Wherever there’s a controversy over unauthorized file-sharing it’s almost guaranteed that the copyright trolls at Guardaley won’t be far behind. For many years the company has been central to cases against alleged file-sharers around the world, from the United States through to the UK, Europe, Asia and Australia.
Guardaley is at the heart of what many describe as a “settlement factory”, an industrialized system to track infringements on file-sharing networks, identify Internet subscribers, and leverage cash payments from them, whether they’re guilty or not.
Chief Operating Officer Patrick Achache largely operates in the background but in recent times has been nurturing his public image. From public declarations of his charitable work to parading in the UK to warn of impending file-sharing doom, Achache paints himself as man on a mission of goodness. His targets, however, feel little but misery.
In a new interview conducted at the Cannes Film Festival and published on FilmFestivals.com (article since disappeared), Achache describes his life and frustrations as one of the world’s most visible copyright trolls.
“The technology to identify IP addresses is very easy – it’s participating in file-sharing networks, the difficult part is the data management and analysis, as well as the traffic. We record 200 million IP addresses per day and that is a lot to process, analyze and store,” he explains.
But while tracking might be the easy part, Achache sees pushing the boundaries of the legal system as a valuable tool to elicit payments from alleged infringers.
“Our lawyers are constantly looking into setting up new precedence cases (e.g. third party liability). In the US we have always worked with the statutory damages, which can be up to $150,000 USD for willful copyright infringement. Let us be serious – there is nothing like clicking on the wrong link and [getting] caught up in our software,” Achache says.
While it’s not difficult to take much of what Achache says with a healthy side portion of salt, he’s certainly not wrong there. Over the years tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of alleged file-sharers have fallen into Guardaley’s global clutches and most regret having done so.
“Our clients have sued infringers in Singapore. There are criminal proceedings in Poland, where people get arrested and their computers get taken away. We have provided data for at least 1,000 lawsuits in Germany. In the US our clients are thriving to take someone to court,” he reveals.
But while Achache and his clients regularly speak of their desire to go to court, their real aim is cash settlements. Achache won’t give the details but he says his lawyers have reached financial agreements with some amazing people – the German equivalent of the FBI, for example.
“We caught their IP address several times. They admitted, but I can’t provide further details as per confidentiality of the settlement. Our lawyers have all type of businesses – gas stations, embassies, army bases, banks, law firms – the list is really long. Some have thousands of illegal files on their hard drives.”
It can’t be denied that plenty fall into the Guardaley trap but it isn’t always plain sailing. According to Achache, ISPs opposing efforts to unmask file-sharers can be quite a challenge.
“In various jurisdictions they fight back hard, as they earn money from the pirating consumers which are signing on high volume bandwidth contracts,” he says.
But there are bigger challenges, ones that involve convincing industry groups and the authorities that the best way to deal with file-sharers is to threaten them with court action until they cough up hard cash.
“What is [an even bigger challenge] is to convince industry bodies and local government that the way we police piracy is the only effective way,” Achache says.
“Let us take the UK as an example: We have sent letters to all the industry bodies, tried to work with the House of Lords, sent a letter to David Cameron. No one ever responded. That’s why we call out the UK government as cowards like Avi Lerner did.”
For those familiar with the work of copyright trolls, the idea that Achache is surprised that no one responded to his overtures is somewhat surprising in itself, not to mention amusing.
While most industry bodies have a huge interest in protecting their copyrights, there is absolutely zero chance that a group like the BPI, for example, would team up with Guardaley to demand money from grandmothers, as the company recently did in the UK.
Furthermore, expecting a response from the Prime Minister is so optimistic as to be laughable and wanting to work with the House of Lords shows a disregard for history.
In 2010 the UK’s Lord Lucas described copyright trolling as “a scam” and “legal blackmail“, Lord Young likened trolls to “rogue wheel-clampers”, and several other members of the House joined them in criticism. This is not a business that lawmakers want to get involved in.
But for Achache and his numerous rightsholder partners, such setbacks are just another day at the office. Guardaley are planning on expansion, including a new case in Australia where the Dallas Buyers Club case just crashed and burned, plus other English speaking territories.
In the meantime, downloaders of the movies ‘London Has Fallen’ and ‘Criminal’ need to take care since Achache has revealed that those titles are being monitored by his company. Expect the threats and cash demands to follow in the not too distant future.
Essential further reading on Guardaley here for those hungry for the details.