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Rightscorp accused of breaching American communications law with anti-piracy messages

By | Published on Monday 23 February 2015


LA-based anti-piracy firm Rightscorp, which was last seen annoying the Canadian government, has been sued over the tactics it uses in the US to pressure suspected file-sharers to change their ways, and pay a sum of money to make good for past copyright infringement.

One of the anti-piracy programmes pursued by Rightscorp on behalf of various copyright owners is to demand the contact information of suspected file-sharers from smaller internet service providers which are not part of America’s Copyright Alert Scheme, so that warning letters and demands for cash settlements can be sent directly (rather than via the ISP, as would happen under the CAS).

But two people targeted by this programme claim that Rightscorp violated America’s Telephone Consumer Protection Act by sending automated calls and text messages in their general direction without permission. In a lawsuit filed with the federal court in Georgia, Melissa Brown and Ben Jenkins deny downloading any copyright infringing content, but say Rightscorp broke communication laws by following up an initial letter with calls and texts.

Brown and Jenkins get their internet directly off the City Of Monroe in Georgia, which provided their contact details to Rightscorp after the anti-piracy firm subpoenaed the city’s telecoms department. According to Torrentfreak, the lawsuit says: “Once Rightscorp obtains a consumer’s contact information, it commences autocalls and text messages in an attempt to intimidate the consumer into settlement”.

It goes on: “Jenkins sent Rightscorp numerous emails instructing Rightscorp to cease their calls, text messages, emails and letter solicitations to him and Brown. Regardless, Rightscorp continued to place calls and text messages to the plaintiffs’ cellular and home phones”. This, the legal claim says, was a “wilful violation” of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which requires companies to have a recipient’s consent before sending texts or automated calls.

Brown and Jenkins are seeking damages for each alleged violation of the TCPA, while also hoping their litigation will force Rightscorp to change its tactics. As previously reported, the company is already facing a separate lawsuit, also in Georgia, which questions the firm’s rights to subpoena suspected file-sharers’ contact information in the first place.