Copyright holders have been sending DMCA takedown notices to ISPs for over a decade, but in recent years these warnings turned into revenue opportunities.
Companies such as Rightscorp ask U.S. ISPs to forward DMCA notices to subscribers,with a settlement offer tagged on to the end. On behalf of Warner Bros, BMG and others Rightscorp asks subscribers to pay $20 per pirated file or risk a potential $150,000 in court.
In recent months there have been various complaints from people who were aggressively approached by Rightscorp, which has now resulted in a class-action complaint against the piracy monetization firm.
The lawsuit was filed at a California federal court on behalf of Karen Reif, Isaac Nesmith and others who were approached by Rightscorp. In the complaint, Rightscorp is accused of violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, violations of debt Collection laws and Abuse of Process.
One of the allegations describes the repeated use of robo-calls to alleged infringers. A summary of what happened to Karen Reif shows that once Rightscorp knows who you are, they don’t give up easily.
“By late September of 2014, Ms. Reif was receiving on average about one robo-call per day, and sometimes one robo-call and one live call in the same day.These calls came in from a variety of different numbers, from different area codes all over the country,” the complaint alleges.
This bombardment of harassing robo-calls is a violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, the lawyers argue.
The class-action further includes a long list of violations regarding Rightscorp’s debt collection practices, violating both the FDCPA and the Rosenthal Act.
“Among other wrongful conduct: Rightscorp has engaged in telephone harassment and abuse; made various false and misleading representations; engaged in unfair collections practices; failed to provide validation and required notices relating to the debts..,” the complaint reads.
In addition to the above Rightscorp allegedly made false representations that ISPs were participating in the debt collection. For example, the warning letter stated that ISPs would disconnect repeat infringers, something that rarely happened.
Finally, the complaint raises the issue of Rightscorp’s controversial DMCA subpoenas which demand that smaller ISPs should hand over personal details of their subscribers. Thus far most ISPs have complied, but according to the complaint these requests are a “sham and abuse” of the legal process.
“To identify potential consumers to target, Rightscorp has willfully misused this Court’s subpoena power by issuing at least 142 special DMCA subpoenas, per [the DMCA], to various Internet Service Providers.”
“These subpoenas, which were issued on this Court’s authority, but procured outside of an adversarial proceeding and without any judicial review, are so clearly legally invalid as to be a sham and abuse of the legal process,” the complaint reads.
The above is just a summary of the long list of complaints being brought against Rightscorp. With these settlement practices becoming more common, the case will definitely be one to watch.
Attorney Morgan Pietz is confident that they have a strong case and told FCT that other Rightscorp victims are invited to get in touch.
“We would still be very interested to talking to anyone who was being contacted by Rightscorp or who paid settlements, particularly anyone who was getting the pre-recorded robo-calls,” Pietz said.
For Rightscorp the lawsuit is yet another setback. Earlier this month the piracy monetization firm reported that it continues to turn a loss, which may eventually drive the company towards bankruptcy.