One of the dumbest viruses around is the FBI MoneyPak, which displays a message saying your computer has been locked by the FBI, and you have to pay to unlock it. If Rightscorp, a copyright enforcement company for movie studios has its way, that virus is about to basically become reality.
Rightscorp’s business model is pretty simple: on behalf of copyright owners like movie studios, music artists and game developers, it tracks the IP addresses of individuals who torrent certain titles. It then sends threatening letters to those users via their ISPs, threatening a giant lawsuit, and then offering a low settlement.
It’s a small step above outright extortion, but as TorrentFreak reports, the tactic isn’t quite working, and Rightscorp’s financials are in the toilet. So, the company’s new plan for profitability is suitably desperate and extreme: it wants to lock users’ browsers until they pay a settlement fine.
The idea was spotted in a filing earlier this week:
“In the Scalable Copyright system, subscribers receive each [settlement] notice directly in their browser. Single notices can be read and bypassed similar to the way a software license agreement works [but] once the internet account receives a certain number of notices over a certain time period, the screen cannot be bypassed until the settlement payment is received.”
The hijacking would have to be done by ISPs, and would be technologically reasonably simple to implement—just redirect every webpage to Rightscorp’s notice instead, although it would be pretty simple to bypass using a VPN instead.
More problematically for Rightscorp, it’s likely to piss off customers, with no discernible benefit for ISPs. Companies like Comcast have gone to court in the past to defend their customers from copyright shakedowns; it’s highly unlikely that they’re going to voluntarily band together to back a hugely invasive and unpopular method of getting the movie theaters a few extra bucks.