Last Saturday morning customers of two ISPs in the UK woke up to a nasty surprise. Letters sent by ISPs O2 and BE advised that customer accounts had been somehow linked to copyright infringement and how this could lead to serious consequences.
“Two companies, Golden Eye (International) Limited and Ben Dover Productions (we will refer to them both as Golden Eye in this letter), allege that some of our customers broadband accounts have been used to download films from the internet, without paying for them,” O2 wrote.
“Golden Eye produced evidence which identified the anonymous IP address used to download that content. The Court then ordered O2 to check them against our customer records, and to give Golden Eye the corresponding name and address of the account holder.”
O2 then goes on to say that the High Court ordered it to hand over the names of alleged file-sharers to Golden Eye and, in an attempt to come over as the good guy, added that “O2 had no choice but to comply.”
The truth is that O2 could have made a real effort to contest the proceedings but did no such thing. As a result Golden Eye are now in possession of the identities of 2,845 O2 and BE customers to try and make money from.
Soon, and quite possibly just in time for Christmas, Golden Eye will write a letter to these O2 customers (click here to see what it will look like plus read our analysis here). In it they will outline their complicated copyright claim but ultimately announce that they are prepared to forget the whole thing if O2 and BE customers pay them some hard cash.
No amount will be mentioned but on past UK experiences it will be anything up to around £600. However, some people receiving these letters will not pay Golden Eye a single penny.
These people will have read and understood the Speculative Invoicing Handbook Second Edition, an invaluable guide released today. While the letters sent by GEIL have been approved by the High Court they are still crafted to intimidate, whereas the Speculative Invoicing Handbook is designed to inform and empower.
“The guide, which succinctly summarizes the operation of these mass litigation schemes, has proven a boon to those incorrectly accused in the past,” consumer rights campaigner and speculative invoicing expert James Bench told TorrentFreak.
It’s believed that the first edition of this superb publication enabled thousands of innocent account holders to avoid paying settlements to the infamous ACS:Law, eventually resulting in that company’s collapse and the bankruptcy of its operator.
The lawyer involved, Andrew Crossley, was also suspended by the Law Society for two years for his conduct, but he wasn’t the first casualty resulting from this type of work.
“Law firm Davenport Lyons, the pioneers of this type of volume litigation in the UK, saw two partners suspended by the Law Society and were forced to pay a substantial fine,” Bench notes.
Mindful of these unfavorable outcomes, GEIL have taken precautions.
“GEIL are the first copyright licensees to act for themselves in these matters, rather than appointing solicitors to send the letters on their behalf,” James Bench explains.
While GEIL have probably learned valuable lessons from the activities of ACS:Law, the key points remain the same.
First, the company does not have sufficient evidence to prove who has carried out any infringement. This is a huge problem for them since they can only claim settlement from the actual infringer and they don’t know who it is. They can only guess at that person’s identity – short of an ill-advised confession of course.
Second, if an Internet account holder didn’t carry out any file-sharing and didn’t tell someone else they could do so on their connection, they aren’t liable and don’t have to pay a penny. Golden Eye will eventually have to accept that and move on, even if they don’t do so straight away.
The Speculative Invoicing Handbook Second Edition can be downloaded here, and don’t forget to check out other support sites here and here. If you’ve received a letter, contact TorrentFreak in confidence.
(Update: The total of 2,845 IP addresses apparently did not relate to the same number of account holders – less than 1,000 identities have been released)