Working for prominent clients such as Warner Bros. and BMG, Rightscorp began sending DMCA subpoenas to dozens of smaller local ISPs in the United States this year.
Unlike regular subpoenas these are not reviewed by a judge and only require a signature from the court clerk. This practice raises questions because federal courts have long decided that DMCA subpoenas are not applicable to file-sharing cases.
Perhaps unaware of the legal precedent most ISPs have complied with the requests, but the tide is slowly changing. Earlier this year Texas provider Grande Communications protested a broad subpoena and now Atlanta-based ISP CBeyond has followed that lead.
CBeyond, owned by Birch Communication, is refusing to hand over its customer data. The ISP has filed a motion to quash the subpoena at a federal court in Georgia arguing that Rightscorp is on a piracy fishing expedition.
“Rightscorp served an invasive and overly broad Subpoena on CBeyond seeking personal identifying information of more than a thousand of CBeyond’s subscribers,” CBeyond writes.
“This Court should not allow Rightscorp to use the federal court system as a vehicle to embark on a fishing expedition, and instead should quash Rightscorp’s Subpoena,” the company adds.
Among other things the ISP points out that Rightscorp ignores federal precedent which states that DMCA-subpoenas are not applicable to P2P-filesharing cases, as the Internet provider itself doesn’t store any content.
This matter was previously decided in a case between Verizon and the RIAA more than a decade ago, and has been upheld in subsequent cases. The fact that Rightscorp ignores these cases warrants sanctions, according to CBeyond.
The Atlanta ISP further accuses Rightscorp of trying to exploit the lack of knowledge of smaller ISPs, pointing out that they have already obtained the personal details of many U.S. subscribers through these “fishing expeditions.”
“This year alone, Rightscorp has filed approximately 100 miscellaneous actions like this one, trying to force regional ISPs to disclose personal identifying information from their subscribers,” CBeyond writes.
“Rightscorp’s strategy is to gamble on regional ISPs being unaware that Section 512(h) does not support these subpoenas on a pass-through ISP, and to hope that regional ISPs will avoid involving counsel and incurring legal expenses to fight Rightscorp’s subpoenas,” they add.
The motion to quash from CBeyond is similar to that of Grande Communications earlier this year. However, where Rightscorp was quick to pull their subpoena in the Texas case, the anti-piracy company now intends to file a reply.
Rightscorp CEO Christopher Sabec previously told TF that the court made the wrong decision in the RIAA case and that they were willing to fight this in court.
“The issue has actually not been addressed by the vast majority of Circuit Courts. We believe that the decision you cite will be overturned when the issue reaches the Supreme Court,” Sabec told us.
Whether that’s the case has yet to be seen…