After the ACS:Law file-sharing debacle sparked massive controversy across the UK it was decided that never again would entertainment companies be allowed to go down the same path. However, despite High Court intervention which placed limits on how alleged copyright infringers could be handled by rightsholders, there are signs that on the ground very little has changed. Pay up – or else.
Earlier this year Golden Eye (International), a company affiliated with the Ben Dover porn brand, began a fresh round of “speculative invoicing” in the UK.
It would be the first attempt at extracting cash settlements from alleged file-sharers since the ACS:Law fiasco and as such the High Court placed restrictions on how the company could deal with alleged infringers.
Many of those restrictions relate to the initial letter sent by Golden Eye (GEIL) to Internet account holders. The letter itself had to be approved by the High Court and among other things could not ask individuals for a set amount of money (a figure of £700 was originally attempted by GEIL) until infringement by the individual (and to what degree) had been established.
Another element related to the wording of the letter. It should not cause the recipient unnecessary distress, give the impression that the High Court had already found them guilty, nor state that they are liable for activity carried out by others on their connection.
The first letter sent to individuals went out and obeyed the High Court’s orders. However, those who wrote back to GEIL denying their claims are finding that speculative invoicing is alive and well in the UK and in basic terms, very little has changed. It is still very much a case of pay up – or else.
A response from GEIL obtained by TorrentFreak begins with the title of the movie (which is more than a decade old) in the first line in bold, which needless to say leaves absolutely nothing to the imagination.
GEIL begins by telling the recipient that the initial letter “was approved by Mr Justice Arnold sitting in the High Court, after input from both 02′s legal representatives and Consumer Focus and Open Rights Group on behalf of consumers.”
While this statement is true, for a letter recipient unfamiliar with the case this could be construed that somehow the complaint itself (rather than just the letter) had been endorsed by not only the High Court but ISPs and consumer groups. The next sentence applies even more pressure, suggesting that the High Court believes that guilt is probable.
“The Court accepted that there was an arguable case that material had been illegally uploaded from the internet addresses we had been monitoring,” GEIL write.
Golden Eye then go on to state that they are in possession of lots of information including filehashes, filenames, times, percentage of file being shared, torrent client name, and the piece of file being shared at the precise moment of capture. The company adds that if the case proceeds to court, they will be able to produce even more data.
“All the pieces seeded by you in a raw format that can then be inspected and further analyzed [and] the raw capture of the packets sent by your P2P software to the Internet at the time of identification. This is raw data that can be analyzed further that will essentially show the piece of the content being seeded by you.”
Despite the recipient already sending a letter denying the company’s claims, the subsequent letter from GEIL continues to presume that the ISP account holder is the infringer with references to “seeded by you”, “your P2P software”, “uploaded by you” and other words to that effect.
It is only in the final few paragraphs that the letter raises the possibility that the account holder has done no wrong. Again, they attempt the ACS:Law route of trying to get the letter recipient to point the finger at someone else, even after spending the best part of three previous pages stating that the recipient is the infringer.
“If you have information regarding other people who were given access to your internet connection at the date and time our evidence shows an infringement occurred please write back with details. Alternatively if you have any other information that could suggest how your internet connection has been used to infringe our copyright then this will facilitate the conclusion of this matter,” GEIL write.
Finally, a sting in the tail for anyone who can’t come up with an adequate explanation as to how someone, somewhere, has managed to infringe GEIL’s copyrights.
“In the absence of a specific defense from you, and evidence in support of any Defense, we think it is likely that, on the balance of probabilities, the Court would conclude that it is you who is responsible for the upload by your internet connection on the date and time referred
to in our earlier letter,” the company concludes.
But of course, everything can be made to go away easily. Although GEIL were forbidden from asking for money in the original letter, they get round to that in the second. Settlement offers seen by TorrentFreak range from £350 to £800.