Two administrators of FileSoup – the longest standing BitTorrent community – had their case dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) today. The prosecution relied solely on one-sided evidence provided by the anti-piracy group FACT and was not able to build a case. Following the trial of OiNK BitTorrent tracker operator Alan Ellis, the FileSoup case marks the second where UK-based BitTorrent site operators have walked free.
Founded in 2003, UK-based FileSoup is one of the original torrent sites. It outlived many of the sites that sprung up around the time and developed a great reputation and a warm community in the years that followed.
After years of operating the site without any noticeable trouble, in the summer of 2009 police and the Hollywood-backed Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) conducted a raid on the home address of the site’s owner, known online as ‘TheGeeker’. Another raid was carried out around the same time on the property of fellow administrator ‘Snookered’. Both were arrested and taken in for questioning.
In the summer of 2010 the two administrators were charged with conspiracy to infringe copyright for their involvement with the site. As in previous cases in the UK, the evidence was solely gathered by the Hollywood-funded anti-piracy group FACT. No independent investigation was carried out by the police.
This critical lack of investigation on the prosecution’s part was brought to the Court’s attention by the solicitors of the two administrators. The solicitors, who successfully defended the owner of BitTorrent tracker OiNK in an earlier trial, pushed the prosecutor to formulate their charges. This turned out to be problematic.
The prosecution failed to understand some of the technical issues, did not know whether to prosecute FileSoup as a business or not, and was unsure whether the copyright holder had caused prejudice. Since there was no independent investigation into the case, all these questions remained unanswered.
Today the Crown Prosecution Service decided to drop the case entirely. It concluded that the alleged offenses are a civil rather than a criminal matter and decided not to spend any more public money on the prosecution. As a result, ‘TheGeeker’ and ‘Snookered’ are free to go.
Both men are relieved that the case has finally come to an end, and are grateful for the excellent work their solicitors carried out.
“It has been a long and stressful 18 months but I am happy to finally have the weight lifted from me,” Snookered told TorrentFreak. “During this time my solicitors, Burrows Bussin and David Cook in particular have kept me sane. Nothing was too much for them. I owe them a debt of gratitude along with my Barrister Ian Whitehurst.”
“I hope to have some more details in the next few days so I may say more then. Thank you to everyone for all the support. It was greatly appreciated,” he added.
Morgan Rose solicitors, who defended TheGeeker, are now able to add another win in a prominent BitTorrent case to their resume, which is welcomed by other UK-based operators of file-sharing sites.
“This case is not a one-off,” David Cook, Snookered’s solicitor said in a comment. “We have now seen two prosecutions for allegations such as these, both of which were fundamentally flawed. We have persistently worked in exposing the flaws in these cases, which have resulted in the absolute failure of both prosecutions.”
Today’s news is a great blow to the UK anti-piracy outfit FACT, who have spent tens of thousands of pounds on this case alone. According to the prosecution FACT’s involvement created a great inequality. The movie industry funded group has enormous financial resources while the defendants only ran a non-profit website.
Yet again the prosecution was led by FACT to believe that they were dealing with a criminal gang, a picture that didn’t hold up on closer inspection. Luckily for the UK tax payer and the FileSoup admins, the Court realized in time that justice was best served by dropping the case.