Business News Labels & Publishers Legal

Rightscorp drops appeal over whether or not DMCA subpoenas can be used for anti-piracy letter sending programme

By | Published on Friday 21 August 2015


While the US doesn’t have web-blocking as an anti-piracy deterrent, in recent years there has been a prolific letter sending programme by rights owners to suspected file-sharers, in which web users receive letters telling them they are suspected of infringing copyrights online and must stop or face litigation. The letters also sometimes demand a nominal fee be paid to compensate rights owners for past infringement, which is where the letter-sending campaign has, at times, been a little controversial.

With most of the big ISPs in the US, those letters have been sent via the Copyright Alert System, a voluntary programme set up by the content industries and the big cable companies (many of which are, themselves, in the content business).

But not all net firms are part of that programme, and with those other ISPs the music and movie industries have had to find alternative ways to get their letters out, because although they can link infringing activity to a specific IP address, only the internet provider knows the identity of the person connecting to the net at that location.

Some rights owners – and especially anti-piracy agency Rightscorp – have tried getting subpoenas under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to force those other usually smaller ISPs to hand over the contact information of suspected file-sharers, and some net firms have complied with those court orders.

But, as previously reported, one net firm – Cbeyond, owned by Birch Communications – argued that the subpoenas being used by Rightscorp had no actual power in this kind of file-sharing case, and therefore it wasn’t obliged to hand over any contact information for its file-sharing customers.

And earlier this year a US court agreed with Birch’s viewpoint, while in May another court rejected a number of arguments Rightscorp made against that earlier ruling. Unsurprisingly, given it had used this tactic against a number of ISPs by this point, Rightscorp then set about appealing the May judgement.

But, according to Torrentfreak, the anti-piracy firm has now dropped that appeal, which suggests it has accepted the limitations of the DMCA subpoenas that previously proved so useful to them and their clients.

A spokesman for Birch told Torrentfreak: “The DMCA did not provide any basis to require an internet service provider in Birch’s position to open its files to private litigants. Rightscorp dropped its appeal of the May 2015 decision and the court issued an entry of dismissal in the case”.