infamous anti-piracy campaign that the RIAA undertook in the U.S. was
responsible for a backlash against the recording industry. Legal
battles were fought against people in and out of court with demands
for huge settlements for copyright holders with often little proof
that the accused actually shared a file. One landmark case in the
U.S. was RIAA against Jammie Thomas.
The record $1.92 million
fine levied against Thomas was recently reduced
by a judge to $54,000. The RIAA says that it never intended to
pursue Thomas for that kind of money and has all along offered to
settle for a fine in the $5,000 range.
In the UK, legal action
against alleged file sharers is taking on a tone similar to the RIAA
saga in America. BBC News reports that over 150 people have
approached the consumer publication Which? Computing alleging
that they have been targeted
in illegal file sharing cases.
The letters sent to the
alleged file sharers accuse them of copyright infringement and demand
a payment of about £500 to settle out of court. One of the accused
who approached Which? Computing was a 78-year-old accused of
downloading pornography. The elderly man claims no knowledge of the
One person who complained to Which?
said, "My 78 year-old father yesterday received a letter from
ACS Law demanding £500 for a porn file he is alleged to have
downloaded. He doesn't even know what file-sharing or BitTorrent is
so has certainly not done this himself or given anyone else
permission to use his computer to do such a thing."
Editor Matt Bath of Which? said, "Innocent consumers are
being threatened with legal action for copyright infringements they
not only haven't committed, but wouldn't know how to commit."
publication fears that many who get the letter will simply pay the
demanded fine out of fear or not wanting to face a legal battle in
court. The firm who is sending out the letters is called ACS: Law.
According to the firm, the methods it uses to identify alleged file
sharers is sound. Company spokesman Andrew Crossley said, "We
are happy that the information we get is completely accurate."
Crossley also said, "We explain that an infringement has taken
place but it may not be the account holder who has done it."
the person who receives a letter is wrongly accused, Crossley says
that the person needs to seek legal counsel. He points out that
merely writing in and saying they did not commit the alleged piracy
is not sufficient.
ACS: Law reports it intends to send out
more of these letters in the UK this year. So far, none of the cases
have gone to court. However, Crossley says, "It has been said
that we have no intention of going to court but we have no fear of