Today we’re going to do that in an effort to predict who might be sending out scary letters in the coming months that demand cash settlements for alleged movie piracy. If we are right, it could save thousands of people a lot of money. It might even deter some piracy too – a win-win on all sides.
Background – Hatton & Berkeley
In 2014, the company behind the Robert Redford film The Company You Keep took UK ISP Sky to court, demanding the personal details of alleged copyright infringers. The High Court signed off on that request in 2015 so in conjunction with London firm Hatton & Berkeley (who previously partnered with anti-piracy monitoring company MaverickEye), TCYK LLC began sending out demands for cash settlement.
Three years later, the matter was still not over, with Hatton & Berkeley continuing to write to alleged pirates with demands for cash. Quite how many people paid up may never be known but all the signs suggested that this wouldn’t be the last bite of the cash settlement cherry.
Corporate Entity Gets Some Interesting New Members
The action against the Sky subscribers was carried out under limited liability partnership H & B Administration LLP. Formed in 2015, its original members included Copyright Management Services (a known copyright-troll style outfit) and of course TCYK LLC, so that legal action could be brought against alleged The Company You Keep pirates.
In September 2019, H & B Administration LLP welcomed an interesting new member – the Federation Against Copyright Theft. We asked FACT why it had joined up but the anti-piracy company did not respond to our requests for comment.
We can now reveal that several months later, another new company joined the H & B Administration LLP team.
And Another Film Company Joins the Ranks
With the picture beginning to build, last month yet another movie industry player joined H & B Administration LLP. In May, Azil Productions LLC became the latest addition to the FACT and Voltage partnership. The obvious question asks why so many movie and anti-piracy companies are now working together.
Voltage and Azil Productions are behind the movie The Marksman. Formerly known as The Minuteman, the movie stars Liam Neeson as Jim Hanson, a rancher and Vietnam war vet “going through a tough time.” The Marksman was released in the United States in January 2021, with reviews currently averaging 5.6/10 on the IMDb.
Perhaps importantly, The Marksman was released in the UK on May 11, 2021. Azil Productions joined the H & B Administration LLP partnership on May 4, 2021, exactly one week before the movie was released locally.
That timing could be a coincidence but given that The Marksman doesn’t appear to be a glowing commercial success, it could be a useful candidate for inclusion in a cash settlement scheme. And, as far as we can see, Azil Productions is only associated with this movie.
H & B Administration LLP Undergoes Name Change
Ten days after Azil Productions joined H & B Administration LLP, the partnership underwent a name change. Documents filed with Companies House show that the new name is FACT Administration LLP. Its members include Voltage Holdings, Azil, and FACT Worldwide.
We can only speculate as to why this name change was made (no other changes were made to the LLP’s corporate structure) but thinking about it logically, it makes sense for a number of reasons.
While Hatton & Berkeley (H & B) is known as an entity that has demanded settlements from alleged pirates, it has nowhere near the commercial presence of FACT. So, if settlement letters were to be sent out with FACT branding in the future, those Googling the company would learn of its connections with both the government and the police, something that could prove to be a factor that encourages way more people to pay up.
To reiterate, we have no rock-solid proof that such demands for settlement will go out soon or indeed anytime in the future. However, having so many anti-piracy groups under one umbrella, many of whom are known for demanding cash settlements from alleged pirates, certainly raises some speculative alarm bells.
Some Final Thoughts and Predictions
If people who pirated The Marksman are indeed among the targets of the business venture detailed above, they will almost certainly be those who pirated the movie using BitTorrent. Furthermore, it is very likely that monitoring is already taking place since the period directly after a movie being released is usually when the most downloads take place.
More downloads mean more IP addresses to collect and more people to send letters to.
We cannot say with any certainty which ISP(s) might be targeted but Sky could be a candidate for several reasons. Not only has it handed over subscriber information in the past but it is also an important rightsholder in itself, protected in part by FACT’s anti-piracy arm. Of course, this wouldn’t enable any side to do anything but follow the legal instructions of the High Court but having an idea upfront of how an ISP might respond to an application could be useful.
It’s still possible that none of the above will happen but all the ingredients are there in black and white to strongly suggest an upcoming cash settlement scheme or similar anti-piracy venture. It’s also possible that any other Voltage movie could enter the mix too, meaning a greater spread of titles and potentially more targets.
In reality, only time will tell but people shouldn’t be surprised if this currently silent alliance suddenly springs into action – one way or another.
Image credit: Gantas Vaičiulėnas