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By: MarkJ - 5 March, 2010 (12:29 PM)
p2p file sharing lawThe Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA) has referred Davenport Lyons, an infamous law firm involved with protecting specialist intellectual property rights, to a disciplinary tribunal. The move follows a 2008 complaint by Which?, who claimed that the firm had used "excessive" and "bullying" conduct in pursuit of those it suspected of being involved with illegal broadband ISP file-sharing (original news).

Deborah Prince, Which?'s head of legal affairs, said:

"We want to see some decisive action to stop these bully-boy tactics. We hope the SRA's decision sends a message to law firms that they can't make a quick buck by accusing people of copyright infringements they haven't committed."

Davenport Lyons works by gaining related customer details from broadband ISPs and then sending threatening letters to those suspected of involvement with illegal downloads. The letters typically requested several hundred pounds in compensation for the act and a further fee to cover costs. Those receiving the messages are threatened with legal proceedings if they refuse to comply.

Law firms usually track abuse by monitoring the Internet Protocol ( IP ) addresses of online users, which are assigned to your computer each time you go online. However IP addresses are not an effective way of determining a person’s true identity. They can easily be faked, hijacked, redirected and generally abused and used in ways that the systems employed by such trackers cannot detect.

Suffice to say that Which?, the ISPA and bizarrely even the BPI itself have all called into question such methods. The data gathered can sometimes be unreliable, not to mention that using such methods to tackle a civil offense is at best highly questionable.

In addition the SRA confirmed that a previously unreported law firm, Tilly Bailey Irvine Solicitors (TBIS), had also been referred for a similar investigation. Likewise the SRA is already known to be looking closely at ACS:Law, which took up where Davenport Lyons left off.

The SRA told ISPreview.co.uk reader Marcus in February 2010:

"I understand your continuing concerns, and I would like to reassure you that we are treating this case as a high priority, requiring ACS:Law to account for their actions in relation to their pursuit of the claims and robustly discussing any concerns raised with the firm.

We appreciate the impact that receiving letters from ACS:Law is having on individuals, and the need to bring this matter to a conclusion as soon as we are able. However, we have to undertake a thorough investigation to ensure the right outcome in the public interest: I am sorry I cannot give you a firm timescale for the conclusion of the investigation. We continue to advise individuals to seek legal advice if they complain to us."

If the Davenport Lyons case is any example of SRA's pace at dealing with complaints then we could all be waiting another year or more until there is any kind of action.
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