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UPDATE ACS Law UK Use Dubious Tactics to Make File Sharers Incriminate Themselves

Posted: 27th May, 2010 By: MarkJ
internet copyright lawSolicitors at ACS:Law UK have been caught sending out dubious questionnaires to broadband ISP customers whom they "suspect" of being involved with illegal unlawful copyright file sharing (p2p) activity. What many of those targeted will not immediately realise is that these questionnaires could be used to bolster ACS Law's case against them.

Consumer magazine Which? has reportedly seen a copy of the questionnaire, which asks alleged p2p abusers to confirm that they are the owner of the internet connection, state whether their Wi-Fi connection is secured or unsecured, state whether they are using file-sharing software and why.

It also asks alleged infringers if they are willing for their computers to undergo forensic analysis. Furthermore respondents are asked to confirm who else is using the wireless internet connection.
Copy of the Questionnaire
http://acsbore.wordpress.com/2010/02/05/acs-law-send-out-sinister-questionnaires/
Suffice to say that this limits the number of potential excuses that "suspected" pirates could use against ACS:Law as part of their defence. In addition it is for ACS:Law to prove their clients' claims of illegal file-sharing and not for "suspects" to explain why they are innocent.

Deborah Prince, Which?'s Head of Legal Affairs, said:

"I think it is outrageous that ACS Law is asking consumers to provide evidence to support the claims that ACS Law is making on their clients' behalf, especially since many of the recipients may not have legal representation. I think its tactics are really underhand here. ACS Law should have all the evidence it needs before making these allegations. If it doesn't, then it shouldn't be asking unrepresented consumers to provide that evidence!

This is just another variation of what we believe is bullying behaviour by ACS Law, who say that by not completing the questionnaire it has no option but to consider people guilty of illegal file sharing and pursue the case in court. Declining to fill in a form does not provide evidence of guilt."

Indeed it's very important to stress, despite what ACS:Law appears to be telling people, that there is no legal obligation for recipients to complete the questionnaire. It's suggested that anyone who receives one of these questionnaires should write to ACS Law restating their innocence, providing such evidence as they can to prove it wasn't them.

They should also explain that they are not willing to complete the questionnaire issued by ACS Law as it is for ACS Law to prove their clients' claims of illegal file-sharing and not for them to explain why they are innocent.

ACS:Law works by tracking public IP addresses on P2P networks before gaining related customer details from broadband ISPs and sending threatening letters to the suspects. The letters typically request several hundred £££ pounds in compensation (Which?'s example letter requested £1,200!) for the act. Those receiving the messages are threatened with court action if they refuse to comply.

Needless to say that ACS:Law is one of several solicitors that have been placed under investigation by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA) for a practice that many consider to be unreliable, profiteering and bullying.

In related news a new survey by law firm Wiggin asked under 1,600 UK people aged 15-54 if they thought the Digital Economy Act (DEA) would change their behaviour. One third of those questioned admitted to occasionally downloading a copyright file but said that they would not change their behaviour even if broadband account "suspension" is implemented.

UPDATE 28th May 2010

A good summary on the new Wiggin research can be found here:

http://www.musicweek.com/story.asp?sectioncode=1&storycode=1041292&c=1

The report, published by law firm Wiggin and Entertainment Media Research, claims that 44% of those using pirate sites would be willing to pay a small fee each month to continue downloading from the favourite sites - but on a legal basis. Some 29%, however, said they would just migrate to another free online source.

The majority of those polled (59%) stated that £3.00-3.50 was a reasonable price for such a service while 25% were willing to pay up to £14.50 a month.
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