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PI License May be Required to Investigate Digital Copyright Infringement — If Evidence is Used in a Court Proceeding

A recent Torrent Freak article titled, “Rightscorps Tracks Alleged Pirates Without a Private Investigators License, RCN Argues”, raises a very intriguing question:

Does a copyright infringement investigations service need to operate under the umbrella of a “State Private Investigator License” for its work product to be used in a court proceeding?

In the opinion of Internet Service Provider RCN, the answer is: Absolutely.

Here are a few excerpts from the sixty-two-page countersuit filed by RCN against Rightscorp (the copyright infringement investigations company) and other music industry entities:

Rightscorp is Unlawfully Acting as a Private Investigator Without a License in Violation of California and New Jersey Law

            133. California Business & Professions Code 7521 defines a private investigator as a person “who, for any consideration whatsoever…engages in business or accepts employment to furnish, or agrees to make, or makes, any investigation for the purpose of obtaining, information with reference to…[s]ecuring evidence to be used before any court, board, officer, or investigating committee.”

            134.  California Business and Professions Code (a) provides that, with certain exceptions not applicable to Rightscorp or any of its relevant representative, “no person shall engage in the business of private investigator, as defined in Section 7521, unless that person has applied for and received a license to engage in that business pursuant to this chapter.”

            135.  Section 7523(b) provides that “[a]ny person who violates any provision of this chapter or who conspires with another person to violate any provision of this chapter, relating to private investigation licensure, or who knowingly engages a nonexempt unlicensed person is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of five thousand dollars ($5,000.) or by imprisonment in the county jail not to exceed one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment.”

            136.  Rightscorp has generated and sent copyright infringement complaints to RCN, and has purported to obtain copies of copyright content from users of RCN’s network, for the purpose of investigating and obtaining purported evidence of copyright infringement to be used before the Court in this case. Rightscorp has also engaged in substantially similar activities to provide purported evidence of copyright infringement on other ISP networks, to be used in other federal court proceedings.

            138.  On information and belief, Rightscorp knew or should have known that none of its relevant representatives were licensed to engage in the business of private investigator in California.

            142. The RIAA [Record Industry Association of America] and Record Labels have endorsed and supported Rightscorp’s unlicensed private investigation, and they seek to benefit from Rightscorp’s unlawful behavior by using evidence obtained from Rightscorp in this case.

*Sixty-two page RCN countersuit:

FINAL THOUGHT

It will be interesting to see how the judge rules.

I will keep you posted.

Disclaimer: IPPIBlog.com is a service to the professional IP community. While every effort has been made to check information in this blog, we provide no guarantees or warranties, express or implied, regarding the content provided in IPPIBlog.com. We disclaim all liability and responsibility for the qualification or accuracy of representations made by the contributors or for any disputes that may arise. It is the responsibility of the readers to independently investigate and verify the credentials of such persons and the accuracy and validity of the information provided by them. This blog is for general information only and not intended to provide legal or other professional advice.

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Ron Alvarez is an IP Investigations / Protection writer and licensed private investigator in New York City. He is a former NYPD lieutenant where he investigated robbery, narcotics, internal affairs, and fine art theft cases. Ron is a graduate of the FBI National Academy and earned a B.A. in Government and Public Administration from John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan. He has published a number of articles on various investigative topics for PI Magazine. Ron is certified by the Interpol-International IP Crime Investigators College (IIPCIC.) as a "Transnational and Organized Crime Intellectual Property (IP) Investigator."

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