U.S. Anti-Piracy Police Kept Secret From The Public

Last month the MPAA and RIAA made a deal with all the major Internet providers in the United States to systematically hunt down file-sharers. The new "Copyright Alerts" system will directly affect millions of Internet users, but thus far the participating parties have refused to disclose which monitoring company will act as anti-piracy detectives. It's time for the big reveal.

dtecnetStarting in a few months, the copyright police will start to track down ‘pirates’ as part of an agreement with all major U.S. Internet providers.

All parties agreed to warn copyright infringers that their behavior is unacceptable. After six warnings the ISP may then take a variety of repressive measures, which include slowing down the offender’s connection.

The new system is a formalized version of the existing takedown system already operated by copyright holders, and was announced under the name ‘Copyright Alerts‘.

When the agreement was made public in July, two questions immediately came to mind. The first one concerns where data on alleged infringers will be collected, by whom and how long it will be stored. Secondly, which company will be tasked with ‘spying’ on millions of BitTorrent users.

During the last month TorrentFreak tried to get answers on these vital questions, but to our surprise it was impossible to get a response through the official channels. On multiple occasions we contacted the RIAA, A2IM, the Center for Copyright Information, the PR firm of Center for Copyright Information and participating ISPs, but none of these entities were willing to provide more information on the record.

Only when we contacted people off the record we were able to find out more. Independently of each other, two sources involved in copyright enforcement informed us that DtecNet is the company that will be tracking unauthorized file-sharing under the new copyright alert system.

So who are DtectNet and why is their alleged appointment being kept from the public?

Looking at the history of DtecNet we find that the company originally stems from the anti-piracy lobby group Antipiratgruppen, which represents the music and movie industry in Denmark. And there are more direct ties to the entertainment industry. Kristian Lakkegaard, one of DtecNet’s employees, used to work for the RIAA’s global partner IFPI.

Last year the Danish company was acquired by the US brand protection firm MarkMonitor, but continues to operate under its own name. As an established anti-piracy company, DtecNet already works closely with the RIAA and MPAA. In addition, they are responsible for collecting data on copyright infringers as part of the Irish three-strikes program.

Although little is known about the accuracy of DtecNet’s tracking software, TorrentFreak has previously pointed out that the company knows very little about how BitTorrent works. A whitepaper published by DtecNet claimed that BitTorrent traffic had plummeted and was littered with painful errors and false assumptions. The report in question has since been retracted (copy here), indicating that in hindsight DtecNet wasn’t very happy with it either.

DtecNet’s parent company MarkMonitor also made the headlines with a report that branded the file-hosting site RapidShare as the leading digital piracy site. RapidShare, a company that has gone to extreme lengths both in and outside of court to emphasize its legitimacy, was outraged and threatened to sue MarkMonitor for defamation. MarkMonitor at the time told TorrentFreak that their research was completely independent, but with revenues coming from both the RIAA and MPAA their objectivity has to be in doubt.

So now we know that DtecNet will likely be the monitoring company used for the copyright alerts program, one of our questions has been answered. However, we still don’t know what will happen to the information DtecNet collects and where this will be stored. For the sake of transparency, we hope that the Center for Copyright Information will be more open about this in the future.

In a final attempt to get DtecNet’s appointment officially confirmed TorrentFreak contacted Te Smith, Vice President of Communications at MarkMonitor, who would not confirm or deny our findings.

“As a company, our policy is never to comment on whether someone (or some company, organization or group) is or isn’t a client,” Te informed us.

But with two sources pointing at DtecNet we are confident that they will be tracking U.S. file-sharers under the copyright alert program. Nevertheless, this secrecy does raise new questions that are perhaps just as interesting as the others we’ve asked previously.

Why would DtecNet’s involvement be kept a secret from the public? Why isn’t there more openness about how the personal information of millions of alleged file-sharers is to be handled? What do the groups behind these copyright alerts have to hide?

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