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Firm says its objective is to help its customers "exploit" their "rights globally"

Here in the U.S. the legal campaigns of the RIAA and MPAA are the subject of long standing controversy.  Decisions like the $1.92M USD verdict against mother Jammie-Thomas Rassert for 24 songs (allegedly representative of large infringement), largely divide the public, with some advocating suing infringers out of house and home and others blasting the tactics as thuggish and evidence of a out-of-touch intellectual property system.

The UK appears headed for more of this kind of controversy, as the law firm ACS:Law just secured approval from the Royal Courts of Justice in London to demand the addresses and personal info on 30,000 users from their internet service providers (ISPs).  The customers covered by the so-called Norwich Pharmacal Order are "suspected"  involvement with the illegal file sharing (P2P) of approximately 291 movie titles.  Of the suspected infringers, 25,000 had IP's with the UK service provider BT.

ACS:Law plans to try to shake down those who may have infringed, sending them threats to pay up or face a battle in court.  Judging by past settlements in the U.S., most of these cases will likely be settled for a few thousand dollars.  The letters do give some suspects an out by saying that if they think their connection was illegitimately reportedly used they can seek a solution, such as implicating possible suspects.  IP addresses are easily faked, hijacked, redirected and generally abused in ways that the systems employed by these kinds of trackers cannot detect.

Copyright protection organizations and their legal bulldogs have recently been particularly at odds with BT.  Their fury was particularly provoked when the UK Internet Service Providers Association which represents the ISP and others in June concluded that they were "not confident in [ACS:Law's] ability to identify [ILLEGAL] users."  ACS:Law fired back that BT was "shameful" for not taking greater action to prevent filesharing.  BT said such actions would violate its users' right privacy.

ACS: Law describes its company's objective, writing, "We are a law firm which specialises in assisting intellectual property rights holders exploit and enforce their rights globally. Illegal file sharing costs the creative industries billions of pounds every year. The impact of this is huge, resulting in job losses, declining profit margins and reduced investment in product development. Action needs to be taken and we believe a coordinated effort is needed now, before irreparable damage is done. "

Britain is home to some of the most aggressive copyright enforcement efforts.  Politicians with the majority Labour Party are looking to terminate filesharers who commit three offenses, forcing their ISPs to suspend their accounts.  British copyright organizations also recently threatened to sue a singing store employee, only to eventually back down.

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Value out of nothing?
By TSS on 11/27/2009 8:49:46 PM , Rating: 1
Ok this is getting ridicolous. We need to adress this issue as a race of beeings rather then countries with ideas. Because this is simply stealing from them because they stole from you, anarchy. And now that it's spreading, we'd best take care of it.

Here is the real problem: How can we find value in something that has no value?

Value has always arrived from scarcity. Why was gold used as the material for coins? Because it was scarce. Dirt isn't worth anything because... it's everywhere.

Anything digital isn't scarce. It can be replicated against almost no cost. That we choose to pay millions for dirt doesn't change the fact it's dirt. Can you even imagine getting sued because you stole another guy's dirt?

And it gets worse! We can also replicate money as much as we like. It's just numbers on somebody's computer. Last i heard only like 3% of the money in america is actually printed. So technically where paying for something that does not have value with something that does not have value! But stuff like chairs, or desks, or anything solid that does have value, can be bought with something that does not have value.

Change is needed, we need to redefine value and what it actually is. With it, related terms like profit need to be redefined. Afterall, you cannot have made a profit if you've only collected more stuff without value.

I wish i had the sollution, but alas i'm not nearly smart enough. Maybe collectively, over time, we can come up with something though.

RE: Value out of nothing?
By Jalek on 11/27/2009 9:17:51 PM , Rating: 5
This story's about England though, where the RIAA affiliate wanted to sue a grocery store employee for royalties over singing while working.

It's not just the digital copying, these organizations are just insane.

RE: Value out of nothing?
By TSS on 11/28/2009 5:12:24 AM , Rating: 2
It's not just these organizations. Yes they are insane, totally agree. And if copyright wasn't such an issue in itself they would find something else to leech off. They are like the torrent sites: kill one and more will take it's place. But that doesn't mean copyright isn't still an issue, that will go away if these organizations go away.

I mean i'm still figuring out how to explain that i paid 50 euro's for something i can duplicate by going "ctrl+c, ctrl+v". Does that mean i have 2 items worth 50 euro's? Their both equal in every single way.

Then it blows my mind that, take a movie for instance, some company sunk $120 million dollars into something that i can duplicate by going "ctrl+c, ctrl+v".

Suppose that the instant the master file was created which is then copied, it would be instantly copied to everybody's computer via a giant P2P network. The instant that happens, the file is completly worthless since everybody has it. That's actually technically *possible*.

Try using "ctrl+c, ctrl+v" with a chair. The one your sitting on. Just make sure it isn't connected to the internet and they'll never know.

*falls down*

Ah crap, i'll be back later, My chair's motherboard just fried and it dissapeared under me. Now i gotta go to the store to get a new one then talk an hour with MicroSit support to renew my licence so i can sit down again.

RE: Value out of nothing?
By scrapsma54 on 11/28/09, Rating: 0
RE: Value out of nothing?
By monitorjbl on 11/28/2009 11:23:30 AM , Rating: 2
Why would you buy a movie you don't like?

RE: Value out of nothing?
By scrapsma54 on 11/28/2009 12:02:03 PM , Rating: 2
I don't, but it also means I am willing to give a movie a chance before I clarify it as garbage.

RE: Value out of nothing?
By PrinceGaz on 11/30/2009 4:03:02 AM , Rating: 2
Probably because he hadn't watched it before buying it, I would expect. That is why piracy can be a good thing-- you only end up buying stuff you like (including stuff you like you would not have considered buying had you not been able to view it for free first), whilst the rubbish gets watched once (or possibly not even all the way through if it is that bad) and deleted with whoever published it receiving no money for churning out junk.

RE: Value out of nothing?
By vapore0n on 11/30/2009 9:12:42 AM , Rating: 3
Are you saying movies at the theater should be free, and you just pay at the end of the movie if you liked it?

RE: Value out of nothing?
By Lazarus Dark on 11/30/2009 8:01:56 PM , Rating: 2
Well, that would be nice. This weekend I was dragged by friends to see Ninja Assassin. A terrible movie even by ninja movie standards. I walked out wishing I could get my money back and I immediately watched something at home to try to forget the horrible movie. If I'm alone or with only my wife, we will often walk out of the middle of movies and get our money back, but with freinds, I'm obliged to stay the whole time. Yes, I think they should still give me back the money at the end, especially movies where the end ruins the whole movie. It's like they stole the money from me and didn't deliver what was promised (entertainment).

RE: Value out of nothing?
By Kiffberet on 11/30/2009 7:58:54 AM , Rating: 2
People out there who pay big bucks for mega-fast connections do it so they can download big files at top speed.
I bet most of these 'big files' are either games, movies or music - mostly pirated!
The only reason they pay for the fast connections and not your standard slow connection (which is actuclly no slower for web pages), is because they 'save' money by not buying games/movies/music.

So if the ISP's started handing over user details to lawyers, then people are going to jump ship and head to the next ISP who doesn't do this.
If all the ISPs started giving out user details, then I can guarentee you that sales of the premium/fast connections would plummet.
No one's going to pay a small fortune for a 20mb or 50mb connection for browsing the web...

Broadband providers would lose a fortune, so there's absolutely no way they'd want to work with any lawyers to get their users into trouble.

RE: Value out of nothing?
By messyunkempt on 12/1/2009 9:12:41 AM , Rating: 2
I bet most of these 'big files' are either games, movies or music - mostly pirated! The only reason they pay for the fast connections and not your standard slow connection (which is actuclly no slower for web pages), is because they 'save' money by not buying games/movies/music

So because I pay a bit more to have a 50mbit connection I must therefore pirate games/films etc?

Lets see how well i can view web pages on a 'standard slow connection' while someone is watching sky player over the internet in another room, whilst another of my housemates is streaming a HD film from the xbox live marketplace.

There are plenty of legal bandwidth intensive applications, lots in fact that use up a lot more of your bandwidth than downloading a film or an album.

Maybe your statement would have been valid ten years ago but even then i'd say that you were making a huge assumption..

RE: Value out of nothing?
By jimhsu on 11/29/2009 8:52:50 PM , Rating: 2
In the past, this was handled by patronage. When a king or church wanted a "piece of art", they would actually sponsor artists (with quite substantial amounts) to create the work, after which it can be distributed with any of this "copyright law" nonsense:

"From ancient world onward patronage of the arts was important in art history. It is known in greatest detail in reference to pre-modern medieval and Renaissance Europe, though patronage can also be traced in feudal Japan, the traditional Southeast Asian kingdoms, and elsewhere—art patronage tended to arise wherever a royal or imperial system and an aristocracy dominated a society and controlled a significant share of resources. Samuel Johnson defined a patron as "one who looks with unconcern on a man struggling for life in the water, and, when he has reached ground, encumbers him with help".[1]"

This causes several things:
1. It encourages distribution of creative works (which directly benefits the artist in reputation), as opposed to "control" by a monolithic organization,
2. It provides at least decent pay for artists,
3. It removes the income equality we have now (95% barely make a living, the other 5% have multi-million dollar mansions,
4. It directly connects pay with merit, as opposed to the incentive of profit.

Maybe we need to revisit the assumptions of "copyright law".

RE: Value out of nothing?
By jimhsu on 11/29/2009 8:55:14 PM , Rating: 2
Correction: *without

RE: Value out of nothing?
By jimhsu on 11/29/2009 9:01:32 PM , Rating: 1
The real problem is though not copyright itself, but rather who controls it. Copyright was intended as a way for authors to protect their OWN work and ideas from being stolen. Gradually, this became not the case as organization that supposedly help artists enforce their own copyrights (e.g. RIAA) now in effect own them - the artist becomes an asset, and the record company for all financial purposes "produced" the work. Royalties are simply an admission of this; if an artist truly owned his/her copyrights, we wouldn't need royalties as they would sell their work in free markets.

RE: Value out of nothing?
By PhatoseAlpha on 11/29/2009 11:07:29 PM , Rating: 2
We've already dealt quite nicely with the question of value, something like 500 years ago with the concept of copyright and patent laws.

Faced with the reality that an unprotected idea is easily copied, society realized that protections on the use of an idea were necessary to ensure people would devote time and resources to creating new ideas - methods, technologies, as well as entertainment. Without some protection, it would always be cheaper to wait for someone else to create a new idea, then copy it. Thus, no one would spend the resources to create, and society stagnates.

So we created a system where the rights of usage of an idea were limited to it's creator, and usage by other required permission and licensing. That way, there was a good financial motivation to innovate.

The system has worked absolutely marvelously, as a quick look around the wide array of technology available to us in our everyday lives will attest.

The digital age hasn't changed the validity of the underlying concepts one bit. Allowing people to control access to their ideas lets the machinery of capitalism work on the level of ideas, and letting it do that was provided huge benefits for our civilization. Discarding that out of fear of corporate profiteering is a fool's bargain, as it's that machinery of profiteering that has gotten us this far to begin with.

By anonbloger on 11/27/2009 8:34:27 PM , Rating: 5
Much more concerning than this, at least to me, is the planned three strikes / disconnection plans announced in the Queens speech as part of the Digital Economy Bill.

ORG have a campaign against it and there is an number10 petition. I've linked both and provided and extensive commentary on my blog:

Its something I think all British citizens should be concerned about and those elsewhere should be on the watchout for similar in their jurisdictions.

By Jalek on 11/27/2009 9:40:54 PM , Rating: 5
Do a search for ACTA, that treaty being negotiated would do exactly that in the US.

You don't think those former RIAA attorneys in the administration are done, do you?

By Cypherdude1 on 11/28/2009 10:49:50 AM , Rating: 2
We don't have this "three strikes and your out" policy in the U.S. That is all your baby!
That is correct. What the USA has is the "sue you into the poorhouse" strategy. B^D

By heffeque on 11/28/2009 11:37:39 AM , Rating: 2
In other parts of Europe, sharing copyrighted material is totally legal if it's for personal use :-)

By StevoLincolnite on 11/28/2009 12:15:44 AM , Rating: 2
Your not alone, a bunch of Movie and Television companies here banded together to sue our 3rd largest ISP "iiNet". - They want to bring in the 3 strikes policy, personally it wouldn't bother me one bit considering how easy it is to move to another ADSL provider here as most providers re-sell Telstra ADSL anyhow which is available to the majority of people.

However they cannot expect the ISP's to police the Internet, it's just wrong, the Post Office doesn't take responsibility for threat mail sent to you, so why should the ISP?

Not only that, but the 3 strikes policy will be disconnecting users who "Infringed" merely by accusation, sure they recorded your I.P address, big-woop, but how many Open Wireless networks do you see these days!?

By croc on 11/28/2009 4:09:03 AM , Rating: 2
Carriers in AUS, to the best of my knowledge, CANNOT legally do l7 packet inspection on all of it's users for infringing copyright. Differentiated billing, OK, but it takes a court order (warrant) per user to actually collect realtime l7 datastreams. Then you have the problem of de-crypting SSH (or other) protocols to prove infringememt. IINet was picked on, (in my opinion) because it had access to far less legal staff than some of the larger carriers.

I agree with the requirement for warrants, that at least covers the ISP's ass when sued for breach of privacy. If these groups had proof of transgressions, then it is simple. Go to a justice and get a warrant. A warrant per user.

By semo on 11/28/2009 4:50:30 AM , Rating: 3
I've signed that petition but I really want to sign a petition that objects to ISPs handing out personal information (not just contact) to some 3rd party law firm that wants to pickpocket you... I don't remember ticking that box!

Lawyers target 'pirates' for cash
By neothe0ne on 11/27/2009 10:18:14 PM , Rating: 4
The BBC's article title is so much more captivating!

Another aspect..
By lewisc on 11/28/2009 3:26:01 AM , Rating: 2
It would appear that some of the firms 'protected' by ACS: Law produce titles which many users would feel embarrassed fighting in court. Because of this, those receiving letter are more likely to settle out of court, therefore not challenging the action brought against them. How many would attempt to defend themselves publicly against a charge of illegally downloading porn?

Whilst I do believe to an extent that, if you engage in illegal activity you run the risk of being caught, by using such a broad brush this law firm appears to be doing nothing more than running a protection racket on behalf of it's seedy clients.

Interestingly, the BBC reports that whilst 30,000 addresses were requested via two court orders, only half of those will receive letters. What I find curious is that this implies a failure rate of 50% between the identification methods used by ACS: Law and their clients and the eventual letters produced. The letters in question appear to demand less than their American counterparts, with the charges ranging from £300 to £500 ($495 - $825 US). Through this action, ACS: Law could net their clients £7.5m, without going near a court room.

Finally, for anyone curious, a Norwich Pharmacal order is a request for information simply named after the case law precedent set by (shockingly) Norwich Pharmacal Co. vs Customs and Exercise Commissioners, in 1974. It is used to force the disclosure by a third party of a wrongdoer's identity, where the third party unknowingly facilitated the alleged wrongdoer in committing the unlawful act. In this case, clearly the third parties are the ISPs.

File Sharing Is Coming To An End
By mgilbert on 12/1/2009 8:57:01 AM , Rating: 2
Folks, you can twist P2P file sharing any way you want, point out all the positives you can find, and berate the organizations trying to stop it, but the truth is simple - downloading movies, music, TV shows, and programs without paying for them, is stealing, period. I've downloaded more than my share of stuff over the years, but I've stopped.

P2P file sharing is over. Its just a matter of time, and there is nothing we can do about it. You can spin control this and try to justify P2P, but 98% of P2P traffic is pirated files, and we all know it. And, yes, ISPs will be forced to reveal your identity by law, and your internet will be cut off if you persist in using P2P.

Doesn't matter how narrow minded or short sighted the organization that are trying to stop P2P might be, they will get their way by law, and there is nothing we can do about it. It was fun while it lasted, but it is all but over. Don't waste your time saying, "but but but". It will not matter...

It's only going to get worse for the pirates
By Beenthere on 11/27/09, Rating: -1
RE: It's only going to get worse for the pirates
By Jalek on 11/27/2009 9:59:19 PM , Rating: 2
..and anyone that backs up media files.
Federal judges in the US have already ruled that any copy is illegal, which is why RealNetworks's system is gone.

Nevermind that copyrights have expirations in one part of the law, they don't anymore, the DMCA has no sunset.

By Cront on 11/30/2009 5:36:37 AM , Rating: 2
Federal judges in the US have already ruled that any copy is illegal

This seems fairly selective though. How do you distinguish this from a copy on your mp3 player. Surely if there was any real threat of people being sued for copying a CD to their mp3 player Apple would be up in arms.

Then again maybe not, more clients for iTunes I guess...

RE: It's only going to get worse for the pirates
By Hakuryu on 11/28/2009 1:26:34 AM , Rating: 2
It may be easy to applaud measures like this that apparently go after criminals, but you do not see the whole issue.

The mom sued $1 million dollars plus for sharing 24 songs, or the grocery worker sued for singing a song while at work - do you honestly think these people are in the same group as murderers and drug dealers? Do they deserve jail time and large fines?

The music/movie/software industry is trying to get precedents on the books to make future litigation go their way. There is no distinction between a Dad who copies movies because his kids are likely to ruin a DVD and a guy who copies movies to be sold for financial gain. That is plain wrong, no matter how you want to spin it.

RE: It's only going to get worse for the pirates
By Beenthere on 11/28/09, Rating: -1
RE: It's only going to get worse for the pirates
By siuol11 on 11/28/2009 11:29:57 PM , Rating: 3
Please procreate. We will all enjoy watching your kids grow up, turn on you, and eat you alive. A fate well deserved I say!

By Uncle on 11/30/2009 2:10:07 PM , Rating: 2
The reason for copyright would be an example of the likes of the original rock and rollers. One example, Pink Floyd-Dark side of the moon, still selling millions after 30 years. You think the likes of Puff Daddy or Britney Spears is going to do the same. Only in your wet dreams. The creators of original Rock and Roll will out sell the shit they have, and are selling today.That is what this copyright crap is all about, hold on to the money making machine. You think if these jerk offs were around during Mozart and Beethoven days we'd be listening to there music for free, NO, if it still sold millions, the sleaze bags would keep extending the copright. THAT IS WHAT THIS IS ALL ABOUT. If it still makes money after 300 years keep extending the copyright. Anti pirates been conned over so many times they can't see the forest for the trees. You ever look at a financial report on these companies. They don't refer to these musicians as Artists, their classified as assets, nothing more nothing less. Can they or can they not keep making money for the sleaze bags,that is what this copyright crap is all about. If these sleaze bags could copyright some of the old works retroactively, they would. I wouldn't doubt some lawyer is busting his brains trying to come up with a way to do just that. If he fails he can always get it legislated into law, like they have been doing.

"A lot of people pay zero for the cellphone ... That's what it's worth." -- Apple Chief Operating Officer Timothy Cook

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