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Rightscorp Sets its Sights on the Pay-Up or Else Program for UK Pirates
May 7, 2014
Amanda Marie
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We’ve written several stories about this notorious firm, Rightscorp, Inc., that keeps adding more and more copyrights to protect all the time. Now it seems that their business model is working so well for them in the United States, they have set their sights on expanding their copyright protection methods to Canada, and also in the UK, which was recently reported by TechWeekEurope.

The company, which works to protect the interests of many different rightsholders, monitors file sharing and torrent sites and tries to identify the IP addresses of alleged pirates. Once identified, the company notifies the ISP of the infringement and forces the ISP to send letters to the infringers. The letters are sent making a demand for $20 (£12) for each of the individual infringements, and the infringers are threatened with legal action if they don’t pay. It's the famous "pay up or else" scheme.

Rightscorp co-founder and CEO Robert Steele recently told TechWeekEurope, "We are expanding in Canada first, but we are investigating a launch in Europe. I can’t give any specific dates, but we are getting a great reception from everyone we have spoken to [in the UK]."

"We have sent FedEx packages to nearly every ISP in the United States with the login credentials for their RightsCorp dashboard, we send them weekly emails with the list of all their subscribers suspected of infringement," Steele told TWE. “We are compelling them with the evidence that they have to do something to maintain their ‘shield’, or our clients can sue them."

Unfortunately, we’re all too familiar with the "speculative invoicing" pay up or else scheme, which was previously used in the UK by firms such as ACS:Law, Davenport Lyons and Golden Eye International, all of which used scare tactics on victims in the UK. The firms use outside sources to track IP addresses back to the ISPs, and then they submit a Norwich Pharmacal Order (NPO) that forces the ISP to release the subscriber’s details.

We have an entire section of our Slyck forums that is dedicated to discussion by the hundreds of people who have been affected by these "speculative invoicing" schemes. In many of the cases through reading and discussion, the victims have rallied together to fight against the scare tactics. And now here comes Rightscorp, attempting to follow that same path of "pay up or else" in the UK, just as they have done in the US.

We’ve seen evidence that many of these firms in the UK have faced heavy criticism and in some cases, even disciplinary action from the courts themselves or the Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA). US law firm Prenda Law was sanctioned by the court for bullying its victims to get them to pay. Both in the US and the UK, the courts are becoming more reluctant to accept an IP address as solid evidence of infringement for various different reasons which we have written about several times here on Slyck. Networks are shared, subscribers use public Wi-fi, etc., and there is strong evidence suggesting that an IP address does not always prove who the guilty party really is. At the end of March, a judge in a case filed by Malibu Media which is an adult entertainment company, and is also known for being a “porn copyright troll”, ruled against Malibu Media, saying no, an IP address is not a person.

As a result of the constant addition of new copyrights to protect, Rightscorp continues to show a substantial increase in revenues. The company just posted their first 2014 quarterly report for the period ending March 31, 2014. The company stated that revenue for the first quarter of 2014 grew 256% to $188,215 from $52,835 in the first quarter of 2013. The company lost money for the year 2013 but attributed that to the rapid growth and the overhead costs associated with that growth.

Based on the hundreds of posts from scare tactic victims on our forums, we’d like to suggest that anyone receiving a copyright infringement letter in an attempt to scare them into paying up, remain calm, and don’t just settle to pay up for fear of embarrassment or otherwise. There is plenty of reading material available on our Slyck forum which offers insight and camaraderie as well.

We’ve yet to see evidence that Rightscorp is making a profit from their rapid growth, but the company is definitely on the move to expand and continue to demand.

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