[2017 UPDATE: Carl Crowell has created a new entity called RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT which has reverse-engineered CEG-TEK’s proprietary DMCA copyright infringement notice system. Many of you have visited CEG-TEK links thinking that RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT was CEG-TEK, but really they are an ‘evil twin’ competitor. Since the two entities operate almost the same way, it is good to understand the relationship between a copyright enforcement entity (here, RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT and below, CEG-TEK).]]
Obviously I am not privy to the contracts signed between CEG-TEK and the internet service providers (“ISPs”).
There are three possible relationships between a copyright enforcement company and the ISP through which they send DMCA letters informing subscribers that unless they settle the claims against them for downloads that allegedly occurred, they might be implicated in a copyright infringement lawsuit.
1) A RELATIONSHIP OF FORCE AND THREATS AGAINST THE ISP (where CEG-TEK threatens, and the ISP complies),
2) A RELATIONSHIP OF PROFIT FOR BOTH SIDES (where CEG-TEK pays, and the ISP cooperates), and
3) A RELATIONSHIP OF PURE MOTIVE (both CEG-TEK and the ISP hold hands and cooperate, to “fight piracy”).
SCENARIO 1) “A RELATIONSHIP OF FORCE AND THREATS AGAINST THE ISP” (where CEG-TEK threatens, and the ISP complies)
In the first scenario, a company or set of attorneys representing the copyright holders contacts the ISP and informs them that they might be in violation and subject to various lawsuits, fines, and penalties for not complying with the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”), and other statutes (in Canada, the ISPs are literally required to pass on claims to their customers, and this is referred to as “notice and notice”). If the ISPs do not comply, they could be sued for millions of dollars for encouraging piracy on their networks (I am speaking loosely in the vernacular).
ISPs across the US would be included in this first scenario, which explains how many of the bigger ones such as Comcast [who I understood were originally NOT working with CEG-TEK, because doing so would violate how they are supposed to act by being part of the “Six Strikes” system] started sending out abridged CEG-TEK infringement notices a few months ago, even to first time offenders. Another such example of ISPs who “take steps” to stop infringement is Charter, which has been known to temporarily suspend their users who are accused of copyright infringement, but only with a pop-up notice that they need to click on to acknowledge the claim of copyright infringement against them before their internet service is resumed, unhindered.
NOTE: Comcast also has a strong profit motive as demonstrated in Scenario 2 (below), as does Charter, who has been known to be working with CEG-TEK since the beginning of their operation. We believe the relationship between Charter and CEG-TEK is one of “for mutual profit” (Scenario 2) because CEG-TEK has obtained information about accused downloaders that they could only obtain with the help of the ISP. Also, I understand that over the years, there have been periods of “tension,” (as I called them) where Charter has held back the sending of the CEG-TEK DMCA infringement notices for sometimes weeks at a time, only to send them all at once (my joke at the time was, “I guess they were waiting for their payment.”) All jokes aside, the point here is to note both the Comcast example and the Charter example to show the actions an ISP will take to make it look as if they are “taking steps” to fight piracy.
In each of these scenarios, the ISP does the absolute minimum to comply with the claims against their customers, but what you don’t see is the “wink and a nod” from the ISP that they are likely not going to shut your account down or lose you as a customer over this (in other words, your activity violates the ISP’s terms of service “TOS” or “PUA”, but I have not been hearing of anyone’s account being shut down).
UNRELATED, BUT STILL VERY IMPORTANT: I have even heard that ISP customer service representatives actively tell their subscribers [in ignorance of the law] to just delete the infringing content and to ignore the notices.
FYI, look up “spoliation” of evidence, where the victories of the copyright holders in the US against downloaders happen where the copyright holder can prove that the accused defendant wiped his hard drive or deleted the infringing content after being notified by the copyright holder that there was a claim of copyright infringement against the subscriber. Thus, take what the ISP customer service representative says with a grain of salt because even though they might not care that the download happened on their network, there is still the law and the claims against you, and your ISP’s customer service rep is in no position to be giving you legal advice. Better to deal with or resolve the CEG-TEK claim against you first (if you were going to settle) before wiping the hard drive in fear of having other claims of copyright infringement or lawsuits filed against you (e.g., by other copyright holders such as Malibu Media, LLC, etc.) in the near future.
NOTE: Your relationship with your ISP has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO with your relationship with the copyright holder (or CEG-TEK) or the claims against you, since the copyright holder(s) still have one or more claims of copyright infringement against you.
SCENARIO 2) “A RELATIONSHIP OF PROFIT FOR BOTH SIDES” (where CEG-TEK pays, and the ISP cooperates)
In this scenario, the understanding is that CEG-TEK is actively paying the ISP for providing their DMCA infringement notices to their subscribers. While I did not initially believe this was happening in Canada (although I did have my suspicions), as of this morning, I now believe that Shaw Communications Inc. (a.k.a. Shaw Cablesystems G.P., or “sjrb.ca”) is working with CEG-TEK in a “for profit” relationship. I obviously cannot prove this, but from what I understand is about to happen with their subscribers [who will shortly be receiving multiple letters of infringement sent to them at the same time], this type of “delay, then dump a bunch of infringement claims” experience usually happens in a “for profit” relationship when the ISP is being compensated for the time they spend complying with the copyright infringement requests, and the payment is not immediately made.
Two examples demonstrating the “for profit” motive of various ISPs in the U.S. with facts (in these two cases, the “for profit” motive was forced upon CEG-TEK to their frustration) can be seen in the past behaviors of both Comcast and AT&T. A few years back, to handle the increasing number of subpoena requests (at the time, as a result of John Steele / Prenda Law Inc. lawsuits and the increasing number of bittorrent lawsuits being filed across the U.S.), Comcast opened up a “subpoena compliance” department in Morristown, NJ and staffed [at the time] twelve new hires just to handle the new subpoena demands from the lawsuits. In the lawsuit filings, when the copyright holders and their attorneys learned that Comcast was trying to profit off of the bittorrent lawsuits, they complained to the judges that Comcast was stalling on the subpoenas (Comcast was, at the time, under a duty to comply with the many subpoenas that were being requested of them). It came out that Comcast was asking for something like $25-$50 per IP address lookup, when they were supposed to be complying with the subpoena for free. Comcast prevailed in getting their IP address lookup fees, which I understand they continue to charge, even though other ISPs still do this for free.
Similarly, for those who know anything about Ira Siegel — the name that shows up on the bottom of every single CEG-TEK DMCA notice — there was a point where Ira absolutely refused to work with AT&T because AT&T’s subpoena department would charge $200 per subpoena request or IP address lookup, something at the time I heard that he found infuriating. Thus, you’ll notice that even today, you’ll never find a recipient of a CEG-TEK violation notice being a subscriber to AT&T, but as you can see, there *is* a profit motive of the ISPs to benefit financially from the growing influx of copyright infringement claims against their subscribers.
NOTE: I understand that the relationship between Charter, Centurylink, Suddenlink, Cox, sometimes Comcast, [and now most recently in Canada, Shaw Communications] fall under this scenario. The reason I am of this understanding is because of the advanced information CEG-TEK is able to identify about that subscriber, sometimes including the subscriber’s name (I have my own understanding as to how they get this from the geolocation), the geolocation itself of where the downloads occurred, along with other “past downloads” that allegedly happened weeks or months in the past at that same location, or by that same subscriber (based on a list of old “IP addresses” provided to CEG-TEK so they they can correlate that list against their own bittorrent records).
SCENARIO 3) “A RELATIONSHIP OF PURE MOTIVE” (both CEG-TEK and the ISP hold hands and cooperate, to “fight piracy”)
This is the “kum baya” view of piracy, where CEG-TEK approaches the ISP and tells them that they want to fight piracy. They show statistics of how when other ISPs “joined forces” with them and started sending out the DMCA violation settlement letters, piracy dropped significantly on that ISP’s network.
The ISP then sees this information and also agrees to “sign on” with CEG-TEK to help them forward their settlement demand letters to their subscribers with the hopes of diminishing the amount of “piracy” of copyrighted content that occurs on their networks.
NOTE: In this last scenario, you won’t find a profit motive by the ISP, and this is where I believe they get colleges and universities to sign on with them to fight piracy on their networks.
MY PERSONAL OPINION AND BIAS: Whatever the relationship or the scenario between CEG-TEK and the ISP, in the end, the subscriber is the one who suffers because it is THEY who receive the “settle or else my client will sue you as a John Doe Defendant in a U.S. federal court lawsuit for copyright infringement” letter. Call it “speculative invoicing,” call it “Intellectual Property Monetization,” call it “fighting piracy,” when it is the individual downloader the copyright holder goes after, it is still WRONG.
To CEG-TEK’s merit, I have personally been in conversations with CEG-TEK where they were excited that piracy was actually going down on a particular ISP’s network — so apparently they do believe in what they do — but then again, whatever I feel about piracy and how the copyright laws should be changed to match today’s internet generation, in the end, it is the college students, their parents and landlords, the young graduates who are trying to find jobs, and those who are lured in by the adult content which is so addicting, widely available, and prevalent on the internet who fall prey to the tactics of the copyright holders. For this reason, I still believe that the copyright holders should focus their efforts on pursuing those SELLING FOR PROFIT, DISPLAYING PUBLICLY WITHOUT A LICENSE, POSTING OR INITIALLY SHARING copyrighted content, but leaving alone those internet users who have no profit motive, who click on a link to view the copyrighted content.
Back to my policy letter, I believe that it is the job of the copyright holders to police their own copyrighted materials, and not to attack, sue, extort, threaten, or pressure those who view or download content already aired on TV or in a public forum and posted on the internet. The internet today has become like the TV and the Betamax of yesteryear. Media becomes available, and people watch that media, whether the source is legitimate or not (think, Youtube). TV shows are recorded, and are posted on many websites, some of them are licensed to share that content (e.g., Netflix, Hulu, ABC.com, etc.), some unlawfully do so without a license. However, it is not the job of the internet user to inquire as to whether a source for a video is legitimate, especially when watching a show that was publicly aired just a few days beforehand.
The last thing that I want to do is to think twice when clicking on a YouTube video. Taken to extremes, this is where the copyright holder’s activities go.
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