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UK Labour MP Criticises Piracy Letters for Chasing 83 Year Old Pensioner

Monday, March 7th, 2016 (2:09 pm) - Score 874
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The UK Labour MP for Dudley North, Ian Austin, has called on the Government’s Business Secretary, Sajid Javid, to protect consumers after an 83-year-old customer of Sky Broadband was dubiously accused of sharing unlawful copies of ‘The Company You Keep‘ (TCYK) film over public BitTorrent file sharing (P2P) networks.

Last year we reported that copyright firm TCYK LLP had begun sending so-called “Speculative Invoicing” letters to customer of Sky Broadband (here), specifically targeting those that have been accused of the above act and with the goal being to bully subscribers into paying a large settlement fee (in this case £600) in order to avoid further court action.

In reality such court cases are usually too expensive to pursue and practically all of those that have been attempted tend to fail due to a lack of solid evidence. Indeed IP address based evidence is notoriously unreliable, not least because it can be incorrect and often fails to reflect that many people may share a single Internet connection (i.e. at best it only identifies the bill payer and they often aren’t the guilty party).

A good example of just how wrong such schemes can be comes via the example of an 83-year-old grandmother, Patricia Drew, who according to the Express and Star can hardly manage to even turn a computer on and off, let alone figure out how to share films over public P2P networks.

As Dave Drew, Patricia’s 59-year-old son, said: “They have provided absolutely no factual evidence that she downloaded this film, yet the tone of the letters is very threatening. You can imagine that a lot of people would get scared into paying. The crazy thing about all of this is that by all accounts this company are operating within the law. They are threatening people with legal action, which in my mother’s case at least is over a false accusation of wrongdoing, and causing a great deal of unnecessary worry.”

Ian Austin MP added:

“It’s a disgrace that elderly residents are being bullied into paying this firm compensation even if they’ve done nothing wrong. Most people will find it incredible that 82-year-olds are being accused of using special file sharing programs to illegally download films.

I want this firm to rethink its case against my constituent and the Government must take action to make sure consumers are not getting ripped off.”

Sadly we’ve seen plenty of similar cases like this before and a number of related firms, such as the controversial ACS:Law, even ended up closing as a result of their unscrupulous behaviour. Meanwhile others, including several lawyers who worked for Davenport Lyons, have also faced fines and suspensions (here).

But sadly the practice continues because it only takes a few people to pay up in order for the model to make a profit and this is about money, not justice. If you know or believe yourself to be innocent of the allegation, then it’s best to discuss the matter with Citizens Advice before responding and read the Speculative Invoicing Handbook. Likewise if you want a solicitors help then Michael Coyle from Lawdit often assists.

A few years ago all of the country’s largest broadband ISPs agreed to a new Voluntary Copyright Alert Programme (VCAP), which will also send warning letters to those suspected of similar activity (here and here). But the VCAP letters contain no threats or demands for money and should only act as an “education programme“, yet so far we haven’t seen any letters being sent.

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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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