82-Year-Old Great-Grandmother is a Pirate, Trolls Say

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People who've managed to live for more than eight decades should be enjoying a peaceful and uncomplicated existence but for UK-based Sky customer Sheila Drew things are not so straightforward. She's being accused of being an Internet pirate - and has two letters and a £600 bill to prove it.

oldpirateIn September 2014, TorrentFreak became aware of a UK court case between TCYK LLP and Internet service provider Sky.

TCYK stands for The Company You Keep and is the title of a film of the same name directed and starring Robert Redford who appears alongside Susan Sarandon and Shia LeBeouf.

After presenting evidence to the court, TCYK LLP were granted an order which forced Sky to hand over the names and addresses of subscribers alleged to have downloaded the movie without permission.

In March 2015, Sky began warning its customers they were being targeted.

By last summer Sky customers were receiving accusations of Internet piracy through the post followed by letters demanding hundreds of pounds in compensation.

Having targeted the bill payer (the only person they have the name of) TCYK indicated in their letter that they had no proof that a specific person had committed the offense. If the bill payer didn’t do anything wrong, they should say who did, TCYK indicated somewhat optimistically.

But just like all of these companies employing a carpet-bombing approach to copyright enforcement, things were bound to go wrong for TCYK at some point. Thanks to the BBC we can how see how embarrassing things can get.

Sheila Drew lives in the Black Country, a previously industrial area in the heart of the West Midlands. She’s an 82-year-old pensioner and TCYK are currently pressuring her to pay a £600 fine after claiming her Internet connection was used to download The Company You Keep.

According to an initial letter sent to Sheila by TCYK in November 2015, the alleged infringement took place on April 25, 2013, some two years and six months earlier. Of course, remembering that far back for anyone would be a considerable feat of memory but for an octogenarian one might expect even more difficulty.

Nevertheless, TCYK have persisted with their allegations and have just sent Sheila a second letter. She still denies their claims.

“I’m upset to have been accused of something I didn’t do… how many other people has this happened to?” she told the BBC.

It’s unclear whether TCYK will have both the decency and common sense to nip this PR disaster in the bud. But for Michael Coyle, a solicitor advocate at Lawdit Solicitors in Southampton, these kinds of allegations are nothing new.

Speaking with TF last evening Coyle said that these kinds of allegations are “typical of the scam” and as a result he’s being inundated with requests from people like Sheila seeking to defend themselves.

A few months ago Coyle began defending people in return for a charitable donation but now charges less than £100 to deal with a case from start to finish.

“I’ve raised some £20k for charity and have some 350-400 clients, having also spoken to twice that many,” Coyle informs TorrentFreak.

“We’ve started to charge £75 plus vat just to cover costs but it still makes the whole aspect ridiculous.”

But while criticizing the companies engaged in so-called “speculative invoicing”, Coyle also says that court orders which enable thousands of Internet subscribers to be targeted in this fashion are also part of the problem.

“It’s probably too late to complain but it does highlight the harm and wide scale abuses caused by large volume IP address disclosures,” Coyle concludes.

But for now there is absolutely no sign that courts are prepared to reign in the activities of copyright trolls in the UK. The best people can hope for is that the “speculative invoicing” business model collapses under the strain of people refusing to pay, but that will take strength from those being targeted and trolls can be very threatening.


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