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Will litigants chase Oz smut-watchers?

Copyright trolls linked to adult content biz

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What started out looking like another industry strategy to hunt down BitTorrent users via their ISPs for mass lawsuit is turning into a PR problem for its proponents.

Earlier in October, the local Whirlpool broadband discussion group was set a-buzz by stories emerging on Australian site Delimiter that a previously-unknown company called Movie Rights Group was writing to ISPs seeking the identities of users who had allegedly downloaded Kill the Irishman.

The fear among local media and Internet users is that the operation looked like a “litigation extortion” operation: send legal letters to end users threatening large damages if the accusation is proven in court, or offer to settle for a sum that the end user might be able to afford.

That sparked a flurry of whois-digging over at a blog called North Coast Voices, and what a rich harvest it gathered: Movie Rights Group, it emerged, has extensive links to the adult entertainment industry, something further elaborated by Fairfax.

At least part of the problem for the company is that Australia doesn’t allow the private domain registrations that are offered in America. As a result, while the active domain – movierightsgroup.com – offers no registrant identity, its defensive registration of movierightsgroup.com.au identifies both a registrant contact (Matthew Clapham, already named in the first stories) and an organization, Hyperfocus Media, which provided probably the first hints at the adult industry connections.

Certainly, a Robtex search on the Hyperfocus domain yields an interesting list of cohabitants of its name servers, most of which are pay-per-view adult content. Some of these identify not just Matthew Clapham and his brother, Richard, but a third individual, Kenneth Pedersen, who gives the registration address as Cyprus and the registrant as Callstar Enterprises.

Callstar appears to also operate the billing agency through which the adult content is paid for by customers, under a variety of identities – callsta-bill.com, billsearch.net, csbill.net and others.

The discussion of Movie Rights Group on Whirlpool extends the net even further by suggesting a search on the mobile number identified to some of the registrants, yielding some sites that aren’t merely “adult content”, but whose names suggest targeting abusive content.

The extensive and documented links to the adult video trade – which, according to Fairfax, may extend all the way to content of questionable legality in Australia – leads to the obvious speculation that Kill the Irishman isn’t the main game for the Movie Rights Group. Rather, its strategy may be more focused: to pursue punters whose taste for illegal downloads run to content that falls into the NSFW category. ®

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