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Courts Want $9,250 Per Pirated Song, But BMG Will Settle For $20

BmgWith the “six strikes” initiative on it’s way to the United States – where ISPs will begin warning Internet users illegally sharing copyrighted material, and then restricting their Internet access after six warnings – major labels and publishers seem to be moving closer to what they feel will be an effective anti-piracy campaign. However, the people over at BMG Rights Management don’t seem to be completely satisfied and have begun seeking out settlements against file sharers – not in court for thousands of dollars, but rather for just $20 online.

BMG is the fourth-largest music publisher in the world (based on revenue) and is home to artists the likes of Bruno Mars, David Bowie, Foo Fighters, John Legend, Outcast, will.i.am, MGMT and several others. The company does not seem to feel that the ‘education’ approach to the “six strikes” initiative is enough for their clients and are now attempting to generate revenues from alleged file sharers, as reported by TorrentFreak.

BMG’s plan goes like this: Required by law, ISPs in the United States are obligated to forward infringement notices from rightsholders to their customers. These notices are relatively harmless and essentially act as a slap on the wrist, informing the alleged file-sharer that they have been caught distributing copyrighted material and must desist immediately. BMG now wants to take it a step further by adding “evidence” to DMCA notices, which will include hyperlinks to pages allowing supposed infringers to obtain “legal release from the copyright holder.” 

Click image to enlarge:

Bmg-settlementImage source: TorrentFreak

Once an account holder clicks on these links, they are then taken to a site operated by Digital Rights Corp and presented with details of their alleged infringement. There, they can pay a sum of 20 dollars that will “finally, unconditionally, irrevocably and absolutely releases, acquits, remises and forever discharges” them from future legal action on that particular infringement.

When TorrentFreak first reported word of this BMG plan, they sought the council of Samuel Perkins, a lawyer with the Brody Hardoon Perkins & Kesten law firm:

“Under current US copyright laws, they would not be liable for copyright violations that occurred using their Internet subscription. BMG misrepresents subscribers’ copyright liability by stating that ‘most Internet service provider contracts state that the contract holder is responsible for actions taken on the Internet service.’ This statement is designed to convince subscribers that they are liable for a copyright violation if a neighbor or a family member secretly downloads copyrighted material,” Perkins explained to TorrentFreak.

Perkins concludes that BMG is deliberately obscuring the distinction between the subscriber’s contract with the ISP and their liability under federal copyright law.

“BMG’s website attempts to trick innocent subscribers into settling copyright infringement cases when they in fact have no liability,” he said.

BMG could not be reached for comment and it remains to be seen if they are the only ones seeking to generate cash from alleged file sharers in the wake of the “six strikes” initative imminent in the United States. It will also be interesting to see how effective BMG’s plan will be, and if these pieces of “evidence” will simply be ignored with the same dismissive behavior that the DMCA warnings themselves will likely encounter.

Hisham Dahud is a Senior Analyst for Hypebot.com. Additionally, he is the head of Business Development for Fame House and an independent musician. Follow him on Twitter: @HishamDahud

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