Controversial copyright firm sets sights on UK


US copyright agency Rightscorp wants to bring its notorious protection methods to Europe and the UK.

Working on behalf of its copyright holder clients, RightsCorp monitors popular torrent sites and tracks the IP addresses of frequent pirates. Once it has a target, it then forces the Internet Service Provider (ISP) to contact the owner of the IP address.

The letters demand the alleged pirate pay $20 (12) for each file they have illegally downloaded. If they refuse RightsCorp will then take them to court.

The agency has accrued over 60,000 court settlements so far in the US, and is looking to bring its successful strategy to European shores.

Sites like IsoHunt or The Pirate Bay are directly monitored by Rightscorp, using software that connects to a downloading user as another file-sharer. In the window of time when the peer is seeding their torrent, the monitor used by Rightscorp determines what has been downloaded and whether it infringes copyright.

Research from the University of Birmingham in 2012 has shown that it takes only around three hours for a user to be tracked by an enforcement agency, and with some adopting blackmail-esque tactics, copyright pirates should watch where they tread.

The last company to attempt something similar was Golden Eye International, which during 2012-2013 sent hundreds of settlement letters to O2 customers. Golden Eye's actions were eventually watered down and withdrawn due to a challenge by the Open Rights Group.

Regarding the tactics employed by some copyright companies, a spokesman for the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) told IT Pro: "FACT proactively protects property in television, film and media using legal matters. We prefer to target those running the illegal sites, not the end users."

Julian Heathcote Hobbins, general counsel at the Federation Against Software Theft (FAST), added that the work of teams like PIPCU has been successful against illegal sites. Tackling the source protects the user, he told IT Pro.

The IP addresses and peer-to-peer sharing information that RightsCorp gathers are by no means solid evidence in a court of law. Only if the recipient of a notice from the agency agrees to settle - an admission of guilt - will they be susceptible to punishment.

What do you think? Is all fair in love and downloads or should there be more stringent rules in place for companies that act like this?