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Illegal P2P Lawyers Davenport Lyons Reported to Regulator
By: MarkJ - 11 December, 2008 (9:08 AM)

Consumer group Which? has reported Davenport Lyons (DPL), a now infamous law firm involved with protecting specialist intellectual property rights, to the Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA) for "excessive" and "bullying" conduct in pursuit of those suspected of being involved with illegal file-sharing (P2P):

Deborah Prince, Head of legal affairs at Which?, told TheLawyer: ďWe think the SRA needs to take urgent action against Davenport Lyons. In the current financial climate, we expect an increase in the action that companies may want to take against individuals. The SRA must investigate all such allegations and take decisive action where necessary."

DPL typically works by gaining related customer details from broadband ISPs and then sending threatening letters to those suspected of involvement. The letter usually requests several hundred pounds in compensation for the act and a further fee to cover costs or legal proceedings could follow.

However there have been a number of cases where the data appears to have been in error and or the wrong people have been accused. Which? in particular recently warned that hundreds could be mistakenly accused of illegal file sharing (here). Not long after that Atari, one of DPLs clients, pulled out of their relationship with the firm (here).

Which?'s complaint also asserts that DPL ignores evidence made in defence of such claims and unduly raises the level of compensation requested over the period of correspondence. Naturally DPL has issued a press release in response (here - .PDF):

The steps we take on behalf of the owners of copyrighted works are an entirely legitimate process to protect our clients from infringement. In a large number of cases the offer to settle is accepted because the individual identified accepts responsibility for what they have done and agrees not to do so again in the future.

We cannot respond in detail to specific points because client confidentiality prevents disclosure of a comprehensive list:

1. The lawyer representing people who have received correspondence from us and who says this is a money making scheme is simply wrong. This action is designed to prevent further illegal exploitation of our clientís copyrighted material. The settlement sum sought in no way compensates for the loss suffered or the cost of getting the settlement.

2. The experts who identify the IP address use highly sophisticated software. Our principle expert systems have been the subject of the scrutiny of the Swiss TS
(part of the ISO Certification process) and have received ISO Certification numbers 9001 and 27001)

3. Courts in Europe have confirmed the efficacy of our leading expertís process.

4. When an individual enters into a contract with his ISP they agree to ensure that they will not allow others to use their internet connection for unlawful purposes (such as illegal file sharing) and that they will not do so themselves.

However much as we've said before, Internet Protocol (IP) addresses alone are not an effective way of determining a computer userís true identity. They can easily be faked, hijacked, redirected and generally abused and used in ways that the systems employed by such checkers cannot detect. The only real way to be sure is to inspect a personís hard disk drive.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), which will investigate Which?'s complaint, regulates more than 100,000 solicitors in England and Wales. Its purpose is to protect the public by ensuring that solicitors meet high standards, and by acting when risks are identified.

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