An increasing number of broadband end users are being approached by law firms such as Davenport Lyons under suspicion of illegal file sharing and, if you are a broadband provider, you need to know what’s going on and how this issue affects you and your customers.
What’s been going on?
No-one denies that illegal file sharing is an issue that should be pursued by the courts however the way in which it is currently being tackled is far from perfect. Over recent months there have been cases where opportunistic law firms identified illegal file sharers, obtained court orders which require the ISP to provide the customer’s details and then sent letters to those customers demanding payments of £300+ or risk being taken to court.
Unsurprisingly, many customers when faced with one of these letters may simply choose to pay up in the hope that this will be the end of the matter. But how accurately are these customers being identified? There have been numerous cases of inaccuracies resulting in the wrong customers being served with these intimidating letters. Just one example of this is Euan MacLay who received an email from firstname.lastname@example.org accusing him of illegally downloading an episode of Stargate Atlantis six months after he moved away from the company. It was eventually found that his IP address had been reassigned and the service provider’s records had not been updated.
- External link: Now Hollywood is chasing UK downloaders
This issue appears set to escalate as we now receive news of Hollywood based companies investing in the services of similar legal firms to pursue offenders on their behalf and Davenport Lyons alone have been quoted as saying they are targeting at least 500 individuals.
- External link: Court slaps UK Bittorenters with landmark damages award
What should I do?
Entanet is taking this issue and its associated responsibilities very seriously and is one of several ISPs that has been forced to disclose customer information by court order. If any of your customers are suspected of illegal file sharing, you (or your service provider) may receive a similar court order which you must comply with.
If a customer approaches you regarding this issue it would be wise to advise them that ISPs have legal obligations. Entanet treats the confidentiality of its customers seriously and will only ever disclose customer information in accordance with a court order or in compliance with a properly served RIPA notice from the Police.
If you use an alternative service provider, you may wish to contact them to discuss their stance on this issue.
Customers should be reminded that peer-to-peer file sharing of this nature is a copyright infringement and is illegal. Upon receipt of one of these letters, or for further legal advice, they should consult a legal professional.
Update (5th January 2009)
It appears Davenport Lyons may finally be forced to account for their intimidating actions! Which? (formerly known as the Consumers’ Association) has reported the company to the SRA (Solicitors Regulatory Authority) on behalf of broadband consumers. For details of the actual complaint and for further information see:
- Which.co.uk: Which? challenges bullying letters
- The Register: Regulator to probe Davenport Lyons’ P2P porn cash demands
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