Warner Bros: We’re Fining File-Sharers Who Use Non Six-Strike ISPs

Customers of ISPs not involved in the so-called 'Six Strikes' anti-piracy scheme in the United States might be under the impression that warning notices are something they can avoid. However, TorrentFreak has learned that Warner Bros. are specifically targeting users of non-participating ISPs not only with warnings, but also with fines to settle the alleged copyright infringements.

warnerpirateAfter much preparation the MPAA and RIAA teamed up with U.S. Internet providers this February to launch their so-called “six strikes” anti-piracy notification system.

AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Verizon are all on board but countless other ISPs either weren’t asked to join or decided not to participate in the project.

Needless to say, customers of ISPs such as Charter, CenturyLink and Cox have been comfortable that the entertainment companies won’t be sending warnings to them. Today they will have to think again.

It is not unusual for customers of any ISP to receive copyright infringement notices via email, in fact they are legally obliged to forward them at rightsholders’ request. However, in recent weeks there have been reports of customers of non-participating ISPs receiving DMCA notices with a special twist.

“Your ISP has forwarded you this notice. This is not spam. Your ISP account has been used to download, upload or offer for upload copyrighted content in a manner that infringes on the rights of the copyright owner. Your ISP service could be suspended if this matter is not resolved. You could be liable for up to $150,000 per infringement in civil penalties,” the notices begin.

What follows next is not a “strike”, but an offer of cash settlement to make any nasty legal proceedings go away.

“If you click on the link below and login to the Rightscorp, Inc. automated settlement system, for $20 per infringement, you will receive a legal release from the copyright owner,” the notice adds.

rightscorp2TorrentFreak has reported on Rightscorp’s activities before 1, 2. The company is not operating a scam, even if some people do find their activities unsavory.

However, what really piqued our interest are claims that Warner Bros., a company involved in the six-strikes campaign, are also working with Rightscorp on these cash settlement schemes. So we asked the studio if the reports are true.

“Yes. Warner Bros. is working with Digital Rights Corp on a test ISP/subscriber notification program to many ISPs that are not participating in the Copyright Alert System,” a Warner spokesman told TorrentFreak.

Although not mentioned specifically, the company said that the warnings being sent by Digital Rights Corp are for content that is already available through various authorized channels.

“The notices inform consumers that our content is readily available legitimately through multiple channels, including electronic sell through and video-on-demand services,” Warner add.

“The notices give consumers an opportunity to settle the identified infringement for a very nominal sum of $20 per title infringed–not as a measure of damage, but as a concrete reminder that our content has value and as a discouragement of future unauthorized activity.”

The warnings and demands for settlement are being tagged onto the end of regular DMCA notices and forwarded by ISPs. What this means is that although Warner and Rights Corp are managing to get a message to an account holder, they have absolutely no idea who that alleged infringer is. This means that if the account holder refuses to pay, it’s almost certain that no further action will be taken.

charterSome people, however, do pay. This post on Reddit details a case where an account holder paid Rights Corp $20.00 for an infringement of Warner copyrights but discovered that the matter was far from over.

After the initial payment, Rights Corp matched the notified (and settled) infringement with two others already on file. Since the guy had filled in his phone number, the company then called him up and asked for another $40.00 to clear his file.

TorrentFreak has discovered a few instances of these cash settlement demands, including the one above, which were sent by Charter Communications. It’s worth noting that while Warner stood by their actions and gave a statement, Charter failed to respond to multiple emails requesting comment.

Have you received a Rights Corp notice? If so, please forward them to the usual address in complete confidence.

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