The first argument is about the legal status of digital data. On the one hand copyright groups feel that your data does not belong to you as it is not “real” property. This does not extend to their property though and they protect it as aggressively and not always legally. Enter the biggest and shadiest part of the copyright industry’s machine: the monetization firm. In this instance the group Rights Corp.
Rights Corp is a group that tries to monetize suspected piracy with “settlement” letters that are in no way legally binding and border on extortion. To do their job they send a list of IP addresses that are allegedly being used to illegally share copyrighted content. They ask the ISPs to either give them the names of the people that these IP addresses correspond to or to forward the settlement letters themselves. In most of these letters they try to claim that if a person accused of Piracy does not pay a fine they will have their internet service turned off. This is not something that Rights Corp can legally do as it is up to the provider to do that. Also there is precedent that states that an IP address is not a person and cannot be used as evidence of a crime.
The forwarding or processing of these demand letters is not a requirement even though Rights Corp and others will go to great lengths to get them pushed out. The company will often threaten legal action (and even file suits) if they are not pushed out. Many smaller ISPs do not have the funds to enter a legal battle and just forward them on regardless of the wording or legality of them. In some cases the ISP will refuse and has the resources to put up a fight. In these instances it seems that Rights Corp might try to use a carrot instead of the stick.
This is what Cox Communications is claiming when they stated that Rights Corp offered them a share of the money collected from settlement letters forwarded. If this is true it makes Rights Corp’s efforts very shady indeed. After all this profit sharing could be viewed as an attempt to bribe Cox into sending out letters with less than legal wording.
It is a sad place when there is any legal stance for a company to exist as nothing more than an extortionist arm for corporations. Still the copyright industry has strong ties to the US government and the money to influence policy which they have done and continue to do. I just wonder if there will ever be a limit to what they, the copyright groups, are allowed to get away with and if there is really anything anyone can do to stop them.