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UPD GoldenEye Send UK Internet Piracy Claim Letters to 2845 O2 Customers

Tuesday, Jul 24th, 2012 (2:07 am) - Score 2,042

Consumer Focus has today confirmed that Golden Eye International, which holds copyrights for adult films and is linked to the UK’s Ben Dover brand, will shortly begin sending the first of 2,845 internet piracy claim letters to O2’s UK broadband customers. But this figure is much smaller than their original target.

Golden Eye had originally sought to collect the personal details associated with 9,124 internet connections, each of which could have been sent a letter demanding payment of a £700 settlement fee for alleged copyright infringement. Thankfully this was made significantly less attractive after London’s High Court warned the firm (here) that its demand was “unsupportable“.

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Instead the court directed Golden eye to make a series of crucial changes, which would involve sending two letters instead of one. The first letter, which has also been prevented from wrongly asserting that the bill payer may be liable for any copyright infringement, will act as a general notice to inform the connection owner that piracy has been detected and ask them to respond within 28 days. This letter must also avoid threatening to “slow down or terminate” the suspects broadband connection.

Only after effectively asking customers to incriminate themselves would Golden Eye then decide whether or not to send a second letter, which is designed to individually negotiate the settlement sum and should not demand a set payment. Unfortunately failure to respond to the first letter could also result in an individual being found liable (hard luck if you’re away).

Mike O’Connor, CEO of Consumer Focus, said:

We do not condone copyright infringement, but innocent people should not feel bullied into settling claims and they must be made aware of where to go for help.

We intervened in this case to make sure that consumers are treated fairly. People will not have ready access to the sort of specialised legal advice necessary to respond to allegations of copyright infringement. That is why we are working with the Citizens Advice service to provide clear advice to consumers about what to do if they are accused of copyright infringement.

We have also written to all the major Internet Service Providers and online hosts who may be required to assist copyright owners to enforce their rights. We are urging them to be rigorous in protecting their customers’ personal data– to help make sure the rights of consumers and copyright owners are fairly balanced.”

Consumer Focus’s is understood to have informed the related ISPs, specifically any that are subject to a similar disclosure order, to follow a series of simple rules in order to better protect their customers (CF told ISPreview.co.uk that it wrote to the ISPs last week and “are expecting to receive formal responses from them over the next week or so“. No replies yet). The proposed rules are as follows.

ISP Guidelines for Handling Piracy Claims

* Ensure that the application is supported by appropriate and consistent evidence of possible wrongdoing by customers, and that any personal data requested is necessary for pursuing the individual(s) suspected of illegal activity.

* Ensure that the order contains adequate safeguards, so that the use of customers’ data, once passed on, complies with data protection laws.

* Review whether letters which are to be sent to customers accusing them of illegal activity are misleading or likely to cause distress.

* Explain to customers and users under what circumstances their personal data may be disclosed to assist with law enforcement.

* Provide effective customer service through appropriately trained staff, to help customers enquiring about any data released or concerns about mistakes in the data-matching.

* Consider notifying customers of requests for personal data – unless prohibited to do so.

* Consider publishing an annual report on the number of applications made and the number of court orders complied with – to provide transparency to customers.

Firms like Golden Eye typically prefer to avoid taking people to court as the history of such cases tends not to favour the Rights Holder (e.g. ACS:Law, Davenport Lyons etc.), while the costly nature of such action often out-ways the relatively minimal risk of simply bullying individuals into paying a large sum of money just to get rid of the worry.

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Earlier this year Lindsay Honey (aka – Ben Dover) admitted in an interview that pursuing O2’s customers over such fallible claims was “the only way I can make money”. Honey added, “At the end of the day, if I can’t make money out of porn, the only way I can make money is to get to the people who are not buying it” (more here). Sadly many of those targeted may not be the ones responsible for the act itself.

Happily Consumer Focus and Citizens Advice are now working together to ensure effective advice is available for consumers, from either the Citizens Advice Consumer Service (08454 04 05 06 – Monday to Friday 9.00am to 5.00pm) or their local Citizens Advice Bureau. As a side note ISPreview.co.uk hopes to publish a copy of the letter and asks that any reader whom has had the misfortune to receive one kindly get in touch.

UPDATE 4:26pm

The BBC have got their hands on a copy of the first letter in Adobe Reader PDF format.

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http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/24_07_12_final_letter.pdf

Mark-Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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