settlement demands from Rightscorp and CEG TEK which were sent to Google Fiber customers. In an email, Google forwards the notice with an additional warning that repeated violations may result in a permanent disconnection.
“Repeated violations of our Terms of Service may result in remedial action being taken against your Google Fiber account, up to and including possible termination of your service,” Google Fiber writes.