UPDATED: Comcast asserts copyright over its court filing, is attempting to shut down news site that reproduced it

In an article published last week, TorrentFreak reproduced Comcast's response to a subpoena regarding the copyright troll Prenda Law. Since then, Comcast's agents Cyveillance have sent a series of escalating legal threats to TorrentFreak and its hosting provider, LeaseWeb, asserting copyright over a document that is not copyrightable, and whose reproduction would be Fair Use in any event. TorrentFreak's hosting provider has given them 24 hours to resolve the issue or face shutdown.

Update: Comcast has changed its mind. Here's an email I just received:

Hi Cory - I saw your post and wanted to let you know this notice was sent in error, and we have advised TorrentFreak to disregard it. We apologize for any confusion. Will you update your post with this information? Thanks.


Jenni Moyer

Senior Director, Corporate Communications

Network & Operations

One Comcast Center

Philadelphia, PA 19103


“The thing that we would like you to remove from you post is the copy of the subpoena form that contains Comcast subscriber’s information, The rest of the post can stay,” we were told.

While the response is clear, it still doesn’t explain what the actual infringement is. According to our knowledge court records are public domain and can be freely used by reporters, especially when they are the center of a news piece.

When we pointed this out to Cyveillance the company suddenly informed us that Comcast told them to “hold off on working on the removal of the post in question.” Baffled by the situation, and unclear how to proceed we asked for further details. However, everything went silent and several follow-up emails sent by us since Monday afternoon have gone unanswered.

Meanwhile, the situation further deteriorated when we learned that our hosting provider LeaseWeb received the same cease and desist notice. LeaseWeb alerted us to this problem on Tuesday and stated that our IP-address would be blocked if the issue was not resolved within 24 hours.

Copyright Troll Ran Pirate Bay Honeypot, Comcast Confirms [Ernesto/TorrentFreak]

Notable Replies

  1. bzishi says:

    It sounds like Comcast is deliberating on where to go with this since their bluff has been called. The correct action would be to drop the complaint and apologize. It will be interesting to see how this develops.

    This case is sort of analogous to the GCHQ attack on the Guardian, only this time it is a corporation that is trying to silence a news website that has 'copyrighted' information. It is disturbing how common this type of attack on the media is becoming. It looks like the playbook to censor the media has now become: 1) claim they have classified/copyrighted material, and 2) use that claim to sue/harass them.

  2. Ygret says:

    Court filings, unless sealed, are public documents. I don't see any honest legal rationale for claiming the right to copyright them.

    So the claim here is that a newspaper shouldn't be permitted to publish a public court filing alongside a commentary because what? The newspaper is profiting from the copying act? I can't believe this will survive a motion to dismiss. But there is a lot I couldn't believe happening these days.

  3. Can we just simply things by re-building the court system into a blind auction where the company who puts the most money in the brown envelope gets to set the law?
    systemically its not too much different from what appears to happen now and it would certainly streamline things.

  4. No they won't. They will respectfully withdraw their complaint after the judge smacks them down, and meanwhile TorrentFreak has been out of business for weeks, maybe permanently.

    And why can't TorrentFreak turn the tables? Because Comcast is its own host, so there's no third party to pressure. And that's the leverage point.

  5. So, quick question. I get that court filings are public documents. Also, White v. West Publishing seems to indicate that the court agrees that the court documents are covered under "fair use", although given that we only have a ruling and no opinion yet, I guess it's possible something else was at play. But my real question is: Does this mean I have free rein to take legal opinions and set them to music?

Continue the discussion bbs.boingboing.net

4 more replies