Solicitors at ACS:Law
have been granted approval by the Royal Courts of Justice in London
to demand the private personal details of some 30,000 customers from UK broadband ISPs (i.e. Norwich Pharmacal Order). The customers concerned are "suspected
" of involvement with the illegal file sharing (P2P) of approximately 291 movie titles, they now face threatening demands for money (settlement) or risk the prospect of court action. It's noted that 25,000 of the IP
addresses that have been collected belong to BT
article reports that representatives from UK ISP BT, Andrew Crossley and Terence Tsang from ACS:Law, and three members of consumer magazine Which?
were present at the hearing before Chief Master Winegarten (CMW). Several people, whom have in the past been wrongly accused, were also attending.
TorrentFreak's enigmax wrote:
"After CMW expressed interest in what happens to an accused infringer after the court order is granted and a letter sent, Crossley said that his company was not suggesting that the recipient is definitely guilty in all cases, but the Internet account holder who receives the letter could perhaps help them to identify the person who had actually carried out the infringement.
It is worth noting that ISP account holders are not liable for copyright infringement carried out on his/her connection if a) they did not carry it out themselves or b) did not authorize any infringement. If they did neither they can simply write back to ACS:Law
explaining that the accusation against them has been made in error [and that the account holder does not know who did carry out the infringement]."
Typically such organisations track abuse by monitoring the Internet Protocol (IP) number/address of online users, which is assigned to your computer each time you go online. However IP
addresses are not an effective way of determining a computer user’s true identity. They can easily be faked, hijacked, redirected and generally abused and used in ways that the systems employed by such trackers cannot detect.
During June this year the UK Internet Service Providers Association ( ISPA
) said that they were "not confident in [ACS:Law's] ability to identify [ILLEGAL] users
", a position matched by Which?. In September the British Phonographic Industry
(BPI) called BT
" after revealing that the operator had done nothing to stop thousands of illegal music file sharers on its service (here
A BT Spokesperson told ISPreview in September:
"BT and other ISPs agreed to send 1,000 notifications alleging copyright infringement a week for a 12-week trial period, with BT
picking up the bill for this activity for our own customers as an act of goodwill. However, it was understood that at the end of this period, we would need to take stock and have further discussions with the rights holders about costs etc.
During this period, the BPI sent us around 21,000 alleged cases, but less than two-thirds proved to be properly matched to an IP
address of a BT
customer and not a duplicate, so this could indicate that the true extent of this activity is much lower than the 100,000 number the BPI claim since February. In addition since none of the customers we wrote to during the trial were subsequently taken to court by the BPI, we don't know whether they were actually guilty of infringement."
BT later added that to investigate the exact nature of each case would involve an intrusive level of inspection of people's traffic and customers would rightly complain. However in this situation a proper court order has been granted and thus BT
will have little choice but to comply with the ruling. Those threatened can also seek additional advice from this website - http://www.beingthreatened.com
.UPDATE 28th November - 8:04am
It's now understood that ACS:Law
plan to dispatch around 15,000 letters to individual broadband ISP customers based off the 30,000 harvested IP
addresses. This process will begin in early 2010 and request settlement amounts of between £300 and £500 from each user. ACS: Law are currently also under investigation by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), though details of this action remain unknown.