Warner Bros., BMG, Rightscorp Agree To Pay $450K For Using Robocalls To Hassle Alleged Music Pirates

Even when you’ve been accused of violating the copyright of a major music publishers, you still have the right to not be harassed by unsolicited pre-recorded calls demanding payment for those supposed violations. That’s why Warner Bros. Home Entertainment and other defendants have agreed to pay out $450,000 to thousands of alleged music pirates.

According to a class-action lawsuit filed in Nov. 2014, Warner — along with other defendants, including music industry biggie BMG Rights Management, and copyright enforcement company Rightscorp — violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) by robocalling accused content pirates without getting their prior express consent, as required by law.

The plaintiffs claimed that Warner and BMG (and possibly others) hired Rightscorp to make these prerecorded calls demanding payment for alleged copyright infringement.

In general, Rightscorp works by offering lower-cost settlements to accused pirates, hoping they will agree to pay up rather than face higher penalties from the legal system. It’s an established practice, but using pre-recorded calls without the recipient’s permission could run afoul of the law.

The plaintiffs alleged that Warner and BMG were vicariously liable for Rightscorp’s actions because the companies allowed these robocalls to happen.

After the defendants filed various motions to dismiss, the case went into legal limbo in June when the judge stayed all proceedings pending the outcome of mediation efforts between the two parties.

Now comes news [via TorrentFreak] that the parties have reached a settlement.

According to documents [PDF] filed with the court this week, the proposed settlement will see the 2,025 sharing in a payout totaling $450,000. After legal fees, that will only come out to around $100 per member of the plaintiff class.

The original complaint had sought statutory penalties for TCPA violations: $500 per negligent violation; $1,500 per intentional robocall. That means that Warner, et al, are getting off with only paying a small fraction of what they could have faced if they’d lost in court. Even better for the companies involved, the settlement does not require that they admit any wrongdoing.

We can only hope that the $450,000 is sufficient to teach Rightscorp that it should pick up the phone if it’s going to accuse people of piracy.