Rightscorp wants to lock browsers of online pirates until a fine is paid

A US-based anti-piracy firm, Rightscorp Inc. hopes to partner with Internet services providers (ISPs) to lock the browsers of repeated copyright infringers, in order to compel them to pay their fines or have their access to the Internet removed completely.

Rightscorp is a well-known copyright enforcement company located in Los Angeles. The company’s main purpose is to find “alleged” copyright owners like movie studios, music artists and game developers and track down the ISPs or IP addresses of individuals who torrent certain titles, informing him of a fine via email or regular mail. If all fails, for certain repeated copyright offenders, the company sends threatening letters to those users via their ISPs, threatening to sue them or reach out of court settlements, all on behalf of its customers (the real copyright holder).

According to TorrentFreak, a site specialized on the torrenting and piracy-related news niche, Rightscorp has been having financial difficulties, reporting losses for two years in a row. In a desperate attempt to bring back its financials on the floating line, the company’s new plan for profitability is locking of users’ browsers until they pay a settlement fine.

Earlier this week, the idea was noticed in a filing:

“In the Scalable Copyright system, subscribers receive each [settlement] notice directly in their browser. 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.”

It is expected that Rightscorp is moving towards more aggressive ways to make money. ISPs are often hesitant to get involved in cases of copyright theft and pirating for a number of reasons, including the idea that customers may turn away from them if they consider themselves being snooped upon. In addition, there is no real way to prove a customer and alleged pirate’s identity can be defined by an IP address, and so cases against a suspect are often based on demands and pressure rather than court cases.

Still, Rightscorp appear to be assertive that it can convince ISPs for the same.

“Its implementation will require the agreement of the ISPs. We have had discussions with multiple ISPs about implementing Scalable Copyright, and intend to intensify those efforts. ISPs have the technology to display our notices in subscribers’ browsers in this manner,” the company notes.

Whether holding suspects to ransom to pay a fine for alleged pirate activity is the answer is debatable. The technology, if it was even implemented by ISPs, which without proof of someone’s guilt is little more than ransomware, as it would probably hurt the reputation of broadband providers the hardest, possibly putting off potential customers from signing up.

However, if the new Scalable Copyright system is to work, then Rightscorp needs to tone down its copyright infringement alert system, and some user rights have to be taken into account, like access to personal email, government websites, online emergency services, and so on.

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