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How porn trolls are abusing the Copyright Alert System

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A copyright troll has come up with a genius, terrifying way to use the Copyright Alert System (CAS) system against Americans.

Porn company Malibu Media has threatened to sue thousands of users by alleging they've downloaded their product, a practice one judge has called "essentially an extortion scheme."

And it's evolving. As a subpoena against Verizon shows, Malibu intends to co-opt the CAS into its playbook by making Internet service providers reveal who's been flagged.

It's important to note two things about the CAS. First, while it's too early for any evidence of misuse to have surfaced, there's plenty of fear that the CAS will falsely flag users it mistakenly thinks are pirating files. And users who have been flagged once or twice might not even know it; they might only be informed through their rarely-used Internet service provider email account, for instance.

Second, the CAS is not intended to be used in courts. It's meant to be entirely extrajudicial, a way for its partner members—just the major movie and music companies—to warn people who are using peer-to-peer software to share specific files, hoping to scare them straight. Warner Brothers, for instance, might want the system to flag people who upload The Dark Knight Rises. Porn companies are not CAS members, and can't choose how the system works.

But that doesn't matter to Malibu. It just wants to know if anyone it wants to sue has been flagged, so it can use that information in court as evidence that one of its accused "pirates" has a history of infringement, and therefore is more likely to be guilty.

In other words: a copyright troll can accuse you of pirating porn, then try to obtain evidence of you being flagged by the CAS to bolster its case against you, even if you've done neither.

To be fair, Verizon is trying to avoid providing that information, as TorrentFreak noted. It's unclear if that'll work, though; on Monday, Malibu filed a motion to force Verizon to comply.

The head of the CAS, Jill Lesser, didn't respond to the Daily Dot's request for immediate comment. Her assistant, however, did stress that neither Malibu nor any porn company are CAS partners.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons