The way it works is relatively simple. Rightscorp monitors BitTorrent networks, captures the IP addresses of alleged infringers, and sends DMCA notices to their ISPs. Rightscorp expects ISPs to forward these to their customers along with an attached cash settlement demand.
These demands are usually for small amounts ($20 or $30) but most of the larger ISPs don’t forward them to their customers. This deprives Rightscorp (and clients such as BMG) of the opportunity to generate revenue, a situation that the anti-piracy outfit is desperate to remedy.
One of the problems is that when people who receive Rightscorp ‘fines’ refuse to pay them, the company does nothing, leading to a lack of respect for the company. With this in mind, Rightscorp has been trying to get ISPs involved in forcing people to pay up.
In 2014, Rightscorp said that its goal was to have ISPs place a redirect page in front of ‘pirate’ subscribers until they pay a cash fine.
“[What] we really want to do is move away from termination and move to what’s called a hard redirect, like, when you go into a hotel and you have to put your room number in order to get past the browser and get on to browsing the web,” the company said.
In the three years since that statement, the company has raised the issue again but nothing concrete has come to fruition. However, there are now signs of fresh movement which could be significant, if Rightscorp is to be believed.
“An ISP Good Corporate Citizenship Program is what we feel will drive revenue associated with our primary revenue model. This program is an attempt to garner the attention and ultimately inspire a behavior shift in any ISP that elects to embrace our suggestions to be DMCA-compliant,” the company told shareholders yesterday.
“In this program, we ask for the ISPs to forward our notices referencing the infringement and the settlement offer. We ask that ISPs take action against repeat infringers through suspensions or a redirect screen. A redirect screen will guide the infringer to our payment screen while limiting all but essential internet access.”
At first view, this sounds like a straightforward replay of Rightscorp’s wishlist of three years ago, but it’s worth noting that the legal landscape has shifted fairly significantly since then.
Perhaps the most important development is the BMG v Cox Communications case, in which the ISP was sued for not doing enough to tackle repeat infringers. In that case (for which Rightscorp provided the evidence), Cox was held liable for third-party infringement and ordered to pay damages of $25 million alongside $8 million in legal fees.
All along, the suggestion has been that if Cox had taken action against infringing subscribers (primarily by passing on Rightscorp ‘fines’ and/or disconnecting repeat infringers) the ISP wouldn’t have ended up in court. Instead, it chose to sweat it out to a highly unfavorable decision.
The BMG decision is a potentially powerful ruling for Rightscorp, particularly when it comes to seeking ‘cooperation’ from other ISPs who might not want a similar legal battle on their hands. But are other ISPs interested in getting involved?
According to the Rightscorp, preliminary negotiations are already underway with some big players.
“We are now beginning to have some initial and very thorough discussions with a handful of the top ISPs to create and implement such a program that others can follow. We have every reason to believe that the litigations referred to above are directly responsible for the beginning of a change in thinking of ISPs,” the company says.
Rightscorp didn’t identify these “top ISPs” but by implication, these could include companies such as Comcast, AT&T, Time Warner Cable, CenturyLink, Charter, Verizon, and/or even Cox Communications.
With cooperation from these companies, Rightscorp predicts that a “cultural shift” could be brought about which would significantly increase the numbers of subscribers paying cash demands. It’s also clear that while it may be seeking cooperation from ISPs, a gun is being held under the table too, in case any feel hesitant about putting up a redirect screen.
“This is the preferred approach that we advocate for any willing ISP as an alternative to becoming a defendant in a litigation and facing potential liability and significantly larger statutory damages,” Rightscorp says.
A recent development suggests the company may not be bluffing. Back in April the RIAA sued ISP Grande Communcations for failing to disconnect persistent pirates. Yet again, Rightscorp is deeply involved in the case, having provided the infringement data to the labels for a considerable sum.
Whether the “top ISPs” in the United States will cave into the pressure and implied threats remains to be seen but there’s no doubting the rising confidence at Rightscorp.
“We have demonstrated the tenacity to support two major litigation efforts initiated by two of our clients, which we feel will set a precedent for the entire anti-piracy industry led by Rightscorp. If you can predict the law, you can set the competition,” the company concludes.
Meanwhile, Rightscorp appears to continue its use of disingenuous tactics to extract money from alleged file-sharers.
In the wake of several similar reports, this week a Reddit user reported that Rightscorp asked him to pay a single $20 fine for pirating a song. After paying up, the next day the company allegedly called the user back and demanded payment for a further 200 notices.