Today a judge-ordered hearing took place in the Patents County Court to decide how to handle all cases filed by ACS:Law against alleged file-sharers. Despite claims by the law firm that they have no fears of going to court, last week all the cases were dropped and today, supported by claims of “an unfortunate family accident”, company owner Andrew Crossley failed to attend the hearing. All this as a new, mysterious and already controversial company appears to front the entire operation. And immediately backs out.
Last month ACS:Law made a messy attempt at achieving default judgments in the Patents County Court against 8 internet connection owners who the company claimed infringed or allowed others to infringe copyright.
Representing MediaCAT, a middle-man company for movie companies involved in so-called “pay up or else” schemes in the UK, ACS:Law made a number of errors in their presentation and all 8 defaults were denied.
Following a review of all outstanding ACS:Law cases, Judge Birss QC found a total of 27 had been filed, many of them displaying what he described as “unusual features”. In order to decide how these cases should be handled in future, he ordered a directions hearing to take place today at the Patents County Court in London.
Despite ACS:Law previously stating that they have no fear of taking cases to court, last week the 27 defendants started receiving new letters, some of them arriving as late as Saturday. The letter informed them that their case had been dropped. For those who have followed the antics of ACS:Law and their clients for the past several years, the news came as absolutely no surprise.
Despite this last minute manoeuvring, the hearing ordered by Judge Birss QC would go ahead today as planned.
This morning at 10:30 GMT the hearing got under way, with the announcement that the Judge would at the moment be refusing to accept the discontinuation of the cases. Lawyers for some of the defendants present said they would be seeking costs.
MediaCAT then informed the Court they were unsure what to do now. Why? Because even at this late stage ACS:Law had managed to introduce yet another ‘unusual feature’ into these cases. Citing “an unfortunate family car accident at the weekend” as a reason, ACS owner Andrew Crossley failed to turn up in Court.
Journalists present in the Court said they intend to confirm the validity of Crossley’s claim.
After discussion about whether or not MediaCAT are even licensed to bring these claims to court on their own, the hearing was eventually adjourned until 24th January.
Tomorrow we will report in depth on the more technical points of today’s hearing.
A reporter from the Court told TorrentFreak: “Crossley looks in serious trouble, both defence barristers are seeking all costs, including ‘wasted costs’ and order to show ‘due cause’ both of which require serious misconduct in order to be awardable; prima facie case put forward on that basis.”
Crossley will now have one week to recover from the weekend’s mishaps in order to participate fully on the 24th and help the Court understand the tangled web he and MediaCAT have created.
But not before they’ve tangled it up just a little bit more for good measure.
Last week, continuing the well-worn theme of conducting their business in the most confusing and controversial way possible, the MediaCAT and ACS:Law circus threw out yet another curved ball.
People who had outstanding pay-up-or-else letters from ACS:Law were informed by post that the law firm is no longer instructed by MediaCAT to send out letters or to enter into correspondence in file-sharing cases. ACS:Law would only get involved if there was a need to take legal action against people who refuse to pay, or so the letter claimed.
The new kid on the block, a previously dormant company called GCB Limited – whose sphere of businesses is reported as ‘Transport via Railways’ – was introduced to letter recipients by ACS:Law with orders that people should send payments to them now, not ACS:Law or MediaCAT.
Enclosed with the letters were copies of misleading court rulings, one of which – in breach of copyright – was taken directly from the BBC website.
Adding to the confusion, the return mailing address is for a firm of accountants called McLean Reid who were originally responsible for registering GCB Limited as a company. TorrentFreak contacted Mclean Reid to find out how they fit into all this.
“We have no connection with ACS:Law or MediaCat and have never had,” they told us. “We were the registered office of GCB until we became aware of this matter when we terminated the relationship.”
A worrying notice quickly appeared on the McLean Reid website.
GCB Ltd was formed by us and appears to be being misused by some third party. We are taking urgent steps to ensure that our name is not in any way abused in this connection.
“GCB Ltd was a dormant company formed by us at the request of a client, we were the registered office for convenience,” McLean Reid said in a further statement.
“Our client thought he was helping out an ‘associate’ of his by allowing that ‘associate’ to use this dormant company for a business venture (which we knew nothing about). Neither we, nor our client, knew it was going to be used for this purpose.”
According to a report on Consumer Action Group today, GCB Limited has just moved to a new address and is being run by a Mr David Fisher.
While we wait for the new directions hearing, there will probably be people reading this article who are in receipt of a letter from GCB Limited and are wondering what to do now.
Today, TorrentFreak called the GCB Limited ‘Payment Center’ telephone number in the UK to ask a few questions. We were greeted by a recorded message which stated that the letters people had received should be disregarded as GCB Limited were “no longer pursuing the matter stated in the letter.”
So, the advice is simple.
Don’t worry. Ignore these letters but keep them safe somewhere. But most importantly don’t pay them or any subsequent companies or law firms a single penny, at least until Judge Birss QC gets to the bottom of this whole sorry episode on the 24th.
Tune in tomorrow for our report on the more technical points of today’s hearing.
Update: Mclean Reid have issued another statement in response to a question from TorrentFreak about what they intend to do with any payments they may receive for GCB Limited.
We will take legal advice, however our intention is to return any post to sender should we receive any.
We are advised that the Director has taken the decision stop further trading through GCB Ltd in respect of alleged copyright infringement. We believe that he has moved swiftly to minimise the damage to his name in taking this decisive action. We are further advised that he was unaware of the background involved in these claims or the precise nature of the claims.
To that end anyone receiving letters from or on behalf of GCB Ltd in respect of copyright infringement should ignore these letters. We have been assured that no further action will be taken.