Starting next month, Golden Eye International (GEIL) will start sending out letters to Internet account holders they accuse of downloading and sharing various adult movies produced by UK porn outfit Ben Dover.
Despite protestations to the contrary, the exercise amounts to an ACS:Law-style scheme to extract cash settlements from Internet users.
The one big difference is that when ACS:Law entered the ‘pay-up-or-else-market’ their targets were largely unprepared. Today the situation in the Ben Dover case is quite different, not least due to the intervention of Consumer Focus, a group that has sought to protect consumers by bringing GEIL into line.
“We intervened in this case to make sure that consumers are treated fairly. People will not have ready access to the sort of specialised legal advice necessary to respond to allegations of copyright infringement. That is why we are working with the Citizens Advice service to provide clear advice to consumers about what to do if they are accused of copyright infringement,” said Consumer Focus Chief Executive Mike O’Connor in a statement this morning.
This is welcome news. Many original ACS:Law victims, including the author of the campaigning site ACS:Bore, turned to an ill-prepared Citizens Advice service in desperation only to leave dissatisfied. Hopefully things will be different this time around.
Originally, GEIL wanted to target more than 9,000 individuals alleged to have downloaded adult movies. However, the High Court has only given permission for ISP O2 to reveal the identities of 2,845 account holders alleged to have downloaded and shared Ben Dover movies, striking out the remainder who are alleged infringers of other studios’ content. They may be back though, pending the outcome of a 2013 appeal.
So when the letters finally appear through the doors of alleged infringers, what will they look like?
TorrentFreak has obtained an advance copy of the final letter and we can confirm that it amounts to little more than a rehashed ACS:Law-style scheme to extract cash settlements from Internet users based on flawed and incomplete IP address-only ‘evidence’. While the intervention of Consumer Focus and the High Court means that it is less aggressive than the letter sent by ACS:Law, it still has plenty of faults.
We say you’re a pirate, but we can’t prove it and need you to help us
“This letter assumes that you, as the internet account holder at your address, were the user of the relevant computer on the day and time in question,” the letter states under the title “Infringing acts.”
But in common with ACS:Law, GEIL then go on to admit that they have no proof that the individual being written to is the actual infringer.
“In the event that you were not responsible for the infringing acts outlined above because, for example, another member of your household was the user of the computer, you should make full disclosure to us of the other parties at your residence using your internet connection to make the Work available for download,” the letter states.
“A failure to make such disclosure may lead to a claim being made against you with the court being asked to conclude, on the balance of probabilities, that you were the user of the computer.”
While GEIL are perfectly entitled to “ask the court to conclude” whatever they like, it does not necessarily follow that a High Court judge will take their advice. The law states that if the defendant did not carry out the infringement or did not authorize someone else to do so, they are not guilty of copyright infringement. If they do not know who infringed, then it will be impossible for them to tell GEIL, despite the firm’s veiled threats.
Michael Coyle, a solicitor advocate with Lawdit Solictors, a company that previously helped people fight off ACS:Law, says that while there is a chance GEIL will take a case or two to court, this is all about settlements.
“The exercise is an attempt to obtain as much money as [GEIL] can and it will cause significant embarrassment [due to the pornographic nature of the content],” Coyle told TorrentFreak. “However the two key points remain the same, no infringement can be proven unless people accept that they did it or GEIL get to inspect their hard drive.”
And admitting to wrongdoing is exactly what GEIL are asking for people to do.
“Please state whether you admit that you have downloaded the Work and/or made it available for download by others, and if so the extent to which you have done so,” the letter adds.
It should be noted that earlier in the letter GEIL state that the level of damages claimed in any court case would be directly linked to the “extent to which you have downloaded the Work and/or made it available for download by others.” Why anyone would want to help GEIL formulate a claim against them by providing them with the ammunition is anyone’s guess. If GEIL had evidence to show the actual extent of any infringement, they would show it.
Settling with GEIL will involve paying them money, although in their first letter they don’t say how much. It is widely believed that they will ask for £700 once negotiations begin, perhaps even more if people help GEIL build a case on a full confession.
Anyone receiving a letter should contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 08454 04 05 06 or their local Citizens Advice Bureau. And don’t forget to contact TorrentFreak too, in complete confidence of course.