The copyright enforcement company Rightscorp is now planning to hijack the browsers of suspected pirates in order to extract payment from them. This plan might be an effort to save the company from its financial troubles. The company reported a net loss of $3.43 million in 2015, up from a loss of $2.85 million that was reported in 2014.
Rightscorp has decided that email notifications and settlement demands are not enough to pay the bills, so they want to implement "next generation technology" to send notifications that can't be ignored. "In the Scalable Copyright system, subscribers receive each notice directly in their browser," Rightscorp states. Single notices can be read and bypassed similar to the way a software license agreement works [but] once the internet account receives a certain number of notices over a certain time period, the screen cannot be bypassed until the settlement payment is received."
The idea isn't completely unprecedented. Some ISPs already send in-browser notifications about copyright piracy. However, those are merely warnings, and can always be bypassed. Rightscorp's plan to lock-down a user's browser until they pay up is something no ISP has been willing to do so far. This is a problem for the company, which admits it does need the cooperation of ISPs to implement this system.
However Rightscorp believes that they will eventually be able to get ISPs to go along with this plan. As the recent lawsuit against Cox Communications shows, ISPs can lose their safe harbor protection if a judge is not satisfied with their policy in dealing with repeat copyright infringers, and as a result they can be held liable for copyright infringement committed by their subscribers. Rightscorp specifically mentions repeat infringers when describing its plan to win over ISPs. The company states:
U.S. ISPs have a safe harbor that is conditional on terminating repeat copyright infringers. Rightscorp has the technology to identify these repeat infringers. ISPs either need to work with copyright holders to reduce repeat infringers identified by Rightscorp or face significant liability.
If implemented, this plan could have a devastating effect on internet users. Copyright enforcement companies have a long track record falsely identifying copyright infringement. An additional problem is the possibility of spamming notifications to quickly get someone identified as a repeat infringer. This is something Rightscorp has been accused of in the past when it sent 112 DMCA notifications to a single Comcast user in a 48 hour period.
Are you concerned about Rightscorp's plan to deal with pirates? Leave your comments below.