Over the last year, UK residents accused of sharing games like Dream Pinball have been threatened by lawyers Davenport Lyons. Stuck in a trap of not having enough money to defend themselves, many choose to pay compensation demands – guilty or not – fearful of a much bigger punishment if things go bad. Now a UK IP lawyer says he will defend as many people as he can – for free.
Last week, thousands of news outlets reported that a single mother, Isabella Barwinska from London, had been found guilty of uploading the game Dream Pinball. She collected a staggering Â£16,000 bill for her trouble. However, following a TorrentFreak report last week where we revealed that far from being a ‘landmark ruling’, Miss Barwinska actually mounted no defense, people are realizing that all may not be as it seems. Maybe it’s possible to fight back – and win. The timing couldn’t be better
According to reports, any minute now lawyers Davenport Lyons will send out up to 25,000 further ‘pay up or get sued’ letters, demanding around Â£300 in compensation on the back of their so-called ‘landmark ruling’. Unfortunately, those accused of infringement have had limited choices up to now. Pay around Â£200-Â£250 for a few minutes with a lawyer and maybe get him to send a solitary letter, or go it alone, maybe with limited help from the UK’s Citizens Advice service. Either way, it’s pretty much guaranteed to cost more than Â£300, in time and/or money.
Michael Coyle is a Solicitor Advocate, which means he is entitled to represent clients in the High Court and has frequently done so. He is also a Director at his company Lawdit Solicitors and leads the company’s Commercial and Intellectual Property legal section. He’s says he’d like to help those file-sharers wrongly accused, so we caught up with him to find out more.
TF: Please introduce yourself Michael, and tell us about your company. What do you specialize in?
MC: Lawdit Solicitors was formed on 3 September 2001 by me, Michael Coyle. Almost seven years later we are a busy commercial law firm with close connections in Marbella and Rome. Lawdit’s team consists of five Solicitors and support staff. While Lawdit is a commercial law firm a large part of its client base is concerned with intellectual property and copyright of course.
TF: What inspired you to start the firm?
MC: I wanted a law firm which was fair and would not price anyone out of securing at the very least a right of response when either the client’s intellectual property has been infringed or they are defending a claim for intellectual property infringement.
TF: Please tell us a little about Lawdit’s track record, relevant to this matter.
MC: Over the years I have advised clients in many aspects of copyright infringement from both perspectives, i.e the rights holder and the copier. In relation to P2P there is a paucity of legal case law largely due to lack of funds and the lack of defences. We have advised a retired gentleman and a 14 year old child, both threatened with lawsuits and both issues seem to have gone away.
TF: Why do you think they have gone away?
MC: It may be because the rights holder does not wish to take the case further as they now know legal representation is in place or they do not want the publicity. We will never know. Litigation can often be described as a game of poker. You have to always show a willingness to commence a legal action even if this is not your intention. At the same time you always need to show you will defend. At the time its usual for a ‘without prejudice’ exchange of correspondence to be maintained.
TF: Let us know what first got you interested in these Davenport Lyons cases.
MC: I have some clients who watch with interest all these developments and either they let me know or we are generally very good at keeping in touch with copyright laws
TF: What is your opinion of the ‘settle up now or we sue’ letters?
MC: It can make sense to ‘settle up now’ if you have no defence to the claim and are almost certainly going to lose. It’s back to the poker game analogy. Will they sue? etc. It seems they will commence legal action as the recent case shows, however I would need to know more about each case. If there is no defence and you are sure that a claim will follow then perhaps a penalty is worth paying. If they have no defence and it is a case of ‘its not me guv’ then perhaps not. If you have a valid defence then you should fight it.
TF: What is your opinion on how these ‘default judgment’ cases have been selected and prosecuted and the blanket media coverage of a ‘landmark case’ ?
MC: The individual would have ample opportunity to deal with numerous letters from the Lawyers. Equally once a claim has been issued the defendant has over a month in many instances to provide a defence. So the individual really ought to deal with it as the ostrich approach is not helpful. Lawyers will generally want to shout about their success and I am no different. A default Judgement is still a win although a fairly one sided win!
TF: So what exactly are you and Lawdit offering?
MC: I think it’s important that individuals do have a voice in this matter. There will be some defendants who are infringing copyright with their use of the P2P software. But at the same time there will be others who may not be. I am willing to offer Lawdit Solicitors services as the law firm to represent these individuals. I will do so for free. Obviously we are a small firm and there may be limitations to this offer. That is 5 offers for help will not be a problem. 5000 may pose me a problem, but yes, we’re willing to be on the end of an email for sure.
TF: How would you like people to contact you, bearing in mind that at the moment there are a few hundred people receiving demands and this may increase to tens of thousands shortly, or so they say…..
MC: Email is best. I am often in court but the Blackberry is on and happy to help as much as I can email is michael.coyle[at]lawdit.co.uk.
TF: Thank you for your time.
Readers contacting Michael are strongly advised to be very clear and concise in their initial correspondence. A lot of people will be interested in this offer and Michael and his team are a limited resource. Make their job as easy as you possibly can, so they can help more effectively.
Update: Already Michael is reaching capacity. If any other law firms wish to step up to get involved, please contact us here.