UK ISPs Successfully Resist File-Sharing Data Handover

In the High Court today, UK ISPs BT and Plusnet refused to hand over subscriber data to lawyers acting for independent record label, Ministry of Sound. Their objections followed the catastrophic subscriber data leak from ACS:Law two weeks ago. The hearing was adjourned until January 2011.

The continuation of the hearing between Ministry of Sound Recordings Ltd and ISPs Plusnet / BT went ahead in London’s High Court today.

Lawyers Gallant Macmillan hoped that the Court would order the ISPs to hand over the identities of hundreds of alleged filesharers so that Ministry of Sound can prise a cash settlement out of them.

However, in contrast to their earlier stances, BT and and their subsidiary Plusnet refused to cooperate. Their concerns stemmed from the catastrophric data security breach at lawyers ACS:Law last month.

Chief Master Winegarten, who hears most if not all of these types of cases in the UK, granted BT’s request for an adjournment of the hearing.

In a statement, Plusnet’s COO Richard Fletcher wrote: “The incident involving the ACS:Law data leak has further damaged people’s confidence in the current process.

“We’re pleased that the court has agreed to an adjournment so that our concerns can be examined by the court, this will then act as a precedent/test case for the future.

“We want to ensure broadband subscribers are adequately protected so that rights holders can pursue their claims for copyright infringement without causing unnecessary worry to innocent people. We have not simply consented to these orders in the past, we have asked for stricter terms as public concern has risen. The data leak with ACS:Law prompted us to take further action today.”

Fletcher’s statement, which echoed that from parent company BT, added that the companies were also seeking a moratorium on outstanding applications and orders. This could potentially be good news for those subscribers whose identities have already been handed over to lawyers in the UK, but are yet to receive letters.

The hearing will continue on January 12th 2011. At this stage it seems unlikely that any more court orders of this type will be granted in the meantime, bringing a temporary halt to the ‘Speculative Invoicing’ of alleged file-sharers in the UK.

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