BitTorrent Users Refuse To Pay Copyright Fines

During the last couple of years, hundreds of people have received letters from lawyers demanding compensation for the alleged uploading of copyright works. Their demands state that if you don't pay up, you will be taken to court and dealt with severely. However, when people refuse to pay - nothing happens.

Back in March 2007 it became apparent that it would now be the turn of UK citizens to receive threatening letters for claimed breach of copyright. A team consisting of lawyers ‘Davenport Lyons’, anti-piracy tracking company ‘Logistep’ and several games publishers such as Zuxxez/Topware and CodeMasters started sending letters to those it accused of unauthorized distribution of their products – otherwise known as ‘uploading’. The most persistent cases are those featuring the games Dream Pinball 3D, Colin McRae Dirt and Call of Juarez.

In their letters, Davenport Lyons adopt a very serious tone, as they threaten to take people’s homes away, should they be unable to pay their ‘fines’. Of course, not many people like this tone, and they can get very indignant in the face of it. Needless to say – guilty or not – some people are sufficiently annoyed and simply refuse to pay. Others refuse to pay for different reasons – TorrentFreak is in touch with a few of them.

The reasons for non-payment vary, but some simply don’t have the money. ‘Tania’ told us: “I’m a single mom and my son must’ve done this but I don’t have £600 ($1200). I can’t pay it, I don’t have that sort of money.” ‘Paul’, who works a 70 hour week on two jobs explained that he is massively in debt with credit cards and the demands for cash from Davenport just go “on the pile with the others.” None of these people have been taken to court.

Others are refusing to pay because they are innocent. Even though Davenport insist that its anti-piracy tracking partner ‘Logistep‘ is faultless in its data-gathering, it’s generally accepted that anti-piracy companies are using systems which can produce bad data. Only last week researchers managed to get infringement notices sent to printers, devices incapable of committing such an act. Davenport insists – rather like BPI chief executive Geoff Taylor – that if the High Court thought the evidence was compelling enough to order the ISP to give up the personal details of the alleged sharer, then the data must be accurate. If that is the case, how come Davenport haven’t taken anyone to court or asked Logistep to take up the offers they received to have their system independently audited? That would surely boost their credibility. Or not.

TorrentFreak spoke with many people who are obviously wrongly accused for various reasons. We’re pretty sure that ‘Lucy’, a 67 year old grandmother of 8, had no interest in Colin McRae Dirt, and that ‘Peter’, a 21 year old student who used to have a game-loving flat-mate, is completely innocent. What about ‘Jason’, a father of four who was in the Middle East at the time of the alleged infringement, or ‘Joanne’ who had probably been running a wide-open wireless router for the best part of two years – in a building of around 60 residents? As with the other group, none of these people have been taken to court.

One man, ‘Stuart’, has been corresponding with Davenport Lyons for many months now over claims his uncle with whom he lives, infringed copyright on Colin McRae Dirt. The Internet account is in his uncle’s name, but his uncle never uses the computer, so the wrong person was accused immediately and Stuart vigorously denies all accusations too.

After many letters sent to Davenport last year, where Stuart (on behalf of his uncle) denied all allegations, with Davenport duly ignoring most points and reiterating that if he didn’t pay he’d be going to court (each time giving only a few days to stop the court action), everything went dead. Then a couple of months ago, déjà vue kicked in as a letter dropped through the door which seemed to start from the beginning again, essentially stating that if he didn’t pay, court papers would be prepared and he would be incurring huge costs, etc.

Stuart wrote back, re-iterated his total innocence, and reminded Davenport that endless correspondence was getting them nowhere while they insist he is guilty, and he insists he is not. They wrote back and reminded him (again) that they were going to start court proceedings if he didn’t pay. He hasn’t paid and they have not taken him to court. Again.

Stuart is not unique in receiving lots of letters, lots of threats and then – nothing. TorrentFreak is in touch with nearly 40 people accused in these cases and not one of them has been taken to court, in some cases more than 15 months after these people apparently had 14 days to pay up or else.

It’s not clear if Davenport Lyons has completely given up on taking anyone to court, they may still surprise us. It’s believed they did ‘win’ one case when someone they accused didn’t turn up in court but all the indications point to a stalemate on the outstanding cases, including those of Stuart, Lucy, Peter, Jason, Joanne and countless others.

It’s thought that around 40% to 50% of people who received letters have paid up, and maybe that’s enough for the operation to be profitable for Davenport. Taking people to court in the UK for such a small infringement is definitely unprofitable. Maybe this is the greatest indicator as to where these cases are going to end up when the defiant, penniless and innocent refuse to pay.

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