Thursday, August 30, 2012

Copyright Defenders - Are They After You?

I've spent some space the past two weeks talking about copyright, discussing questions that have been raised about its place in the future and the risks in unauthorized use of copyrighted material.

Well now comes a new spin.  And I guess it depends on which side of the equation you find yourself at any given time:  creator or user.

A fellow small firm lawyer in a small Midwestern town who primarily handles intellectual property matters recently received an unsolicited email from Copyright Defenders, Inc.  It was seeking to enlist his firm in the legal network for Copyright Defenders.  They would find the culprits violating film and music copyrights, and his firm would go after them.

Copyright Defenders, Inc. (Click Here) is a Nevada corporation that uses computer technology to locate and track violations of copyright on peer-to-peer networks.  It then  sics its stable of IP law firms on the offending party.  While the target seems to be movies, videos and music, the fact that such a company exists, and the technology it uses, must give us all something to think about.

I looked up Copyright Defenders and found a LinkedIn page for its president, Ralf Pytlik.  The aggressiveness of language and reference to technological resources should give anyone pause before downloading that unauthorized copy - or maybe any copy -  of Hunger Games or Taylor Swift's latest song.

Here's what it says (in part):

"Copyright Defenders, Inc. is a leading company in identifying copyright infringements on Peer-to-Peer networks (P2P) for the software, film and music industry.

Thanks to our specially crafted software and cutting edge technological knowledge, we are able to automatically recognize, analyze, determine and archive copyright infringement evidence on P2P networks following the forensic standards as required for the legal system."

Certainly holders of copyrights have the right to make sure that their intellectual property is not being pirated.  As writers, we should stand up for protection of intellectual property.  We certainly don't want people stealing our work.

But still . . . there's something Jason Bourne-ish about "cutting edge" computer software checking constantly, recognizing and analyzing internet traffic for the smoking guns of intellectual piracy.   Something about this smacks of the deepest recesses of the Patriot Act.

Are they checking up on me? Do they know I streamed that NC17 movie from Netflix?  Do they know about that book I borrowed from the library in 6th grade and never returned?  OMG, I must owe half a million dollars in fines by now!  

So as you go to sleep tonight, know that someone - or something - is out there going beep in the night, scanning through the ether, taking note of each bit and bite as it passes through the internet.

Makes you feel cozy all over, doesn't it?

*In case you're wondering, all images used on this blog are either (1) my own, (2) in the public domain (such as the copyright symbol), or (3)  used pursuant to purchased rights or licenses (such as the Greetings from Jersey image, or the one above).


  1. It's not so "cutting edge." Many bittorrent applications will tell you who is downloading/uploading from you. It wouldn't take much to write a program that would log IPs of people trying to upload/download a particular file. It's a bit different from monitoring all internet activity, so your scandalous Netflix usage is safe, at least from these guys.

    I'm also not convinced they actually have clients. They would need to sign content creators and connect them with lawyers, which sounds like it would run afoul of many fee-splitting rules.

  2. Found this post after I published my take on the same email received by one of IP lawyers I communicate with.