ISPs Hand Over Details of ‘Several Thousand’ Pirates

Two major UK ISPs have been ordered by the High Court to hand over the identities of several thousand alleged file-sharers. BT has confirmed it is involved while Virgin Media was less direct in admitting that lawyers Davenport Lyons, working with Topwear Inc., are about to start threatening thousands more people.

US game developer Topware Interactive, the people behind the now infamous ‘Dream Pinball‘ affair, are about to turn up the heat. Operating through London lawyers Davenport Lyons, they have managed to convince the High Court to send out an order demanding that ISPs in the UK start to hand over the details of “several thousand” alleged pirates.

According to Samknows, BT, one of the UK’s largest ISPs and like many, currently caught up in the middle of a Davenport Lyons versus P2P battle, confirmed it had been ordered to hand over details of alleged copyright infringing file-sharers. It could not confirm whether they had already handed over the details or not. However, BT was surprised at the “strong arm” tactics being employed by the games industry, in contrast to the fairly civilized warnings currently touted by the BPI, which were toned-down under duress.

“It does seem a much more strong arm approach compared to the music industry,” said the BT spokesman. “However, it is only one company pursuing a limited number of miscreants at the moment. I doubt the music industry will follow suit as the potential numbers are too great, but who knows.”

Virgin Media was a little more slippery in its response but reading between the lines it seems obvious they are involved too. While noting that they take the privacy of their customers very seriously, if faced with a court order to hand over names and addresses, they simply have to comply. Virgin Media also indicated that it prefers the ‘educational’ approach, i.e the compromise reached between ISPs and the BPI recently. Virgin media spokesman told Samknows:

“We certainly prefer the education route we pioneered with the BPI because you can’t assume people are guilty of anything, so we don’t, we let them know of what might have happened and give information on how to ensure they enjoy legal downloads. This would definitely seem to be a very different approach from a different industry.”

I’m sure it’s just a slip by the Virgin spokesman but the entire ‘games industry’ isn’t taking this aggressive approach against alleged file-sharers. It is actually just Topware Interactive, and in the other active cases, Atari, Codemasters, Techland and Reality Pump, just a handful of developers.

As a gamer of more than 25 years I agree with the boss of EA Sports, Peter Moore, that it’s not particularly clever to start taking legal action against your customers. In a superb article, Rob Fahey over at GamesIndustry.biz says that he believes the losses claimed by the industry are a ‘complete crock‘ and he’s not on his own.

In any event, if you take a look at the games being ‘protected’ in these actions, with the possible exception of Codemasters titles, they’re mostly second rate and didn’t sell many anyway. The developers would have everyone believe this is due to file-sharing but people know otherwise. The suspicion in the file-sharing community is that this isn’t about protection of copyright at all, but a way to make poor games pay. Any revenue stream in a storm, eh?

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