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Google Fiber sends ‘automated fine letters’ to suspected pirates

Published May 25th, 2015 5:05PM EDT
Google Fiber Piracy

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Et tu, Google?

With piracy running rampant these days, we’re starting to see content producers and owners going after pirates via each suspected individual’s specific ISP. HBO, for instance, began employing this strategy not too long ago in a rather unsuccessful effort to quell Game of Thrones piracy.

The messages that content producers relay to end users through individual ISPs can vary. In some instances it’s just a warning. In others, automatic fines with settlement demands are levied. While most ISPs have no problem passing along warnings to suspected pirates, most opt not to pass along threatening settlement demands. Even Comcast, which is no stranger to questionable customer service practices, sides with the consumer on this particular issue.

But Google, oddly enough, has chosen to take a different approach.

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According to a recent report from TorretFreak, Google is passing along automatic fine notices to Google Fiber users suspected of pirating copyrighted content.

“Instead of merely alerting subscribers that their connections have been used to share copyright infringing material,” the report claims, “these notices serve as automated fines, offering subscribers settlements ranging from $20 to $300.”

In one such message obtained by TorrentFreak, BMG offered suspected pirates a settlement offer under the thinly veiled threat of legal action. The message reads in part:

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.

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.

As TF points out, this is worrisome because the content owners aren’t even aware of who the actual pirate is. What’s more, “the affected subscriber is often not the person who shared the pirated file.”

So what’s going on here? Why is Google seemingly putting Google Fiber users out to dry?

Well, in a statement provided to TF, Google claims that it’s actions are being driven by transparency considerations.

“When Google Fiber receives a copyright complaint about an account, we pass along all of the information we receive to the account holder so that they’re aware of it and can determine the response that’s best for their situation,” a Google spokesperson explained.

With content owners often taking a “let’s threaten everyone” approach when it comes to piracy, it’s a shame that Google is sacrificing their users at the altar of transparency.

What makes this saga all the more perplexing is that Google concedes that there are “better solutions to fighting piracy than targeting individual downloaders…”

Yoni Heisler Contributing Writer

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large with over 15 years of experience. A life long expert Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW.

When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.