Comcast has sent TorrentFreak a cease and desist letter, claiming copyright over contents of an article which revealed that Prenda Law was involved in operating a pirate honeypot. Failure to comply will result in a lawsuit in which the Internet provider will seek damages, a Comcast representative informs us. In addition, Comcast also alerted our hosting provider, who is now threatening to shut down our server.
Over the past several years we have covered many copyright disputes, but now we have become part of one ourselves.
Last week we wrote a news article based on public court records, revealing that Prenda Law has been involved in operating a honeypot in order to lure Internet users into downloading copyrighted material.
This revelation came to light after Comcast returned a subpoena linking the IP-address of Pirate Bay uploader “Sharkmp4″ to the infamous law firm, and has since been published by several other news outlets since we broke the news.
It was an article like any other, we thought, but on Monday we learned that Comcast was not happy with our coverage. Through the brand protection company Cyveillance they sent a cease and desist letter for an alleged copyright infringement, demanding that we take the article offline, or face legal action.
The threats are clear. If we fail to comply with the takedown notice within five days Comcast will file a lawsuit seeking immediate injunctive relief, compensatory damages, statutory damages, punitive damages, attorneys’ fees and costs of the suit.
Unfortunately, the email above provides no indication of what we have done wrong. It simply states that we infringed on Comcast’s copyrights without explaining what the actual infringement entails.
To find out more we contacted Cyveillance with a request for additional information. In a quick response, the company informed us that the copy of the subpoena (also available on the Internet archive) response was the problem.
“The thing that we would like you to remove from you post is the copy of the subpoena form that contains Comcast subscriber’s information, The rest of the post can stay,” we were told.
While the response is clear, it still doesn’t explain what the actual infringement is. According to our knowledge court records are public domain and can be freely used by reporters, especially when they are the center of a news piece.
When we pointed this out to Cyveillance the company suddenly informed us that Comcast told them to “hold off on working on the removal of the post in question.” Baffled by the situation, and unclear how to proceed we asked for further details. However, everything went silent and several follow-up emails sent by us since Monday afternoon have gone unanswered.
Meanwhile, the situation further deteriorated when we learned that our hosting provider LeaseWeb received the same cease and desist notice. LeaseWeb alerted us to this problem on Tuesday and stated that our IP-address would be blocked if the issue was not resolved within 24 hours.
We contacted Cyveillance and alerted them to this issue, but again, no response.
TorrentFreak has consulted several legal experts who agree that we’ve done nothing wrong here. Also, Comcast has not asked the court to seal the filing in question and it can still be accessed through the court records.
While we generally refrain from writing about Internal issues, we believe this copyright claim is a matter of interest and one the public should be aware of. We hope that Comcast can clarify its stance eventually, and that our server remains online in the meantime.
Update 7pm CET: A Comcast spokesperson responded to an inquiry we sent to the company’s lawyers:
“[I] am replying to let you know that the cease and desist was sent in error, and you may disregard it. We apologize for any confusion this may have caused.”