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Lord Lucas Scalds UK ISP Internet Piracy Threat Letters in Key Debate

Thursday, June 16th, 2016 (11:11 am) - Score 859

The Conservative peer Lord Lucas has told a House of Lords debate on the new ‘Intellectual Property (Unjustified Threats) Bill‘ that copyright owners who attempt to bully broadband ISP subscribers by demanding money to settle suspected cases of Internet piracy are “villains” that “abuse the system” and must be tackled.

A number of organisations send such letters (e.g. GoldenEye, TCYK LLC and Mircom) and they usually do so on behalf of law firms, who themselves are often acting on behalf of the copyright owner. Law firms use to do this themselves, but that was before the Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA) cracked down on firms like ACS Law (example) and now they prefer to hide behind other companies.

Related firms typically track the Internet Protocol (IP) addresses that people use on public P2P (BitTorrent) networks when sharing copyright files and then later submit a Norwich Pharmacal Order (NPO) to a court, which forces the associated broadband ISP to release personal details about related subscribers.

After that the aforementioned organisations will begin sending letters (aka – “Speculative Invoicing“) that ultimately demand compensation for the alleged abuse, while those who fail to pay up are often threatened with court action.

In reality such cases almost never end up in court because to do so would be expensive and those that have been attempted were failures, not least because IP address based evidence is inherently unreliable (i.e. the data may be wrongful and or fail to reflect that lots of different people can share a single Internet connection, especially if you run an open WiFi network).

Unfortunately many innocent people and businesses have been caught up in some of these situations, such as the recent example of an 83-year-old grandmother, Patricia Drew, who was dubiously accused of sharing copyright pornography over P2P networks and that’s despite her struggling to even use a computer in the first place (here).

So far the Government’s best response to this on-going issue has been to publish a very basic piece of guidance (here), which has had precious little impact. As such it had been hoped that the new unjustified threats bill might tackle this problem, but so far its focus has been fixed on tackling bigger issues with business patents and trademarks. At least that was the case until Lord Lucas got involved in yesterday’s debate.

Lord Lucas said:

“A few years ago, I had a small role in the demise of ACS Solicitors, which were thankfully sacked by the Law Society after some long delays. They were shaking down internet users for allegedly infringing copyright on pornography and other low-grade media. Their evidence was extremely suspect but was never tested in court. ACS made its money from the threats and never took anyone to court, although it used the courts to target its victims via Norwich Pharmacal orders.

Now some careless person has dropped blood on to the ashes of ACS and the same scam is alive again with the same thin evidence. The relevant body has an IP address. It has not revealed how it got it. But, given that IP address, it is going through the same old pharmacal procedure, but this time, to avoid the vulnerability that ACS experienced, the solicitor involved — Wagner & Co — withdraws after obtaining the Norwich Pharmacal order, so it is not involved in the threat processes, which are undertaken by shell companies. There does not seem to be any redress for people threatened or for ISPs which are asked to comply with Norwich Pharmacal orders.

If anybody comes across the names of Hatton and Berkeley, Ranger Bay, Golden Eye International, Mircom International, TCYK—all of them well known in the correspondence about what is going on—I urge them to put this thing in the bin. The current scammers are not pursuing anyone: they are just after threats and extortion and shaking people down. If you really feel you need to talk to a solicitor, there is a firm called Lawdit which has hundreds of these cases on its books and is consolidating them.

I applaud the Government for helping our businesses avoid unjustified threats but I would like to know what they intend to do to help the granny in the Clapham nursing home who is being threatened by their smaller, nastier cousins with allegations that she has been downloading pornography illegally. Surely it is not acceptable.”

Lucas suggested that one partial remedy could be for citizens and those acting on their behalf to also be allowed to send a “sue or desist” letter, which would make any further threats short of action liable to penalty. Mind you this will do little to remove the threatening culture of such letters because people may not wish to feel as if they’re encouraging direct legal action to occur.

In the end Lucas encouraged the Government to look “at what is happening at a lower level and consider going further than they have in the Bill,” although it remains to be seen if such action is taken.

Meanwhile if you know or believe yourself to be innocent of such an allegation then it’s best to discuss the matter with Citizens Advice before responding (just binning the letter as Lord Lucas suggests may still carry a risk) and read the Speculative Invoicing Handbook. Likewise if you want a solicitors help then Michael Coyle from Lawdit often assists.

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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.
Leave a Comment
5 Responses
  1. Web Dude says:

    After they have stopped ‘speculative billing’ and these threats, perhaps they can get the firm (Capita?) currently contracted by the BBC to do TV Licencing, to also stop threats of court… I think I get 2 per year but if they ever turn up, they’ll need a search warrant.

    They write about your appearance in court (of course including a very small ‘if’) implying it is a foregone conclusion. I feel they are trying similar unjustified intimidation.

  2. Hellsbellz says:

    This is how you deal with them, nobody can force you to “contract with them” should you not wish to do so it is your choice, this is no common knowledge, they CANNOT act on your “persons” your legal fiction until you give your consent “Joinder” they are fishing for Joinder.

    Just return the letter marked ‘NO CONTRACT’ return to sender. (or whatever the translation maybe)

    All law is the law of contract and is only by consent.
    What they are trying to do is trick you into contracting with them. If you engage with them and reply and sign your reply you are consenting to contract with them even if you deny the allegations. They will pursue you even into court. Why? because they will have established ‘joinder’ (you have acknowledged who you are and your address) and you will become the other ‘indispensable party’ to the litigation and judgement can then be made against you. If you are not acknowledging who you are, (and there is no obligation to do so as you are not contracting with them and they have no authority or jurisdiction over you), they are screwed.
    If they send repeat letters, repeat the above.

    1. cvb says:

      Well well well
      I must remember that phrase “all law in contract and is only by consent”
      I’m sure it will be very useful next time I’m prosecuted for exceeding the speed limit on a road which presumably I’ve not consented to
      I’m sure it will get me far …not

      Can I ask
      Why do you post this rubbish?

    2. Hellsbellz says:

      Yes many people have had success with things such as speeding, all ACTS and STATUTES are contracts, why do you think the copper must ask your name and address, because he has to get you to contract with him, and it’s not rubbish some people have had some success with this against acts and statutes In a nut shell this is why an Act is in contradiction with law, firstly the presume you are guilty, but common law is innocent until proven guilty, that’s why you never consent to an Act unless you truly are guilty in your own mind, the way they get you to Act is treat you as guilty without argument….. they con everyone. watch this and enlighten yourself


  3. Joe Hickster says:

    I was asked to give a comment on this story, and so did, to Torrentfreak, Here is what I said;

    “Lord Lucas has lent legitimacy and sobriety to a cause of much concern for those in receipt of letters from the likes of Hatton & Berkeley, Goldeneye International, Ranger Bay, TCYK and Mircom,” Hickster told TF.

    “This may be a real turning point in the fight against copyright trolling in the UK. With the ISPA shortlisting TCYK as ‘Internet Villain of the Year’ this week, lets hope this intervention from Lord Lucas will embolden them to send guidance to their members, to stand up and say NO! to these trolls.”

    Please bear in mind that last paragraph guy, YOU can make a real difference here.

    Whilst the nomination of TCYK LLC, is great, as was the nomination of Goldeneye International, and the Nomination of ACS:LAW who went on to win the dubious prize, that was 2009, come on PLEASE send guidance to your membership to FIGHT any Norwich Pharmacol Order from the mentioned Scammers.

    It seems you have at least One Lord on your side, I feel there may be many others.

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