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Look Out – UK Internet Users Braced for More Piracy Threat Letters

Friday, October 2nd, 2015 (12:22 pm) - Score 3,102
piracy internet UK STOP sign

Thousands of broadband ISP subscribers could soon be hit by a new wave of bullying Internet piracy threat letters (“Speculative Invoicing“) after Maverick Eye, which scours public P2P (BitTorrent) networks for unlawful sharing of copyright content, began “the UK’s largest anti-piracy campaign ever“.

Associated organisations usually track public Internet Protocol (IP) addresses on P2P networks and then later submit a Norwich Pharmacal Order (NPO) to a court, which forces the linked ISP to release details about any associated subscribers (e.g. name, address etc.).

Once those details have been secured then organisations like Maverick Eye will start to pursue related subscribers with letters, which usually contain veiled threats in the hope of either tricking the recipient into incriminating themselves or forcing them to pay a big settlement fee to avoid the threat of court action.

In reality such court cases are usually too expensive to pursue and most of those that have been attempted tend to fail, not least because IP address based evidence is notoriously flaky (e.g. the data may be incorrect and or fail to reflect that many people can share a single Internet connection).

Never the less copyright holders see this as a good scare tactic for pirates and the firms that surround them also view it as a way of making some easy money, even though there’s a growing graveyard of bankrupted and disreputable organisations or individuals flowing from past attempts (e.g. ACS:Law).

In that sense it’s no surprise to find that Maverick Eye, which are teaming up with the financial and administrative firm Hatton and Berkeley, have decided to try their luck in the United Kingdom.

Maverick Eye Campaign Statement:

Piracy costs the UK economy about £500 million per year and countless jobs. It is a significant threat to the ability of artists and creative people to bring new content to the public.

Since July this year, Hatton & Berkeley and Maverick Eye have been busy working with producers, lawyers, key industry figures, investors, partners, and supporters to develop a program to protect the industry and defend the UK cinema against rampant piracy online. The entertainment industry can expect even more from these experts as they continue the fight against piracy in the UK.”

A spokesperson for Hatton & Berkeley similarly said, “[We] stand alongside our colleagues in an international operation that has so far yielded drastic reductions in streaming, torrenting, and illegal downloads across Europe.”

We’re not so sure about the “drastic reductions” claim, although Maverick Eye have already pursued some 6,000 customers of Sky Broadband via the same strategy (here); most of those were suspected of having pirated a little known film called ‘The Company You Keep‘.

The UK campaign that Maverick Eye promises to launch will apparently be even bigger than the Sky one, which suggests that they’ll also be going after subscribers from BT, TalkTalk and Virgin Media as well as perhaps some more from Sky Broadband or other ISPs. But for now no further details have been released.

Take note that if you do receive such a letter then it’s usually best to discuss the matter with Citizens Advice before responding and read the Speculative Invoicing Handbook. In many cases though it may be better not to respond at all and if you want a solicitors help then Michael Coyle from Lawdit has agreed to step in.

Meanwhile ISPs and the Government are separately in the process of launching a new Voluntary Copyright Alert Programme (VCAP), which will also send warning letters to those suspected of similar activity (here). But the VCAP letters contain no threats or demands for money and should only act as an “education programme“.

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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 Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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10 Responses
  1. Enki

    Return to sender,address unknown. No such number, no such zone!

    • Bren Copper

      Based on my brother’s experience, it is best to respond to the letter to clear your name especially if your internet subscription is registered under your name. No other way really because they could send another one back if you won’t respond right away.

    • Clark Roberts

      Don’t forget Enki, copyright infringement has a huge fine. So ignoring the “letter” could lead to an expensive payout or worse, going to jail.

  2. Darren

    Free bog roll is always nice.

  3. sentup.custard

    Note to self:
    Phone Brent Council on Monday and request an extra recycling bin.

  4. Jon

    Interesting article and very interesting hand book.

    I am normally on the other side of the copyright equation as I am myself an artist , so you may be surprised to find that I and many other artists are very much against these ip based speculative litigations.

    What we as artists want is justice and justice is not served by putting the frighteners on innocent people, nor by charging people many thousands of pounds for a 2 pound download. Personally I am horrified by the thought of attempted litigation based on nothing more than and IP address and lots of bluff.

    Having read the handbook I would like to throw into the equation something not mentioned, and that is morals. For those who are innocent, I cannot fault the handbook although I would recommend never ignore legal correspondence.
    Always respond, even if the response is a one liner of “it wasn’t me”. Also if you are innocent, why not kick up a fuss, I would. Its entirely unreasonable to make a false accusation based on nothing more than suspicion and an IP number. Complain to the Solicitors Regulatory Authority and to the artist who’s work is involved.

    For the guilty my advice is different to that given and it is to make a reasonable offer to settle. This is not only from a moral perspective but is also good advice from a legal perspective.
    That does not mean you need to pay the thousands of pounds demanded or even hope to settle on half of what’s demanded, the law has a very clear way of calculating what you owe and it is based on the value of what you stole or damage you caused.
    Copyright law is different from other Tort law in that it allows these damages to be higher than the value of the loss, however the law does not generally require that the defendant pay for example a thousand pounds for a stolen download valued at say 2 pounds.
    The court will award an “uplift” usually multiples of the value of the loss based on how naughty you have been. Typically you may have to pay between double and 20x the value of the loss, plus some expenses the claimant has suffered. The 150x mentioned in the handbook would NEVER be allowed by a British Court.
    For cases involving non commercial infringement of one work expect nearer the double than the 20x and in fact double the loss value is a very common award. Obviously if you have been distributing hundreds of works and caused the record companies and artists a loss of thousands, then you have dug yourself into a big expensive hole.
    If you have stolen something worth say a tenner, I would make an offer to settle of 20gbp and be prepared to go to 50gbp max. Obviously given the sort of law firm you are dealing with, they will turn down any offer you make and ask for more, but if you are confident your offer is reasonable in relation to the value of the work then stick to it.
    In the unlikely event the matter came to court , if you had offered say 50 gbp and the court awarded damages of 50 gbp or less, then the other side would loose their claim for expenses and you could ask to have your expenses paid by them. You may pay 50 gbp for the song you nicked but then they may have to pay your 300 gbp train fair for being greedy.
    The copyright judges are very good and do seek to make fair judgements. Don’t be afraid of the courts, they are there for justice, not necessarily for the claimants.

    With regards to lawyers, in any case involving less than 10,000 gbp you do not need a lawyer, we have an IP small claims track at the “IPEC”. Your case should go to on this track and if not ask to have it transferred to the IPEC small claims track.
    You will be delighted to know that the small claims track means that bar a few small exceptions such as travel costs and court fees, you do not need to pay the claimants legal costs.
    One possible option, if you can contact them, why not make your offer to settle directly to the artist involved. That way you know that some or all of the money you pay will go towards funding the music you love rather than a new luxury car for the lawyer.
    Furthermore, I would suspect that many payments made to agents / lawyers etc are under-declared to the actual artist and even if declared, he/she may only be getting a single figure %.

    The final advice is the most important one, don’t infringe copyright! Forget file sharing, all forms of intellectual property have never been cheaper than now. By paying for your music or movies, you are funding the creators to make more of what you like.

  5. cyclope

    @Jon: A couple of points piracy or to be more specific online copyright infringement is not a criminal offence if it were the copy right trolls wouldn’t exist and cases would be heard in the criminal courts which they aren’t
    Theft is not dealt with by the civil courts therefore copyright infringement is not theft according to British laws, theft is to take something with the intention of permanently depriving them of it , file sharing isn’t theft and never will be,
    The big music and film corporations base their losses on an assumption that online piracy is responsible for downturn in profits, when in reality it is down to other reasons,such as the song film being flops,content that people don’t think is worth paying to see or listen to , economic factors ect ect,
    Sharing is caring

    • Grey A.

      You might be right @cyclope but anyone can be imprisoned for copyright infringement like The Pirate Bay founder and the cammer who was released recently. In fact, the UK government is considering a 10-year maximum penalty for copyright offenses! I’m just saying copyright infringement is a serious offense.

    • Ben Cooper – 3 years and 6 months.
      Reece Cooper – 4 years and 2 months.
      Sahil Rafiq – 4 years and 6 months.
      Scott Hemming – 2 years suspended sentence.
      Graeme Reid – 3 years and 6 months.

      More to come in 2016 @cyclope

  6. Jon

    Copyright can be a criminal offence depending on the circumstances. The relevant section is section 107 of the Copyright Designs and Patents act 1988.

    In the case of music downloads, illegally downloading one or two songs for private use would be a civil offence and not a criminal one, however if the offence were to move into large scale or commercial activity it would become criminal.

    I disagree with your assumption that copyright infringement is not responsible for a downturn in revenues for the creative sector. I’m not in the music business, but with my own IP I have completly given up creating in some areas due to the level of infringement. On their own each infringement is only tiny and may not on its own badly affect the creator, however taken together they mount up and many creatives find that almost everyone is copying thier work illegally and almost nobody is paying to use it lawfully. In my own case less than 1% of people using my work are doing so lawfully. While I am not overly worried by a few private non commercial posts on social media, I am not at all happy that vast numbers of people are making money from my creative works without paying me anything for that work. Not only is this illegal, but no amount of logic twisting can consider that to be morally acceptable.

    I note you say caring is sharing, if you beleive that why not share the contents of your bank account with those artists who’s work you like to share. Legal creative content has never been cheaper than now. For example, I am a keen movie watcher , however I always watch legally streamed movies from sources I am absolutly certain are legal. That way I know the people who created the movies are getting paid. I dont just means the hollywood superstars and executives, but all the ordinary workers who help make that movie from make up girls to stuntmen. I have just seen the new Mad Max movie which was brilliant and I dont see how anyone can begrudge paying a fiver to all those poeple who got together to to make such a brilliant peice of entertainment.

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