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Piracy The Courts The Internet

Comcast Refusing To Comply With Piracy Subpoenas 224

Posted by Soulskill
from the actually-comcastic-for-once dept.
New submitter nbacon writes with news that Comcast, apparently tired of the endless BitTorrent-related piracy lawsuits, has stopped complying with subpoena requests, much to the chagrin of rightsholders. From the article: "Initially Comcast complied with these subpoenas, but an ongoing battle in the Illinois District Court shows that the company changed its tune recently. Instead of handing over subscriber info, Comcast asked the court to quash the subpoenas. Among other things, the ISP argued that the court doesn’t have jurisdiction over all defendants, because many don’t live in the district in which they are being sued. The company also argues that the copyright holders have no grounds to join this many defendants in one lawsuit. The real kicker, however, comes with the third argument. Here, Comcast accuses the copyright holders of a copyright shakedown, exploiting the court to coerce defendants into paying settlements."
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Comcast Refusing To Comply With Piracy Subpoenas

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  • by icebike (68054) * on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @04:01PM (#40313617)

    I take back every nasty thing I ever said about Comcast.

    Well, on second thought, I temporarily suspend my badmouthing of Comcast. ...
    Ok, time's up.

    • Even sandvine?

      Give credit where credit is due, but this doesnt eliminate all past record. Perhaps this, along with ipv6 and dnssec, are a positive trend at comcast. Perhaps, with their DNS tampering, its not. Time will tell.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The enemy of my enemy is my friend - until they give me shitty service again.

    • by Brewster Jennings (2642639) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @04:15PM (#40313843)
      I am afraid to express an opinion about a cable provider ever since -- when the topic came up for discussion among friends -- I boldly informed them that I like Cox.

      They still refuse to let it go, the bastards.

      • That's ok. I have Cox as well and, in comparison to other similar services I've had, I like them too. Solid service, reliable speeds, decent pricing, no amazing fiascoes that I know of.

        In my market it's either Cox or Quest... I mean Century Link. Ya know - since changing the name of the company erases years and years of shitty product and customer service...

        I'm happy with Cox.

        • by EdIII (1114411)

          I'm happy with Cox.

          *cry* *sniff*

          Whooooosh dude. Whoooooossshhhh.

          Tell us more about how happy you are with Cox.

    • by Defenestrar (1773808) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @04:29PM (#40314043)

      Dude - I know what you mean. Sure, even a perfect /. editor can sometimes miss something during a submission, but this is going too far! Even after a double take it still says that Comcast did something other than going out of their way to screw their customers. That's it, I'm turning in my Slashdot license and actually reading this article. I'm also going to pinch myself, and if I don't wake up, start holding my breath.

      • Re:Yay Comcast. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Jeng (926980) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @04:37PM (#40314139)

        You are looking at it the wrong way.

        This is Comcast not complying, that is their standard operating procedure. If they can find a way to not do something, they will not do that thing.

        The fact that this actually helps their customers is purely unintentional.

      • Re:Yay Comcast. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by DanTheStone (1212500) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @04:38PM (#40314153)

        Bear with me for a second:

        Pirating customers are heavy users.

        Comcast is implementing usage-based tiered billing.

        It is now in Comcast's best interest for customers to pirate, because it means they get more money.

        • Wish I had mod points today... best opinion I've seen on the subject so far. You'll have to settle for a silent thumbs-up from this quarter, but the mods could do well to amp the post up for visibility.

          • I'll take it to the next level!

            Since we know the **AA and the ISP's are Rule 34'ing with each other, just what if they switched from a lawsuit business model to a data-cap model? There would be a few other things to solve, but I'd consider being satisfied with higher bandwidth caps *if it meant an ironclad guarantee, in law, to no more piracy lawsuits*. So then the user can make a pricing decision if they really want that movie or not. Or that song, or not. Or that Lolcat pic or not.

            • by EdIII (1114411)

              Interesting.... then would that make some forms of compression illegal? Similar to how not watching (or downloading) the commercials is stealing?

              Would that make data transfer outside of approved channels become smuggling? Flash drives become contraband?

              That huge bandwidth of a truck full of tapes going down the highway would be the equivalent of a bank robbery?

        • by GodInHell (258915)
          You stole my post. Good thoughts.
        • Hmmm... ISPs taking on Copyright Holders. This might be worth watching *gets the popcorn*
    • by sl4shd0rk (755837)

      I take back every nasty thing I ever said about Comcast.

      Don't hold your breath. Comcast is not doing this because they are on your side. As soon as the RI/MP AA coughs up some more money to cover Comcast's troubles, they will be back to business as usual.

    • Now if only you'd stopped dropping me off the Internet every five minutes during the weekend I'd probably recommend your service, if you provided a decent, non-laggy DNS server I'd even praise you from time to time.
      • Re:Yay Comcast. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by icebike (68054) * on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @05:16PM (#40314723)

        Now if only you'd stopped dropping me off the Internet every five minutes during the weekend I'd probably recommend your service, if you provided a decent, non-laggy DNS server I'd even praise you from time to time.

        Keep bitching to them. My service almost never goes down.
        And stop using their DNS. Google's 8.8.8.8 is free and fast.

      • by ArhcAngel (247594)
        Well they have to do that so you'll use their VOD service rather than Netflix.
      • by the_B0fh (208483)

        What's stopping you from using another non-laggy DNS server?

    • I'll applaud this 1%, now just need to fix the rest.

    • by Rasperin (1034758)
      I may switch to Comcast! (I don't live in a monopoly oddly enough I have the choice of Comcast, Time Warner, AT&T, several other cable and dsl companies like everest).
  • Hats Off (Score:4, Funny)

    by TemperedAlchemist (2045966) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @04:02PM (#40313637)

    I had my doubts about Comcast for some time now, but if they keep this up, they may keep me as a customer.

    • Re:Hats Off (Score:4, Funny)

      by ZeroSumHappiness (1710320) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @04:12PM (#40313789)

      I think I have to eat mine.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I had my doubts about Comcast for some time now, but if they keep this up, they may keep me as a customer.

      Eh. Ironically, Comcast has made it pretty clear in other reports that this is about the costs involved with complying with the subpoenas.

      So, basically, Comcast is saying "We were fine with fucking over our own customers, but you guys have made it too expensive!".

      Which amazes me, mostly because Comcast had a chance to finally appear consumer-friendly, and they go around and make sure everybody knows that they're being consumer friendly THIS time, but they don't really mean it, baby, they haven't changed

  • The Twilight Zone (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wmbetts (1306001) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @04:02PM (#40313639)

    For a second I thought I was pulled into an episode of the The Twilight Zone. Comcast is the last company I expect this from. Go Comcast?

    • Re:The Twilight Zone (Score:5, Interesting)

      by C_amiga_fan (1960858) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @04:04PM (#40313665)

      The motive is probably based on $$$$$. Comcast probably wastes a lot of money handling these supeona requests, and they finally decided it was cheaper to say "no" then to comply.

      • by wmbetts (1306001) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @04:11PM (#40313781)

        You're right. They aren't doing it, because it's the right thing to do, but I'm still happy they're doing it.

      • by icebike (68054) * on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @04:12PM (#40313801)

        Well it takes lawyers to say NO too. And they don't work for free.

        The best they can hope for is to establish a precedent and make the nuisance subpoenas reduce in scope.
        Fighting a validly issued subpoena is a costly legal move. A minimum wage clerk can knock out a hundred
        replies to these in half an hour with automated tools. That would be the cheap approach.

        So there is some financial outlay involved with this approach, and the return on that investment is
        probably questionable and short lived, and may blow back in their face if they lose safe harbor
        protection by fighting these subpoenas.

        • by Dynedain (141758)

          The lawyers cost the same whether they're saying "no", or handing over the clerk's reports.

        • Re:The Twilight Zone (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @04:47PM (#40314275)

          When I worked for an small ISP (roughly 80,000 subscribers), subpoenas were not a matter of a minimum wage clerk handling these. All subpoenas were routed to the legal department where they were reviewed. Once legal was satisfied that everything was in order they would hand it to operations to actually retrieve the requested data. Once the request was complete, operations would hand it back to legal who would then give it to the proper authorities.

          It is important to note that subpoenas were not rubber stamped by the legal team. They would often deny subpoenas as unrealistic (IP address, connection start time, connection end time, Name, billing address, for every subscriber in every jurisdiction over a two week period) or not possible to fulfill. So I would not be surprised if the cost of fulfilling the subpoenas at Comcast is significant.

        • Re:The Twilight Zone (Score:4, Interesting)

          by tlhIngan (30335) <.slashdot. .at. .worf.net.> on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @05:03PM (#40314527)

          Well it takes lawyers to say NO too. And they don't work for free.

          Well, it also takes lawyers to say yes and hand over the reports.

          Saying "no" is a lot cheaper because it involves the lawyer only. Saying "yes" means you need to get technicians involved as well and a bunch of other people, who probably get paid to do other work than look at logs all day. Plus, it's easier for a lawyer to say no to a lawsuit with 4000 John Does on it than to have to look up those 4000 people, retrieve their customer records, sanitize what isn't in the request, and then provide it. Saying no probably takes a lawyer a day to do. Doing the 4,000 lookups... a few days of several people including a lawyer to ensure that the request was fulfilled properly.

          • by Pieroxy (222434)

            What makes you think Comcast would sanitize anything that's not in the request?

            I agree with you though. It's easy to confuse Comcast with a regular business from time to time.

          • by icebike (68054) *

            You only need technicians involved if you are small potatoes.
            If you have to fish thru logs you are doing it wrong.

            Any really large organization can automate this, by placing the data in a database, and get the the incremental cost down pennies.

      • Re:The Twilight Zone (Score:5, Informative)

        by C_amiga_fan (1960858) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @04:15PM (#40313835)

        P.S. I just noticed all four companies that Comcast is saying "no" to are pornography companies. I wonder what the downloaders acquired which made them targets for extortionate letters?

        • by gstoddart (321705)

          I wonder what the downloaders acquired which made them targets for extortionate letters?

          I would guess porn.

          Or do you want to know the titles in case you're missing something good?

        • Re:The Twilight Zone (Score:5, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @04:27PM (#40314023)

          fightcopyrighttrolls.com is a good site for finding out what exactly has been going on. Specificyally, yes, this has been a copyright shakedown in which the companies involved have almost never actually taken anyone to court. They've been filing lawsuits with hundreds or thousands of defendants and mailing them threatening letters regarding how embarassing it would be to have their name publicly associated with a lawsuit regarding this type of content. If they drag it out long enough, many people don't know or are to scared to fight it and settle out for 2,500 or so a piece. Anyone who fights back, or in many cases simply ignores them is eventually dropped from the lawsuit.

          Some of the site owners have been bragging that they made more from the lawsuit settlements than all their memberships fees for the year.

      • DING DING DING
        Mod parent up. Now make no mistake, part of their internal accounting might include revenue lost from Bad-Press(tm) by just naming names vs revenue gained due to good-press by not naming names. But a good part of it is surely the ongoing cost of complying vs the "one-time" cost of fighting and not having to comply ever again.

      • Pron companies:
        AF Holdings
        Pacific Century
        Sunlust Pictures
        First Time Videos

        Comcast replied: "Third, plaintiffs should not be allowed to profit from unfair litigation tactics whereby they use the offices of the Court as an inexpensive means to gain John Doe defendantsâ(TM) personal information and coerce "settlements" from them." - If I ever got one of these 'Pay us $5000 or else' letters I'd just throw it in the trash.

      • by jmerlin (1010641)
        What if the subpoena is from NBC? You know, the massive copyright holder that Comcast owns?
  • by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @04:04PM (#40313655)

    Finally. This is the only way that the RIAA/MPAA will change its ways: when other massive corporations start to fight back in court. Triple bonus to Comcast for calling this what it is: a shakedown organized through the legal system. I normally hate Comcast with a passion, but I will cheer them on in this fight. Bring out the popcorn!

    • Finally. This is the only way that the RIAA/MPAA will change its ways: when other massive corporations start to fight back in court. Triple bonus to Comcast for calling this what it is: a shakedown organized through the legal system. I normally hate Comcast with a passion, but I will cheer them on in this fight. Bring out the popcorn!

      But...this is Comcast. As in Comcast / NBC / Universal, member of the RIAA/MPAA.

      I am so confused I read the summary three times. I might need to break down and read the article.

      • That's the best part. A large conglomerate is about to start a nasty internal lawyer fight. Can't wait to see how that is going to pan out.

        • by ichimunki (194887)
          So what they really don't want to do is help other rightsholders, eh? I wonder if they'll fight these subpoenas from other more mainstream music/movie/Tv rightsholders? If so, wouldn't that constitute them using their market power in one market to unfairly compete in a different market?
        • by LateArthurDent (1403947) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @04:36PM (#40314121)

          That's the best part. A large conglomerate is about to start a nasty internal lawyer fight. Can't wait to see how that is going to pan out.

          I broke down and read the article. The people requesting the subpoenas Comcast is fighting are all in the porn industry. So, not RIAA/MPAA. Some high-level executive is probably on the subpoena list :)

          Either way, setting the precedent is good.

        • by s.petry (762400)

          Maybe their heads will all explode from cognitive dissonance!

    • by bobbied (2522392) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @05:11PM (#40314641)

      Finally. This is the only way that the RIAA/MPAA will change its ways: when other massive corporations start to fight back in court. Triple bonus to Comcast for calling this what it is: a shakedown organized through the legal system. I normally hate Comcast with a passion, but I will cheer them on in this fight. Bring out the popcorn!

      Make no mistake, their motive is profit and nothing more. Now that there is legal grounds that allows you to say "no" every ISP will be doing the same thing because it will eventually make this whole legal shakedown route impassable. Fairly quickly the shakedown artists will either figure out this doesn't work anymore and stop, or they will go broke trying. Once the message gets out that it doesn't pay, folks will stop doing it and the ISP's won't have to deal with it anymore and they can stop paying lawyers and admins to handle such requests.

      It's all about profit....

    • The companies they're defying are a handful of small-fry porno sites. The subpoenas they haven't been rejecting all this time? They were the RI/MPAA ones.

  • by detritus. (46421)

    Just imagine if SOPA had passed. They would have been shut down overnight for taking a stand like that.

  • Really Comcast? I think my head just exploded. There must have been something really expensive going on corporately to supply the data. I can't believe that they would ever do anything for a customer.
    • Maybe they finally figured out that for the medium and longer term its better to actually please and fight for the customers.

      But then again, I'm probably wrong.

      • by gstoddart (321705)

        They're fighting against having to spend the time to do this all the time and the associated costs.

        Undoubtedly, they get fairly constant levels of requests for this information, which they need to expend a lot of resources getting the information.

        I would be skeptical about them doing it for customers ... but it might just be convenient to use that as a legal argument to get them off the hook for paying the costs of policing the internet for the rights holders; all of whom believe it should be the ISPs footi

  • An article featuring Comcast in a positive light on Slashdot, truly this is the end of days.
  • by Sez Zero (586611)

    So I (heart) Comcast now?

    Really, you've got to make up your mind; it is getting harder to remember who to hate and who to like.

    PS: We still hate Apple, right?

    • I know you're joking, but people seriously needs to get away from such black-and-white thinking.

      You can like or love specific things about something you hate, and hate specific things about something you like.

      Or be completely neutral. And get flamed by ideologues on both side for "not taking a stand."

  • by Trailer Trash (60756) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @04:17PM (#40313855) Homepage

    While it's nice that Comcast is standing up to them, if you read through you'll find that it's four porn companies. In other words, they're not standing up (in this case, at least) to any of the MAFIAA members.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @04:19PM (#40313893)

    A few Subpeona's here and there are fine, sure they cost you, but it's a cost of doing business.

    That's that right up until some company wants to subpeona 4,000 of your users, per week.

    And the thing is these subpeona's, they aren't for john doe at 127.0.0.1 on 6/15/2010, they're for MAC addresses, traffic usage reports, etc and the requestor gets NASTY if they don't get what they want.

    Either you spend an ungodly amount of cash complying, or you go the cheaper route; get the lawyers to tell them to go pound sand.

    • by vlm (69642) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @04:37PM (#40314143)

      From having worked at a regional ISP I can verify we made money off law enforcement requests because we billed their jurisdiction a reasonable rate. We made money off "real" civil suits because we could roll our bill into a trial. However, how would an ISP make money off an extortion ring, like this situation? We tended to bill kind of on the hefty side, so we'd be getting a significant fraction of the extortion money, which the extorters are not going to like and probably are not going to pay. Further 4000 users a week means hiring and staffing a small department which is not going to be cheap.

      Now if the extorters would split the money 50:50 with the ISP, then they'd be talking... if and only if all the ISPs were doing that. 4000 users per week is a pretty large number of customers to send to our competitors, and hilariously maybe they're only sending requests to Comcast and not AT+T and they know it.

    • You do realize as a third party they get to bill out a pretty hefty rate?

  • ... so vile, even Comcast won't do them.

    Repeatedly, that is.

  • They're only protecting their customers to secure their ability to keep screwing them up the ass.

  • by Morris Thorpe (762715) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @04:25PM (#40313987)

    If you get bills through the mail (from Comcast included), then you've been urged to "Go Green!" by going paperless. We know they don't give a crap about saving a few trees. They're trying to reduce their costs (paper, stamps, design, etc.) If emailing statements was more expensive, they would not push us in that direction.

    I'm guessing Comcast is doing this exclusively for the same reason (saving money) and covering it up with the same moral wrapping paper.

    They're sick bastards but, hey, if it puts a stop to this....

    • They're trying to reduce their costs (paper, stamps, design, etc.) If emailing statements was more expensive, they would not push us in that direction.

      In an economy where dollars spent maps pretty strongly to resources expended (tree harvesting, chemical processing, human effort, etc..), some would argue that if you're not saving money, you probably aren't really "going green" either.

  • I was just seriously shopping to dump Comcast for forgetting who their paying customer is with their sleeping-with-the-RIAA crap. This will buy them one month.
  • ...for a good cause.

    Seriously, why is the only reason good things ever happen online laziness? It doesn't reflect well on those in power.
  • by bobbied (2522392) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @05:03PM (#40314531)

    First, and foremost Comcast is in business to make a profit. Make no mistake, if they thought they could profit from turning folks in, they would. Read some of the supporting documents. Verizon (a Comcast competitor) has taken a stand and started saying "Nope" to the courts/. Apparently they have enough legal ground to quash the "track this IP for us" requests. This is a two fold benefit to any ISP. First, you don't have to waste time and money having your staff searching though logs to find out who had that IP at that time. Second, you keep a small segment of your customers who care about such things from running to your competition.

    Surely this problem will go away for all ISP's in fairly short order. Once an ISP starts successfully protesting such requests for information, the guys doing the shakedowns will eventually stop wasting time/money making the requests. ISP's will have to pay their lawyers a bit more up front to stop such requests, but eventually this will get them OUT of the business of turning in their subscribers by keeping them out of court. With the profits fading away, the shakedown artists will have abandon the courts and try to come up with some other way to do their shakedowns.

    This is NOT over. Verizon, Comcast and others have signed on to start giving their customers warnings on behalf of various copyright holders for various types of infringing content passing over their networks. It's called something like "six strikes" and the providers are hoping it will allow them to generate more business for their "legal" services, by working in cooperation with MPAA and others. I hold now illusions that this "solution" is a good thing for anybody, except perhaps for the ISP's who see it as a marketing opportunity. I wonder if my bittorrent activity (all legal by the way) will draw a warning from Verizon (my ISP). I know they don't like bittorrent and it sure seems that they throttle my connection when I have active transfers, so I'm half expecting to be "warned" about the Ubuntu, Fedora, and CentOS distributions I try to seed over my 25Mbit connection.

    They are in this for the profit. If they got a percentage of the shakedown take, you'd bet they be out there actively turning folks in before they got asked. They are simply making a business decision that it will cost less and maximize profits to take this route, and given that there seems to be legal justification now for saying "Nope!" that the court is accepting you can bet this will continue. If alternate legal tactics alter the economics for the ISP's, you can bet they will be turning folks in once more. If it proves profitable to start the "warning" process with their customers, even before a copyright holder complains, you can be the will do that too.

  • FARKIN TIME!

  • ah... must be April's Fool day in the Mayan calendar... else some sneaky ninja has changed the dates on all my clocks/watches/phones at home again!
  • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Wednesday June 13, 2012 @05:35PM (#40315011)

    The plaintiffs in case are in the adult entertainment business. 90+ comments so far and not one "Or vagina" comment when it is now appropriate.

    What is wrong with you people?!!

  • They mistook the plaintiff for one of their customers.

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