While the country's biggest music labels all seek out a passing of a "six strikes" scheme - one that would result in your Internet being cut off after your sixth offense - BMG has found another way to both increase its revenue and instill fear in music downloaders. Typically, if a copyright holder detects an infringement on your IP address, your ISP is legally-required to forward you a letter. Usually this letter is nothing more than a warning, and can usually be brushed off. But BMG has just gotten creative.
Instead of sending a simple warning letter, BMG's creatively-written letter asks for $20 to smooth things over and tries to make you believe that you have no choice but to pay it. As TorrentFreak points out, no one is legally required to pursue these letters, because after all, you haven't actually been proven of anything without the courts deciding it. One statement in the letter hints to the opposite:
"Your ISP service could be suspended if this matter is not resolved."
How BMG can legally mislead like this, I'm unsure, but there's little doubt that there will be many who fall victim. It could be that you did download the track, so you might want to make amends, but even if you didn't, BMG's holding you responsible anyway:
"Most internet service provider contracts state that the contract holder is responsible for actions taken on their internet service."
For guilty infringers, a $20 fee might seem a lot better than the $9,250 per offense that Jammie Thomas got slapped with, but the fact remains that there is no legal obligation to pay it. Making the request at all is bizarre of BMG to do, as it's actively seeking the aforementioned "six strikes" scheme to be put into action. But thinking about it, when is the last time we expected sense out of the music industry?
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