Rightscorp’s DMCA Subpoena Effort Crashes and Burns

Rightscorp's efforts to unmask file-sharers using the DMCA has crashed and burned. After a federal judge ruled in favor of ISP Birch Communications and quashed the anti-piracy firm's subpoena, Rightscorp appealed the decision. Now the company has backed down, handing the ISP and privacy a big win.

In an effort to unmask file-sharers’ identities on behalf of clients including Warner Bros. and BMG, last year anti-piracy company Rightscorp began sending DMCA subpoenas to dozens of smaller ISPs in the United States.

The practice proved controversial. Although several ISPs complied with the anti-piracy company’s demands, DMCA subpoenas aren’t considered applicable in file-sharing cases, not least since they can by signed by a court clerk and are not reviewed by a judge.

In 2014, Rightscorp targeted ISP CBeyond with such a subpoena, but parent company Birch Communications refused to compromise the security of its customers. The company filed a motion to quash the subpoena arguing that Rightscorp was on privacy-invading fishing expedition.

In May, Birch Communications celebrated victory.

“CBeyond contends that the section does not apply to service providers that act only as a conduit for data transferred between other parties and that do not store data. The court agrees,” wrote Magistrate Judge Janet King in her ruling.

But for Rightscorp the matter wasn’t over. The company took the case to appeal in the hope of a better result, but that effort has now ended in another defeat for the struggling anti-piracy outfit.

In a statement sent to TorrentFreak, Tim Phelps, Director of Marketing Communications at Birch, reveals what happened.

“The DMCA did not provide any basis to require an Internet Service Provider in Birch’s position to open its files to private litigants,” Phelps explains.

“Rightscorp dropped its appeal of the May 2015 decision and the Court issued an entry of dismissal in the case.”

Christopher Bunce, Birch Senior Vice President and General Counsel, says that the company examines all applications for personal information and deals with them strictly in accordance with the law.

“Birch scrutinizes every demand from both private parties and the government, complying only with properly served subpoenas, warrants and court orders, refusing to comply with demands such as those served by Rightscorp, and always maintaining an eye toward protecting our customers’ interests,” Bunce says.

The tough stance taken by Birch in defense of customer privacy is not only to be commended but should also be noted by other ISPs. The Rightscorp case shows that companies are prepared to seek confidential data by inappropriate means and should be confronted whenever possible.

The outcome of this case represents yet another blow to Rightscorp, who recently revealed they are still hemorrhaging cash following yet another disappointing set of results.

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