$10 Music Piracy Fine: A Fair Deal Or Just Another Cheap Trick?

Following a report yesterday that an anti-piracy company has been sending out emails asking that people pay a $10 fine after allegedly being caught sharing copyright material, we decided to take a closer look. Isn't this tiny fine a good idea? Isn't paying $10 literally 300 times better than paying $3000 to other companies in the same area?

Yesterday, PaidContent published a report on Digital Rights Corp, an LA-based firm who monitor file-sharing networks for infringements and contact alleged pirates asking for money. It’s 2011, what’s new?

However, rather than asking for around $3,000 like many in this field, Digital Rights Corp are strictly at the budget end of the market. When they contact you there’s no need to panic since they request a measly $10.00 to settle their complaint. It’s a system that’s been used before by PayArtists.com.

To the die-hard file-sharer, the fact Digital Rights Corp (DRC) have asked for just $10.00 will probably carry some comedy value. By only asking for such a small amount the company sends the message that they aren’t serious about pursuing infringers.

And the reality is, they aren’t.

First off, DRC have no idea who the recipients of their claims are and have absolutely no intention of finding out. Instead of going through the lengthy and expensive process of going to a court to force ISPs to hand over the names and addresses of their customers, DRC short-cut the system.

DRC contacts ISPs with a DMCA takedown notice (which they are obliged to pass on to subscribers) which contains a link to their website. Follow that and the target gets an offer to settle for $10.00, payable by credit card. It is only after people have responded to their email that DRC even know who they are.

DigitalRights

But if we look at the current landscape, scarred by the punitive actions of the U.S. Copyright Group and the dozens of porn companies and their aggressive lawsuits demanding several thousands dollars in settlements, perhaps this $10.00 deal doesn’t look so bad, at least in comparison. It’s a couple of beers, a couple of sandwiches. What it clearly is not is a life ruiner.

Nevertheless, DRC have to go and spoil it.

The rhetoric in their emails and on their website consists of the same old anti-piracy scare tactics. Even though the company have absolutely no intention of suing, they give the impression they will, stating that: “The user who receives the notice, is liable for $150000 in damages, but if they click on the link supplied, they can enter a credit card and we will settle the matter.”

Now, bearing in mind that there is already a deal with the major US ISPs and the big music and movie studios to begin sending warnings which may, possibly, after more than half a dozen strikes, lead to the suspension of an Internet account, DRC lay it on thick in this department too.

Their initial email warnings state that the recipient risks having their internet cut off but their FAQ section on their website takes it a whole lot further.

“My Internet service has been shut off, how do I get it restored?” says the page’s first question. The supplied answer is simply ridiculous.

“Once you pay your settlement fee on this website or over the phone, we will notify the ISP that you have settled the matter with the copyright owner and they will restore your service,” is the response.

The notion that an ISP will cut off a subscriber based on the allegations of company like this following a simple, unsubstantiated DMCA notice, is unlikely to say the least. To suggest that the ISP would then switch that service back on after being notified that a $10.00 fine had been paid takes the statement to the absurd.

Another attempt at misdirection comes with the final statement on the page which declares: “Your ISP has verified that at the time your computer was used for copyright infringement, it was using the IP Address stated in the notice.” The implication here is that the ISP has verified that the email recipient has been infringing. They haven’t, they have simply forwarded an email.

The other problem is that these settlement companies, whether they ask for $10.00 or $3,000, is that they always try to give the impression their work is about reducing piracy. According to figures quoted by PaidContent, “…unauthorized sharing of one client’s song decreased from 20,000 to 4,000 in the month after its settlement offers were issued.”

How is that achieved with a system like this? Until now there has been almost zero publicity for this company or its business model. So, how does sending emails quietly to individuals that have already supposedly shared or downloaded the material in question reduce the uptake of new people doing the same? In fact, the entire model relies on new people coming aboard or the revenue simply dries up.

So if there is no reason to pay these people, why are people doing so?

Well, as shown by the type of artist in the DRC client list, it could very well be that the older, more-easily scared generation is being targeted here, rather than the young and tech-savvy. The good news is, however, that most of the artists being ‘protected’ by DRC won’t have been hurt by any infringements.

Because they’re dead.

Jelly Roll Morton – born September 20, 1885 – deceased
Louis Armstrong – born August 4, 1901 – deceased
Bob Willis & His Texas Playboys – born March 6, 1905 – deceased
Stephane Grapelli – born 26 January 1908 – deceased
Howlin’ Wolf – born June 10, 1910 – deceased
Bill Monroe & The Bluegrass Boys – born September 13, 1911 – deceased
Lightnin’ Hopkins – born March 15, 1912 – deceased
Muddy Waters – born April 4, 1915 – deceased
Lena Horne – born June 30, 1917 – deceased
Elmore James – born January 27, 1918 – deceased
Professor Longhair – born December 19, 1918 – deceased
Kitty Wells – born August 30, 1919
Dave Brubeck – born December 6, 1920
Albert King – born April 25, 1923 – deceased
Hank Williams – born September 17, 1923 – deceased
Mel Torme – born September 13, 1925 – deceased
Jimmy Reed – born September 6, 1925 – deceased
Fats Domino – born February 26, 1928
Pete Fountain – born July 3, 1930
Ray Charles – born September 23, 1930 – deceased
George Jones – born September 12, 1931
Ike & Tina Turner – Ike born November 5, 1931 – deceased
Johnny Cash – born February 26, 1932 – deceased
Nina Simone – born February 21, 1933 – deceased
Elvis Presley – born January 8, 1935 – deceased
Jerry Lee Lewis – born September 29, 1935
Allen Toussaint – born 14 January 1938
Mike Bloomfield – born July 28, 1943 – deceased
King Sunny Ade – born September 22, 1946

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