NBC Universal Warns File-Sharers of Criminal Prosecution

NBC Universal is one of the copyright holders involved in the "six strikes" copyright alert system but the warnings it sends out to subscribers of non-participating ISPs stand in stark contrast to the educational approach of the program. A threatening email warns the alleged file-sharers that they risk substantial monetary damages, criminal prosecution and Internet disconnections.

runningAfter years of negotiating and planning the “six strikes” copyright alert system finally went live last month.

Under the program, copyright holders will alert ISPs about infringing material being shared on their networks and the providers will send friendly and educational alerts to affected customers.

However, since not all ISPs are participating in the program, several copyright holders also send out separate DMCA notices to other Internet providers. These notices are not new, but the threatening language used by the movie studio goes directly against the goal of the copyright alert system.

As can be seen below, NBC Universal takes quite a different approach in the notices that fall outside the scope of the copyright alert system. Let’s take a look at a notice a BitTorrent user received a few days ago for allegedly downloading a TV-show.

In the first paragraph there’s already a mention of possible legal action.

“This notice provides you with the information you need in order to take immediate action that can prevent serious legal and other consequences.”

Later on NBC Universal makes the threat of legal action more concrete by stating that the infringer risks massive fines and even criminal prosecution. Again, this appears to induce fear more than educating the recipient.

“The illegal downloading and distribution of copyrighted works are serious offenses that carry with them the risk of substantial monetary damages and, in some cases, criminal prosecution.”

Perhaps not as threatening as criminal prosecution, NBC Universal also points out that illegal downloading can lead to the termination of one’s Internet account. Interestingly, ISPs and copyright holders participating in the copyright alert system have specifically stated that disconnections are absolutely not going to happen under their program.

“Copyright infringement also violates your Internet Service Provider’s terms of service and could lead to limitation or suspension of your Internet service.”

While the above statements are all correct, it’s clear that there’s now a great divide in how subscribers of different Internet providers are approached.

Those who don’t fall under the copyright alert system get a more threatening treatment than those who do. Of course the latter group will eventually face so-called mitigation measures, but one has to wonder which of the two notices is more effective.

TorrentFreak contacted the MPAA for a comment on the different approaches of their member companies outside the copyright alert system, but we have yet to hear back from them.

The full notice NBC Universal sent out is pasted below. For reference, the Copyright Alert email that’s sent out to Comcast users when they are caught pirating can be found here.

You are being contacted on behalf of NBC Universal and its affiliates (“NBC Universal”) because your Internet account was identified as having been used recently to illegally copy and/or distribute the copyrighted movies and/or television shows listed at the bottom of this letter. This notice provides you with the information you need in order to take immediate action that can prevent serious legal and other consequences. These actions include:

1. Stop downloading or uploading any film or TV shows owned or distributed by NBC Universal without authorization; and

2. Permanently delete from your computer(s) all unauthorized copies you may have already made of these movies and TV shows.

The illegal downloading and distribution of copyrighted works are serious offenses that carry with them the risk of substantial monetary damages and, in some cases, criminal prosecution.

Copyright infringement also violates your Internet Service Provider’s terms of service and could lead to limitation or suspension of your Internet service.

An industry website, www.respectcopyrights.org, offers step-by-step instructions to ensure that your Internet account is not being used to violate the copyright laws. The site also can point you to an array of legal choices for enjoying movies and TV shows online. You can also learn there how movie theft damages our economy and costs thousands of Americans their jobs.

If, after visiting www.respectcopyrights.org you still have questions, or if you believe you have received this notice in error, you may contact NBC Universal by email at [email protected] or by calling (818) 777-XXXX. Please cite the Reference ID noted at the top of this letter in the subject line of any email or voicemail you may leave. You should take immediate action to prevent your Internet account from being used for illegal activities. Today, there are many ways to enjoy movies and TV programs legally.

The undersigned has a good faith belief that use of the NBC Universal Property in the manner described herein is not authorized by NBC Universal, its agent or the law. The information contained in this notification is accurate. Under penalty of perjury, the undersigned is authorized to act on behalf of NBC Universal with respect to this matter.

This letter is not a complete statement of NBC Universal’s rights in connection with this matter, and nothing contained herein constitutes an express or implied waiver of any rights, remedies or defense, all of which are expressly reserved.

Sincerely,

*******
c/o NBC Universal Anti-Piracy Technical Operations

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