A mysterious company using the name “Internet Copyright Law Enforcement Agency” is sending letters to home addresses of alleged BitTorrent users, asking them to pay a settlement fee of hundreds of dollars or face jail time.
The outfit claims to work with law enforcement and says it protects the rights of popular artists such as Skrillex and Cee Lo Green . The sophisticated scam goes beyond what we’ve ever seen before, and suggests that there may be people at the ISP level involved.
Over the years we have seen plenty of scam artists trying to make a few bucks off BitTorrent users and other file-sharers, but the stunt that’s being pulled off by the “Internet Copyright Law Enforcement Agency” tops them all.
Disguised as copyright trolls, the unregistered outfit is targeting file-sharers across the United States with copyright infringement claims and threats of criminal prosecution.
Victims of the scheme receive a letter in which they are notified about alleged copyright infringements that took place through their Internet connection. The letter is sent to their home address and lists an IP-address and the files that were downloaded without permission.
“We work with law enforcement agencies and strategic partners around the world to enforce copyright laws, and to help prosecute individuals and companies who violate these laws,” the group introduces itself in the letter.
To escape civil and criminal prosecution the account holder is asked to settle the issue for $495, or else. Others report slightly lower claims but the threats are the same. Pay up now or you might face criminal action and millions of dollars in fines.
“You may face serious potential criminal and/or civil charges filed against you. If you are arrested for felony criminal copyright infringement you will be fingerprinted, photographed, and held in jail until you are arraigned in court,” the letter reads.
“If you act promptly you will help avoid being named as a Defendant in a potential criminal and/or civil lawsuit that can result in a felony criminal conviction causing imprisonment, and/or fines of up to several million dollars,” it adds.
The company suggests that it works with law enforcement and represents a wide variety of copyright holders, including popular artists such as Skrillex and Cee Lo Green, but it appears that the company is just acting on its own.
According to information obtained by SJD the accusations are not made up. This means that the IP-addresses were indeed “caught” sharing the files listed in the letter. However, it is a mystery how the “Internet Copyright Law Enforcement Agency” obtained the home addresses of the subscribers.
Regular copyright trolls get the subscriber information through a subpoena they obtain from court, but there is no sign of any legal action tied to these claims.
This leads us to worrying possibility that the “Internet Copyright Law Enforcement Agency” may have contacts working at one or more Internet Providers. These would be able to look up the addresses of the account holders in question, bypassing the legal system.
As can be seen from the image below the company urges their victims to send money to a virtual office in Washington. However, the company itself doesn’t appear to be registered under the name it’s using.
Although the scale of the scam is unclear, several letter recipients have posted messages on the Internet in recent days. While some people appear to recognize it as a scam, there are probably many more who didn’t, and paid up.
As it turns out, however, all signs indicate that the “Internet Copyright Law Enforcement Agency” are the criminals here, possible facing several years jailtime for fraud, extortion and racketeering. That is, if they are caught and convicted.
Interestingly enough, the public attention seems to have frightened them, as a few hours ago they suddenly claimed to have ceased their operations.
“Effective immediately, the Internet Copyright Law Enforcement Agency has ceased operations. Please disregard any notices you received from us, and please do not send us any payments,” a message on their website reads.
While this is good news for the people who still have to pay up, the persons behind the scheme shouldn’t be able to get away with this so easily. We encourage everyone who received a letter to contact the police and their Internet provider, urging them to look into the matter.