London’s High Court yesterday helped Golden Eye International, a firm that holds numerous film copyrights and is linked to the UK’s Ben Dover porn brand, to finalise the format of its controversial P2P internet piracy settlement letters. Thousands of O2’s broadband ISP customers (those accused of copyright infringement) can now expect to receive the letters, albeit not without some crucial limitations.
The outcome follows Golden Eye’s submission of a Norwich Pharmacal Order (NPO) to collect the personal details associated with 9,124 internet connections, which was cleared at the end of March 2012 (here). Crucially the court ruled that Golden Eye could only send the letters if a made a series of critical changes to the format and wording. The firm has also confirmed that it will not send letters to individuals who “simply downloaded one film“.
According to yesterday’s proceedings, GoldenEye will need to send two letters. The first will act as a general notice to inform the connection owner that copyright infringement has been detected on their internet connection and ask them to respond within 28 days (Golden Eye had wanted 14 days). The court has also prevented Golden Eye from wrongly asserting that the bill payer may be liable for any copyright infringement that occurs on their connection. Likewise the letter must not threaten to “slow down or terminate” the suspects broadband connection.
In other words the bill payer will not automatically assumed to be guilty, which could open the door to an ‘open wi-fi network’ defence. Golden Eye, after effectively asking customers to incriminate themselves, will then send a second letter (assuming they decide to pursue it) that is designed to individually negotiate the settlement sum (Golden Eye had wanted to demand £700 from everybody). People who admit, in the first letter, to the alleged infringement will also be asked to disclose information about their P2P filesharing activity.
“We are pleased that the court has taken a robust approach and controlled the tone and content of the letter Golden Eye proposes to send to our customers. We are also pleased that the judge acknowledged the unique position we are in, and agreed that we have approached this issue in a reasonable way.”
Unfortunately the letters cannot simply be ignored as the first will include a warning that failure to respond could result in the individual being found liable. In reality Golden Eye would probably prefer to avoid taking people to court as the history of such cases tends not to favour the Rights Holders.
We hope to post a copy of the letter drafts just as soon as one surfaces. It’s not known precisely how many letters Golden Eye will send as in the last case 12 of the 13 claimants (excluding Ben Dover) were told to start separate cases, although Ben Dover is still believed to account for the lions share.