A Doe forwarded me a recent email he received from the Copyright Enforcement Group (CEG), through his ISP. You have likely heard of CEG and some of the Trolls that are part of this organization – Ira Siegel, Mike Meiers, Marvin Cable, Carroll Law, and the now-disavowed Terik Hashmi. Here are three articles on CEG. #1 #2 #3
One area CEG specializes in is “Monetization” (turning something into cash). This something is the alleged copyright infringement of various items, such as movies and images. The general view of CEG is that each infringement is a lost sale to be exploited. CEG monitors the Internet in search of files belonging to its customers. Once an infringed upon file is located, the details of the infringing activity are recorded. Once this information is collected, the content owner has different options are available to them.
- DMCA take-down notices can automatically be issued to ISPs – who then forward it to the ISP subscriber to maintain their DMCA safe harbor status.
- They also have a variation of a DMCA take-down letter (example below) in which they direct a ISP subscriber to visit their Web site to pay a settlement. This is where CEG attempts to monetize the alleged infringements.
- CEG also has a group of Trolls that can file cases against Does who do not settle. Once ISP subscriber information is obtained, settlement demands are issued under threats of being named in a federal law suit and possibly having to pay up to $150K plus attorney fees.
Here is the redacted settlement email from the Doe – CEG_Settlement_DMCA_email. This email was NOT part of any filed case – just a notification that a public IP address was observed downloading/sharing the copyright protected New Sensations Inc., movie, “Church of the Bootyism 2.” This of course was not a simple Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) take-down notice, but a way to get the ISP subscriber to pay a settlement demand or face the threat of a “possible” Federal lawsuit. I did take a look at the US Copyright Office database - the movie did receive a registration on 14 Mar 12 – Reg # PA0001781060. The funny thing is that the title of the movie at the Copyright Office is for “Church of Booytism 02,” not “Church of the Bootyism 2.” A simple error???? I wonder???
The CEG email directs the recipient to the following Web site: hxxp://www.copyrightsettlements.com/ (details). At this site the user enters a Case # and a Password. Note: If you get something like this, only access the link via a proxy service – that way it hides you public IP address from CEG. For this particular case, the settlement amount sought was $200. If you have been following the settlement amounts, you will wonder why the amount is so low. Depending on the Copyright Troll involved, the requested settlement amounts usually range between $2500 – $4000.
I believe the settlement amount is low so as to make it easier for people to pay up to make it go away. As no Trolls have to be involved, there is no legal and courts fees to deal with at this time. The content owner does have to share any of the settlement money with a troll. The only thing they have to cover is whatever service fee CEG charges.
This also allows the content owner to more easily go after Does in locations where they normally don’t file cases in. Between Feb – May 2012, New Sensations, Inc. only filed cases in MA, MD, and NY. They have previously filed cases in CA through Ira Siegel. Note: Mike Meiers can practice in FL (since Hashmi was kicked to the curb – fool). Note: CEG can hire attorneys authorized to practice in various States, but for right now they seem to be staying in these areas. I would wager that CEG maintains control of the information they collect on the alleged infringements and the content owners can only use it to file cases through CEG lawyers.
Here is another analysis of a CEG email.
So what should you do if you get one of these CEG emails?
- Do not contact the Troll. There is NO case, only CEG’s threat that they could file one. Even if they do eventually file a case, they only have the public IP address as their evidence – weak and unreliable in identifying the person responsible for the infringement.
- Start a file to keep any and all documents and notes on this issue. This is your “just in-case” file.
- Research the movie (US Copyright Office Web site). Does it have a copyright registration? Date of 1st publication – Date of copyright application – Date of registration & number. Add to the “just in-case” file.
- Only access the CEG settlement Web site by using an anonymizing Web proxy such as anonymous.org, www.hidemyass.com, or www.anonymizing-proxy.info
- Review you Firewall/Router to determine if any rogue systems have been using your Internet connection. Document any unknown systems – take screenshots of the Firewall/Router information, as well as writing it down on paper. I would also suggest blocking any unknown system you find using your Internet connection. These can be blocked by adding the MAC address of the unknown system to a “blocked” list (MAC filtering option).