California-based anti-piracy outfit Rightscorp is known for its pursuit of Internet pirates in the United States.
The company tracks infringements on BitTorrent networks and sends DMCA-style notices to ISPs in the hope they forward them to their customers. These notices have a sting in the tail in the form of a settlement demand, currently set at $30.
This year Rightscorp also began getting involved in litigation, with clients using the company’s monitoring and data gathering capabilities as the basis for John Doe lawsuits. In turn, these will almost certainly result in yet more (but substantially larger) cash settlements.
Rightscorp claims to have a sophisticated system which allows the anti-piracy outfit to profile Internet users and log them as repeat infringers. In fact, Rightscorp has even gone as far as patenting its system (1,2,3) in the United States.
It now transpires that the company has recently obtained a new patent (2012236069) from the Australian Patent Office, again titled ‘System to Identify Multiple Copyright Infringements’.
In a statement referencing comments by Attorney-General George Brandis that Australia is the “worst nation for piracy on the planet”, Rightscorp confirmed that the patent is the first registered to the company in Australia.
“There is a tremendous need in Australia for content protection. Our proven technology is effective, making it an ideal solution for artists and copyright holders in every region,” said CEO Christopher Sabec.
“Australia has been plagued by infringement over the years and is now taking key initiatives to curb piracy. We believe our technology will be an invaluable asset to the Australian entertainment industry.”
While Rightscorp has thus far refrained from announcing a full-on expansion into territories other than the U.S., the company did make a brief Canadian debut in January. That foray was marked by erroneous claims from the company that Canadians could be “liable for up to $150,000 per infringement in civil penalties.”
The claim immediately attracted the negative attention of the Canadian government with a statement that Rightscorp notices were “misleading” and couldn’t be used to demand money from Canadians. Surprisingly, Rightscorp appear to have made a similar faux pas in Australia.
The company’s press release announcing the Australian patent loosely advises statutory penalties “up to $150,000 per infringement”. While this position correctly reflects the U.S. market it has the potential to cause confusion locally since Australia uses a different dollar and statutory damages for infringement do not exist.
Rightscorp clearly views its “repeat infringer” patents as valuable assets for the future but in the short term the system has the company entangled in a costly legal battle between music industry client BMG Rights Management and U.S. ISP Cox Communications.
Filed in 2014, the lawsuit centers around the claim that despite Rightscorp advising Cox that the ISP has hundreds of repeat infringers as customers, the ISP failed to disconnect them from the Internet. The battle continues and it’s starting to get ugly.
Overall, Rightscorp sees disconnection of repeat infringers as the ultimate threat and one that can boost rates of settlement on its $30 ‘fine’ system. The big question now is when or if the system will arrive on Aussie shores.