When the anti-piracy activities of Rightscorp became a topic for public discussion around four years ago (under the name Digital Rights Corp), the company was taking a fresh look at solving the piracy problem.
Rather than going down the RIAA route of aggressive and ruinous litigation, the company began asking for $10 from Internet users found to be downloading and sharing their clients’ content.
Ten bucks was hardly a big deal but it took just 12 months for the fees to be increased to $20 when the company felt account holders could be squeezed for a bit more cash.
The company is currently going through a financial crisis and as a result wants $30 for each alleged offense. The escalation is an indication of a business under pressure and a fresh announcement from Rightscorp suggests that it’s about to get even more aggressive in order to force settlement.
Yesterday the company revealed it has signed an agreement with lawyer Carl D. Crowell of Crowell Law in Salem, Oregon. While he works with other companies too, Crowell is perhaps best known for his work with notorious copyright troll Dallas Buyers Club.
According to Rightscorp, Crowell will be working with the anti-piracy firm’s clients to raise awareness and “educate people” about the effects of piracy. He will also be sending notices to infringers while pursuing litigation against “persistent and egregious infringers.”
Retaining Crowell might be the clearest sign yet that Rightscorp understands the current limitations of its “pay $30” business model. Rightscorp sends its notices via ISPs and has no idea of the true identity of the people they’re trying to force a payment from. As a result and without a credible threat of litigation, Rightscorp’s targets are simply free to ignore the company’s emailed threats.
Should they subsequently receive correspondence from Mr Crowell, however, who has a track record with companies like Dallas Buyers Club, then the situation could very well take on a more urgent tone, forcing a payment and keeping Rightscorp and its clients happy.
“Crowell has been recognized by the courts for his successful targeting of the worst offenders that illegally download films and TV shows to make sure they are held accountable for their actions with dozens of judgments and injunctions against infringers,” says Rightscorp CEO Christopher Sabec.
“This agreement will be beneficial to both parties and our clients and we hope with our continued efforts to see an increase in public awareness and recognition of the problems with online piracy and greater respect and appreciation for the value and work of the artists we represent.”
The team up with Crowell, who last month claimed it was impossible for BitTorrent users to remain anonymous online, is the second legal partnership publicly announced by Rightscorp.
In August the company said it had signed an agreement with lawfirm Flynn Wirkus Young to target users who ignore DMCA notices and settlement offers sent by copyright holders. Cases filed earlier in the year on behalf of Rotten Records targeted Comcast users, among others.
While Rightscorp appeared to start out with fresh ideas, it appears that the company is now well and truly on the path to becoming yet another aggressive copyright troll outfit. The big question now is how this new approach will sit with ISPs in the United States, many of whom willingly forward Rightscorp
DMCA notices settlement threats to their customers.