30,000 Internet Users to Receive File-Sharing Cash Demands

As many as 25,000 BT and 5,000 customers of other ISPs will be receiving shock letters demanding big payments during the coming weeks. Lawyers in the UK have been granted more court orders which force ISPs to hand over the details of individuals who they say have been monitored sharing hardcore pornography.

For regular readers of TorrentFreak, this fresh news can hardly come as a surprise. The supposed anti-piracy scheme originally pioneered in the UK in conjunction with lawyers Davenport Lyons rolls on, but now in the hands of ACS:Law and their partners DigiProtect.

Although there is an insistence that the project is aimed at reducing piracy, in reality piracy is the scheme’s lifeblood, providing healthy profits for all concerned, except the original rightsholders that is.

On November 19th at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, ACS:Law made NPO (Norwich Pharmacal Order) applications in order to force ISPs to hand over the names and addresses of subscribers the company claims infringed their client’s rights.

The NPO’s related to approximately 25,000 IP addresses harvested from UK ISP BT’s subscriber base and a further 5,000 from various other ISPs, covering approximately 291 movie titles.

Present at the hearing before Chief Master Winegarten (CMW) were Andrew Crossley and Terence Tsang from ACS:Law, representatives from UK ISP BT and three representatives from consumer outfit Which?, who previously made official complaints regarding the conduct of Davenport Lyons. Also present were two individuals previously wrongly accused, who are regulars at the support site BeingThreatened.com.

Before the hearing began, CMW noted that he had received letters of complaint from the public about the scheme. As reported to TorrentFreak by those present, during the hearing Andrew Crossley made some interesting comments.

After CMW expressed interest in what happens to an accused infringer after the court order is granted and a letter sent, Crossley said that his company was not suggesting that the recipient is definitely guilty in all cases, but the Internet account holder who receives the letter could perhaps help them to identify the person who had actually carried out the infringement.

It is worth noting that ISP account holders are not liable for copyright infringement carried out on his/her connection if a) they did not carry it out themselves or b) did not authorize any infringement. If they did neither they can simply write back to ACS:Law explaining that the accusation against them has been made in error.

Furthermore, if the account holder does not know who did carry out the infringement, they should state in their reply that is the case. It is then up to ACS:Law to find the real infringer based on their evidence they hold. This is impossible for them without the account holder pointing the finger.

In justifying his application for the court order, Crossley said that they do it because “businesses are failing, jobs are being lost,” while citing dubious IFPI statistics (95% of all music is pirated) to justify his case.

CMW asked Crossley how long the scheme would continue for, who replied “…for as long as P2P file-sharing continues Master.”

Another NPO was applied for by ACS:Law on behalf of a new-comer to the scheme, a company called Media C.A.T. Ltd.

Little is known about them and their website is currently suspended, but searches reveal that the company is involved in the premium SMS market – one page states “Premium Rate Telephone Riches – How To Make £500 A Week” – quite what they have to do copyright holders and anti-piracy is unclear. It does appear, however, that their Managing Director Lee Bowden has previous links to Andrew Crossley and, just like him, will be in this for the money.

When CMW asked why rightsholders were dealing with Media C.A.T and not directly with DigiProtect, Crossley said that “[Media C.A.T] happen to operate in the UK…dealing with UK companies…”

In referring to the scheme ACS:Law and DigiProtect operate in respect of these hardcore porn titles, Crossley tried to suggest that they were doing a public service by helping to prevent the sharing of restricted movies on P2P.

CMW responded by noting that “[this is] not a moral crusade” and that in his opinion, ACS:Law and DigiProtect were doing this “…because you want the money.”

Recipients of past and future letters are invited to view the excellent BeingThreatened website, whose users provided invaluable help in compiling this report.

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