Tag Archives: Rightscorp

Internet Users Warned Over Fake 20th Century Fox Piracy ‘Fines’

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/internet-users-warned-over-fake-20th-century-fox-piracy-fines-171220/

Most people who obtain and share large quantities of material online understand that comes with risk, possibly in the form of an ISP-forwarded warning, a letter demanding cash, or even a visit from the police.

While the latter only happens in the rarest of circumstances, warnings are relatively commonplace, especially in the United States where companies like Rightscorp pump them out in their thousands. Letters demanding cash payment, sent by so-called copyright trolls, are less prevalent but these days most people understand the concept of a piracy ‘fine’.

With this level of understanding in the mainstream there are opportunities for scammers, who have periodically tried to extract payments from Internet users who have done nothing wrong. This is currently the case in Germany, where a consumer group is warning of a wave of piracy ‘fines’ being sent out to completely innocent victims.

The emails, which claim to be sent on behalf of 20th Century Fox, allege the recipient has infringed copyright on streaming portal Kinox.to. For this apparent transgression, they demand a payment of more than 375 euros but the whole thing is an elaborate scam.

The 20th Century Fox ‘piracy’ scam

Unlike some fairly primitive previous efforts, however, these emails are actually quite clever.

Citing a genuine ruling from the European Court of Justice which found that streaming content is illegal inside the EU, the cash demand offers up personal information of the user, such as IP addresses, browser, and operating system.

However, instead of obtaining these via an external piracy monitoring system and subsequent court order (as happens with BitTorrent cases), the data is pulled from the user’s machine when a third-party link is clicked.

As highlighted by Tarnkappe, who first noticed the warning, there are other elements to the cash demands that point to an elaborate scam.

Perhaps the biggest tell of all is the complete absence of precise details of the alleged infringement, such as the title of the content supposedly obtained along with a time and date. These are common features of all genuine settlement demands so any that fail to mention content should be treated with caution.

“Do not pay. It is rip off. Report to the police,” the local consumer group warns.

Interestingly, warning recipients are advised by the scammers to pay their ‘fine’ directly to a bank account in the United Kingdom. Hopefully it will have been shut down by now but it’s worth mentioning that people should avoid direct bank transfers with anyone they don’t trust.

If any payment must be made, credit cards are a much safer option but in the case of wannabe trolls, they’re best ignored until they appear with proper proof backed up by credible legal documentation. Even then, people should consider putting up a fight, if they’re being unfairly treated.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN discounts, offers and coupons

Rightscorp: Revenue From Piracy Settlements Down 48% in 2017

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/rightscorp-revenue-from-piracy-settlements-down-48-in-2017-171125/

For the past several years, anti-piracy outfit Rightscorp has been trying to turn piracy into profit. The company monitors BitTorrent networks, captures IP addresses, then attempts to force ISPs to forward cash settlement demands to its subscribers.

Unlike other companies operating in the same area, Rightscorp has adopted a “speeding fine” type model, where it asks for $20 to $30 to make a supposed lawsuit go away, instead of the many hundreds demanded by its rivals. To date, this has resulted in the company closing more than 230,000 cases of infringement.

But despite the high numbers, the company doesn’t seem to be able to make it pay. Rightscorp’s latest set of financial results covering the three months ended September 30, 2017, show how bad things have got on the settlement front.

During the period in question, Rightscorp generated copyright settlement revenues of $45,848, an average of just $15,282 per month. That represents a decrease of 67% when compared to the $139,834 generated during the same period in 2016.

When looking at settlement revenues year to date, Rightscorp generated $184,362 in 2017, a decrease of 48% when compared to $354,160 generated during the same nine-month period in 2016.

But as bleak as these figures are, things get much worse. Out of these top-line revenues, Rightscorp has to deal with a whole bunch of costs before it can put anything into its own pockets. For example, in exchange for the right to pursue pirates, Rightscorp agrees to pay around 50% of everything it generates from settlements back to copyright holders.

So, for the past three months when it collected $45,848 from BitTorrent users, it must pay out $22,924 to copyright holders. Last year, in the same period, it paid them $69,143. For the year to date (nine months ended September 30, 2017), the company paid $92,181 to copyright holders, that’s versus $174,878 for the same period last year.

Whichever way you slice it, Rightscorp settlement model appears to be failing. With revenues from settlements down by almost half thus far this year, one has to question where this is all going, especially with BitTorrent piracy volumes continuing to fall in favor of other less traceable methods such as streaming.

However, Rightscorp does have a trick up its sleeve that is helping to keep the company afloat. As previously reported, the company has amassed a lot of intelligence on pirate activity which clearly has some value to copyright holders.

That data is currently being utilized by both BMG and the RIAA, who are using it as evidence in copyright liability lawsuits filed against ISPs Cox and Grande Communications, where each stand accused of failing to disconnect repeat infringers.

This selling of ‘pirate’ data is listed by Rightscorp in its financial reports as “consulting services” and thus far at least, it’s proving to be a crucial source of income.

“During the three months ended September 30, 2017, we generated revenues of $76,666 from consulting services rendered under service arrangements with prominent trade organizations,” Rightscorp reports.

“Under the agreements, the Company is providing certain data and consultation regarding copyright infringements on such organizations’ respective properties. During the three months ended September 30, 2016, we had no consulting services revenue.”

Year to date, the numbers begin to add up. In the nine months ended September 30, 2017, Rightscorp generated revenues of $224,998 from this facet of their business, that’s versus zero revenue in 2016.

It’s clear that without this “consulting” revenue, Rightscorp would be in an even worse situation than it is today. In fact, it appears that these services, provided to the likes of the RIAA, are now preventing the company from falling into the abyss. All that being said, there’s no guarantee that won’t happen anyway.

To the nine months ended September 30, 2017, Rightscorp recorded a net loss of $1,448,899, which is even more than the $1,380,698 it lost during the same period last year. As a result, the company had just $3,147 left in cash at the end of September. That crisis was eased by issuing 2.5 million shares to an investor for a purchase price just $50,000. But to keep going, Rightscorp will need more money – much more.

“Management believes that the Company will need an additional $250,000 to $500,000 in 2017 to fund operations based on our current operating plans,” it reports, noting that there is “substantial doubt” whether Rightscorp can continue as a going concern.

But despite all the bad news, Rightscorp manages to survive and at least in the short-term, the piracy data it has amassed holds value, beyond basic cash settlement letters. The question is, for how long?

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN discounts, offers and coupons

Porn Copyright Trolls Terrify 60-Year-Old But Age Shouldn’t Matter

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/porn-copyright-trolls-terrify-60-year-old-but-age-shouldnt-matter-171002/

Of all the anti-piracy tactics deployed over the years, the one that has proven most controversial is so-called copyright-trolling.

The idea is that rather than take content down, copyright holders make use of its online availability to watch people who are sharing that material while gathering their IP addresses.

From there it’s possible to file a lawsuit to obtain that person’s identity but these days they’re more likely to short-cut the system, by asking ISPs to forward notices with cash settlement demands attached.

When subscribers receive these demands, many feel compelled to pay. However, copyright trolls are cunning beasts, and while they initially ask for payment for a single download, they very often have several other claims up their sleeves. Once people have paid one, others come out of the woodwork.

That’s what appears to have happened to a 60-year-old Canadian woman called ‘Debra’. In an email sent via her ISP, she was contacted by local anti-piracy outfit Canipre, who accused her of downloading and sharing porn. With threats that she could be ‘fined’ up to CAD$20,000 for her alleged actions, she paid the company $257.40, despite claiming her innocence.

Of course, at this point the company knew her name and address and this week the company contacted her again, accusing her of another five illegal porn downloads alongside demands for more cash.

“I’m not sleeping,” Debra told CBC. “I have depression already and this is sending me over the edge.”

If the public weren’t so fatigued by this kind of story, people in Debra’s position might get more attention and more help, but they don’t. To be absolutely brutal, the only reason why this story is getting press is due to a few factors.

Firstly, we’re talking here about a woman accused of downloading porn. While far from impossible, it’s at least statistically less likely than if it was a man. Two, Debra is 60-years-old. That doesn’t preclude her from being Internet savvy but it does tip the odds in her favor somewhat. Thirdly, Debra suffers from depression and claims she didn’t carry out those downloads.

On the balance of probabilities, on which these cases live or die, she sounds believable. Had she been a 20-year-old man, however, few people would believe ‘him’ and this is exactly the environment companies like Canipre, Rightscorp, and similar companies bank on.

Debra says she won’t pay the additional fines but Canipre is adamant that someone in her house pirated the porn, despite her husband not being savvy enough to download. The important part here is that Debra says she did not commit an offense and with all the technology in the world, Canpire cannot prove that she did.

“How long is this going to terrorize me?” Debra says. “I’m a good Canadian citizen.”

But Debra isn’t on her own and she’s positively spritely compared to Christine McMillan, who last year at the age of 86-years-old was accused of illegally downloading zombie game Metro 2033. Again, those accusations came from Canipre and while the case eventually went quiet, you can safely bet the company backed off.

So who is to blame for situations like Debra’s and Christine’s? It’s a difficult question.

Clearly, copyright holders feel they’re within their rights to try and claw back compensation for their perceived losses but they already have a legal system available to them, if they want to use it. Instead, however, in Canada they’re abusing the so-called notice-and-notice system, which requires ISPs to forward infringement notices from copyright holders to subscribers.

The government knows there is a problem. Law professor Michael Geist previously obtained a government report, which expresses concern over the practice. Its summary is shown below.

Advice summary

While the notice-and-notice regime requires ISPs to forward educational copyright infringement notices, most ISPs complain that companies like Canipre add on cash settlement demands.

“Internet intermediaries complain…that the current legislative framework does not expressly prohibit this practice and that they feel compelled to forward on such notices to their subscribers when they receive them from copyright holders,” recent advice to the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development reads.

That being said, there’s nothing stopping ISPs from passing on the educational notices as required by law but insisting that all demands for cash payments are removed. It’s a position that could even get support from the government, if enough pressure was applied.

“The sending of such notices could lead to abuses, given that consumers may be pressured into making payments even in situations where they have not engaged in any acts that violate copyright laws,” government advice notes.

Given the growing problem, it appears that ISPs have the power here so maybe it’s time they protected their customers. In the meantime, consumers have responsibilities too, not only by refraining from infringing copyright, but by becoming informed of their rights.

“[T]here is no legal obligation to pay any settlement offered by a copyright owner, and the regime does not impose any obligations on a subscriber who receives a notice, including no obligation to contact the copyright owner or the Internet intermediary,” government advice notes.

Hopefully, in future, people won’t have to be old or ill to receive sympathy for being wrongly accused and threatened in their own homes. But until then, people should pressure their ISPs to do more while staying informed.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Six Strikes Piracy Scheme May Be Dead But Those Warnings Keep on Coming

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/six-strikes-piracy-scheme-may-be-dead-but-those-warnings-keep-on-coming-171001/

After at least 15 years of Internet pirates being monitored by copyright holders, one might think that the message would’ve sunk in by now. For many, it definitely hasn’t.

Bottom line: when people use P2P networks and protocols (such as BitTorrent) to share files including movies and music, copyright holders are often right there, taking notes about what is going on, perhaps in preparation for further action.

That can take a couple of forms, including suing users or, more probably, firing off a warning notice to their Internet service providers. Those notices are a little like a speeding ticket, telling the subscriber off for sharing copyrighted material but letting them off the hook if they promise to be good in future.

In 2013, the warning notice process in the US was formalized into what was known as the Copyright Alert System, a program through which most Internet users could receive at least six piracy warning notices without having any serious action taken against them. In January 2017, without having made much visible progress, it was shut down.

In some corners of the web there are still users under the impression that since the “six strikes” scheme has been shut down, all of a sudden US Internet users can forget about receiving a warning notice. In reality, the complete opposite is true.

While it’s impossible to put figures on how many notices get sent out (ISPs are reluctant to share the data), monitoring of various piracy-focused sites and forums indicates that plenty of notices are still being sent to ISPs, who are cheerfully sending them on to subscribers.

Also, over the past couple of months, there appears to have been an uptick in subscribers seeking advice after receiving warnings. Many report basic notices but there seems to be a bit of a trend of Internet connections being suspended or otherwise interrupted, apparently as a result of an infringement notice being received.

“So, over the weekend my internet got interrupted by my ISP (internet service provider) stating that someone on my network has violated some copyright laws. I had to complete a survey and they brought back the internet to me,” one subscriber wrote a few weeks ago. He added that his (unnamed) ISP advised him that seven warnings would get his account disconnected.

Another user, who named his ISP as Comcast, reported receiving a notice after downloading a game using BitTorrent. He was warned that the alleged infringement “may result in the suspension or termination of your Service account” but what remains unclear is how many warnings people can receive before this happens.

For example, a separate report from another Comcast user stated that one night of careless torrenting led to his mother receiving 40 copyright infringement notices the next day. He didn’t state which company the notices came from but 40 is clearly a lot in such a short space of time. That being said and as far as the report went, it didn’t lead to a suspension.

Of course, it’s possible that Comcast doesn’t take action if a single company sends many notices relating to the same content in a small time frame (Rightscorp is known to do this) but the risk is still there. Verizon, it seems, can suspend accounts quite easily.

“So lately I’ve been getting more and more annoyed with pirating because I get blasted with a webpage telling me my internet is disconnected and that I need to delete the file to reconnect, with the latest one having me actually call Verizon to reconnect,” a subscriber to the service reported earlier this month.

A few days ago, a Time Warner Cable customer reported having to take action after receiving his third warning notice from the ISP.

“So I’ve gotten three notices and after the third one I just went online to my computer and TWC had this page up that told me to stop downloading illegally and I had to click an ‘acknowledge’ button at the bottom of the page to be able to continue to use my internet,” he said.

Also posting this week, another subscriber of an unnamed ISP revealed he’d been disconnected twice in the past year. His comments raise a few questions that keep on coming up in these conversations.

“The first time [I was disconnected] was about a year ago and the next was a few weeks ago. When it happened I was downloading some fairly new movies so I was wondering if they monitor these new movie releases since they are more popular. Also are they monitoring what I am doing since I have been caught?” he asked.

While there is plenty of evidence to suggest that old content is also monitored, there’s little doubt that the fresher the content, the more likely it is to be monitored by copyright holders. If people are downloading a brand new movie, they should expect it to be monitored by someone, somewhere.

The second point, about whether risk increases after being caught already, is an interesting one, for a number of reasons.

Following the BMG v Cox Communication case, there is now a big emphasis on ISPs’ responsibility towards dealing with subscribers who are alleged to be repeat infringers. Anti-piracy outfit Rightscorp was deeply involved in that case and the company has a patent for detecting repeat infringers.

It’s becoming clear that the company actively targets such people in order to assist copyright holders (which now includes the RIAA) in strategic litigation against ISPs, such as Grande Communications, who are claimed to be going soft on repeat infringers.

Overall, however, there’s no evidence that “getting caught” once increases the chances of being caught again, but subscribers should be aware that the Cox case changed the position on the ground. If anecdotal evidence is anything to go by, it now seems that ISPs are tightening the leash on suspected pirates and are more likely to suspend or disconnect them in the face of repeated complaints.

The final question asked by the subscriber who was disconnected twice is a common one among people receiving notices.

“What can I do to continue what we all love doing?” he asked.

Time and time again, on sites like Reddit and other platforms attracting sharers, the response is the same.

“Get a paid VPN. I’m amazed you kept torrenting without protection after having your internet shut off, especially when downloading recent movies,” one such response reads.

Nevertheless, this still fails to help some people fully understand the notices they receive, leaving them worried about what might happen after receiving one. However, the answer is nearly always straightforward.

If the notice says “stop sharing content X”, then recipients should do so, period. And, if the notice doesn’t mention specific legal action, then it’s almost certain that no action is underway. They are called warning notices for a reason.

Also, notice recipients should consider the part where their ISP assures them that their details haven’t been shared with third parties. That is the truth and will remain that way unless subscribers keep ignoring notices. Then there’s a slim chance that a rightsholder will step in to make a noise via a lawyer. At that point, people shouldn’t say they haven’t been warned.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Rightscorp Bleeds Another Million, Borrows $200K From Customer BMG

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/rightscorp-bleeds-another-million-borrows-200k-from-customer-bmg-170819/

Anti-piracy outfit Rightscorp is one of the many companies trying to turn Internet piracy into profit. The company has a somewhat novel approach but has difficulty balancing the books.

Essentially, Rightscorp operates like other so-called copyright-trolling operations, in that it monitors alleged offenders on BitTorrent networks, tracks them to their ISPs, then attempts to extract a cash settlement. Rightscorp does this by sending DMCA notices with settlement agreements attached, in the hope that at-this-point-anonymous Internet users break cover in panic. This can lead to a $20 or $30 ‘fine’ or in some cases dozens of multiples of that.

But despite settling hundreds of thousands of these cases, profit has thus far proven elusive, with the company hemorrhaging millions in losses. The company has just filed its results for the first half of 2017 and they contain more bad news.

In the six months ended June 2017, revenues obtained from copyright settlements reached just $138,514, that’s 35% down on the $214,326 generated in the same period last year. However, the company did manage to book $148,332 in “consulting revenue” in the first half of this year, a business area that generated no revenue in 2016.

Overall then, total revenue for the six month period was $286,846 – up from $214,326 last year. While that’s a better picture in its own right, Rightscorp has a lot of costs attached to its business.

After paying out $69,257 to copyright holders and absorbing $1,190,696 in general and administrative costs, among other things, the company’s total operating expenses topped out at $1,296,127 for the first six months of the year.

To make a long story short, the company made a net loss of $1,068,422, which was more than the $995,265 loss it made last year and despite improved revenues. The company ended June with just $1,725 in cash.

“These factors raise substantial doubt about the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern within one year after the date that the financial statements are issued,” the company’s latest statement reads.

This hanging-by-a-thread narrative has followed Rightscorp for the past few years but there’s information in the latest accounts which indicates how bad things were at the start of the year.

In January 2016, Rightscorp and several copyright holders, including Hollywood studio Warner Bros, agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit over intimidating robo-calls that were made to alleged infringers. The defendants agreed to set aside $450,000 to cover the costs, and it appears that Rightscorp was liable for at least $200,000 of that.

Rightscorp hasn’t exactly been flush with cash, so it was interesting to read that its main consumer piracy settlement client, music publisher BMG, actually stepped in to pay off the class-action settlement.

“At December 31, 2016, the Company had accrued $200,000 related to the settlement of a class action complaint. On January 7, 2017, BMG Rights Management (US) LLC (“BMG”) advanced the Company $200,000, which was used to pay off the settlement. The advance from BMG is to be applied to future billings from the Company to BMG for consulting services,” Rightscorp’s filing reads.

With Rightscorp’s future BMG revenue now being gobbled up by what appears to be loan repayments, it becomes difficult to see how the anti-piracy outfit can make enough money to pay off the $200,000 debt. However, its filing notes that on July 21, 2017, the company issued “an aggregate of 10,000,000 shares of common stock to an investor for a purchase price of $200,000.” While that amount matches the BMG debt, the filing doesn’t reveal who the investor is.

The filing also reveals that on July 31, Rightscorp entered into two agreements to provide services “to a holder of multiple copyrights.” The copyright holder isn’t named, but the deal reveals that it’s in Rightscorp’s best interests to get immediate payment from people to whom it sends cash settlement demands.

“[Rightscorp] will receive 50% of all gross proceeds of any settlement revenue received by the Client from pre-lawsuit ‘advisory notices,’ and 37.5% of all gross proceeds received by the Client from ‘final warning’ notices sent immediately prior to a lawsuit,” the filing notes.

Also of interest is that Rightscorp has offered not to work with any of the copyright holders’ direct competitors, providing certain thresholds are met – $10,000 revenue in the first month to $100,000 after 12 months. But there’s more to the deal.

Rightscorp will also provide a number of services to this client including detecting and verifying copyright works on P2P networks, providing information about infringers, plus reporting, litigation support, and copyright protection advisory services.

For this, Rightscorp will earn $10,000 for the first three months, rising to $85,000 per month after 16 months, valuable revenue for a company fighting for its life.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.