In so many different ways, large and small, good and bad, 2013 was a memorable year.
In politics, Barack Obama was inaugurated for his second term as US president and Baroness Thatcher, the UK’s first female prime minister, passed away aged 89. It was also the year when Edward Snowden blew the whistle on NSA spying and the words “twerk” and “selfie” were added to the dictionary.
While these events may be a distant memory for most, people who were customers of ISP Sky back in 2013 are now being given a crash-course in history. After being dormant for years, copyright trolls are now writing to individuals claiming that if they don’t pay a sizeable settlement, they face being dragged to court over alleged movie piracy.
Alleged Infringement, Seven Years Ago
In September 2014, TorrentFreak learned of a UK court case that had just appeared before the Chancery Division. TCYK v British Sky Broadcasting featured the company behind the Robert Redford movie The Company You Keep demanding the personal details of Sky subscribers who had allegedly downloaded and shared the movie without permission.
During March 2015, Sky confirmed it would be handing over the details of some of its customers to TCYK, warning that it was likely that the company would demand compensation for infringements that were allegedly carried out up to two years previously.
Some People Probably Paid Up, Others Did Not
From experience we know that when faced with scary-looking copyright infringement claims, some letter recipients pay up. The reasons for this are varied, from admitting they were in the wrong through to being flat-out scared of the consequences, regardless of fault. However, some people weren’t so easily pushed around and chose to hire a lawyer to fight their corner.
In 2015, some people targeted by TCYK hired UK-based lawyer Michael Coyle of Lawdit Solicitors to deal with their predicament. TorrentFreak was informed that in several cases and after obtaining legal representation, TCYK and business partners Hatton and Berkeley backed away from their demands. However, to the surprise of almost everyone, half a decade later they are now back again repeating the same things.
Remember Us? We’re Back Again For Another Go
During the past several weeks, TCYK via London-based Hatton & Berkeley have been writing to people they originally sent claims to back in 2015. In order to protect the identities of those who were kind enough to share their correspondence with us, we won’t publish the letters here in full. However, we can provide the following outline.
The letter begins with a statement that H&B Administration has “recently taken over management” of the allegations against the recipient, noting that their member TCYK LLC (the companies are in an LLP together) has a “legitimate claim in relation to the unauthorized distribution” of the movie The Company You Keep.
What follows is a speculative calculation of damages the alleged infringer supposedly caused seven years ago, taking the supposed BitTorrent ‘swarm size’ (people sharing the movie) at the time of infringement, multiplying it by the retail cost of the movie, and ending up with a gross profit of which the company is claiming 70%.
Again, we won’t detail specific sums here but we’ve seen claims in excess of £2,000.
As we highlighted two years ago, the calculation as presented is flawed and could come under pressure if subjected to scrutiny. Nevertheless, none of that stops companies from piling on the pressure and they at least claim to be serious about taking matters to court.
Pay Up or Else….Again
“These claims will be issued in the IPEC (Intellectual property and Enterprise Court) 14 days from the sending of this letter. At which point a claim form with the particulars of claim attached will be served upon you. In order to avoid this, you may email or call at the address stated below and offer a settlement of the claim,” the letters seen by TF read.
Interestingly, the letters also provide links to two sources, claiming that they both offer “official guidance” on how to deal with a copyright infringement letter.
One source is the government itself but the other is available on the website of the Federation Against Copyright Theft, a private company that along with TCYK, is part of H&B Administration LLP, the business entity handling the actual copyright claim.
Will a Claim Older Than Prince George Hold Up in Court?
This is perhaps the biggest question here. While a copyright claim can be brought any time up to six years after the alleged offense, some of the claims reviewed by TorrentFreak are outside that period by several months. We spoke to lawyer Michael Coyle who raised doubts over whether a claim could be brought.
“I was always under the impression that the limitation period under the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 is six years from the date when the alleged infringing act is committed, which means that (in normal circumstances) once that time has expired, plaintiffs are unable to go to court and pursue a case for damages,” he explained.
The other interesting factor is that when pursuing the case against Sky all those years ago, TCYK characterized its predicament as particularly urgent. Yet, after receiving several denials of their claims back in 2015, they appear to have waited five long years only to respond with yet another claim for cash.
Only time will tell whether they’ll succeed in wringing a few hundred pounds from their targets seven years on but as things stand, the odds of succeeding in court make for an interesting calculation.