Google Fiber pushes automatic piracy fines to subscribers

If you're a Google Fiber user and are suspected of downloading illegal content, you may find automatic demands for money in the post.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer
Google Fiber is allegedly acting as a conduit for automatic demands for money in relation to piracy and copyright infringement.

Google Fiber, the high-speed broadband service, is quickly expanding across the United States. Touting speeds which leave current Internet offerings in the dust -- allowing consumers to enjoy up to 1 GB/ps -- the service has moved from its original pilot grounds in Kansas City and is expected to appear in Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham, NC along with Nashville, TN and Atlanta, GA later this year.

Consumers are clamouring for broadband speeds up to 100 times faster than the national average, but may have a nasty shock if they plan to use the service in order to download content from file-sharing websites and torrent search engines which infringe upon intellectual copyright.

As reported by TorrentFreak on Wednesday, the rollout of Google Fiber has potentially become a catalyst for an increase in targeted piracy notices.

According to the publication, piracy notices are being automatically forwarded to users of Google Fiber, and not only include regular cease-and-desist warnings but controversial demands from companies such as Rightscorp and CEG TEK.

Rightscorp, for example, recently filed a lawsuit against two Comcast customers who both ignored multiple notices -- 11 and 288 demands respectively -- which may result in damage settlements and attorney fees if the firm can prove its case.

Demands for payment, often settled online, can range from $20 to several hundred dollars.

The practice requires scrutiny. These notices do not simply alert the user that their connection is being used to download pirated material; instead, the standard DMCA takedown process is used and a demand for money issued without proof of identity of the infringer. However, an IP address is not legally linked to an individual, and those targeted by these notices may not be the ones downloading -- family, friends, or an insecure Wi-Fi network can all be at fault.

Without definitive proof, a scary letter can still be enough to force subscribers to pay up. However, this can also mean customers are left out of pocket or terrified by the idea of a court case for no reason.

In order to protect customers from this practice, a number of Internet Service Providers (ISPs), such as Verizon, do not forward settlement demands. Comcast forwards on the details of the infringement but does not often include settlement demands.

According to a letter received by the publication, however, Google is one such ISP which does automatic forward on such demands.

Within a letter sent to a subscriber, Google Fiber says:

"Your Google Fiber service has been allegedly used to access or download infringing copyrighted material.

We have not shared any information about you with the complaining party, nor will we unless we receive a subpoena or are otherwise required by law to do so. Please be aware, however, that our Terms of Service forbid the use of your Google account for unlawful activities [..] repeated violations of our Terms of Service may result in remedial action being taken against your Google Fiber account, up to and including possible termination of your service."

Below Google's notification is an automatic settlement demand sent by music licensing firm BMG, which says:

"BMG will pursue every available remedy including injunctions and recovery of attorney's fees, costs and any and all other damages which are incurred by BMG as a result of any action that is commenced against you.

While BMG is entitled to monetary damages from the infringing party [...] The BMG believes that it may be expeditious to settle this manner without the need of costly and time-consuming litigation. In order to help you avoid further legal action from BMG, we have been authorized to offer a settlement solution that we believe is reasonable for everyone."

This appears to be a strange stance for Google to take, which now publicized, could end up turning off potential Fiber customers in support of ISPs which refuse to feed the piracy notice revenue model.

See also: Pirate Bay team talk seizure, scams, future plans

This week, a Stockholm court ruled that the Swedish government was permitted to take over torrent search website The Pirate Bay's Swedish web addresses, piratebay.se and thepiratebay.se. The domains, used to access .torrent files for sharing material -- which can include copyrighted content such as films and television shows -- were handed over due to The Pirate Bay's violation of copyright laws in the country.

ZDNet has reached out to Google and will update if we hear back.

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