Porn Copyright Trolls Trying To Use “Six Strikes” Warning System To ID Pirates

After years of outrageous lawsuits with 6- and 7- figure penalties thrown at people who illegally shared some music or movies online, the cable industry’s Copyright Alert System (better known as “Six Strikes”) was supposed to represent a happy middle ground, where Internet Service Providers sternly warn alleged violators that they’re onto your file-sharing ways and could you please stop so this doesn’t have to go to court? But folks who make a lot of money off of the threat of copyright lawsuits are hoping to use Six Strikes info to identify pirates.

See, copyright trolls — mostly porn companies and associated lawyers who threaten to sue alleged violators and use that threat to get potential defendants to settle out of court — have ways of figuring out the IP address attached to people believed to be involved in piracy. But the IP address alone doesn’t really make for a good defendant, as anyone who has tried to shake down a string of numbers can attest.

So the trolls have repeatedly tried to subpoena info from the cable companies and other ISPs that would put a name and address to those IP addresses, thus allowing the trolls to contact those purported pirates and say things like “We know you BitTorrented ‘Anal Heartbreak 12′ last June. Pay us several thousand dollars to avoid a lawsuit so that the entire world isn’t made aware of your penchant for pornography.”

Companies like Comcast and Verizon have generally been successful in getting the courts to quash these subpoenas, so the trolls need another way in. That’s where Six Strikes may become a problem.

When the system — which sends a series of increasingly serious alerts to alleged infringers — finally launched in 2013, it left open the door that its co-creators, the evil subgeniuses at the MPAA and RIAA “or any other member of the Participating Content Owners Group may use such reports or data as the basis for seeking a Subscriber’s identity through a subpoena or order or other lawful process.”

And so notorious porn copyright troll Malibu Media — who recently argued that an anti-troll website is a “fanatical Internet hate group” — is trying to use that legal backdoor in its lawsuit against a defendant in Indiana, even though it is not one of the participating content owners whose videos and songs are tracked by the system.

TorrentFreak.com reports that Malibu asked a federal court in Indianapolis to order Comcast to turn over its Six Strikes data. While Malibu is not part of the program, this data may show that the Internet connection was used to share pirated content on more occasions.

The company argues that Six Strikes data “may prove a pattern of infringement or notice that infringement is occurring or both.”

So it’s a stab in the dark, hoping that the defendant will also show up as having received a Six Strikes notice from Comcast. Seems like a bit of an overreach, right?

Apparently not to the District Court Judge who recently sided with Malibu, giving the company the green light to serve a third party subpoena on Comcast and telling Comcast that it should comply with said subpoena.

Comcast has yet to respond to the subpoena, but given its history with previous porn trolls — Comcast has called such lawyers “shakedown artists” in past legal filings — we’d hope that the Kabletown Krew would put up a fight before turning over info.

The evidentiary worth of Six Strikes notices is also debatable, as one of the underlying ideas of the system is that users may be falsely identified as pirates. That’s why there is a built-in appeals process with Six Strikes. The mere listing of an account as having received a strike is not a definitive indicator that he or she actually pirated any content.