You probably remember the attempts of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) last decade when they tried to stop file sharing of music by randomly suing those who shared music files on line. They would go after college students and others and sue them for $750 to $12,000 per song shared and made the cases public to scare other people from sharing music. They stopped this practice in 2008 and instead went after ISPS, asking them to deny service to people who violated their copyrights more than three times.
But now the issue is back in play and ISPs are going to find themselves routinely asked to chase file sharers. Some of the music industry has made a deal with a new company called Rightscorp which is now chasing file sharers instead of the RIAA. Rightscorp asks file sharers to settle for $20 per song violation instead of being sued, and any collected proceeds are shared 50/50 with the recording labels like BMG and Warner Brothers.
The company started in 2012. In 2013 they collected around $750,000 in settlements, but they have a technology that could let them pursue these violations by the millions. And that is where the new hassle for ISPs will come in.
Rightscorp monitors file uploads and downloads at file sharing sites like BitTorrent. They are capturing the IP address of people sharing songs illegally. While they don’t know the identity of the violator they know the ISP involved, and they are asking ISPs to forward their demands for settlements on to violators.
Rightscorp is relying on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) which they believe requires ISPs to forward on their notices. They claim to be working now with 70 ISPs, but there are many ISPs who either do not think they are required to pass on settlement offers, or who pass on only an abbreviated version of the Rightscorp demand for payment. But one would expect with the technology they are using that they are going to be asking every ISP to help them.
There are existing alternatives to what Rightscorp is doing. There is already a process under development among ISPs that is creating a ‘six strike’ system that will deny Internet access to people who violate copy rights multiple times. But Rightscorp and others believe that this system will not have teeth since the ISPS are not heavily invested in kicking out paying customers.
Rightscorp has developed a technology that lets them track file sharing across multiple IP addresses. This is needed since ISPs issue a new IP address to a user any time they initiate a new connection to their server. Rightcorp believes that their audit trail showing multiple violations gives them the leverage to get ISPs to help them. Certainly that is the kind of evidence that could be used in court against an ISP who refuses to help them. They have not sued an ISP yet, but the threat is there. And obviously some ISPs are helping them since they have collected so far from over 70,000 violators.
As an ISP you need to decide what to do when you get one of these demands from Rightscorp. Do you do nothing, do you pass on the full demand to your customers or do you somehow edit the demand before forwarding it? Do you share your customer’s identity with Rightscorp? These are not easy questions to answer. But one thing is for sure and this is just one more of the little hassles that keep getting loaded onto being an ISP today.