Rightcorp fails to extract customer details from ISP using DMCA

Ray Walsh

Ray Walsh

May 15, 2015

Rightscorp, a digital copyright protection company that makes profit from monetizing piracy, was this week dealt a cruel blow by a court in Georgia, that will make any person who has ever pirated a movie or TV show feel a great sense of comradeship for those who would have been affected… had the decision gone the other way.

The company was in court after having failed to successfully use the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to force ISP Birch Communications to give up their customer’s details.  Rightscorp was hoping for a ruling that would not only force the ISP to comply, but would also allow it to keep using the DMCA to prospect for piracy revenues by subpoenaing customers accused of copyright piracy.

Trying to extract money from pirates on behalf of a number of copyright holders, including Warner Brothers and BMG, Rightscorp has already successfully managed to get pirates’ details from a number of other smaller ISPs in the US. The idea behind the subpeona to ISPs being (as usual with piracy monetization firms) to uncover people who infringe on copyrights, and target them with further letters demanding a cash settlement.

In 2014, the telecoms company Birch Communications refused to hand over the details of its subsidiaries ISP’s (CBeyond) customers, feeling that the subpoena (which is the type that can be signed by a court clerk and does not need a judge’s review) did not apply in file sharing cases. This would mean that Rightscorp was itself acting  illegally and controversially in trying to extract customers details using the DMCA.

For this reason, Birch filed a motion against Rightscorp, claiming that it was in the act of pursuing an illegal fishing exercise, and should be stopped. The motion won, with Magistrate Judge Janet King finding that,

‘CBeyond contends that the section does not apply to service providers that act only as a conduit for data transferred between other parties and that do not store data. The court agrees,’.

Feeling wronged by the decision, Rightscorp filed objections and sought to have the ruling overturned, and it is those objection that have now also been put to bed. Last week the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia agreed with the earlier ruling in the Atlanta court, and put the final nail in Rightscorp’s subpoena.

Following the ruling, Birch’s President and Chief Executive Officer, Vincent Oddo, stated,

‘We safeguard our customer information and take privacy issues seriously… The U.S. District Court did the right thing by backing our view, and we’re very pleased to see that this case will serve to help protect our customers’ private information.’

Gardiner Davis, who was Birch’s head of litigation for the trial, has also gone on record saying that Rightscorp’s use of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act was far too indulgent and amounted to nothing more than a fishing exercise designed to bully ISPs into giving up customers details,

‘They had not even filed a copyright infringement lawsuit, so this attempt was essentially a fishing expedition and I think this ruling was correctly and wisely decided. The court interpreted the statute as Congress intended.’

Any of CBeyond’s customers who had been worried about the case will now be able to rest easy, safe in the knowledge that Rightscorp have failed to extract their names from the ISP… a decision which is yet another blow to Rightscorp’s  financial situation, which is beginning to show some serious cracks…

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