Rightscorp offered ISP a cut from profits for help catching pirates

Information revealed this week during a court case between Cox Communications and Rightscorp has once more brought to light the corrupt nature of the piracy monetization firm’s ambition to create revenue from piracy.  The new evidence reveals that Rightscorp has been attempting to coerce ISPs into cooperating, by offering them a cut of the future profits extracted from consumers caught making copyright infringements.

In the past twelve months, Rightscorp, the company that monetizes piracy for Warner Brothers and BMG (amongst other important copyright holders,) has already been ordered by a court in Georgia to desist from illegally using the DMCA in order to make ISPs give up information about their clients.  This time, new evidence has come to light that shows Rightscorp has attempted to use the future profits themselves as a primary motivator to make ISPs betray their own customers’ privacy.

This is yet another revelation of the dirty tactics that piracy monetization firms like Rightscorp are willing to employ in their aim to extract money from consumers who allegedly stream or download copyrighted media, and yet another great reason to use a VPN to keep your browsing habits safely hidden away from prying eyes.

Rightscorp’s methods of monetizing piracy are pretty simple. Firstly, they send letters to ISPs asking them to forward letters to consumers that have violated copyright laws.  These letters explain to the alleged copyright pirates that they can settle up ‘the debt’ which they have with the copyright holder if they do not want further action to be taken.

Most disturbingly, however, is that  Rightscorp have been offering those ISPs a cut of the profit from this ‘money from piracy’ scheme. This is arguably their most heavy handed tactic to date, and quite possibly the one method that is most often likely to work!

The revelations come courtesy of Cox Communications (Cox), one of the largest ISPs in the US, and who has thus far refused to work with Rightscorp, preferring to give its customers the privacy it feels they deserve.  After all, an ISP makes money from selling internet connectivity to its clientele, and Cox, like many, rightly feel that it is a complete betrayal to snoop on those consumers in order to help extract capital for a third party.

Even before these new revelations about its tactics, Rightscorp’s actions were not without controversy.  In the last year they have already received lawsuits for harassment and abuse, and various large ISPs (such as Cox) have completely refused to work with it. Until now, however, Cox had been reticent about the extent of its reasons for not cooperating with Rightscorp.  Under the pressure of this lawsuit from Rightscorp’s clients, however, Cox has issued a statement (.pdf),

‘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,’

According to the statement it is because of this extortionate and threatening language that Cox have so adamantly refused to cooperate,

‘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.’

It is at this stage in the exchange between the two firms that Cox claims Rightscorp went to the next step in its controversial method of attempting to get them to cooperate, and actually offered the ISP a cut of  future settlements if it helped Rightscorp extract money from alleged pirates,

‘Rightscorp had a history of interactions with Cox in which Rightscorp offered Cox a share of the settlement revenue stream in return for Cox’s cooperation in transmitting extortionate letters to Cox’s customers. Cox rebuffed Rightscorp’s approach’

Although these new revelations about the great lengths to which Rightscorp is willing to go, do not reveal whether this approach has also been used on other ISPs,  it certainly would not be a great leap of imagination to assume so. After all, smaller ISPs could perhaps be more easily persuaded by the color of money. They also serve as a stark reminder of how easily ISPs could be encouraged into giving up their clients browsing habits. For this reason, any person who wants to keep their privacy safe should seriously consider using a VPN, if they are not already doing so.

At this stage we know that Cox has sided with its customers, but it is also true that the firm admits this was due in part to the harassing, threatening, and extortionate wording of the letters… demonstrating that if Rightscorp went about attempting to curb piracy for its clients, in what Cox  considers to be a legitimate and transparent way, they may well cooperate in future.

With the court case in only the early stages, the fact that Cox is sticking to its guns and so strongly defending its stance is a good sign. Perhaps then, in the coming months, we may even be in store for more dirt on the ‘hard ball’ firm’s bad practice techniques. Let’s hope so!

Ray Walsh I am a freelance journalist and blogger from England. I am highly interested in politics and in particular the subject of IR and I am an advocate for freedom of speech, equality and personal privacy. On a more personal level I like to stay active, love snowboarding, swimming and cycling, enjoy seafood and love to listen to trap music.

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