Heroes of Convenience

The law firm of Dunlap, Grubb, & Weaver, now operating under the name of US Copyright Group, is accusing Time Warner Cable of being a safe harbor for pirates.  This is based on TWC’s refusal to hand over the names of their customers associated with the IP addresses cited in the 1000’s of “John Doe” subpoenas issued in response to suits filed by the firm on behalf of indie film producers.  Notably, Verizon and Comcast have already rolled over and agreed to comply.

Arguably, this is not a pursuit of a specific criminal activity as much as it is a fishing expedition by lawyers.  And from a consumer perspective, the whole issue of “pirating” content is a mixed bag.  While there are certainly some pirates who are simply stealing content, repeated studies show that the majority of so-called illegal downloaders are also the people who spend the most money purchasing content.  There is ample support for the position that pirating is a consumer led revolt to access content in a format they would happily pay a reasonable price for if the content providers were to make that option easily available.  The result being that TWC has become a hero of sorts to consumers and consumer groups for standing up to the witch hunts.

Now I give TWC more than a little grief in this blog for their repeated consumer abusive practices.  So color me a tad surprised they are standing their ground to protect their customers.  Still, this is how TWC’s publicity department is spinning it.

But then this except from TWC’s response to the subpoenas comes to light:

“If the Court compels TWC to answer all of these lookup requests given its current staffing, it would take TWC nearly three months of full-time work by TWC’s Subpoena Compliance group, and TWC would not be able to respond to any other request, emergency or otherwise, from law enforcement during this period. TWC has a six-month retention period for its IP lookup logs, and by the time TWC could turn to law enforcement requests, many of these requests could not be answered.”

Ahhh… that makes more sense.  TWC isn’t protecting their customers, they are protecting their bottom line.  This is a lot of work for them, and as they aren’t a party to the suits, they have nothing to gain from taking the task on.  So this is just another financially based business decision they are trying to publicly position as a perk to doing business with them.  Yes, this is the TWC I know all too well.

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