This company is looking to hijack pirates' browsers until they pay a fine

microsoft security intelligence report 2016 online piracy
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With the rise of streaming services, piracy may arguably be less widespread than it once was, but copyright holders are still doing everything they can to make life difficult for pirates. One anti-piracy firm by the name of Rightscorp is taking an approach to curbing piracy that doesn’t seem like it will win the company any friends on either side of the issue.

Rightscorp is the company behind Scalable Copyright, which it calls a “next-generation technology” that forces users to pay for pirated content. In reality, it sounds an awful lot like the ransomware that has been plaguing the Web for some time. The technology essentially locks a suspected pirate’s browser until they pay a fine, which Rightscorp refers to as a “settlement,” TorrentFreak reports.

“In the Scalable Copyright system, subscribers receive each [settlement] notice directly in their browser,” the company’s report reads. At first, these warnings can be ignored, but the company writes that “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 invasive nature of Scalable Copyright and the nature of the messages users see could lead to the assumption that their ISP is monitoring them, which isn’t the case. ISPs are involved however, because Rightscorp needs their help in delivering the software to users.

“We have had discussions with multiple ISPs about implementing Scalable Copyright, and intend to intensify those efforts,” Rightscorp writes. “ISPs have the technology to display our notices in subscribers’ browsers in this manner.”

They might have the technology, but so far, ISPs aren’t playing ball. Many providers show messages to users if they have received multiple copyright complaints, but actually charging money is an entirely different story. Considering Rightscorp’s aggressive tactics — its software reportedly delivered 112 messages to one Comcast user in under 48 hours over a single torrent — it’s understandable why ISPs would be wary.

Rightscorp blames this reluctance among service providers for its current financial situation, which isn’t good. The company reported a net loss of $3.43 million in 2015, up from its previous loss of $2.85 million in 2014.