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Google Fiber said to be a conduit for piracy fines

If you're a Google Fiber user and are suspected of downloading illegal content, you may reportedly find yourself on the receiving end of automatic demands for money.

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Beginning in November 2012, Kansas City residents were able to first try out the 1-gigabit-per-second fiber-optic Internet service. Google

Google Fiber is allegedly serving as a conduit for automatic demands for money in relation to piracy and copyright infringement.

As reported by TorrentFreak on Wednesday, the rollout of the high-speed broadband service has potentially become a catalyst for an increase in targeted piracy notices. According to the publication, such notices are being automatically forwarded to users of Google Fiber regarding downloads of copyrighted content such as music and movies, and not only include regular cease-and-desist warnings but controversial demands from companies such as Rightscorp and CEG TEK International.

Google Fiber features speeds that leave current Internet offerings in the dust. At 1 gigabit per second -- or 1,000 megabits per second -- it is significantly faster than the average US Internet connection which, according to broadband tester Ookla, clocks in at about 34 megabits per second.

The Google service has expanded from its original pilot grounds in Kansas City to Austin, Texas, and Provo, Utah, and is expected to appear in Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham, N.C., along with Nashville, Tenn., and Atlanta later this year.

But consumers may have a shock if they use the service to download content from file-sharing websites and torrent search engines that infringe upon intellectual copyright -- or if they unwittingly allow others to do so, whether family members, friends or even strangers over an insecure Wi-Fi network.

Piracy notices tend to assume that IP addresses -- how a given computer is identified on the Internet -- are related to individual identities. The notices in question do not simply alert individuals that their connection is being used to download pirated material; instead, the standard takedown process as outlined by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act is used, along with a demand for money issued without proof of identity of the infringer.

Rightscorp recently filed a lawsuit against two Comcast customers who both ignored multiple notices, which may result in damage settlements and attorney fees if the firm can prove its case. Demands for payment, often settled online, can range from $20 to several hundred dollars.

In order to protect customers from this practice, a number of Internet service providers, such as Verizon, do not forward settlement demands. Comcast forwards on the details of the infringement but does not often include settlement demands.

According to a letter received by TorrentFreak, Google is one such ISP that does automatically forward settlement demands. One such letter reads, in part:

"Your Google Fiber service has been allegedly used to access or download infringing copyrighted material.

We have not shared any information about you with the complaining party, nor will we unless we receive a subpoena or are otherwise required by law to do so. Please be aware, however, that our Terms of Service forbid the use of your Google account for unlawful activities [..] repeated violations of our Terms of Service may result in remedial action being taken against your Google Fiber account, up to and including possible termination of your service."

Below that notification is an automatic settlement demand sent by music licensing firm BMG, which says:

"BMG will pursue every available remedy including injunctions and recovery of attorney's fees, costs and any and all other damages which are incurred by BMG as a result of any action that is commenced against you.

While BMG is entitled to monetary damages from the infringing party [...] The BMG believes that it may be expeditious to settle this manner without the need of costly and time-consuming litigation. In order to help you avoid further legal action from BMG, we have been authorized to offer a settlement solution that we believe is reasonable for everyone."

Google has not responded to requests for comment.

This story originally posted as "Google Fiber pushes automatic piracy fines to subscribers" on ZDNet.

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