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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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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.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/8381097.stm

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.




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