Slammed By Judge, ACS:Law Not Allowed To Drop File-Sharing Cases

Today, despite the apparent closure of both anti-piracy law firm ACS:Law and its copyright troll partner MediaCAT, the Patents Country Court began yet another hearing to announce how more than two dozen previously filed cases should be handled. Judge Birss QC slammed the scheme operated by the pair and denied them the opportunity to drop the cases.

In a statement read out in the Patents County Court earlier this month, ACS:Law owner Andrew Crossley announced that he had quit the file-sharing claims business. Last week TorrentFreak discovered that he had completely closed down his business, along with his client MediaCAT who had also ceased trading. Nevertheless, the companies still have unfinished business – they can’t run away that easily.

On 17th January at the Patents County Court, Judge Birss QC said he was “astonished” by the conduct of the pair as they tried to discontinue cases against 27 alleged file-sharers at the 11th hour. The hearing was eventually adjourned and everyone returned to court 24th January to find solutions to numerous problems, including the joining of copyright owners to the action and the addressing of various procedural failings. After five hours that hearing was also adjourned for deliberations.

Today everyone returned to court to hear the ruling from Judge Birss QC. As was expected, neither ACS:Law’s Andrew Crossley nor MediaCAT’s Lee Bowden bothered to turn up. While ACS:Law had a new barrister in court, MediaCAT had no representation at all.

The court decided that ACS:Law would not be allowed to drop the 26 cases against alleged file-sharers, an answer to one of the key questions from the earlier hearing. While the copyright holders are being given 14 days to join the action, it is doubtful they will. If this happens, all MediaCAT cases against these defendants will be dismissed in March.

Yet again ACS:Law and client MediaCAT were heavily criticized, with the Judge reiterating that both companies have “a very real interest in avoiding public scrutiny” because of the revenue they generated from “wholesale letter writing.”

“Whether it was intended to or not, I cannot imagine a system better designed to create disincentives to test the issues in court,” said the Judge. “Why take cases to court and test the assertions when one can just write more letters and collect payments from a proportion of the recipients?”

The Judge said that the processes employed by the pair were “based on untested legal and factual propositions and issues of technology” and their letters “materially overstate[s] the untested merits of Media CAT’s approach.”

Judge Birss also described ACS:Law’s earlier claim that they could not provide documents for the court’s scrutiny as “extraordinary”.

“A party who keeps key documents which are cited in the Particulars of Claim in storage is not a party anxious to progress their claim in court,” he said.

As reported by Ralli, the lawfirm representing defendants in the case, the Judge was also critical of the involvement of GCB Limited, the company that popped up to carry on the MediaCAT letter writing campaign.

“The GCB episode shows that Mr Crossley’s client had every intention of doing precisely that and that ACS:Law were perfectly well aware of it. It is very difficult not to draw the inference that this was nothing more than a last ditch attempt to make some money from the letter writing exercise.”

The case was adjourned again, this time until 16th March. The issue of wasted costs to be picked up ACS:Law and/or MediaCAT will be heard then.

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