150 people have complained of letters receive by ACS: Law alleging copyright infringement

For many Americans, the term "piracy" conjures images of teens downloading files on the internet without paying for them. Many Americans found out that the tactics of the firms trying to fight piracy were often as bad as the act of piracy itself.

The 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 alleged offense.

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."

Technology 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."

The 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."

If 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 it."

"We basically took a look at this situation and said, this is bullshit." -- Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng's take on patent troll Soverain
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