Rightscorp Discovering That Harassing Broadband Users Isn’t The Cash Cow It Thought It Would Be

For a few years now, Digital Rights Corp (aka Rightscorp) has been trying to turn copyright infringement notices into a revenue stream, sending accused pirates letters telling them they can avoid court battles if they just pay a $20 fee (per infringement). The idea was to engage in a “friendlier” form of copyright trolling where the demands were so “reasonable,” most users would quickly settle up. But like so many copyright trolls before it, Rightscorp’s behavior has been sloppy at best, with the company often trying to navigate dubious DMCA legal loopholes in the pursuit of cash.

Apparently, the company’s methods aren’t just legally dubious, they’re unsurprisingly unprofitable. We’d already noted a few times how the company’s shady tactics — and the lawsuits (pdf) in response to those tactics, which include violating federal robocalling laws — were putting the company on unsound financial footing. Now, new SEC filings confirm as much.

According to 10-K documents filed with the SEC earlier this month, the total loss from Rightscorp operations for 2014 was $3,398,873, with revenues of just $930,729 for the year. “As of December 31, 2014, our accumulated deficit was approximately $7,093,377,” states the filing, adding that the company lacks the revenue to allow it to “continue as a going concern.” Rightscorp stock price, meanwhile, similarly isn’t much to write home about. Not so viable for a company that on a recent earnings call declared itself “one of the only viable solutions to the multi-billion dollar problem of peer-to-peer piracy.”

There’s not much going on there if you’re an investor looking for growth. The IP section of the filing notes that Rightscorp has 7 US patent applications on file. Next to most of the patent applications, Rightscorp itself says “this application currently stands rejected by the USPTO,” “the rejection is a Final Rejection,” or “this provisional application is now expired.” Similarly, Ars Technica notes that while Rightscorp continues to expand its ISP relationships from 50 to 233 cooperating ISPs, most of those ISPs are tiny and its overall broadband user coverage is small:

“However, that’s not a very meaningful increase. While Rightscorp may have gone from 50 to 233 ISPs, most of those are very small providers, with at least some of them being individual universities who forward notices to students. The amount of the US population who have Internet service providers that cooperate with Rightscorp remains stable at about 15 percent.”

And while many small ISPs play along, a number of mid-sized ISPs like Grande Communications and Windstream have increasingly been standing up to the company, lamenting it “abuses the subpoena power of the federal courts” in California and elsewhere. Meanwhile, most of Rightscorp’s already limited finances are coming from two companies: Warner Bros. and BMG, which accounted for 76% and 13% of the company’s sales last year, respectively. In the end, maybe harassing broadband users isn’t quite the cash cow Rightscorp expected and the company may want to explore some additional revenue generation options. Perhaps used car sales or home theater installations?

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