Rightscorp Prompted The RIAA to Sue Internet Provider

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With help from the RIAA, several companies are waging a legal battle against Grande Communications, accusing the company of not taking proper action against pirating subscribers. It turns out that this idea didn't originate at the music group. Instead, it was anti-piracy group Rightscorp that prompted the lawsuit.

Two years ago, several major record labels filed a lawsuit against Internet provider Grande Communications.

The labels argued that the ISP’s subscribers engaged in more than a million BitTorrent-based infringements, yet it took “no meaningful action to discourage this continuing theft.”

While the RIAA is not a party to the case, on paper at least, the music group’s lawyers are closely involved in the matter. From the earliest stage, it provided the labels with legal assistance.

That said, filing a lawsuit against the Internet provider was not the RIAA’s idea originally. It was brought to their attention by none other than the piracy-settlement outfit Rightscorp.

In fact, the RIAA wasn’t even aware of any of the copyright infringement allegations before Rightscorp alerted the group.

This was revealed by the RIAA itself in a recent court filing, where the music group objects to handing over information regarding certain communications it had with Rightscorp.

“RIAA first learned of Defendants’ misconduct when Rightscorp approached RIAA in January 2016 regarding potential litigation arising from evidence of copyright infringement by Grande’s subscribers,” the RIAA writes.

“RIAA, on Plaintiffs’ behalf, retained Rightscorp as a litigation consultant with respect to Grande’s subscribers’ online infringement of Plaintiffs’ works, and that engagement resulted in the filing of this lawsuit.”

Rightscorp’s consulting in anticipation of the lawsuit wasn’t cheap. We previously revealed that the RIAA paid over $300,000 to the company in 2016, which represented approximately 44% of its total revenue for that year.

At the time it wasn’t clear what this money was for. However, the RIAA’s new filing shows that Rightcorp helped the music group and its members to carve out their legal strategy.

“RIAA’s considerations that led to the engagement of Rightscorp and the filing of this lawsuit were legal strategy; and RIAA’s communications with Plaintiffs and Rightscorp involved counsel and were for the purpose of rendering legal advice about, and in anticipation of, potential litigation against Defendants.”

These details are made public now because the ISP has also taken an interest in the collaboration. As part of the ongoing discovery process in the case, Grande has requested testimony on the communications between Rightscorp, the RIAA, and the labels.

The RIAA, however, believes that these and other requests go too far.

For one, the music group argues that its communications with Rightscorp are protected under the “common interest privilege,” which can cover communications between parties with a common legal interest.

In addition, it argues that the communications among the RIAA, the labels, and Rightscorp are protected work. This can prohibit the discovery of material prepared, by or for an attorney, in preparation of litigation.

The RIAA also objects to several other testimony requests, including information regarding its business with anti-piracy outfit MarkMonitor, and the technical functionality of Rightscorp’s online infringement detection system.

It’s now up to the court to decide how much information the RIAA must disclose. However, we already know a bit more about how the lawsuit got started, which makes it clear that Rightscorp, which also provides crucial evidence for the lawsuit, was not just a bystander.

A copy of RIAA’s motion for a protective order is available here (pdf).

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