Leaked Emails Reveal Profits of Anti-Piracy Cash Scheme

Friday night the anti-piracy law firm ACS:Law accidentally published its entire email archive online, effectively revealing how the company managed to extract over a million dollars (£636,758.22) from alleged file-sharers since its operation started. On average, 30% of the victims who were targeted paid up, and this money was divided between the law firm, the copyright holder and the monitoring company.

Right before the weekend the notorious ACS:Law managed to expose backups of its entire website and email database to the outside world. Hundreds of people have meanwhile started to dissect the contents of the mails, and are sharing their findings in forums and in comments posted online.

Aside from a lot of personal stuff, regular passwords, PayPal details and private pictures, the emails also shed a whole new light on the effectiveness of the letters of claim that are being sent out to thousands of BitTorrent users and how the recouped money was divided.

The table below details how many letters were sent out to file-sharers over the last two years per client, and how effective these claims were. In total, 11,367 have been sent out. In 40% of the cases the respondents never replied, and another 30% disputed their claim. This means that on average 30% of the accused file-sharers chose to settle by paying between £350 and £700 per infringement allegation.

Client Letters Disputed Non-responders
Digiprotect 6640 1992 2656
Topware 590 177 236
Techland 364 109 146
Reality Pump 236 71 94
Media C.A.T 3537 1066 1406
Total 11367 3415 4538

The recouped money is generally divided between three parties. The law firm, the copyright holder and the monitoring company that provided IP addresses of alleged infringers. The shares differ between the various clients, but as can be seen in the table below the law firm always gets a significant portion of the money – between 37.5% and 52.5%.

Client Share to Client (%) Share to Firm (%) Share to monitoring company (%)
Digiprotect 50 37.5 12.5
Reality Pump 25 42 33
Topware 25 42 33
Techland 33 42 25
Media C.A.T 35 52.5 12.5
Yann Peifer 40 45 15

So how much money has been made thus far by the parties involved? Previously we could only take ACS:Law owner Andrew Crossley’s word for it. In April this year he used The Law Society Gazette to announce that he had “recovered close to £1m for my clients” but unfortunately he can now be seen to have been economical with the truth.

Using figures now available though the email leak, we can see that by 28 April 2010 around $1m (£636,758.22) had been paid by the victims.

In everything that we’ve seen thus far it is clear that the sole motivation of the legal action has been to generate as much money as possible. Documents in the leak show ACS:Law admitting that they asked for a settlement of £495 in order to break the ‘psychological’ £500 barrier to maximize revenues.

Client Money Recovered Paid to Client Paid to monitoring company Paid to Firm
Digiprotect £346,607.90 £151,625.86 £45,060.21 £131,048.38
Topware £68,127.47 £10,880.48 £10,881.48 £23,551.18
Techland £22,474.85 £795.93 £590.00 £2,228.43
Reality Pump £34,866.90 £3519.16 £4,645.28 £7,628.20
Media C.A.T £164,681.00 £35,350.57 £15,066.06 £55,957.20
Total £636,758.22 £202,172.00 £76,243.03 £220,413.39

It is needless to say that ACS:Law’s operation has proven to be quite profitable. However, it is doubtful that this will last. Aside from the information that has come out thus far, the leaked emails contain several bits of information that could put the unfortunate law firm out of business. More on that later.

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