Image Courtesy: John Trainor @ Flickr

The world of copyrights has been an endless well of information and complex issues that never stay out of the courts. And out of all business entities that take those issues to the courts, the entertainment industry has been there countless times. While that has never really ended, could there be a new watchdog group available to help keep institutions like the music industry from pursuing litigation?

That answer seems to be Rightscorp, currently one of the leading organizations helping provide compensation to the world of movies and music. They monitor a number of torrent sites to assure no copyright infringement of their clients is taking place. Right now, they are focused on protecting music more than anything after years of the music industry taking a beating online in the form of song piracy.

It was reported at the end of February that Rightscorp would begin protecting 13 top singles on the Hot 100 charts to ensure they are not downloaded illegally. But what is the future of this company and how are they becoming a major force for the entertainment industry? While ASCAP and BMI have been known to assure residuals to musical artists, will Rightscorp become the new copyright police for all entertainment-related intellectual property?

The Track Record of Rightscorp

Rightscorp’s revenue last year was around $320,000. Considering they take half of what they recuperate from infringers, they managed to collect around $640,000 in fines last year. Through their monitoring, they go through internet service providers (ISPs) to notify those illegally downloading music to pay $20 per song or risk having to pay up to $150,000 in civil penalties. This procedure seems to be working well rather than having to seek expensive litigation. Plus, it appears to be making back some of the money the music industry has lost since illegal downloading began.

Regardless, is it really going to help crack down on intellectual property (IP) theft in the entertainment world? The notices are sent via internet service providers that have to offer their clients the option to pay the fine or have their services terminated. Most ISPs would not want to lose clients who are paying good money on a subscription basis. Rightcorp claims that five out of the top 10 ISPs in the country are sending Rightcorp’s notices and they hope to get other ISPs onboard as well. Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) an ISP loses its ‘safe harbor’ protection if it fails to cancel service to recurrent offenders. The settlement offers act as a deterrent without having to pursue more complicated legal moves or pay severe fines prescribed under the DMCA. It gives people illegally downloading music knowledge that they are being monitored not unlike the NSA.

While this monitoring might seem obtrusive, it may have to be necessary for more than just IP in the entertainment industry. Rightscorp hasn't necessarily limited itself to entertainment and says they help monitor any type of intellectual property that is copyrighted. Perhaps they'll eventually expand their reach and go within the realm of trade secrets where theft is a recurring problem.

No matter how far they go with their protections, your own business still has to take control of its intellectual property. You need other protections as well (and education) to know how to keep it safe and how to profit from what you have. For more information on intellectual property check out Traklight's Resources.

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