People familiar with file-sharing settlement schemes in the UK are likely to have heard of Robert Croucher.
This businessman is a partner of German-based monitoring company Maverick Eye, who in turn are deeply involved with notorious copyright trolling organization Guardaley. Together, these companies have sent countless thousands of so-called ‘pay-up-or-else’ letters to alleged file-sharers all around the globe. The stated aim is the protection of copyright but the end result is a profitable business.
Earlier this year, Robert Croucher was involved in an unfortunate incident outside Raffles, an exclusive London club. He ended up pleading guilty to assaulting an Uber driver and was sentenced to five months in prison.
Last week, however, Croucher sent out a press release in which he explained that he himself had been the victim, and after an appeal had been released 16 days into his sentence.
Of greater interest to observers were new claims made by Croucher in respect of his anti-piracy work. His suggestion was that he’d now become involved in doing some work to raise funding for PIPCU, the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit. For clarity, here’s the relevant section of the release, verbatim.
“These revelations are made public this week as Mr. Croucher reveals his work on a private funding initiative for the City of London Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit and other law enforcement agencies worldwide to combat digital piracy,” the release read.
Intrigued, we contact Croucher’s company Hatton & Berkeley for clarification.
“Press will receive further information this week regarding private funding of law enforcement agencies,” the company said.
After publishing our piece, Croucher himself got in touch.
“For avoidance of doubt, ‘I do not fund’ or have ever stated that ‘I am to fund PIPCU’,” he wrote, questioning our interpretation of his statement.
So again, we tried to find out what else “[working] on a private funding initiative for the City of London Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit” might mean.
With no response, I suggested to Mr Croucher that if he’s indeed working on a private funding initiative, then it might be fair to say that he’s somehow facilitating or enabling the raising of funds – or at least that’s the impression he’d been trying to give.
Another statement from his company noted that “years of [Croucher’s] work on copyright protection and law enforcement financing was significantly undermined” while he was in prison. If we received information on what this meant, we were happy to update the article, we told him. No response was received. Another avenue, however, proved a little more fruitful.
Last week we also sought comment from PIPCU on their relationship with Mr Croucher and this morning they were kind enough to send a response. It doesn’t shine much light on what ‘private funding initiative’ Croucher is talking about, but it certainly clarifies the position of the police.
“The City of London Police’s Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit works in partnership with the creative industries as part of our work to fight intellectual property crime. As part of this work we engage with many organizations whose interests mesh with our own,” a PIPCU spokesperson told TF.
“Hatton & Berkley is a firm we have met with but we do not have any current arrangements in place to work with them nor do we anticipate working with them in the future. We do not receive any funding from Hatton & Berkley.”
Clearly, the impression of some type of working relationship with PIPCU would add credibility to the anti-piracy work being undertaken by Mr Croucher. However, that can currently only be interpreted through the vagaries of carefully worded press releases that promote discussion but reveal very little meat on the bone.