Comcast Kills Business Model of Piracy Monitoring and Settlement Firm

Comcast is threatening the business model of Rightscorp, a publicly traded firm that uses DMCA notices to demand piracy settlements from U.S. Internet subscribers. Unlike other Internet providers Comcast is not forwarding the settlement requests to its customers, only the infringement details. For Rightscorp this effectively kills all anti-piracy revenue from the largest ISP in the United States.

comcast caresThere are many ways copyright holders approach today’s “online piracy problem.”

Some copyright holders prefer to do it through innovation, while others prefer educational messages, warnings or even lawsuits. Another group is aiming to generate revenue by obtaining lots of small cash settlements.

Rightscorp is one of the companies that facilitates these settlement demands. The company scours BitTorrent networks for people who download titles owned by the copyright holders they work for, and then approaches these alleged pirates via their Internet providers.

The company went public last month and works with prominent partners including Warner Bros. and BMI. On behalf of these clients Rightscorp usually asks for $10 or $20 per infringed title, demands that are concealed in DMCA notices so they can bypass the courts.

Under the DMCA Internet providers are obliged to forward copyright infringement notices to their customers, so with this strategy the company can contact the alleged pirates without knowing who they are.

At least, that’s the theory.

The problem is that Rightscorp’s entire business model relies on the willingness of the Internet providers to forward their full settlement requests. To make sure this happens the company specifically adds the following line on top of each DMCA notice.

**NOTE TO ISP: PLEASE FORWARD THE ENTIRE NOTICE**

Unfortunately for the anti-piracy outfit, not all ISPs are doing that.

TorrentFreak looked into the matter and we found that Comcast, the largest ISP in the United States, strips out all the threatening language and references to the proposed settlement. Instead, it only lists the infringement details including the source, file-name and a timestamp.

A copy of a Rightscorp warning forwarded by Comcast is pasted at the bottom of the article.

One of the reasons why Comcast truncates the DMCA notices could be to protect its customers from false accusations. However, when we contacted them the ISP declined to comment on the matter.

We also shared our findings with Rightscorp, who said that they were indeed protecting the rights of the artist in the notice we forwarded, but couldn’t confirm that it was coming from them. Despite sending over additional notices, the company said it would need more details to warrant a comment in public.

It is worth noting that Comcast is truncating all DMCA notices and not just the Rightscorp ones. This isn’t a big problem for copyright holders who send traditional takedown notices, but in Rightscorp’s case it is killing the company’s business model.

Investors are not going to be pleased to hear that there’s no revenue coming from the country’s largest ISP, and with increasing complaints from customers, there is a significant risk that other ISPs will follow Comcast’s lead.

If that happens, Rightscorp’s entire business model will be defunct.

An example of a Rightscorp DMCA notice processed by Comcast is pasted below. Here is a full notice forwarded by another ISP for comparison, complete with threatening language and a settlement offer.

—-

Dear Comcast High-Speed Internet Subscriber:

Comcast has received a notification by a copyright owner, or its authorized agent, reporting an alleged infringement of one or more copyrighted works made on or over Comcast’s High-Speed Internet service (the ‘Service’). The copyright owner has identified the Internet Protocol (‘IP’) address associated with your Service account at the time as the source of the infringing works. The works identified by the copyright owner in its notification are listed below. Comcast reminds you that use of the Service (or any part of the Service) in any manner that constitutes an infringement of any copyrighted work is a violation of Comcast’s Acceptable Use Policy and may result in the suspension or termination of your Service account.

If you have any questions regarding this notice, you may direct them to Comcast in writing by sending a letter or e-mail to:

Comcast Customer Security Assurance
Comcast Cable Communications, LLC
1800 Bishops Gate Blvd., 3rd Floor East Wing
Mount Laurel, NJ 08054 U.S.A.
Phone: (888) 565-4329
Fax: (856) 324-2940

For more information regarding Comcast’s copyright infringement policy, procedures, and contact information, please read our Acceptable Use Policy by clicking on the Terms of Service link at http://www.comcast.net.

Sincerely,
Comcast Customer Security Assurance

Copyright work(s) identified in the notification of claimed infringement:

Infringement Source: Torrent
Timestamp: 2013-xx-xx xx:xx:1x.x GMT
Infringers IP Address: xxx.x.xxx.xxx
Infringers Port: xxxxx
Listing of infringement(s) (Title/Filename/Timestamp/Hash): This Years Love | 08 This Years Love.mp3 | 2013-xx-xx xx:xx:xx.x | SHA1

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