A British law firm, which only recently entered the file-sharing settlement letters business, has withdrawn due to masses of bad publicity. Tilly Bailey & Irvine, who tried to rewrite history on its Wikipedia page to remove its connection to this work, say that they fear the rest of their business could be damaged.
Following the likes of Davenport Lyons and more recently ACS:Law, lawyers Tilly Bailey & Irvine (TBI) made their first steps into the file-sharing settlements market this year.
Since TBI has been around for some 170 years, appeared to be a traditional law firm with previously good reputation, but was now publicly representing porn-industry clients in a controversial practice, TorrentFreak earlier asked the company the following question:
“Taking into consideration that when operating almost identical schemes both ACS:Law and Davenport Lyons became the subject of SRA investigations, coupled with the Lords labeling this type of scheme “legal blackmail“, are Tilly Bailey & Irvine concerned about tarnishing their hard-earned reputation?”
TBI declined to answer this and the rest of our questions but were quickly labeled by the UK Lords discussing the Digital Economy Bill as “new entrants to the hall of infamy” and their activities labeled “an embarrassment to the rest of the creative rights industry”.
The pressure continued to build when settlement letter recipients wrote complaints to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) so it didn’t really come as a surprise when we discovered TBI had been trying to re-write history by modifying their Wikipedia page recently.
At the time we wondered if this meant the company had abandoned its action against file-sharers. That question has now been answered by UK consumer group Which?
In a letter sent to the SRA on April 1, TBI wrote: “We have been surprised and disappointed at the amount of adverse publicity that our firm has attracted in relation to this work and the extra time and resources that have been required to deal solely with this issue.
We are concerned that the adverse publicity could affect other areas of our practice and therefore following discussions with our clients, we have reluctantly agreed that we will cease sending out further letters of claim.”
Deborah Prince, head of in-house legal at Which? said that she is really pleased that TBI has seen sense and left this arena.
“Hopefully, other law firms thinking of going down a similar route will begin to realise that although this work can generate vast financial rewards for law firms and their clients, it can also bring a lot of adverse publicity simply because the practice is inherently unfair and unethical.”
Consumer group BeingThreatened.com, who have worked relentlessly to assist those sent letters by TBI, ACS:Law and Davenport Lyons, also welcome the news, but want TBI to go further.
“We are cautiously optimistic that it marks the end for the innocent people who have been in touch with us to complain of the accusations. However, we believe that an apology is owed to those individuals, and would encourage TBI to come forward and say sorry,” they told TorrentFreak
“They’ve already taken the difficult step of admitting to their error, this extra step would serve to restore some confidence that the legal system is not merely there to be abused for making money through volume litigation against the innocent and unaware.”
With this announcement by TBI, only ACS:Law remain in this type of business in the UK, so are they concerned about damage to their reputation? Absolutely not. We’ll go into more details in our report next week.