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ShareAre YOU on the list? – Update

In one of our early opinion articles back in September 2008, we highlighted the practices of a law firm (Davenport Lyons) who were sending out a number of threatening letters to alleged illegal file sharers demanding a settlement fee of over £300 or threatening court action. The law firms antics were picked up by the consumer group Which? who responded by reporting the firm to the SRA (Solicitors Regulatory Authority).

Neil Watson, Head of Operations

Neil Watson, Head of Operations

Yesterday’s news reports suggest Which? has identified another law firm operating this practice. In November 2009 a ruling by the Royal Courts of Justice granted ACS the ability to demand the personal details of thousands of customers from ISPs. These customers are once again accused of illegal file sharing and once again Which? has come to their rescue. The accused customers are receiving letters demanding between £300 and £500 or face the threat of court action. Which? argues that many of those targeted have been wrongly accused (again) and as we stated in our original article (Are YOU on the list?) this could well be the case as the law firm and copyright holders are identifying the illegal file sharers using IP addresses which can be easily hijacked and spoofed.

We find the practices of ACS to be fundamentally flawed and immoral. If the published examples are correct, then they are simply using bullying tactics to obtain money from often innocent and vulnerable customers who do not fully understand the technologies, terms or accusations. Which? states that the list of accused includes an elderly customer who does not even know what BitTorrent is. “My 78 year-old father yesterday received a letter from ACS Law demanding £500 for a porn file he is alleged to have downloaded. Apparently the poor bloke does not know what file sharing is and has never even heard of BitTorrent. Nor has he given anyone else permission to use his computer.” stated Which?

This is far from an ideal approach to tackling the real problem of large scale illegal file sharers and if anything only provokes more public anger towards copyright holders and their bullish law firms. We agree that illegal file sharing is damaging to the entertainment industry and that something needs to be done to tackle the problem but sending threatening letters to a list of ‘suspected’ illegal file sharers based on unreliable evidence tracking practices is not acceptable. We are keenly awaiting the outcome of the Lord’s discussion on the forthcoming Digital Economy Bill to see how they think the problem of illegal file sharing should best be tackled.

Have your Say!

What do you think about this issue? Do you agree with Entanet and Which? that the law firm’s approach to tackling illegal file sharers is fundamentally flawed and immoral, or do you think they are justified in their actions? Let us know your thoughts by leaving us a comment below.

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